Making your mountain run athletic

TrailRunMag 29.10.2015

Once upon a time, a brand dropped its product on its retailers (once upon a time the brand was also the retailer!), whacked out a bit of advertising and sat back to count the cash register bells. Well, that’s perhaps a most brutal simplification of ye olde shopping days; point is it was a straight forward one-two-purchase-profit process.Mountain Athletics I Train For - Instagram

Today, customers want way more from those they buy their kit from, most especially in the outdoor and adventure communities, which naturally encompass trail and adventure running. We want a gentle introduction, a few daytime coffee meet-ups, maybe it will progress to dinner, if the brand is lucky a peck on the cheek, and maybe six months later, dear customer will deem the brand product worthy of staying over the night. They may even go as far to tell their friends of this new user/product relationship.

From there, it can be brief, torrid affair still, especially if said product doesn’t meet muster in the bedroom of the bush. Or it can be a long lasting beautiful partnership that then extends to familydom. In our case as trail runners, that could mean endless new arrivals of shoes, more shoes, another pair of shoes, a running top, or three, a jacket or four (wet, warm, wind proof, pub proof), shorts, socks, hydro pack.. and on… depending on the range said brand offers.

BUT, if the relationship is serious, it has to be invested in by its purveyor. The love has to be earned. No surprise, then, that today’s adventure brands (the savvy ones) don’t just fling kit at us, they fling all sorts of incentives and relationship building reach-outs in an effort to make us swoon (well, if they are smart they do… plenty of outdoor brands in Australia are still sitting back on their lazy laurels thinking if they hang a shingle, the dirty masses will come calling… buh, buh).

This correspondent particularly loves one foreign brand’s recent approach – REI in the United Kingdom has it’s #OptOutside campaign which states:

“REI believes that being outside makes our lives better. That’s why this Black Friday, we’re closing all 143 of our stores and paying our employees to head outside.”

Closing down all stores for a day at great cost so its frontline dealers can live the life fuh rheal? Now that’s walking/running/climbing/adventuring the talk.

In Australia there are a few brands that we believe strut fairly and credibly in the same space. Sure they spruik products and they are in business to do business and makadamoolah. They want to sell. But the fringe benefit of that for us, in a competitive market, is that the good ones give us more than just a decent product. Case in point: Salomon investing in The African Attachment film crew to produce the ongoing series of short films that actually (mostly) editorialise rather than simply proselytise (and yes ‘religious/faith conversion’ reference on purpose!). They give us something (story, inspiration, characters) rather than just try to sell us something.

One brand we’ll put in the community returns basket is The North Face, which recently released a new range – yes more product for us addicts/believers to buy, buy, buy (but then use, use, use) – called Mountain Athletics.

It’s a range of active wear for the outdoors that crosses the boundaries – is it for the trail? Yes. Is it for the cross fitter? Yes. Is it for trekkers on mountain approach? Yes. It’s good gear. I can vouch for it right now: I’m wearing it headed to run between 4000-5000 up metres in the Himalayas in Bhutan. And yes I’ll wear it up there. At 5000m. Okay, I’ll be adding a TNF 800 down to that (!). But I trust the kit in serious trail conditions, and trust that it will keep me comfortable.

Rob Krar, Emily Harrington, Callum Petit, Stephanie Howe, Ingrid Backstrom. S15 MountainAthletics. Richmond, California. Photographer: Joe Budd. The North Face Rights Expire: 07_25_16.

Rob Krar, Emily Harrington, Callum Petit, Stephanie Howe, Ingrid Backstrom.

But this isn’t a product review. And yes, in the interested of disclosure, TNF does advertise with us and partner with us (and thus support the existence of a trail running publication made free to you, dear reader, ahh the benefits)…and we use their kit. We could be biased. But I tell you, commercial bias goes out every hut window when you’re in the Himalayas. You use gear that works. Period. Doesn;t matter who’s paying the bills. So is this an advertorial? A little from column A (they asked us to let our readers know about MA) and a little from column B (we wanted to prattle on about what else brands bring to the table other than pithing for our coin), to be fair and transparent.

But to the introduction – talking about how brands engage with us trail runners and the lengths they must (and should!) now go to in order to create a relationship with us. And to the Mountain Athletics range: with this one, they have engaged on the level of training – leveraging some of the best mountain athletes in the world to design up some generalised programs to assist in our training. In this case, Mike Wolfe and Jez Bragg. Serious guns worth taking tips from (and who you’d expect to pay decent dollars for their expert advice were you going to them for coaching tips).

Now, no-one’s suggesting the Mountain Athletics suite of App, videos and other information and inspiration will get you from zero to ultra hero. But it will – especially if new to the trail scene – get you fired up and arm you with some basics, while giving you a little structure to begin your trail training journey. And you don’t even have to buy the kit to benefit from it.

Check out the App here. And some cool little videos here.Print

This of course backs up The North Face’s commitment to encouraging new adventurers and new exploratory journeys into nature, via the The North Face Adventure Grants. We’re still encouraging trail runners to apply, as to date the $10,000 prize pool, including cash, is yet to be won by an adventurous runner with big (mountain) dreams. Time for the paddlers and climbers and explorers to hand over the baton, we reckon…. Check out details here (FB feed) and here (blog about past winners and link to application).

We point here to a particular brand on a particular campaign of giving something to the trail community (while of course still trying to sell some kit – no one is whitewashing that imperative! At least it’s quality kit…), there are others, such as REI in the UK and Salomon worldwide as mentioned, along with the likes of La Sportiva (specifically investing in events in Australia and NZ – an important part of community support), and Saucony (with its Find Your Strong campaign concentrating on ‘real’ stories and inspiration) and Patagonia (TheNewLocalism campaign and various environmental initiatives on trail) all putting at least a little of what rings through their registers, back into the community in some form or another.

We look forward to these brands and others dreaming up new ways to talk to us dirty folk. If the conversation is good, we may even buy into the relationship…

Have a look at the Mountain Athletics info here and then get the App here.
Check the videos and sets of exercises here.