The Joy of Fell Running

Bristol Store Assistant Manager Braam is a recent convert to the outdoor pursuit of fell running. Here, he talks about how he got into fell running and what it means to him. 

In June this year I lined up for my first fell race called the Beacon Batch.

It is a 5-mile race on the Mendip Hills. I agreed to it only because everyone else in the shop was doing it. So with very little training and a lot of apprehension I went and stood in the back of the field.

“Five miles can’t be that far, can it?” 

Well if you asked me after the first 2.5 miles, which is a 1000ft climb, I would’ve said yes. Once I hit the downhill, though, it all changed.

My legs and breath came back to me and running with reckless abandonment, the second half of the race whizzed past, and I even overtook some ‘proper’ runners.

I finished 70th out of a 100, but I was on such a high that you would have thought I won the race! I was hooked and have since been going up to the Mendips and the surrounding areas, along with Liam (who also got the bug) and Russ from the store, for our weekly fix.

Running in the hills and on trails is different to road running in that you are constantly stimulated whether it is the terrain, the views or the wild life.

It is much more natural because your rhythm is constantly changing. We never time our runs because you rarely run the same route twice and to get accurate distance read is difficult without a GPS watch.

So we just look on the OS map for the area or refer to Russ’s extensive local knowledge to bash out a new route. Other times we just follow a general direction and see where it leads us!

We have found our running technique has changed from road to trail. On the trails you use a smaller stride length and you run alot more on your toes and forefoot.

The Hills can also be a lot steeper than you find on the road, so you employ a technique that took me a while to get used to because I am tall. You push with your hands on your knees on every step in order to assist your ascent. This is done to a walking pace and it really does help.

The downhill is just what works for you. I have read about and seen many ways to get down a hill effectively and some not so effectively. As far as I can tell, going with smaller steps and a higher cadence works well and looking ahead 4-5 meters rather than staring at your feet.

Everyone finds what works for them when it comes to technique and to stick to a formula doesn’t work, it just detracts from why you are out there.

I would like to add here, don’t be intimidated if fell running conjures up these images of hard work, steep hills, rough terrain and loads of mud. Everyone walks somewhere along a race or run, just go with a pace that suits you and the terrain.

I find trail/fell running is a lot less goal oriented and more about spending time just running naturally and enjoying the outdoors.

My daily life rarely gives me that exuberant enjoyment of harmless fun. A good run usually feels more like playing and less like running a long way.

There is always a moment during a race or a run that I am transported back to being a 12 year old boy in Africa, running ahead of the group exploring the terrain or sneaking up on the local wild life.

At the beginning of November I decided that I should set a goal for the coming year. I settled on the Snowdon Mountain Race. It is a 10-mile race with 3500ft of climbing up and down Snowdon.

There is a limited field of 600 and due to the popularity of the race there are minimum entry requirements. You have to have completed either 2 Cat AM/ AL fell races or a marathon.

I have identified 2 races that are within a couple of hours drive. The first one is the Wrekin Wrecker 8 miler and the second is the Long Mynd Valleys 11 miles. I am hoping to write an update on my progress after each race and then the big finale. Well that is out there now and I can’t back out anymore, so please wish me luck!

– Braam.

Taunton Leisure Bristol Assistant Manager.

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1 Response

  1. Pete Clark says:

    Hi Braam,
    I used to work for Taunton Leisure at Sanders Tent Show. If Tom still works with you he will remember me. I also ran the Beacon Batch – a bit slower than usual due to being a bit unwell that day. I run and coach with Weston Athletic Club and know lots of good routes around the Mendips.
    Have you heard of the Crook Peak Cake Race? It takes place in August – you can find the details on the Weston AC website under the events section. If you liked the Beacon Batch then you should like this one too.
    During the winter months I and other Weston runners lead night runs in the Mendips lit by head torch.. They are free and are run at an easy pace, usually starting from a pub at 7PM. If you want to join us just keep an eye on our website. The first one is likely to be in late October.
    Most Sunday mornings there is a small group that meet at the Swan Inn, Rowberrow. These runs are usually around 13 miles. It’s a fairly strong ability group – around 1 hour 30 for a road half marathon. We usually cover the 13 miles in the Mendips in around 2 hours. You’d never be left behind but it just gives you an idea of the pace.

    So if you want to develop your fell running experience, just leave a message if you want to join us at any time or require advice.

    Happy running,

    Pete Clark

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