Elevation gain in running refers to the total amount of vertical distance that a runner ascends during a run. It is usually measured in feet or meters and can vary depending on the terrain and location of the run. Elevation gain is an important factor to consider when planning a training program or choosing a race, as it can significantly impact running performance and training goals.

The amount of elevation gain in a run can range from 0-10 feet per mile for a flat run, 10-50 feet per mile for a moderately rolling run, 50-150 feet per mile for a rolling run, and 150-250 feet per mile for a very hilly run. For mountainous runs, the elevation gain can be 250+ feet per mile.

Runners can track their elevation gain using GPS watches or smartphone apps that have elevation tracking features. Understanding elevation gain can help runners plan their training and choose appropriate races that align with their goals and abilities


  1. Measuring Elevation Gain: Elevation gain is calculated by determining the height difference between your starting point and the highest point you reach during your run. This is typically measured in feet or meters. A route with a lot of uphill sections is usually more challenging and requires greater energy and endurance compared to flatter routes.
  2. Importance for Trail and Mountain Runners: Elevation gain is particularly crucial for trail runners or those who run in mountainous areas. These runs often feature steep inclines, challenging terrain, and rough surfaces, demanding specific skills, strategic planning, and appropriate gear.
  3. Preparation: Ensure you have suitable footwear, sufficient hydration, and a plan for nutrition. Training for elevation-heavy runs involves gradually building endurance and strength through hill repeats, stair climbing, and interval training.
  4. Mental Preparation: Getting mentally ready for significant hills is also important. Techniques like meditation and visualization can help maintain focus and motivation during tough uphill segments.

In summary, elevation gain is a key indicator of a running route's difficulty, especially for trail and mountain running. Proper physical and mental preparation, including tailored workouts and mental strategies, are essential for handling the challenges of uphill running efficiently and safely.


Elevation gain can significantly impact running performance in various ways. Here are some key points to consider:

  1. Increased fatigue: Running uphill or on hilly terrain can lead to increased fatigue due to the additional work required against gravity and the force of the slope. This can result in slower race times and reduced overall performance.
  2. Altered pacing: Runners may need to adjust their pacing strategy when facing elevation gain, as it can be more challenging to maintain a consistent pace on hilly or uneven terrain. This can lead to a more conservative approach to avoid burning out later in the race.
  3. Muscle activation: Running on hilly terrain can activate different muscle groups, as runners change their stride to adapt to the elevation changes. This can lead to muscle imbalances and may affect overall running performance if not addressed during training.
  4. Aerobic fitness: Aerobic fitness, as measured by VO2 max, can be a better predictor of uphill running performance than anaerobic fitness. This suggests that runners with higher aerobic fitness may be better equipped to handle elevation gain.
  5. Training adaptation: Incorporating elevation gain into training can help runners adapt to hilly terrain and improve their overall running performance. For example, one study suggested that every 10 feet of elevation change alters your time by 1.74 seconds, regardless of the horizontal distance covered.

In summary, elevation gain can have a significant impact on running performance. Runners should consider the potential effects of elevation gain when planning their training and choosing races, and incorporate hill training into their routine to improve their overall running ability.