In 2020, Personal Peak played a key role in the organization and running of the first edition of the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, an event that grabbed the attention of runners all around the world at the start of the pandemic. Now, the Personal Peak team is back with another virtual challenge, the MTU Showdown, although this time everyone participating will be expected to run far. The challenge uses MTUs, or Mountain Training Units, which were created by Personal Peak’s Ashley and Travis Schiller-Brown, combining distance and elevation gain to form one unit of measurement that calculates relative effort from any run. The MTU Showdown is free to enter, and it runs from now until June 30.
Tracking your MTUs
One MTU is equal to 100m of elevation gain or one kilometre of distance, and participants in the MTU Showdown will run 1,600 MTUs in total between now and the end of June. “The race is all about that unit and the idea that if you’re running uphill it’s not the same as if you’re running flat,” says Personal Peak coach Keeley Milne.
Participants track their runs and update their progress on the official race page, and they are allowed to include any activities they performed on foot. That means you can include your daily steps, any walks you complete and, of course, your runs. Everything you do can count toward your MTUs. Every morning, the event leaderboard is updated to show where everyone ranks.
As participants upload their runs, they will be automatically placed into one of three routes. These routes follow real roads and paths through Alberta, and participants will be able to get virtual tours of the different places where they run. The tours will be given by locals from each place, including race directors, coaches and running-related businesses.
First off, there is the GDT Route, following the Great Divide Trail in Alberta and B.C. Participants will be entered in this if their runs have a lot of elevation gain. This route is 1,124K long with 47,600m of elevation gain (which of course works out to 1,600 MTUs).
Next up is the Scenic Route, which is 1,410K with 19,000m of elevation gain through Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Finally, there’s the flattest option in the Prairie Route, which is 1,531K with 6,900m of elevation gain. This is for the runners whose workouts are generally flat, and they will be taken by places like Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.
When it comes to the race and competition itself, these routes are irrelevant. Everyone is racing toward 1,600 MTUs, which is what makes this event so unique. In other virtual events, people who live in flatter regions can have an advantage in a race, but the MTU makes everything equal. Whether you actually are running the Great Divide Trail and climbing thousands upon thousands of metres or if you’re in the Prairies, everyone is working toward a fair goal to level the playing field.
Milne says that so far, there are around 350 runners entered in the MTU Showdown from close to 20 countries worldwide. If you enter this challenge, there are Facebook and Strava groups you can join, too. With these sites, even though you’ll be running individually all across the country and world, you can connect with your fellow racers. To learn more about the MTU Showdown, check out the event website here.