General Fell Advice & Information

Thinking of doing a Fell Race, what’s stopping you?

You may say the pain, the cold, the mud, falling over, broken bones, the thought of getting lost on a cruel unforgiving moor, but wait, think again.

Here are 5 great reasons to do a fell race:

  1. The sense of achievement when you’ve completed one and realised that you haven’t come last.  If you come last just think about the first bit of that sentence.
  2. The wonderful scenery, a word of warning though if you don’t look where you’re going you’re asking for trouble so it maybe best if it’s misty, just as well because it often is.
  3. The downhills, falling over aside.
  4. It will make you a more rounded runner and human being.  I have no evidence to back up this claim, you will just have to take my word for it.
  5. Heroically battling against the elements.


‘Just a bit damp that’s all’

On a more serious note I thought back to the sort of anxieties that I had before I did my first fell race about 6 years ago so they are quite fresh in my mind.  I thought that it might be useful to put these into a set of questions and answers, please bear in mind that some of these answers are very much my own and others may disagree.

Question: Where are these fell races?

Answer: All over the place but the Fell Runners Association (FRA) is probably your starting point their website has loads of information on as well as race fixtures, give it a browse.  Esk Valley Fell Club run a local summer and winter series, details are on their website   Also check out other clubs websites, the National Trust who host two really good local races and Hardmoors website if you fancy the longer distance races.  Another one to aim for if you like races with a bit of history is the 3 Peaks Fell Race, though you do need to qualify for this, details on their website

Question: Do I need to know the routes and will I get lost?

Answer:  Ideally yes (to the first part of that question not the second), though for some of the shorter routes in particular it is fairly obvious where the route goes (the Roseberry Topping race being a prime example) and they are marked at key points with tape in some cases.  Walking round the route shortly before is a good idea but be warned running it can sometimes make it seem quite different as you will be going faster, hopefully.  As well as knowing where you are going it is useful to know what the terrain under foot is like.  For the longer fell races map reading skills are more or less essential and some events may insist on a certain level of experience.   Route finding is often more of a problem for those at the front but don’t assume that those in front of you know where they are going!  One of the interesting things about fell running is that there are different ways to get to the end as long as you go through the required check points, for many races though there is one obviously quicker route.

Question: What equipment do I need?

Answer: Not much at all really for shorter fell runs, although full body cover is advisable when the weather is at its worst.  For longer fell runs you may need to think about hydration, food, route finding and more changeable weather.  You also need to take into account the terrain, running a high level fell race in the Lake District is very different to running in Guisborough Woods.

Question: Do I need to wear fell shoes?

Answer: In summer you can get away with trainers on most courses and even in winter you can get by with a trail shoe on some courses.  If you are going to run fell regularly though they are a worthwhile investment as they grip much better, especially on rock and mud.  Shops that are worth a visit for fell shoes and other fell gear are Pete Bland Sports in Kendal and Track n Terrain in Durham.

Question: How hard are they?

Answer: Yes they are hard but that’s part of the appeal.  Personally I find them easier than road as they are more stimulating mentally so the time seems to pass more quickly, I also find them easier on the joints as the impact is less than on the roads.  Running uphill is tough though so be prepared!

Question: Do I need to do any special training?

Answer: If you are already running you have nothing specific to fear from a fell run.  Saying that it is very different from road running, the terrain under foot, uphills, downhills and more extreme weather all need to be taken into account.  So it would greatly improve your performance to practice running on the type of terrain you are going to encounter in fell runs and we have a lot of great countryside in which to do it.  If you aren’t fortunate enough to live on the edge on the North York Moors don’t worry as Eston Nab, the Flatts Lane area and Errington Woods all offer good training ground.  A steep road such as Wilton Bank or Ormesby Bank can also be quite useful for working on your uphill and downhill running.

Question: Will I come last?

Answer: Someone has to but think positive it probably won’t be you.  Fell runs attract athletes of all abilities in much the same way as road races do so there’s no need to worry.

Question: Am I too old?

Answer: Fell runners come in many shapes, sizes and vintages.  I have participated in many different sports over the years and fell running is one of the most inclusive.  Age categories exist right up the age scale for both male and female and more ‘mature’ athletes often do quite well in comparison to their younger competitors.

Question: How much do they cost?

Answer:  £5 or £6 per race is fairly typical for many races.

Question: If I win will I get a prize?

Answer:  Prizes are modest but well earned, I never win!

If you fancy an inspired read try to get hold of a copy of Feet in the Clouds by Richard Askwith.  It captures what it’s like to be an average fell runner while providing an insight and history into fell running and its key characters.  After reading it I just had to try fell.

Thanks for reading

Paul Christon