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A fell running guide to climbing hills

16:08 5th August 2013 By Dave Taylor

Hills, dreaded hills!  Possibly the thing that puts people off fell running is the fact that it involves running uphill.  “Hills hurt too much” and “I’m no good on steep stuff” are some reasons why runners avoid the fells.  This is a shame as there is a wonderful world to be enjoyed away from the streets and traffic and hill running is a great way to improve strength endurance and power.  So is there anything you can do to get better at hill running, are there any techniques to make it easier?

Lift your feet

The main difference between running and hill running is that you need to lift your feet higher to avoid stubbing your toe and tripping over.  Whilst this might seem obvious, if you aren’t used to it you need to focus on your technique; you will need to lift your knees much more than normal to allow your feet to clear the ground ahead of you.  As the ground starts to rise keep a high cadence taking shorter strides and land on the ball of your foot.  Keep a good posture; hips and shoulders high, leaning into the hill from the ankles not the waist and focus on the ground about 10 feet ahead.  Driving the arms will help you maintain momentum.

When the going gets tough- walk

Hard climbing on Ennerdale fell race

Hard climbing on Ennerdale fell race

Even the best fell runners sometimes resort to walking when the terrain gets very steep or if they simply can’t maintain a run.  If you find yourself having to walk take a longer stride and lean forward using a hands on knees action to give yourself added stability.

Strengthen your legs

Running on steep terrain utilises the hip flexors, quadriceps and calves to a much greater extent than flat running so exercises that strengthen these could be incorporated into your training.  Lunges, squats and calf raises along with drills such as high knees and bounding will all help but the best training for hill running is…hill running!

So instead of your normal run why not include a hilly section or head out to the countryside to tackle a hilly route?  Don’t worry if you can’t make it all the way to the top; make a note of how far you get and aim to get at least as far next time before you resort to a walk.  A regular hilly session added to your training will reap rewards if you stick at it.

The reward for a hard climb, a stunning view.

The reward for a hard climb, a stunning view.

Hill running isn’t easy, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes it takes effort and it hurts but it’s worth it – the view from the top is great!

Useful Links:

  • www.fellrunner.org.uk: Fell Runners Association (info on races, running clubs, results)
  • www.fellrunningguide.co.uk: Fell Running Guide (guided running, coaching & training, introductory courses, navigation skills)



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