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Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

There are many types of runners.

Recreational runners.  The lion's share of people who run probably fall into this category.  They run a couple times a week, maybe at the Jack's Quinn run or a familiar neighborhood loop.  Maybe they're training for a 10k in a couple of months.  For them, running is fun, but hey, who has time to run all the time when you've got a job and a family and a 45-minute commute?  Most common footwear:  who knows.  Vibrams to Air Jordans to the $40 Nikes from Big 5 Sporting Goods.

Roadies.  OK, these guys are serious.  You can find them on the Santa Fe trail, busting out insane mile repeats a couple times a week.  It's a given that they race in singlets and not t-shirts.  They're into the science and pacing of every mile they ever run.  If there's an obscure 5k in Arvada on Saturday offering a $100 purse and another one in Trinidad on Sunday, they're at both.  Most common footwear:  Racing flats from whatever big name shoe company sponsors them.

Marathoners.  This is a separate group that contains both the uber-competitive and the not-so-competitive.  Many recreational runners that decide they need a goal to shoot for will sign up for a destination marathon and become this person.  Every Sunday, they meet with some sort of group and knock out a 15-20ish mile long, slow run in town.  Some of them may run enough to start worrying about pavement.  These guys seem to carry the most Plantar, Achilles, shin splints, and IT band overuse injuries.  Most common shoe:  Nike, Asics, Saucony.

In 90% of the country, nearly every runner can be placed in one of the three categories above.  Here in Colorado, though, a unique set of factors - altitude, crappy roads, lack of flats, abundance of wilderness - has us even further splintered.

Trail runners.  OK, maybe this isn't it's own group as much as an occasional treat for others.  Either that or it serves as a gateway to the next category.  To be clear, a trail runner despises pavement and fears no hills.  Section 16, Palmer Park, North Cheyenne Canon, Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Spruce Mountain, Mount Herman Fire Road trails...the list of possibilities around here goes on and on.  Running the Santa Fe Trail, however, does not make one a trail runner.  Most common footwear:  the trail model of the big-name brand, i.e. Brooks Cascadia.

Mountain runners.  This is the group here in the Springs that does the Pikes Peak Ascent and maybe the Marathon.  It's all about running TRAILS up mountains.  USA Track and Field even has its own separate championships for mountain running, and the course alternates between uphill and both up/down every other year.  Elites don't bother, but the middle of the pack can be spotted easily because they wear gaiters.  Footwear is drastically different for these guys.  New Balance, Inov8, La Sportiva, Soloman.  

Ultra runners.  Crazy.  Weird.  Antisocial.  These guys generally will point to something far off in the distance and then dare each other to run to it.  Distance and pace don't matter; it's all about time on feet.  Anything that involves any of the habits of the above groups is avoided out of principle.  Ultra runners don't believe in tapering, heart rate zones, or periodization.  They will wear cotton simply to make themselves tougher or to show that gear doesn't matter.  A normal Sunday run may involve running from Manitou to the summit of Pikes down to the Crags and then back.  They are dirt slow, but they run forever.

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In all of this stereotyping and categorization, I realize none of these categories quite fit my passion:  running, hiking, and scrambling in order to get up and down all sorts of peaks.  A good example of this would be the standard route up Capitol Peak - its a 17-mile round trip.  Most hikers and peak baggers will slog in a 40 lb backpack 7 miles to Capitol Lake so they're closer to the summit the next morning.  A trip up and down Capitol is usually a whole weekend's affair.  However, if you run the trail to Capitol Lake, you suddenly just have a couple miles of real hiking/scrambling left and plenty of time to do it.  Running in the mountains opens up a whole new world as you can get to the summit quickly enough to have the rest of the day to recover, enjoy, and do it again the next day.  Not many people do this yet...but this sub-faction of sub-faction of runners is growing.  Elites like Tony Krupicka and Kilian Jornet have inspired many ultrarunners to venture into the trail-less, more adventuresome aspect of endurance sport.  With Kilian's sub-12 hour ROUND-TRIP of McKinley last week, the line between he and legendary mountaineers like Ueli Steck is blurring.  Don't be fooled, though.  This style of "running" isn't just for superhumans and elites.  I invite you to give it a shot.  Get a hydration vest, pack an extra layer or two, and head over to Quandary.  Run when you can.  Hike when you can't.  You'll be up and down before most folks are halfway up, and home relaxing in time to do it again the next day!  I will call this hybrid mountainrunning.  One word.

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Comment by Mary Baldwin on June 23, 2014 at 1:59pm

"Run when you can.  Hike when you can't"...I'm glad the much-experience Sean O'Day considers this a viable route to the top of a mountain :-)  That was my strategy on Saturday, so I'm glad to hear from a seasoned pro that it even has a name: mountainrunning.

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