Hogpen Hill Climb Helen, Ga. • January 29, 2012 The Hogpen is a 32-year-old tradition pitting runners against a paved course that climbs 2,000 feet from the mock Bavarian village of Helen, Ga., to the top of Hogpen Gap in 10.5 miles. runthehogpen.org

Helvetia 10K Mountain Run Helvetia, W.Va. • September 11, 2011 Creek crossings, steep climbs, big views, and a near two-mile downhill finish, perfect for mountain running rookies. wvmtr.org

Rock 2 Rock Black Mountain, N.C. • May 2011 You’d be hard-pressed to find a mountain race more technical than this 10K. The terrain is primarily technical singletrack that climbs steeply for 3.5 miles to Eden Rock, then drops just as steeply through roots, rocks, and trees back to the finish. rock2rockrun.com

The Bear 5 Mile Run Linville, N.C. • July 7, 2011 The Bear is a classic mountain run on paved roads from Linville to the top of Grandfather Mountain. The last two miles are beastly, where you’ll gain 1,000 feet of elevation to the finish. hopeformarrow.org

Mill Mountain Mayhem Roanoke, Va. • April 9, 2011 This 10K trail race corkscrews to the top of Mill Mountain just outside of downtown Roanoke. You’ll peak at the Star Overlook, take in the views, then barrel down the mountain on semi-technical trail to the finish. mountainjunkies.net

Terrapin Mountain Half Marathon Sedalia, Va. • March 26, 2011 This 13.1-mile trail race gains a whopping 3,250 feet, and the climbing begins essentially at the starting line as you make your way up, around, and down the beastly Terrapin Mountain. Think that’s brutal? There’s also a 50K option. eco-xsports.com

Mountain Running Destinations “People think running up a mountain is going to be miserable, but it’s also a really enjoyable, pretty thing to do,” says Chris York, a member of last year’s mountain running national team. To train for the World Championships, he ran a section of the Appalachian Trail several times a week to get used to the climbs and descents. York and other top mountain runners from the Southeast recommended these top training spots:

Not far from the crowds: Crowders Mountain offers ideal mountain running close to Charlotte, N.C. Run the backside trail to the 1,625 foot summit.