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How to enter your first fell race

15:13 4th July 2013 By Dave Taylor

If you’ve done a bit of running, maybe completed a few Park Runs or a10k race you might think of trying a fell race.  Don’t worry that you need to be super fit or know how to navigate as some races are perfectly suited to beginners.

fell-racing-in-evening-sunlightNow is a great time to do your first race as lots of short distance races take place on summer evenings.  These low key events often start and finish at a country pub or sports field with anything between 50 and 200 runners taking part and entry fees are rarely more than a fiver.  (Organisers put races on for pleasure not profit with money often going towards local charities)  Fell races are also commonly associated with village fetes where you can run up and down the nearest hill before watching the sheepdog trials, sampling local produce and trying your skills on the coconut shy.  These events may also have junior races and have a real family feel and so are a great place to start.

However don’t be fooled into thinking that low key means low quality as elite fell runners often use their local races for training and it is not uncommon to share the start line with the current English champion!

These short races are often well marked; think bamboo canes with red & white tape, so there is little chance of going the wrong way and no navigation skills are needed.  Unless the weather is bad, runners will probably not be required to carry any extra clothing such as wind / waterproofs.  The attraction of fell racing is its simplicity and there are very few rules but race etiquette demands that you queue at stiles or gates rather than jumping the fence – if you want to get further up the field train harder!  The most important rule is that if you drop out of the race you report to a marshal or the organiser, there have been times when Mountain Rescue have been searching the hillside for a runner who had failed to finish and gone home without telling anyone.

Races are split into distance categories;

an “L” (long) race is twelve miles (19.3k) or over.

an “M” (medium) race is six miles (9.6k) and over but under twelve (19.3k).

an “S” (short) race is under six miles (9.6k).

They are also given an A, B or C category depending on steepness of climb with A being the toughest.

The Fell Runner Association (FRA) website gives a calendar of races including details of distance, height gained and whether the races require navigational skills.

Once you’ve gained a bit of experience you might want to take on a more arduous race.  Longer races take place at weekends from March to October across the UK with the classic Lake District races such as Borrowdale and the Langdale Horseshoe being very popular.  These are more serious races in terms of the terrain and the need to be able to navigate and be self reliant in mountainous areas.  To enter some of these races you need to prove that you have running or mountain walking skills.

Even on hot summer days you will be expected to carry waterproofs, spare food, map and compass.

Whilst these races might be too much for you now, there’s nothing to stop you getting to the nearest country fair and entering the hill race – there might even be a beer tent! 

Recommended First Races:

 Further info:

  • Fell Runners Association: For info on races, running clubs, results.
  • Fell Running Guide: Dave Taylor is your man for fell running and trail running training and skills.
  • Pete Bland Sports: The original specialists shop and sponsor of many races.

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