Living in Sheffield we are spoilt for choice when it comes to running off road, however sometimes making the transition from road running to fell running can be quite daunting. Even though we think running through Endcliffe Park is technically ‘off road’ we’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to the ways of the fell!
This week we chat to a fell running expert and get the low down on how to get started. Shane Ohly is an elite mountain runner who won the coveted OMM Elite in 2011. He is a regular fell runner and member of Helm Hill Runners, regular orienteer and member of Warrior Orienteering Club. This year he is branching out and competing at two Skyrunning World Series races. And if that’s not enough Shane is also the face behind Sheffield Trail Rush on the 24th May 2015.
The fell running season is now in full swing with local events taking place every week across the country. Whether you are a seasoned road runner or complete novice runner, taking your first steps as an off road runner can be intimidating. Fell running races are nearly always fun and friendly environments in which to experience off road running and whilst the quality of the running is usually excellent, fell races are renowned for not taking themselves too seriously. These top tips should help new fell runners take their first steps into an exciting and challenging sport.
Finding a Race
The Fell Running Association (FRA) has an excellent database of events across the UK. This is the best place to look for races and find you local fell running club.
Race Requirements: Clothing & Rules
Each race will have certain rules about the experience level expected of competitors and clothing/equipment required. The longer more difficult mountain races may insist that competitors have previous experience of similar races and will also insist that competitors carry waterproof clothing. Make sure you know the requirements of the race before turning up. Usually the lower level, local events have more relaxed criteria.
Most fell races follow paths although they are likely to be indistinct at times and often rough and muddy. You will get muddy! It’s best to simply embrace getting muddy and remember that it all washes off easily enough afterwards. The biggest difference between fell races and trail or road races is the amount of ascent and descent likely to be encountered… this will be significant and very challenging for novices.
Off Road Running Shoes
The most important item of kit you’ll need is decent pair of off road running shoes. Get some something that fits snugly to avoid blisters as the shoe will move around on very uneven ground, and ensure that the shoes have large studs for grip in muddy and soft ground.
Off Road Running Skills
The big ascents and descents will be challenging and learning new skills will help. When going uphill it is often best to adopt a ‘race walking, hands on knees’ posture earlier on and sustain a decent pace all the way up rather than trying to run and becoming exhausted. Even the best fell runners walk sometimes! The speed at which skilled fell runners descend is amazing. This is a skill that takes time to develop so go at the pace you feel comfortable and you’ll soon become more confident.
And finally and most importantly HAVE FUN!!