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Turning from a road runner into a fell runner

City running can be fast, and relaxing, and easy to get in to.

Mountain running is…… something else.


Some time ago I moved from central London to the Lake District. My last run in London was tourist dodging down Oxford Street. My first run in the Lakes involved 600m ascent and snowdrifts.

In London a 5k run is generally pretty uneventful. In the Lakes a 5k run can (and has) included rain, hail, mud, and if you’re really lucky, some significant bum slides down soggy fields.


I found the running in the fells (which is what they call mountains here) so intimidating when I first got here and it was so hard to know where to start. But through heading out for little runs, talking to others and hearing the detailed fell running conversations going on around me I learnt how to enjoy the experience and gain confidence in the fells. Useful information I picked up included:


1. Your mile pace will decrease significantly due to the rough terrain and the ascent. Stop thinking about it. Maybe switch your runs to ‘hikes’ on Strava if you really can’t bear it displaying your pace. And logging your training per week in hours rather than miles makes much more sense. Over time you will start to compare yourself against previous attempts on Strava Segments rather than other people or exact times. Or maybe you’ll learn to leave the watch behind and just enjoy being out in the hills.


2. And linked to this it’s a revelation when you realise that NO ONE RUNS ALL THE UPHILLS! Even the best runners walk the uphills at least some of the time. Steep up hills are all about power hiking. And eating.


3. The terrain can be really technical. But it can also be fun and rewarding. Don’t worry about going slow while you get used to the loose, rocky or slippy ground. And it pays to be careful as rough ground uses a whole lot of different muscles which take time to build up.


4. The weather is going to throw a lot more at you than a little rain so mountain forecasts like MWIS.org.uk or the Met Office Mountain Forecast are your friend, and you will start getting obsessed with them (for the real weather geek, the app Meteoblue has more graphs and maps than you could ever hope for).


5. Navigation is critical and visibility can change in minutes. You needn’t feel intimidated though. A little practice every time you go out with others combined with a course (some of ours include navigation, check them out here) and you’ll learn in no time. Although a mobile phone with OS maps is helpful, you can never rely on it as phones often die in cold weather.


6. Bumbags are cool! Or at least useful. Fell runners love bumbags for shorter runs or when it's good weather and you need less kit. If you’re unexperienced or if you’re going up high you’ll need a race vest or similar so you can carry more stuff. Do you have enough with you to be ok if you sprain an ankle and can’t move? This should include things like an extra layer, emergency bag, small first aid kit, food, snacks, and map and compass.


7. Finally it's always worth telling someone where you’re going and when you should be back. You never know what can happen, but being prepared can make all the difference.


Fell running can seem overwhelming if you’re not used to it but, with a bit of practice is a fantastic way to experience the hills. If you would be interested in learning more in an encouraging and supportive environment then check out our course Beginners Mountain Running.




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