10 TIPS FOR FELL RUNNING FOR BEGINNERS
Written By: Hannah Cairns
Looking for a new off-road challenge?
Hannah Cairns shares her top ten tips on how to start fell running for beginners.
Running on the fells is a completely different story to running on the roads. Roads are smooth, even and predictable. A fell is often steep, unforgiving and unpredictable. Tree roots, rabbit holes and scree are often prominent features in the landscape. And then you have the elevation… steep… and as the saying goes, ‘what goes up, must come down’.
If you ask most fell runners why they run on the fells, many will describe the scenery, the landscapes, the feeling of being isolated, and of course the challenge. It is easy to understand the lure of this type of run. Whether it’s a casual run, a long weekend run, or a race, fell running is something that every runner should try.
Here are my top ten tips for fell running beginners:
- Find some local races
- Engage with the fell running community
- Plan your routes
- Join a running club
- Don’t be scared to walk
- If you have a bad run, keep trying
- Record your runs and evaluate your progress
- Practise the descents
- Technique helps
- Get the right gear
The BOFRA and The Fell Runner’s Association websites are both great places to start. There are numerous races and most of them are a really reasonable price to enter. They’re also a fun way to spend an afternoon and it is a fantastic opportunity to find and explore new routes and meet other like-minded people.
This is the best way to learn the top tips from fellow runners. Ask them for advice, and you’ll come away with an abundance of knowledge, techniques and maybe even find a new running buddy. Join the Fell Runners Forum to ask questions and engage with the wider community.
Planning your route means you’re less likely to get lost, you’ll roughly know how steep the ascent and descent will be, and you’ll roughly know the total distance and severity. For me, knowing all of this before I run helps me to mentally prepare.
Don’t forget to also use the traditional method of looking at an OS map and carry one with you on longer routes, especially if you are running in unfamiliar territory – don’t just rely on a GPS device for navigation!
Learn how to stay safe when trail running and hiking
I often find running in the fells somewhat intimidating. If I don’t fully know where I’m going, I often struggle to motivate myself to run a more rugged route, meaning that I sometimes end up sticking to similar routes. Finding a club will enable you to run with like-minded people, it will act as a motivator on the cold winter nights and you’ll come away with new routes to try out on your own.
It can be tempting to try and keep running up the hills, but if you need to walk, just do it. No one will judge you and unless you’re Kilian Jornet, it’s often a more energy efficient way to reach the top! Save your legs for the more runnable ground and descents.
Photo Credit: inov_8
A bad run every once in a while is inevitable and if you’re starting out then it will take more than a few races to get used to fell running. But consider what made it a ‘bad’ run. Was it hydration? Fuel? Weather? Fatigue? Learn from your mistakes, build on your weaknesses and try again and see what improvements you can make ready for the next time.
Strava is perfect for this and comparing runs and relative times can be a great motivator as it shows how you may have improved. Progress can be measured against your previous training and performances and also against other runners. But noting your preparation and the conditions are both important factors too, as often they have a huge influence on our success.
Getting faster on the descents only comes with practice. Try walking up the hill and running back down a few times. Doing this means you’ll likely find some good lines of descent, and you’ll become more familiar with the different types of terrain and any surprises that may arise, therefore gradually improving your speed and awareness. Confidence is key when it comes to descending!
On steeper inclines, land with your heels first and lean back slightly, taking shorter and faster steps. Therefore, if you fall, you’ll likely fall on your bottom and minimise the risk of landing head first. On more runnable descents, you can afford to increase your stride length and lean further forwards, increasing your speed and attacking the descent with confidence.
Check out our guide to Hill Training for Trail Runners with Sarah McCormack
Having the right gear is important for both comfort and safety. Wearing the right fell shoes will also give you more control and confidence when running on steep and challenging terrain.
You can follow Hannah and all her running adventures here.