A VK, or vertical kilometer, is an event that emphasizes running or hiking up one kilometer in altitude, rather than covering a long distance. Born in the Alps, original VKs often climb 1000 meters (3281 ft) of altitude with less than 5km of distance traveled. The shortest, steepest VKs are almost like going up a cliff. The terrain required to have 1km of climbing in 5km of distance is relatively rare, remote, and start at higher altitudes. Many are held at ski areas in the summer when the snow has melted.
The Santa Barbara VK is closer to 10km in distance. While it isn’t as steep as Alpine VKs, it is still a challenging climb with very few flat or downhill sections and some sections are quite steep. Like most VKs, the Santa Barbara VK isn’t exactly 1000m of vert (it’s 10-20m more) since finishing at the top of La Cumbre Peak is better than a few meters down while starting at an intersection is better than in front of someone’s driveway. Also, it was measured using a free altimeter app on an iPhone.
Runners throughout the ages have been drawn to mountain peaks. They offer perspective not found down below, allowing to gaze out vast distances. This can help people find their way either in the moment as you find familiar landmarks or in life as to see the world anew. They remind us of the beauty of this planet. In 1000 meters of climbing there will be different plants, animals, and geological features at different stages of the climb. These layers provide beauty and variety that reward the runner throughout the journey. A journey that will remind us that we live on a planet worth preserving.
A VK is a challenge, but it is a challenge that most fit people can accomplish. It doesn’t require the training or the commitment of longer road races but it offers many of the same rewards. The sense of accomplishment at the top never gets old no matter how fast the runner is.