My Experience Running at Elevation

IMG_20131020_154958I recently got back from a trip to New Mexico to visit some family and while I was out there I wanted to continue my training for the Philadelphia Half Marathon. I envisioned myself going on multiple runs and enjoying the natural beauty of Santa Fe but being on vacation, I got lazy and didn’t run as often as I would have liked too. For anyone who has not been to New Mexico it’s unlikely you know the elevation in the major cities such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque are higher than that of Denver. Santa Fe’s elevation is over 6,500 feet (a mile is 5,280 feet). Needless to say, it’s pretty hard to breath while walking around, let alone running.

Right now a majority of my runs are currently run at, or near, sea level (about 50-100 feet of elevation if I’m not doing a hill workout). To go from sea level to 7,000 feet is just pure insanity. Within a quarter mile of my run I felt like I needed to stop, flat out just stop. I instantly felt light-headed but pushed on and sucked it up. It became a struggle to finish my 4.5 mile run and the overall pacing of this run was an 8:15 mile, which is about 45 seconds slower than most of my training runs. Altitude really plays a major role in running and I wish I had more opportunities to run at these elevation levels. I now understand why many elite level athletes train in such high altitude areas, because once you get accustomed to running and training there it must be cake running anywhere else!

Despite struggling through the run I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to do it again. The landscapes are pretty awesome and the trails out West are even cooler than I had imagined. Unfortunately I was only able to hike on the trails, this time, but I’m hoping to go back soon for a run-vacation. Have you ever run at extreme elevations before? What was your experience like?

-Jason

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