22 Jan

Run To The Hills

Two runners in the hills

Since the turn of the year, I have found my interest drawn back to the world of fell running. Of course, the catalyst for this has been Richard Askwith’s remarkable Feet in the Clouds, the definitive read for the sport.

Fell running, hill running or mountain running - as it sometimes more grandly titled - is the quirky second cousin of the athletics family, sharing endurance blood with cross country and road running, whilst track and field looks on from a distant bloodline with a hint of disdain.

I have a bit of history with the sport, having taken part in several fell races in Scotland in the early 2000s. I was quite naïve back then, it was my early running days. But like any new runner in their honeymoon period of the sport, I was loved up and up for any new challenges in the sport.

And so it was, I found myself on a startline at a Scottish Hill Racing Championships. Mentally I prepared myself to give it absolutely everything I’ve got to get to the peak as quickly as possible and recover as I freewheeled on the descent.

I reached the top respectably placed and was pleased as I scampered downhill, admittedly not as fearlessly as some of my gnarly fellow runners. It was around halfway down that I realised my innocence was my undoing.

We were not on our way down to the finish at all. On the contrary, as I watched the runners snaking ahead of me, I noticed we were headed up again. “Another peak?! I’ve already emptied my tank!” my inner voice yelped.

But the challenge was strangely addictive and I took part in several events throughout the year. I savoured the strangely intoxicating cocktail which mixed a test of physical fitness, concentration and courage with the invigorating environment of pure wilderness.

Feet in the Clouds has rekindled something inside and located close to Dartmoor, I have found myself venturing back into the wilder side of running. And in the cosier confines of home, it has been “fell races” rather than “10Ks” I have been checking out on runABC's listings this year.

As a nation we have all become a little less connected with nature and through the fells, the running community can reconnect in a way that is good for the body, the mind and the soul.