Vert.Run: Making Trail Running Accessible to Everyone

on May 26, 2021

Over the last few years, the Vert.Run coaching platform has been quietly gaining steam among trail runners and ultrarunners worldwide. Founded modestly in 2018 by trail runners and friends Max Keith, Moisés Jiménez, and Kirsten Kortebein, Vert.Run recently launched an app to support their growing stable of athletes, which according to their website, as of 2020, has served some 13,000 runners from around the world.

In addition to their own coaching expertise, Vert.Run also hosts training programs written by trail runners, mountain runners, and ultrarunners Hillary Allen, Lucy Bartholonew, Ruth Croft, Pascal Egli, Francesco Puppi, and Ryan Sandes. And, recently, Francesco has become one of Vert.Run’s regular coaches.

The Vert.Run app is an Android and iOS mobile app.

The concept here is to make smart, organized training plans accessible to everyone either free or at low cost. The training plans Vert.Run offers run the gamut from introducing people to trail running up to preparing for 100-mile races. When you sign up for Vert.Run, the app helps you choose the training plan that most closely matches your needs, and after that, the coaches adapt that plan to your specific goal race and daily life. Using the app, you log the runs you do each day, move runs among days on the calendar to match your schedule when needed, and interact with the coaches on roughly a weekly basis. As your season progresses and when it’s needed, your Vert.Run coach will further modify your training plan so that it best fits you.

After watching Vert.Run innovate in trail running and ultrarunning’s training and coaching space over the last few years, I decided to ask the team a little more about where the entity has come from and where it’s going.

From left to right are Vert.Run cofounders Moisés Jiménez, Max Keith, and Kirsten Kortebein. All images courtesy of Vert.Run.

Kirsten begins, “The three of us are very different runners. Max and Moi are professional ultrarunners and I am a recreational trail runner. Max and Moi saw the sport from deep inside—from an intense training standpoint. And they saw how few adaptable and high-quality resources there were for people who couldn’t afford a private coach. As for people like me, some of us don’t know how to even enter the sport if maybe we are road runners or we don’t yet run. Or we don’t know how to train sustainably. So, our two different viewpoints came together to start Vert.Run.”

Moi elaborates, “My personal fear is overtraining and overdoing my body. We see this in runners all the time, where they have to leave the sport because of injury or an issue. We wanted to help grow the trail running community in a sustainable way, to keep people healthy and running.”

“When I started trail running, I learned that many people were intimidated by it. They thought you had to train so many hours in order to do it. That just isn’t true at all. You can do this sport by running a few hours total every week. We set out to show this,” says Max.

The Vert.Run app.

One of Vert.Run’s focal points is making smart training financially and logistically accessible to everyone. Explains Moi, “We started with knowing the problem that personal coaching isn’t scalable. One person can only coach so many people, and that drives the prices high and limits access to a coach. That’s normal, but we wondered if there was a way to make personalized, high-quality resources available while keeping the prices low. This is what we are trying.”

He continues, “It’s a process for us to understand what parts of Vert.Run can be automatic, and what parts should be personal. For instance, more than 70% of our clients don’t need their plans changed over the course of their week, but they do desire a personal check-in at the end of the week—for us to look at their training data, ask them how they are feeling, and make small recommendations and changes for next week.”

Concludes Kirsten, “This is about making coaching accessible to more people financially, but it’s also about helping them get past whatever mental barriers they might have about training. We want to help people be proud of their bodies and to respect themselves for what they are doing.”

Holben Figuera, a Venezuelan living in Chile, has been training with Vert.Run for years.

Meghan Hicks is the Editor-in-Chief of iRunFar. She’s been running since she was 13 years old, and writing and editing about the sport for around 15 years. She served as iRunFar’s Managing Editor from 2013 through mid-2023, when she stepped into the role of Editor-in-Chief. Aside from iRunFar, Meghan has worked in communications and education in several of America’s national parks, was a contributing editor for Trail Runner magazine, and served as a columnist at Marathon & Beyond. She’s the co-author of Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running with Bryon Powell. She won the 2013 Marathon des Sables, finished on the podium of the Hardrock 100 Mile in 2021, and has previously set fastest known times on the Nolan’s 14 mountain running route in 2016 and 2020. Based part-time in Moab, Utah and Silverton, Colorado, Meghan also enjoys reading, biking, backpacking, and watching sunsets.

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