Tips and tricks for fell running

Paul Barton heads to the Lake District to pick up some technique tips from some of the best in the business and put them into practice on the Skiddaw Fell Race. This article was first published in October 2017 and is a feature piece from Totally Active.

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This summer I was invited by inov-8 to visit them in Keswick to join the winners of their #teamgetagrip competition. Seven lucky winners were introduced to the Lake District fells, given a money can’t buy skills course from top fell runners and were entered into the Skiddaw Fell Race. To top it all off, we were and out for a meal where we were joined by fell running legend Kenny Stuart.

The experts

Inov-8 had called in some serious talent to dispense fell running wisdom:

  • Ben Mounsey: Yorkshire’s Ben Mounsey is the 2016 UK Inter-Counties Fell Running Champion. In 2017, he was 5th in his age category at the World Masters Mountain Running championships. He has a 10k PB of 30:45.
  • Ben Adelnoor: Ben Abdelnoor is a former winner of the Lakeland 50 and Lakeland Classics Trophy, Ben works in a café, preparing food to fuel runners and walkers alike.
  • Mary Wilkinson: Mary has represented Great Britain ten times in mountain running, winning six medals, including three team golds. She is also a very strong road cyclist and recently took silver in the Cycling Time Trials National Hill Climb Championships.

Tip 1: Fast, light and direct on the downs

Observing Ben Mounsey demonstrate downhill running technique was seriously impressive.He committed to the trail, tapping out a fast cadence meant each short step was less loaded. These ‘lighter’ periods of ground contact meant each was less likely to get surprised by uneven ground; the result was a blurry footed Ben ‘floating’ over the ground and descending at speed. Ben also encouraged us to select a straight line where possible as it’s shorter! It’s a good if obvious sounding suggestion, I think I typically snake down fells.

Tip 2: Strong, upright and look ahead on the ups

Mary demonstrated ‘power hiking’ technique; hands close to her knees pushing down as she strode, lifting her head to open up her lungs and keep an eye on her surroundings. We were encouraged to transition from running to power-hiking as the terrain steepened and to get back jogging when the conditions allowed.

Look ahead and plan your line for the next ten metres or more, on technical terrain look two to four metres ahead, not down at your feet. Look for flat areas like fixed stone slabs to land your feet. Watch out for grass tussocks as they want you to roll your ankles.

Tip 3: When the going gets rough, concentrate!

Technical terrain running is all about concentration, injured ankles are often the result of getting too relaxed. Letting your mind wander while considering every foot landing might be the most important, and rewarding, skill fell runners can develop!

About the author: Paul Barton lives and runs in the Peak District. Whether he’s tackling a long ultra or a short, sharp, up and down race, the rougher and more technical terrain the better. He enjoys the climbs but it’s when gravity takes charge that he really gets his off-road running thrills.

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