The top altitude training venues

Thinking about altitude training? Elizabeth Egan reviews some of the options that are available

Posted on November 1, 2012 by
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Altitude training (Mark Shearman)

It is safe to assume that very few of Britain’s middle and long-distance athletes at London 2012 did not use altitude as part of their preparations. Paula Radcliffe is an advocate of altitude training and uses Albuquerque and Font Romeu regularly. British athletes have been clocking up the miles in the thin air around Iten in Kenya, while the hypoxic air of Falls Creek is a popular distance-running training venue Down Under.

But are these venues open to everyone, or do you need a special invitation to train there? Places like Iten, Mammoth Lakes and Addis Ababa barely feature in most travel guides, so how do you go about organising a trip to one of these venues? How do you ensure that your training is not going to be disrupted by an unfamiliar training environment?

These were just some of the questions on my mind when I set out to research an altitude training travel guide, which will be published later this year – Notes from Higher Grounds: An Altitude Training Guide for Athletes. I have found that anyone can utilise altitude training – there are venues to suit all tastes and budgets, and organising a trip may be much easier than you think.

Below is a summary of the 15 venues that will feature in the book. If you would like to find out more about my altitude trips and keep up to date with progress on the book, check out: altitudetrainingcamps.com or follow @egansadventures on Twitter.

Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Altitude: 2300m
When to go: October to May
Ideal for: Distance-running geeks who would like to experience the Ethiopian way of training
Pros: Friendly people who understand running; great cultural experience; warm weather year round; lots to do between sessions; cheap once you get to Ethiopia
Cons: Noise, pollution, traffic and the other perils of city life; difficult to find good meat

Iten, Kenya

Altitude: 2400m
When to go: May to March
Ideal for: Solo travellers looking for the ultimate running experience
Pros: Comfortable accommodation at places like Lornah Kilpagat’s HATC; athlete-friendly food; cheap once you get to Kenya; great running experience; good choice of off-road tracks
Cons: The novelty of children running alongside can quickly wear off; difficult to find completely flat training routes; dirt roads become dusty and muddy when wet

Ifrane, Morocco

Altitude: 1660m
When to go: May to October
Ideal for: Marathon runners who would like to experience Africa without spending hours on a flight
Pros: Flat, quiet roads suitable for road running; cheap; good choice of food; easy to get to
Cons: Unpredictable weather and short season; most off-road routes are uneven and gravelly

Dullstroom, South Africa

Altitude: 2100m
When to go: August to April
Ideal for: Distance runners wishing to experience South African culture, countryside and cuisine
Pros: Good choice of cheap and comfortable accommodation; beautiful countryside; good choice of off-road routes
Cons: You’re never too far away from the poverty and inequalities of South African society

Potchefstroom, South Africa

Altitude: 1378m
When to go: Year round
Ideal for: The track runner who would like to combine warm weather with mild altitude exposure
Pros: Great weather; great training facilities; great choice of accommodation
Cons: The altitude is probably not high enough for a real altitude training stimulus; difficult to find off-road routes for longer runs

America

Albuquerque, USA

Altitude: 1619m
When to go: March to October
Ideal for: Those who like city life
Pros: Lots to do between training sessions; easy to get to once in America; good food; relatively cheap; good weather almost all year round
Cons: Impossible to get around without a car; local knowledge required

St Louis Potosi, Mexico

Altitude: 1850m
When to go: Year round
Ideal for: Track runners looking to escape the northern hemisphere winter
Pros: Good weather; nice town; cheap accommodation and food; good facilities at La Loma Altitude Training Centre
Cons: About a 20-hour travel time from UK

Mexico City, Mexico

Altitude: 2240m
When to go: October to May
Ideal for: Those looking to combine a cultural experience with a training holiday
Pros: Cheap once you get there; lots to do between training; home of altitude training
Cons: Traffic, crime and other perils associated with large cities

Mammoth Lakes, USA

Altitude: 2400m
When to go: April to September
Ideal for: Those wanting to live high, train low in advance of early-season track races in California
Pros: Ideal for live-high, train-low approach; beautiful countryside; good choice of food
Cons: Expensive in comparison to other American destinations; a car is recommended to get around

Boulder, USA

Altitude: 1655m
When to go: April to October
Ideal for: Those wanting to challenge themselves in one of America’s most famous road races
Pros: Runner-friendly town; large variety of trails and tracks
Cons: Some local knowledge required

Flagstaff, USA

Altitude: 2106m
When to go: April to October
Ideal for: Trail runners who would like to experience small-town America and combine with a trip to some of America’s most amazing natural wonders
Pros: Excellent choice of trails starting right in the centre of town; great opportunities to run with locals; laid-back atmosphere; close to some of America’s most spectacular natural sites; option for live-high, train-low
Cons: Can often be windy; suitable accommodation can sometimes be difficult to find

Australia

Falls Creek, Australia

Altitude: 1600m
When to go: December to April
Ideal for: Those looking to escape the distractions of life prior to competing on the Australian track circuit
Pros: Good choice of running routes; very peaceful; very cheap accommodation outside main tourist seasons, very friendly, laid-back atmosphere
Cons: Difficult to get to; few shops and restaurants open outside of main seasons; not much to do between training

Europe

Sierra Nevada, Spain

Altitude: 2320m
When to go: April to October
Ideal for: Track runners who wish to combine warm weather training with a live-high, train-low approach to training
Pros: Good live-high, train-low potential; good facilities
Cons: Very poor choice of running routes without having to travel; expensive

Font Romeu, France

Altitude: 1850m
When to go: May to October
Ideal for: Those looking for a moderate altitude exposure close to home
Pros: Good gym and track facilities; opportunity to train at a lower altitude; beautiful countryside; good variety of running routes and terrains; good self-catering accommodation options
Cons: Snow possible until April; busy during peak summer months; most of the running routes close to the town are hilly or difficult to find

St Moritz, Switzerland

Altitude: 1856m
When to go: June to September
Ideal for: Those who want to experience altitude for the first time
Pros: Excellent choice of easy-to-find running routes; accessing facilities is easy; very beautiful town
Cons: Very expensive

One Response to “The top altitude training venues”

  1. Group T. Specialists says:

    High altitude training for marathons is a great idea, it intensifies your endurance and makes you faster, sharper and more in-tuned with your greatest vessel, yourself. It makes such a difference in what you can push your body to do and what your end result with be when you get back to your normal altitude, kick bum and get even closer to that finish line.

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