Our aims were to measure anthropometric and oxygen uptake ( O2) variables in the laboratory, to measure kinetic and stride characteristics during a trail running time trial, and then analyse the data for correlations with trail running performance. Runners (13 men, 4 women: mean age: 29 ± 5 years; stature: 179.5 ± 0.8 cm; body mass: 69.1 ± 7.4 kg) performed laboratory tests to determine O2 max, running economy (RE), and anthropometric characteristics. On a separate day they performed an outdoor trail running time trial (two 3.5 km laps, total climb: 486 m) while we collected kinetic and time data. Comparing lap 2 with lap 1 (19:40 ± 1:57 min vs. 21:08 ± 2:09 min, P < 0.001), runners lost most time on the uphill sections and least on technical downhills (-2.5 ± 9.1 s). Inter-individual performance varied most for the downhills (CV > 25%) and least on flat terrain (CV < 10%). Overall stride cycle and ground contact time (GCT) were shorter in downhill than uphill sections (0.64 ± 0.03 vs. 0.84 ± 0.09 s; 0.26 ± 0.03 vs. 0.46 ± 0.90 s, both P < 0.001). Force impulse was greatest on uphill (248 ± 46 vs. 175 ± 24 Ns, P < 0.001) and related to GCT (r = 0.904, P < 0.001). Peak force was greater during downhill than during uphill running (1106 ± 135 vs. 959 ± 104 N, P < 0.01). Performance was related to absolute and relative O2 max (P < 0.01), vertical uphill treadmill speed (P < 0.001) and fat percent (P < 0.01). Running uphill involved the greatest impulse per step due to longer GCT while downhill running generated the highest peak forces. O2 max, vertical running speed and fat percent are important predictors for trail running performance. Performance between runners varied the most on downhills throughout the course, while pacing resembled a reversed J pattern. Future studies should focus on longer competition distances to verify these findings and with application of measures of 3D kinematics.
Keywords: downhill running; foot forces; ground contact time; pacing; stride frequency.