OGDEN -- The difference between road running and trail running is comparable to the difference between cycling and mountain biking.
While the former is more of a consistent, sprint-type race, the latter is a mixture of elements and terrain, molding in with amazing landscapes and treacherous trails.
The thrill of the event is what excites trail runners, and some of the world's best are excited to descend upon Snowbasin Resort for Sunday's Xterra Trail Run Nationals.
"It's so much more exciting to run on the trail than the road," said defending champion Lindsay Anderson, an assistant track coach at Weber State University. "I would choose every time to run on the trail."
The race, which is a 21-kilometer test of endurance, features hills, rocks and conditions which aren't typical for a road race.
The Trail Run Nationals will start at 9 a.m. on Sunday. Today, elite triathletes will compete in the Xterra USA Championships beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Pineview Reservoir, and ending at Snowbasin.
Max King, the winner of five consecutive Xterra Trail Run National Championships, said trail running appeals to a different type of runner.
"It's a different mindset when you're racing on the trail, as opposed to the road," said King, who ran collegiately at Cornell University. "When you're on a trail, you've got a lot more interruptions, your stride changes all the time, and a lot of distractions. Both are mentally challenging, but it's a different kind of mental challenge when you're racing on the trail."
Snowbasin's course is a hearty challenge because of the terrain of the Wasatch Front, and that's why northern Utah has become a destination for competitive runners to live and to train.
"Ogden has a surprisingly high amount of elite runners, because we have the altitude and the trails," Anderson said.
If one thing is true, it is the trail-running community is a tight-knit group of individuals who love to share their passion with others.
"I definitely think the crowd of off-road runners in general is more friendly," said Joseph Gray, the co-champion of the 2012 Xterra Trail Run World Championships. "You don't notice ego as much, people talk a lot more, and you tend to meet people who are a little more outgoing on the trail."
The friendliness of the competition is bringing more people to the sport but the potential health benefits are also causing runners to add trail running to their training regimen.
"I think it (trail running) will prolong a runner's racing life," said Anderson, who also competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the steeplechase. "The trails are a lot softer, so a lot of times it helps your legs and hips. I think it will continue to get bigger and bigger."
For most competitors, the race at Snowbasin will be another chance to prove themselves and their ability.
For Gray, it's an opportunity to get one-step closer to a life-long goal.
"I've never raced in Utah, so that's going to be special because I want to race in every state if I can, before I die," he said. "This is a great race in a great place, and this gives me the opportunity to actually accomplish that."
Still, winning is in the back of several runners' minds. Anderson is hopeful her knowledge of local trails will help her find a way to climb to another victory.
"After winning last year, I would love to repeat," she said.