The beginnings of Trail Running

The beginnings of Trail Running

27 May 2020 0 By Carlos Ultrarun

With how fashionable it is to run off the tarmac, there is much talk of what has been the first race in the world of Trail and many debates have been held to try to clarify who can have the primacy or what race can be the first in the world .

To have broker data, you have to go back many years. From around 5,000 years before Christ when Chinese history explains the creation with the races of the giant Kuafu, to the races in Egypt represented in different bas-reliefs, the truth is that this athletic discipline of Trail Running has apparently been between us for a long time and here It is where I have decided to develop a theory that changes the point of view and that I explain with an example.

Let’s imagine that any of us is shipwrecked and suppose that miraculously we managed to reach a desert island where we survived on the basis of what we found on it, coconuts, plants and roots. My question is: Are we therefore vegetarians? The answer is confusing at least: yes and no. Yes because it is the only thing we eat but No, because we eat that because we have not found anything else on the whole island, but if we had been able to hunt a wild pig it would surely end up like the boars of Obelix.

The same thing happens with Trail Running. In my opinion it is not Trail Running while running on land is the only option we have, then my theory defends that Trail Running begins at the moment when having the option of running on a road, smooth and comfortable, without potholes, we consciously decide to get off that road and somehow complicate our lives on a path with stones, roots, ups and downs.

The appearance of the Trail Running is therefore inexorably linked to the appearance of the asphalt or rather to its application in roads.

Asphalt has been known as a material since time immemorial and was used to waterproof tanks and roofs. Since 1800, it began to be used mixed with stones to finish roads and avoid dust as well as increasing its durability and in 1970 a Belgian, Edmund J.DeSmedt, produced the first asphalt pavement as we know it today. As a consequence of the growth in the popularity of the automobile, the demand for more and better roads led to the emergence of innovations both in the production of asphalt, as well as in the mechanization of the application process.

In this case, which is the one that I prefer, the trail would therefore start, after the widespread use of asphalt on the roads, that is, more or less from 1900, although speaking of a year or so does not change much.

So when I talk about the history of the trail I always mention that it is relatively modern to begin with, not so long ago that there are races that can be done on a great asphalt road, the organizers chose a winding mountain trail to do it.

Considering what was said previously, we can read below a brief list of the origin of the Trail according to my theory, which I hope to continue improving with more research time, since as I have already mentioned, it is difficult to establish an accurate chronology:

  • 1903 Ben Nevis Race
  • 1905 Dipsea Indians Olympic Club. Annual Cross Country Run. 7.4 miles
  • 1916 Cercedilla-Siete Picos-Cercedilla race organized by the Amigos del Campo Society in the Sierra de Guadarrama
  • 1924 Iron Cup. Cercedilla
  • 1952 Lake District Mountain Trial
  • 1954 Pikes Peak Marathon
  • 1974 Gordon “Gordy” Ainsleigh runs the Western States for the first time on foot, a 100-mile race originally for horses. Probably the first Ultra.
  • 1974 Tony Rafferty runs the Birdsville track in 6 days and 5 hours. Distance 574 km.
  • 1982 Volta al Terme de Fondeguilla. 34,5km. 2.470 D+ *
  • 1983 Leadville, Colorado (80km)

Many other races have been added to the international calendar since then which has an estimated 30,000 / 35,000.

For many years, Trail Running has been assimilated to mountain running but that is a very limited definition since the concept includes any off-road race, something infinitely broader and richer. The birth of the Trail as a discipline of athletics, something discussed by some purists, is very recent and linked to ITRA, which is the first international organization that defines it and names the different types of tests based on their distance.

* Input from Angle Font Piquer.