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running downhill above Grindelwald
Every Trail Runner’s Biggest Fear: Keeping Up With the Group

Every Trail Runner’s Biggest Fear: Keeping Up With the Group

Apr 9, 2024

I’m not sure I can run up those hills. What if I’m the slowest? I hope I don’t hold everyone up! 

That, in a few short sentences, is by far the most common concern we hear from potential Run the Alps guests. 

I even have these thoughts myself as a trail running guide. And I’ve heard these apprehensions voiced by friends and guests from a wide range of running backgrounds, levels of experience, and skills.

hiking and talking on Swiss trail
Becki, guide and author, chatting on the trails with a group in the Bernese Oberland, Switzerland. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Here’s my take on it. It’s also the philosophy and approach of everyone here at Run the Alps: 

By joining a Run the Alps tour, you will become part of a diverse group of runners, which is one of the appealing aspects of a group trip. 

There might be someone who will wow you, if they revealed their past race times and achievements. On one trip, we even had a guest who had won a 100-mile race, though we didn’t find out for a few days, he was so modest. 

There might be someone who will be eager for the distraction of a strategically timed flower or peak identification time-out, so they can catch their breath and mop away the sweat. 

There might be someone who will glide gracefully over a technical descent while the rest of the group slows to a cautious hiking pace.

There might be someone who plugs away at a slow, steady pace.

Do you relate to one of these runners?

group of runners looking at view Zermatt
Taking a minute to appreciate the view above Zermatt, Switzerland, on the Matterhorn Ultraks tour. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Ultimately, there’s no need for comparison. We each have different running strengths and areas which we find more challenging, and we each come to the trail with different motivations and preferences. The only thing that’s certain is that each day, we’ll arrive at the same inn or refuge to rest our tired feet and feast together on local cuisine!

The beauty of Run the Alps tours is that although individuals in the group arrive with diverse blends of running experience and skills, we are united by the desire to take in stunning views, to experience the variety of trails and environments offered by the Alps, and to challenge ourselves. We create a heartfelt bond through that shared passion.

runners high-five
High-five after a good run above Chamonix. (Photo: Sam Hill)

We Meet You Where You Are

Here’s where the approach of Run the Alps matters. Run the Alps’ ethos encourages appreciating the surroundings, enjoying the journey, and exploring our trail running with a sense of playfulness. We’re not racing, and we realize comparisons are often not helpful. We are each on our own journeys. 

Still have a lingering fear-of-being-the-last? 

Here’s some good news. The feedback we consistently receive is that our guides maintain flexibility and adapt to individual runners’ needs: giving support where needed while also providing challenge.

using poles on a trail in the Dolomites
Giles guiding a Dolomites tour. (Photo: Martina Valmassoi)

“Run the Alps is inclusive, caters to all runners in the group – no matter their age, talent, or speed. The guides create a supportive community of runners during the tour while at the same time they are flexible to adjust to each individual’s needs in terms of distance, stamina, or injuries along the way.” -Dessa

“Our guides were brilliant. They managed to design routes that accommodated everyone and there was always one of the guides at the back, giving encouragement and support.” -Joanna

That all happens on the trails once you’re here with us in the Alps. But even before you arrive, it’s important to select the appropriate tour and start preparing for it. Here’s how we can help with those.  

taking a photo of the Dolomites
Photo stops required in the Dolomites. (Photo: Martina Valmassoi)

How Do I Know Which Trip is Right for Me?

It’s important to identify the tour level that aligns with what you are looking for in an Alps running vacation. The days should be a challenge– not too easy, and not ridiculously difficult.  Which trip is right for you will vary based on factors like fitness, experience, your trail running skills, and– of course!– how hard you want to push yourself on a vacation.

For example, a seasoned trail runner may be looking for full days out in the mountains, though at a relaxed pace and with a chance to stop and appreciate mountain vistas and sample fruit tarts with locally harvested blueberries, at the huts. They might not be looking for a tour that covers the greatest distance or elevation they’ve ever ticked off in a day, a fast pace, or highly technical trails.

runners making a tunnel
Finishing a long day on the Via Valais. (Photo: Mark Brightwell)

Our tour rating system offers typical distance, elevation, and technicality, and explains a bit about how runnable the trails might be and whether there will be some spots that feel a bit exposed. We’ll note whether you frequently have the option of taking a cable car or other mountain transport to shorten a route. We also share a general sense of what distance and vertical you should be able to accomplish comfortably in a day, to be ready for your Run the Alps trip. 

Looking at these guidelines will, we hope, provide you with a sense of what to expect, and help you decide whether you can comfortably cover a typical day and fully enjoy the experience.  

Run the Alps tours are graded from Level 1 – 4. The rating system applies to both guided and self-guided tours.

runners on a trail in the Dolomites
The group cruising along in the Dolomites. (Photo: Martina Valmassoi)

For example, here’s how we characterize a level 2 trip:

Is it for you?

You’ve been trail running for a few years, and are looking to build your skills and try some classic Alps trails. Having route options each day is important to you. You can hike for up to two hours up a steep grade – twice in a day. You can run up to 19 km (12 miles) at 12 min per mile / 8 km per hour pace on level ground, with occasional stops.

The trip

Most days have 915 – 1500 m (3,000 – 5,000 ft) of climbing and descending, and are 11 – 19 km (7-12 miles) long. The terrain may include some technical challenges, such as very rocky trails. Options exist to shorten the day or take days off. There may be short sections that are exposed to the risk of a fall.

Read the details of each level of our grading system here.

ladies running in Grand St Bernard Switzerland
Mirna and crew running above Grand St Bernard, Switzerland. (Photo: Sam Hill)

Level 1 and “Highlights” Tours

We take seriously our goal to “meet you where you are.” You don’t have to run fast to be a trail runner. You don’t need to be thin, or have fancy gear, or have run a race. You just need to put on trail running shoes and head out the door. It really is that simple. Our goal at Run the Alps is to be as inclusive as possible. If you like to trail run, well, we welcome you. Period. 

As of summer 2024, we offer three Level 1 tours, and will have more “Highlights” tours next year to ensure there are plenty of opportunities for runners who want to take on a trail running challenge at a more relaxed pace and with more flexibility.

One of our highlights for Run the Alps has been a new partnership with Mirna “The Mirnavator” Valerio. Mirna is a US-based trail runner who brings boundless enthusiasm and goodwill to the trail running world, while simultaneously smashing preconceptions.  As a plus-sized african-american trail runner who exudes passion for the trails, Mirna defies a range of stereotypes. And she does it with a welcoming smile, empathy and warmth. (Can you tell? We love Mirna!)

We know how trail running has improved our own lives, and we want to share that experience with a broad range of guests. Mirna helps us make that happen, by leading by example, and by welcoming all comers. It’s refreshing. 

Watch for upcoming Level 1 “Highlights” tours on our tour calendar and future self-guided options.

Here’s the bottom line: If you want to come on a Run the Alps trip but worry you might not “fit in”– however you define that– know that we will work with you to find a trip that’s comfortable and right for you.

hiking uphill in Bernese Oberland, Switzerland
One key to running in the Alps is hiking… headed uphill in the Bernese Oberland. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Preparing for a Run the Alps Tour: Our Partnership with

Whatever level of tour you choose, you can take advantage of our collaboration with the experienced coaching team at, who offer customized plans for all Run the Alps tours and personal coaching to adapt to your specific needs. 

When you sign up to a Run the Alps tour you get access to a free month of coaching. Our shared goal between you, Run the Alps and is simple: to arrive in the Alps well-prepared so you can fully enjoy your Alps running adventure! To get started, check out these 5 Tips for Trail Running in the Alps from Training App

two female runners above Grindelwald
Running above Grindelwald on the Eiger Trail tour before participating in the Eiger Ultra. (Photo: Kim Strom)

Get Caught Up

If you’re unsure which tour is right for you there’s more information in our FAQ section, and our Tour Stories give insights to the flavor of our different tours.

Most of all, we are here for you, and we love sharing our experience with anyone curious about trail running in the Alps. Abby, Steph, Zach, Doug and others are here to share a passion that has changed our lives, and help you find and then prepare for a Run the Alps Trip. Just contact us!

group running on trails below big mountains, Switzerland
We love connecting on the trails, here we’re moving along the Grand Bernese Oberland Traverse in Switzerland. (Photo: Kim Strom)
Becki Penrose
Becki is a freelance Outdoor Instructor year round, working both in the UK and the Alps. She's also led expeditions to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Morocco and China. She enjoys the buzz of races, but is equally happy with a good long day – or few days – running through the hills with good companions, both human and canine!