Getting Started With Fell Running
17 May 2019
You may well have heard of fell running before, but you may not have considered it yourself as many people tend to think it sounds like the pursuit of top athletes. While running up and down hills over rugged terrains definitely sounds like it calls for a very high level of fitness, but in actual fact, anybody with a reasonable level of fitness can do it, and plenty of fell runners actually walk up hills.
We thought we would put together a little guide to getting started with fell running, to explain a little bit more about what it is, who does it, and demystify the topic a little bit.
What is fell running?
Fell running is a natural step up from hill walking, and it has it’s roots in Victorian times when the mountain guides wanted to prove their status as the best of the best, and so would organise races to compete with one another.
It is essentially the sport of running and racing over hills, off-road, and climbing significant gradients. Fell running usually involves running between two set checkpoints, and there isn’t always a clear path – the aim is to find the quickest route to the top!
Fell running is typically a Northern pursuit, as most of it takes place in the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, Pennines, or the Peak District. In Scotland, fell running is known as hill running, and there are plenty of places you can enjoy it in the highlands!
Isn’t it really hard?
Fell running is actually not as hard as you would think, and it’s a really inclusive sport. Your heart rate running up a mountain probably won’t be too far off what it would be climbing a mountain in the winter with heavy gear, and you should take your time to adapt to ease yourself into the sport and get used to running on rough boggy terrain and unstable scree.
When you first start fell running you may feel frustrated that you need to walk up the ascents, but there’s no need to feel like your level is inadequate, walking is a very normal part of fell running and everybody does it! Over time your fitness level will improve, so stick with it and you’ll soon be able to pick up the pace.
Get the right kit
The most important piece of kit you will need to invest in when you first get into fell running is a suitable pair of shoes. They will need to provide grip on rocky and grassy ground, in wet weather, and it is really important that they fit you properly.
There are plenty of different makes of fell running shoes on the market, so find ones that are right for you and feel the most comfortable. You’ll also need lightweight rucksacks and jackets for temperamental weather.
You’ll also need to kit yourself out with fuel for your runs if you plan on going for long runs. This is a very individual choice, and people opt for anything from energy gels to Kendal Mint Cake. Try a range of different options and find what works for you, as everybody is different, and even different brands of energy gels can be tolerated differently by different people.
Part of the joy of fell running is running alone and enjoying the peace, the views, and perhaps a sunset over the Lake District. Of course, if you’re on your own then the last thing you want is to injure yourself or encounter extreme weather that you weren’t prepared for, so it’s important to be careful and safe.
Be careful on your descents, and avoid sprained ankles. If you want to go hell for leather down hills, consider running with a partner or signing up for a race, but we definitely advise a more conservative style if you’re alone.
In the winter, you won’t be able to take the lightweight approach. Always carry spare warm clothing, blizzard bags, and whatever other safety gear is seasonally appropriate. One benefit of the fact that you are running rather than walking is that when the weather starts to turn, you can get off the hillside much quicker!
When training, try to pick out a selection of different routes and mix them up, to avoid monotony and covering the same distance and intensity days in a row as this is likely to cause injury.
We hope that this has given you a little insight into the sport of fell running and the sense of freedom you’ll get from running your favourite routes. If you fancy a fell running holiday in the Lake District, be sure to check out our Lake District parks here at Pure Leisure!
Here is the official Walk Lakes safety leaflet for reference https://www.walklakes.co.uk/opus45405/LDSAMRA-leaflet-small2017.pdf