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The Trail Runner’s Guide to Fast Downhill Running

Trail running in Dolomites

A few weeks ago, while out training on the upcoming Steep Canyon 50k course with a few friends, I have one of those moments in running that I’ll never forget.

We’re running as a group along beautiful singletrack trail, when we reach a 1.5 mile descent. It’s steep at times, but after several miles of climbing and rollers, the downhill taunts us to open up and pick up pace.

So we do. Starting with my friend Clint.

He takes off down the mountain at a speed that catches us all off guard. Not to be outdone, we quickly follow.

Hovering on that fine line between control and “oh shit,” this adventure quickly turns into the kind of running where yelps of joy and excitement flow natural.

The Lost Art of Downhill Running

As runners we talk a lot about running uphill. We do hill repeats, focus on running form, hiking form, and attacking hills with purpose.

The often forgotten piece of this hill running puzzle is that what goes up, must also come down.

It’s easy for runners to ignore downhill training because it’s perceived to be easy, and won’t leave you huffing for air or crying from exhaustion.

But run a mountain trail race and it’s easy to see who’s comfortable on the descents and who isn’t.

HINT: The gal who just flew by you going twice as fast while knitting a pair of socks, she’s the comfortable one.

And looking beyond just speed, races too often end in disappointment when a runner’s quads blow out because of downhill pounding, and no longer allow them to move efficiently.

Downhill running is fun. It’s exhilarating and exciting. But it’s also no joke.

And to master the art of downhill trail running, it takes a lot of practice.

5 Elements of Proper Downhill Running Technique

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