Due to the pandemic, the Cirque Series — the premier max elevation mountain race — was canceled. That didn’t stop this runner from taking on a very big challenge. In fact, he logged 400K+ feet of elevation in 30 days, setting a new world record.
Chris Fisher just broke the Guinness World Record for max vert in a month (in October, though it’s only now official). How? He logged 400,246 feet of elevation gain by running up and down mountains — a lot, everywhere from Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah. The 25-year-old from Breckenridge, Colo., also broke the record for “Combined Uphill & Downhill Max Vert” in a month.
Our burning question, and probably yours too: why would someone want to do this? And, if you are a runner who is thinking about a max vert challenge, how do you do it? Chris Fisher might have some answers.
Q&A With Chris Fisher
GearJunkie: For runners who aren’t familiar, what are max vert challenges?
Chris Fisher: The premise is to climb as many feet in a month, and see how far you can go. The Cirque Series started the whole thing — it started last year, so this is the second run. Editor’s note: Max vert is short for maximum vertical gain (also known as elevation gain).
My goal was to hit 400,000 feet. And I really wanted to get close to the record. The Guinness Record was something low like 118,000 feet. The actual record — held by Noah Brautigam from the 2020 Cirque Series — was 342,000 feet of vert.
GJ: What was it like to train for this?
CF: I was dealing with a bunch of injuries, so my training load leading up to it was actually much smaller. If I had to do it differently, I’d build up my training a little more so I’m not straining myself at the start of the month.
GJ: Where did you run? Did you run every day, and for how long?
CF: I ran the first 5 days in my hometown of Breckenridge. Then I drove out to Salt Lake City, Utah, and spent the rest of the month there. Last year I did the whole month in Colorado, and I think I climbed 24 different peaks. This time, I focused on staying in one place.
And I think just depends on your goals. I was going for 400,000 feet, so [staying] in one place was more efficient.
I was definitely doing laps most days. Depending on the trail, it was 5-10, sometimes 20. I did 8 laps on the Manitou Incline (which gains 2,000 feet in under a mile) in Colorado. That really sucked.
GJ: What hurt? Did you deal with any injuries?
CF: So I started with two 15,000-foot days, and my knees didn’t cooperate very much. I could barely walk uphill after. So I took a whole day off on Day 6 to get my knees checked out.
Then, I sprained my ankle (the same one) for the sixth time this season mid-challenge as well. I had a bunch of quad and calf issues, soft tissue issues that could’ve stemmed from the knee injuries. I tried to just push through, but the last week of the month I was battling tendonitis in my left foot. It was definitely bad.
GJ: What was your high point and low point of the month?
CF: They were the exact same day. I woke up on my birthday [October 23] feeling pretty sick. That day was also the peak of my quad injury. I woke up at like 3 a.m., did a lap, then had to lay down in my truck for like 4 hours to sleep. I wasn’t sure how far I’d be able to go or how much I’d get done, and I was thinking a lot about the “why” I was still pushing myself. The feeling of not knowing if I was going to keep going. That was definitely a low point.
Eventually, I came back to thinking about how close I was to the record. Ended up getting myself back up at 7 a.m. and logging 10 more hours, over 18,000 feet that day. After that, I knew it was all downhill from there.
It was a lot of limping that day. And it wasn’t very fun limping either.
GJ: Was it as difficult as you expected?
CF: It was harder than I expected, to be honest, especially not being able to put in as much training beforehand. It could be easier with correct training. Well, not necessarily easier, but more tolerable. And mentally, it’s draining no matter what.
GJ: What is your recovery routine like?
CF: Most of my recovery revolves around foam rolling, tension, and stress relief, and using my massage gun. I actually don’t own a foam roller; I just borrowed a buddy’s. But those things seem to help ease pain. Some days I’d be so drained, I’d have no energy. And that would affect me the next few days.
Nutrition is a component, but I’m not on a special diet. With as many calories as I was burning, it was just eating as much as I could. The Gnarly Fuel also played a huge part in my success. I drank 15-20 servings (1,500-2,000 calories) of the Fuel2O every day.
GJ: What are a few training tips you could give runners who want to tackle more vert?
CF: I think if you can, give yourself a few month’s time for training, and if you are able, take the whole month off. You are going to be running 10-12 hours a day, so fueling correctly is important. Other than that, just getting out hiking and training leading up to the challenge.
For me, being able to tackle more vert is all about the aerobic engine. Most people starting out in trail running probably also aren’t super fast; that’s fine. It’s more [about] being able to handle longer distances and times on trail.
The Max Vert World Record: Stats
- Total Max Vert: 400,331 feet/121,995 m
- Max 24-Hour Uphill/Downhill Vert: 18,530 feet/5,647 m
- Total Distance: 539 miles
- Longest Day: 25 miles
- Longest Trail: Grandeur Peak, summited about 20 times (1-2x/day)
- Steepest Trail Grade: 45%
- Average Trail Grade: 29-30%