I've always wanted to try my hand at Fell Running. During the summers I do a ton of mountain running here in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains, but have yet to make it over the Atlantic to give Fell Running a try. It seems like a natural progression, as mostly the mountain running I do in the summer is of a similar nature. Last summer Tara and I did over 50 peaks in the area, all in a light weight, speed oriented fashion similar to Fell Running.
In that vein, I found this article on Fell Running to be interesting. Perhaps next year I'll make it over to give it a try...
I have never felt so unfit in my life. We are only 10 minutes from the car park and my heart is hammering, my thigh muscles screaming, as I try to keep up with the lean, agile figure on the trail in front of me. “This pace OK?” calls Angela Mudge over her shoulder, not remotely out of breath. “Er, fine,” I gasp, wondering if my lungs might collapse at any moment.
Mudge is to fell running (hill running, if you’re in Scotland) what Paula Radcliffe is to road running. Last December, she knocked 13 minutes off the Mount Everest marathon course record – a 42km race that begins at an altitude of more than 17,000ft and entails a 16-day trek to the start. This year, she won the British Fell Running Championships for the fifth time.
Rather rashly, I suggested we do a hill run together. Which is how I find myself, one bright, clear but achingly cold morning, in Rowardennan car park on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, preparing to run up a 3,200ft mountain with arguably the best female hill runner in the world.
I feel nervous and overburdened as I pack my rucksack – heart-rate monitor, gloves, isotonic sports drink, jelly babies. Mudge simply carries an extra layer and a waterproof jacket. “I don’t do technology,” she says. “If you’ve been running long enough, you know when you’re running hard, when you’re running easy. I don’t need to be scientific about it.” Doesn’t she carry fluid? “Not on the hills. I just drink from the streams. I’ve never got into the habit of using sports drinks.” For all my gear, it transpires that my Gore-Tex trainers aren’t up to the job. Luckily Mudge has a spare pair of size seven fell running shoes, which I dutifully put on.
We head off through the trees, and almost immediately begin to climb. “Take short, fast strides and stay on your toes,” instructs Mudge, climbing nimbly like a mountain goat. The path up Ben Lomond is one she has run countless times, as have her two Jack Russells, Canna and Arkle, who are zipping back and forth between us, covering twice the distance. In fact, Mudge has run up all 284 Scottish Munros (mountains over 3,000ft). “This one is a hard climb, but the terrain isn’t bad, so you can keep up some leg speed,” she says.
Now, I’m not what you’d call unfit. I’ve run 14 marathons (best time three hours, 22 minutes) and I run four to five times a week. But my heart rate is already 169 beats per minute. Once we’re clear of the forest, a section of steep rock, slick with water, slows me to a walking pace. “You should walk at a certain gradient,” reassures Mudge. “It’s faster, and it uses your muscles differently, so gives them a break.” She shows me the “fell runner’s walk”, bending over from the waist and taking large steps, with hands on knees to help push yourself onwards and upwards.
Read the rest of the article on Fell Running here.