© copyright 03.Dec.2009 by Dena Harris.
Climb Every Mountain isn't just a bumper sticker or a song sung by a nun in The Sound of Music. For fell runners, "climb every mountain" is a modus operandi for life.
Fell running, also known as mountain running or-if you're in a generous mood-hill running, is the adventure sport of long runs that consist of running up and down mountains. The sport originated in the moors and mountains (collectively known as "fells") of the Lake Districts of Northern Britain, although the first fell race is thought to have taken place in Scotland as early as 1024 A.D. Today, the Fell Runners Association caters to over 300 athletic groups and over 6,800 fell runners. Races take place year round and vary in length, grade, and degree of difficulty.
While fell running requires a reasonable level of fitness, the sport isn't out of range for the average runner. Beginners should ease into mountain running, with plenty of hill training for conditioning. While not as technical as orienteering, fell runners still need to possess navigation skills for longer races. Although fell courses may have checkpoints, many allow runners to find their own path up and down a mountain. Map and compass reading skills enable a fell runner to participate in a wider range of races, some of which require specific navigational instruments as a prerequisite to admission. You'll also need-or may be required to carry-weatherproof pants and jacket, along with hat and gloves, as temperatures on a mountain can quickly bounce from one extreme to another.
Everyday trail shoes will let you down (perhaps literally) on the slippery, rocky, rough terrain that is fell running. Purchase studded "fell shoes" that offer a much welcome grip on the sole for digging into mud, long grasses, rocky outcroppings, and intimidating downward slopes.
Fell running races fall into one of two categories: Ascent or Distance. Ascent races require runners to tackle a steep grade-perhaps as much as 40%-in a short distance. Distance races are exactly what they sound like, and are sometimes run in teams.
When it comes to fell running, drop any preconceptions about speed at the door. Even your best trail run time won't translate to the challenges awaiting you on a fell course. Knowing when to push and when to ease back are skills that develop over time. Walking portions of a course is common among fell runners, especially when finding solid footing becomes tricky.
As you'd suspect, fell running affords participants access to some of the most breathtaking landscapes known to runners. Richard Skwith's 2005 book, Feet In The Clouds: A Story of Fell Running and Obsession, explores the beauty, heartaches, and triumphs of a fell running season with the author narrating his participation in classic fell races, from Borrowdale to Ben Nevis.
In an effort to protect the integrity of the sport and the "field" on which it is played, fell running associations frequently limit the number of entrants in any one race to reduce the impact of thundering feet on the natural environment.
Think you might like to try fell running? Races are held almost every weekend around the UK. Contact a fell running group and go out for a few trial runs before committing to a race. Then have fun, be safe, and get ready to "Climb Every Mountain!"
Daily Runs is collection of motivational articles, tips & advice about the sport of running, written by authors who run for fun.
Writer and author Dena Harris ran her first marathon in 2007. After declaring at the finish line that she would "never, ever, do that again," she's continued to run at least two marathons a year and recently qualified to run Boston.
Visit www.denaharris.com for information on her writing, books, running, and cats.