By Gemma Bradley
Getting out in the fells… how to get started and how to get better!
It’s great to hear so many people challenging themselves with some off-road running at the moment – thanks to some regular off-road training, both from Fred and Paul at the weekend cross country sessions, and with Rob M taking groups round local trails. For many, the freedom of getting off-road as the days get lighter and longer can be just the motivator we need after winter months keeping to well-lit roads and paths.
Details of the 2020 Saltwell Fell Series were announced in January which has hopefully encouraged more interest in fell running. Although beware… fell running can mean lots of different things… from more gentle trails round fields and moors, to running off Scafell Pike down vertical scree! But we’ve got a really proud fell running tradition in Saltwell – with no less than 9 Bob Graham Round members, a Joss Naylor Round completer, Chevy Chase winners, a member who has completed 39 Original Mountain Marathons… shall I go on? So, some of these people have shared some hints and tips below, with the aim of encouraging beginners and helping those who want to continue to develop their confidence.
Top Felling Running Tips
- Try out Saturday morning cross country training – it’s amazing how practicing your techniques going up and down hill, on some uneven ground and through bogs or long grass can get you started.
- Get out walking in the fells – the Cheviots, the Lakes and further afield if you can.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for advice or to tag along on a recce – lots of people make regular trips to go out in the fells. Keith Wood also does some brilliant navigation days – look out for these. It’s really important that you have some basic navigation skills and can look after yourself.
- Go and watch some fell races and follow part of the route – you’ll get a taste of what it’s all about before doing it yourself.
- Get a pair of fell shoes but don’t spend loads if you’re just starting out – More Mile do a good introductory shoe.
- Some races need you to carry kit (full waterproofs, map and compass etc.) – ask around if you want to borrow before you buy.
- Try not to look at your feet but instead look ahead for where you’re going to put your feet in a few steps time.
- It’s fine to walk up the hills – most people will be except the mountain goats at the sharp end of the race.
- There are some really inspirational fell running books – try Feet in the Clouds for starters.
- Enjoy the views… one of the fab things about fell running is that your feet take you to spectacular places.
- When choosing races, build up slowly in terms of the length of race and amount of ascent/descent – all races will include this in their pre-race information.
- Join the Fell Running Association (FRA) – you’ll get magazines with great advice and a calendar with all races.
- Persevere – it can feel massively out of your comfort zone to start but it gets easier and can be so exhilarating!
- For beginners, Brough Law (part of the Fell series) is a great introductory race – it’s local, not too long and nothing too technical. Other great races for beginners include the Saltwell Fell Race (always the first Tuesday in July) and the North Shields Poly Ingram Hills race (25th October 2020). Races in the fell series such as Borrowdale and Langdale are not beginners races – talk to some of the experienced fell runners in the club about choosing races or coming along to watch.
And finally (and I’ll let you guess who gave this advice)… commit! Commit to the uphills and downhills and just give it a go!
Fell running can feel like flying through clouds and sinking in bogs all in the space of minutes… what’s not to love?