In the fall of 2022, prolific mountain racer Max King and race director and Team USA under-20 manager Paul Kirsch reached the shared conclusion that there was a lack of resources and information available for young people in the U.S. wishing to pursue trail running — particularly for aspiring young international runners. They felt that while cross country and track running had clear structures for young people to grow and be supported within the sport, the same wasn’t true of trail running.
Borne out of these conversations was a new youth trail website — YouthTrail.com — which directs to a section on the main American Trail Running Association website. The site is now fully operational and offers a wealth of resources and guidance for young and aspiring trail runners.
Kirsch told iRunFar: “In October, there was initial discussion. Max was the person who spearheaded it. Since then, we’ve been having some meetings and mapping out what we wanted on the site.”
Kirsch is the team manager for the under-20 U.S. Mountain Running Team and also for the under-18 U.S. Mountain Running Team, who will compete at the World Mountain Running Association International U18 Mountain Running Youth Cup in Annecy, France, in May. He said, “We get some great runners for that team, but a lot of them are coming in with strong cross country and track [backgrounds] but have no trail running experience. And our ultimate goal would be like a feeder system so that everyone looking to compete for the U.S. would have some trail and mountain running experience.” He added, “The site is meant to be a combination of articles that are geared toward young runners, interviews with young runners, as well as information about the teams.”
King, who placed fourth at the 2022 Trail Running Championships 40k in Thailand and was the 2011 World Mountain Running Champion, has been involved for some time in growing the sport for young people.
He told iRunFar: “I’m involved with a lot of youth in my community. I coach a cross country middle-school team and a track team, and I also do running camps for youth on the trail side of things. So I’ve always been passionate about getting young people into trail running and running in general.”
Kirsch and King are in the process of reaching out to race directors to appeal to them to offer a discount for their races to young trail runners. The race would then be awarded a Youth Trail label as an accreditation, with a logo to use on the race’s website that would link back to the youth trail running site. Among the resources to be included in the site going forward is a list of such participating races. Race directors wishing to get involved in the initiative should fill out this form or reach out to King at maxkingor at gmail dot com.
Kirsch said: “The goal is to send out a message of welcoming to young runners to come out and try trail running!”