How to Whip Your Butt Into Shape for the Red Bull 400

Big Mountain Freeskier Michelle Parker shares her workout plan in the lead up to Park City's steepest running race

By Michaela Wagner September 7, 2017

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Competitors ascend the ski jump at Utah Olympic Park during the Red Bull 400, a.k.a. the most grueling race on the planet.

Image: Red Bull

Think running the Jupiter Steeplechase or Mid Mountain Marathon is tough? Think again. The ultimate test of endurance, both physically and mentally, is just 400 meters long. Of course, it's not the distance that will get you, it's the near-vertical climb up the Utah Olympic Park's iconic ski jump that leaves many racers crawling to the finish line in a mess of sweat and tears. You guessed it, the Red Bull 400 is back on September 30 for its third year in Park City, offering anyone crazy enough to try 400 meters of pure adrenaline, dedication, and lung-crushing grit on the steepest uphill course in the world. (Incidentally, it' the same jump Robbie Maddison jumped his motorcycle on.)

Although the race touches down in fourteen different locations around the world from Japan to Kazakhstan and across Europe, Park City's Red Bull 400 has the honor of starting at the highest altitude. Racers start at 6,780 feet and end at 7,308 feet, making it an elevation gain of 528 feet over just 400 meters. On level terrain, you might expect to burn 20 or so calories running 400 meters, but the average male might burn closer to 500 calories competing in this excruciating run up the ski jump. Notable former competitors include past Olympians Bill Demong, Liz Stephen,  Torin Koos, Bryan Fletcher, Veronica Mayerhofer, Nick Hendrickson, and Sarah Hendrickson as well as Red Bull athletes Ahmet Arslan (2015 winner,) Johnny Collinson (ran 2016 qualifier), and Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (ran 2016 qualifier.)  

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Exhausted racers recovering after the 400-meter climb up the ski jump.

Image: Red Bull

The Red Bull 400 Workout

If you're gearing up to compete in the race yourself, take a page from the training playbook of big mountain freeskier Michelle Parker, who is currently preparing for this race and another bike race at the same time. "I have a couple of intense races coming up so I am training for both the bike race and Red Bull 400 simultaneously. This actually translates well for a lot of people who would like a diverse and interesting approach to training," says Parker. 

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Big mountain free skier Michelle Parker

Image: Red Bull

While training for the 50-mile gravel bike race, Rebecca's Private Idaho, she did 30 to 70 mile rides stretches at a slower pace (depending on whether she was on a road bike or mountain bike) mixed with short days at a higher intensity loops of 10-15 miles on the mountain bike or 20+ on the road bike. Leading up to the Red Bull 400, Parker traded her long distance biking routine for a workout focused on building power for the uphill sprint. Her ideal month long training plan is as follows:

  • 1-mile warm up at an easy pace
  • 300-foot uphill sprint (or whatever length hill you can find nearby!)
  • Repeat the sprint 5 to 10 times
  • Build the engine and continue to increase intensity and amount of sprints 
  • Supplement this program with longer days of hiking distance to access more climbs and build endurance

"My lifestyle is geared towards climbing and biking in the summer," says Parker. "Because of this, I'll get to the training program likely three times per week and the other four days will be spent in the mountains climbing on the bike. I like to mix it up, suffer, and try hard, but the key for me is to always be having fun and always be moving."

Ready to prove yourself? You can register for Park City's Red Bull 400 here. If you'd rather not put yourself through the pain, remember to come out an cheer for all the athletes who do on September 30! 

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Special Events

Red Bull 400

Utah Olympic Park

The third annual Red Bull 400 in the United States will be hosted at the Utah Olympic Park.