Mountain man

Glenn Randall excels at running up and down mountains

Glenn Randall prepares for the 2012 World Mountain Running Championships with a short run recently near his hometown of Mesa. Despite being a relative newcomer to mountain running — he started in 2010 as a way to cross-train for cross-country skiing — Randall has proven to have a knack for the long-distance races. The former Plateau Valley High School and Dartmouth College star has always performed well the longer the race goes.


Destined to be a marathon man?

After the World Mountain Running Championships, Glenn Randall will start gearing up for his next race, which won’t be up a mountain. It will be the New York Marathon in November.

“I’m actually doing mountain running and marathoning,” Randall explained, “marathons in the spring and fall and mountain running in the summer. They work out really well with each other. Marathons help you keep a certain level of speed that is very helpful.”

He has run two marathons: the Chicago Marathon in which he finished 20th last year in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 40 seconds; and this past spring’s Boston Marathon in which he finished 61st in 2:37.13.

“I probably had the worst race of my life at Boston,” he said. “I think it was the hottest Boston Marathon on record, and some of my preparation did not go as well I hoped. I was focusing on drinking fluids and probably drank too much (prerace).”

It didn’t show at the outset. Randall’s cross country and track coach at Dartmouth College, Barry Harwick, said he and others who tuned in to watch the televised event were surprised to see early in the race the leader was: Randall?

Randall led for about the first six miles, Harwick said, and when Harwick started watching, the announcers mentioned someone was taking the lead, separating from the pack.

“I was expecting to hear the name of a Kenyan runner or something,” Harwick said.

Instead, the announcers said it was a young man who won the NCAA cross-country skiing championship in 2008, a Dartmouth alum, Glenn Randall.

Harwick said he spoke to Randall about the Boston Marathon, and Randall told him: “Well, I felt really good, and when I feel good, I like to go after it.”

That, Harwick added, “is just Glen in so many ways.”

And although Randall said he intends to keep running up and down mountains “even if it’s recreationally,” Harwick and Greg Randall, Glenn’s father, agree Glenn’s future probably is in marathons.

“He has to learn a few things about pacing yourself and energy expenditure,” Harwick said. “Glenn can be a very good marathoner.”

By Tim Harty

History of success

Before Glenn Randall started running up mountains, he racked up a few accomplishments in high school and college.

High School

• Three-time Class 2A state champion in track and field in 3,200-meter run, 2003–05, for Plateau Valley High School.

• Class 4A state champion in cross country, 2003, competing for Palisade High School because Plateau Valley didn’t have a cross country team.

• Competed in World Junior Nordic Skiing Championships three times, twice in high school and once in college.

Dartmouth College

• NCAA Nordic skiing champion in 10-kilometer freestyle in 2008.

• Member of NCAA champion ski team in 2007.

• NCAA qualifier in cross-country running in 2008.

• All-Northeast Region selection in cross-country running in 2007 and 2008.

Good genes

Randall’s father and mother, Greg and Hege Randall, were members of national Nordic ski teams. Greg was a member of the U.S. team; Hege was a member of the Norwegian team. The two met in college at the University of Wyoming, where both were ski team members and part of the 1985 NCAA championship team.

Race preparation

Glenn Randall flew to Italy a week ago Saturday, and in the days before leaving, he was tapering his training.

Two days before boarding that early Saturday morning flight, he did workouts in the morning and afternoon.

The morning workout, which was longer and more strenuous, started with a three- to four-mile warm-up run, then switched to intervals in which he’d run as hard as he could up a 5 to 6 percent grade. Then, he’d back off for a few minutes and charge hard again. But it was only about one-third to one-half of what he would do in previous weeks, he said.

His three-mile run in the afternoon, which included strides — a sprinting exercise — two weeks earlier would have been a run of five-and-a-half to nine miles.

Physics must wait

Glenn Randall has two major sponsors, Power Bar and New Balance, and that allows him for the time being to make a living as a mountain runner and put off pursuit of a doctorate in physics.

His love of physics is visible in his face and body language when the subject is broached, and Greg Randall said he sees that in his son, too.

Glenn talks about running with an obvious enthusiasm, but “you bring up physics, and his eyes just light up,” Greg said. “He actually loves academia, and he loves physics.”


Glenn Randall on how long he will be a mountain runner:

“I intend to keep running up and down mountains even if it’s recreationally. Even when I’m an old man, I plan to be running up and down mountains.”

Dartmouth cross country and men’s track coach Barry Harwick on Randall:

“When we gave him a plan (for a race), he was as good at following it as anyone I ever coached.”

He thought he was training.

Instead, he was climbing his next mountain — literally and figuratively — and doing it so well he gets to represent his country in international competition.

Plateau Valley High School and Dartmouth College alum Glenn Randall, who lives near Mesa, is one of six members of the United States team running in the 2012 World Mountain Running Championships today in Italy.

The 25-year-old’s ascent to the elite in the world happened quickly, which appears to be the norm for a young man who excelled in cross-country skiing and long-distance running in high school and college.

“He has a huge aerobic engine,” said Glenn’s father, Greg Randall, who has coached his son in various endurance sports since Glenn was in the seventh grade. “He’s very aerobically strong. When he was 7 years old, he climbed his first Fourteener.”

Glenn Randall hiked up 14,433-foot Mount Elbert then. He’d run up it now.

Randall gravitated to mountain running as if he was running down a mountain, but making it his main competitive sport was not his intent. Upon graduating from Dartmouth, where he won the NCAA Division I Nordic skiing championship in the 10-kilometer freestyle, Randall thought he was going to continue competing in cross-country skiing. He said he decided to try mountain running in 2010 as a way to train during skiing’s offseason “because it would be a good workout.”

The main difference between mountain running and cross-country running, he said, is cross-country courses are much shorter in length and may have some hill climbs, but they tend not to take more than a minute to ascend. The shortest mountain races, he said, are at least six miles long, and hill climbs are much longer.

“In mountain running,” he said, “it’s rare for a hill to last less than 10 minutes, often going up for an hour.”

Plus, a course may have stretches of singletrack, doubletrack, dirt roads, paved roads and cobblestone all in one race.

He instantly liked the new challenge with the sustained climbs and embraced it even more when his first races brought immediate success.

“I started doing really well in it,” said Randall, who appears to be prone to understatement. The more accurate assessment: He won his first three races.

His first race was up Mount Evans, where he posted the second-fastest time in the race’s history. Then he won the Vail Hill Climb. And in the third race, the Pikes Peak Ascent, which he said is a half-marathon with an elevation climb of 8,000 feet, his time set records for rookie runners and runners in his age group. He was 23 at the time.

Each race brought a different collection of runners, and he assumed someone more experienced would win.

“Each time I said this is probably the one I’ll get demolished, but I didn’t,” he said.

This summer he placed fourth in the Mount Washington Road Race, which doubled as the 2012 USA Mountain Running Championships, and that earned him a spot on the U.S. Mountain Running Team. The top six finishers at Mount Washington made the U.S. squad and qualified for the World Mountain Racing Championships.

Mountain races in Europe are significantly different than in the United States, Randall said. In Europe, races don’t use switchbacks, he said. They go straight up and straight down, and the first time Randall encountered that, during a mountain race in Switzerland last year, he had to adjust because he wasn’t used to it. He still finished seventh, he said, in a race with several thousand participants.

What awaits him today in Ponte di Legno, Italy, is a course slightly less than nine miles, and he said its location is “about as middle of nowhere as you can be in Italy.”

The course starts in Temù and has varying steepness, including parts that are about a 35 percent grade for sustained stretches, he said. Runners will race up Tonale Pass, where the race concludes.

He will run it without a set place or time in mind.

“I’m just going to try to have a good race,” Randall said. “I realized a long time ago if I’m thinking about a time or a place, it probably won’t happen. Instead, I focus on having a good race, and the results will take care of themselves.”


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