Fell Running

is it as simple as running up and down hills?

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06/11/2007 at 08:35

A newbie question for the fell runners out there...

I did Gibside trail race at the weekend, this was my third time doing the race and I really enjoyed it.  It's very hilly (up and down), and while I was running I half thought I might give fell running a go.  I dont wanna jump in the deep end with a race just yet, though I've done a few trail races and plenty of cross country over the last couple of years. 

I was just wondering is it as simple as lots of training on hills?  Do I need to train off road in trail shoes or will my regular road shoes do the job on the urban hills where I live.  I've got the impression that there seem to be varying degrees of difficulty with the races i.e. I have no navigation skills - so if I did want to race, are there easy to follow courses?

Sorry if this has been covered elsewhere on the forum  

Stump    pirate
06/11/2007 at 08:39

Fell Races are not for the faint hearted. Have you considered a club?

I'm sure there is a full spectrum of difficulty and distance but expect it to be tough. My cousin recently did one in the lakes, where he lives and trains, and really found it tough. He's a 3.30 marathoner.

That said, he was trying to be competative and didn't go just for the experience.

06/11/2007 at 08:51

I'm not expecting to break any records

I live in the middle of Gateshead, so there arent many open hills nearby, but there are plenty of reclaimed landscaped bits with paths & trails I could use - and it's bloomin hilly (at the top of Felling - aptly named).

The nearest fell running club is a fair distance south of me - near Darlington (as far as I can gather). 

06/11/2007 at 09:11

Fell running is brilliant.    Join the FRA (www.fellrunner.org.uk) for a full list of races and a great magazine, and just select a short, local race which doesn't require experience (it will say in the FRA directory if it does) and go for it.     The majority of fell races are partially marked and don't require navigational skills, but in the winter you will be required to carry (in a rucsac or bumbag) a compass, map, whistle, spare food and body cover (tights and shell if you're not wearing them)

Quite honestly, the best way to train for fell races is to run them - I've done (I think) 15 this year, and have been fell running for more than 10, and love it with a passion.    When I go for a training run (I live deep in urban Nottingham) I try to run a hilly route but  actually I think it's more important to be confident running on rough ground.  I don't (won't) race on road because it is utterly pointless and extremely tedious (oh look! Another housing estate!), and I think that one of the things that attracts me to fell racing is that it is more of a cerebral challenge than road racing can ever be.  You're not just thinking of the person in front of you or keeping your speed up -  at the same time you've got to think about how and where   your feet are going to land now and on the next step,, the line you will take down the hillside in 20 metres, the navigation, how you will get past the runner in front on a narrow track, how to negotiate a stile or boulder field, whether to leap over a stream or pick your way across and the concequences of messing up ...     Yes, fell running can be tough, but even if you're taking it seriously (I am hugely competitive when I fell race) why should that be a problem? It's far more fun than road running, even if you never get a chance to look at the scenery as you're concentrating too much on where you are going to put your foot next ...

Joining a club is good - sharing lifts to races is highly encouraged - but if you don't know of one locally, go to a fell race and just talk to people - you'll soon get coaxed into a club .  fell runners are a friendly lot.

 Oh yes, one very important thing.  To be a good fell runner you have to like beer.

06/11/2007 at 09:13
Oh yes, and a pair of fell shoes is a valuable investment - trail shoes are OK but have their limitations in bad weather or steep ground and can lack lateral support.  Walsh are the brand of choice, although some people like Innov8s (I don't) - Walsh PB Extreme for me, but Walsh PB Racers might be better as a 'first' fell shoe.
06/11/2007 at 09:24

I would have thought there would be plenty of fell running to be had in Weardale and further North in The Cheviots. To the south you'll have the N York Moors.

Mandale AC in Stockton used to do a bit of fell racing I think. Not too sure about any other clubs in the NE. Personally when I lived there I was a member of Keswick and then Borrowdale. It was easier to get from Teeside over to Cumbria to race.

Top tip would be to join the FRA (Fell Runners Association). Its about £12 per year these days and you get a yearly calendar with all the English races plus a thrice yearly magazine (which takes a third of a year to read cos its full of interesting articles and NO adverts - RW please take note).

Plenty of shorter races with large fields where navigational skills are not really necessary. However learning to use a map and compass isn't that hard and the FRA run courses on mountain navigation.

If you've done some X country and trail races then you'll have some idea that the fitness requirements are a bit different. Its not that fell runners are any fitter per se they just, by the nature of the event, have to work on different things to the average road runner.

Hill work is important as you'd expect. However the most important thing you'll need to learn is how to descend. I know it sounds daft but fell races are won and lost on the descents - and even a midfield runner need to know how to do it. To practice descending you need to be on the fells or somewhere pretty steep with a loose surface and plenty of things to trip over. I'm a bit middle aged now - but even so I do a couple of specific downhill sessions a week. When I was more competitive I did four or more.

Trail shoes will do for the moment. When you get to do the Wasdale Horsehoe you might want to buy some proper fell shoes. However a lot of folks run in Montrails etc,.

So to summerise. Join the FRA, do some serious hill work, and pick yourself a nice out and back race (about 5 or 6 miles with 800 - 1000 ft of climb). Turn up and have a go.

Your first reaction will probably be "Never again". However after about 10 minutes you'll find yourself flicking through the handbook looking for the next race.

Have fun

06/11/2007 at 09:26

hey Lizzie

Dont see you for ages - then someone says "fell running" and as if by magic ....

06/11/2007 at 09:30
Yo!  FR!   I wonder if our paths have crossed at all at races this year?  Did you do Windgather?  And are you doing Roaches? 
06/11/2007 at 09:32

Have done three hill/trail races (or easier fell races) this year and am hooked for many of the reasons posted above. They were all well marked and marshalled and didn't need navigation. I run up a big hill as part of my regular run and that was more than enough to get me round.

Completely agree that running over rough ground is probably more challenging than the ups. Trail shoes are probably necessary esp coming down fast over wet grass/mud - i had a bit of a tumble on my first one in road shoes but it was all part of the fun.

I've found fell races to be friendlier, vastly more scenic and satisfying, tend to attract a smaller, fitter group but still have that atmosphere of healthy amateur competition - the technical side of knowing how to tackle different terrain is more challenging and interesting for me. Like running in general it's just a case of not feeling intimidated and giving it a go. You obviously don't mind running hilly bits so why not?

06/11/2007 at 09:39
As a taster you could enter one of the guides races. These are short up and down events held at sports days in the Lake district (although usually in summer), Grasmere is a good one.
06/11/2007 at 09:53

Don't whatever you do read Feet in the Clouds, an account of one mans attempt at the Bob Graham round it will get under your skin and you will be longing to get out there and have a go...

I road run but have a love of the hills and will someday retreat to the Lakes (deep sigh...) and get stuck in.  It's amazing that fell running doesn't seem to have an upper age limit! 

If you want to see the best mountain runners in the world get yourself over to Horton in Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales in April next year where the 3 peaks fell race is an  international challenge for 2008.  Can't wait...

06/11/2007 at 09:56

Lizzie 

I spent a lot of the summer traing for the TransAlpine - which my daughter managed to enter us for without discussing it beforehand. I'm still walking like Dooglas Bader - partly because the weekend after I went and did the High Peak 40. So I'm a bit tired now...

Seriously you should try it  : Dont click this if you are of a nervous dispostion

Gonna have a go at doing the Dark Peak 4 county tops this winter, now I'm over 50 I;m allowed to do the Over The Hill challenge

Then the Tiger Tor in January, and dare we consider the Edale Skyline..... ??

06/11/2007 at 10:02
Ooh - transalpine looks like fun - missed Tigger Tor and Edale this year because of injury, but both are on my list for 2008 - haven't done tigger tor for years, and have yet to do Edale although spectated this year (the pics in the last issue of fellrunner of Edale were taken by MrB - he likes to take pictures of pain and suffering)
06/11/2007 at 10:10

The stage from Schoul to Mals was just sooo spectacular.

have you seen the email from Lloyd Taggart to the organisers of the Skyline. Thanking them , and saying he was sorry he couldn't hang around but had to get back to work. WORK - dunno about anyone else but I went to bed....

06/11/2007 at 15:24

vicki - LizzyB and Fell Running have pretty much covered everything I was going to say

I entered my first fell-race about a year ago, and have been completely sucked in

I'm not in a club, usually finish in the last 10%, but love every second

get stuck in lass, you won't regret it! 

06/11/2007 at 15:29

Hi, was about to recommend 'Feet In the Clouds' but someone beat me to it. On the shoe front I woiuld take a close look at Inov8 - fell shoes and trail shoes, I love them and they are British. Best fell shoes I have worn and I have tried the Walshes, adidas Swoop, Davos, Reeboks, spikes...

And have a look at www.runflux.com for running nes, links and tips 

06/11/2007 at 15:45
Cheers for the replies folk - given me some stuff to think about.  Gonna have a mooch around the fell runners site
06/11/2007 at 16:32
Just checked out the trans alpine run - thats a tad more ambitious than I was aiming for lol
06/11/2007 at 21:18
Its actually a lot easier than it looks. The routes marked all the way for a start. It was quite startling to run through snow in early September when the temperature in the valleys was in the mid 20's at times.
12/11/2007 at 11:43
vicki - so, have you picked out your first fell-race yet then...?
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