Fell running. The category of running that can only truly take place on the hills and mountains of the North.
Fell running completely changed my attitude towards running when I encountered it during a trip to the Lake District in 2014. Until that point, I ran to race others (and myself), chased distances, and times (my Dad’s PBs).
And then along came fell running where being out on the hills, stopping to take in the views, dipping in rivers and waterfalls and stopping to take breaks whilst chomping down on Eccles cakes to ‘refuel’ completely changed my perspective on running. For the first time, I could run for reasons beyond achievement. It wasn’t about distance or time. It was enjoyable and way beyond my expectations. That was such a wild change of view for me.
Fell running gave me the gift of letting go of competition. But competition isn’t inherently bad.
Bleasdale Circle Fell Race is a five-mile loop with what felt like an almost immediate 500m climb up the aforementioned fell. A bumbag with the required emergency kit strapped around my waist gave me friction burns on my back from being too loose (while simultaneously cutting off any breath to my diaphragm from being too tight).
Once I reached the top, I was faced with the not-so-delightful surprise of undulating and leg-sapping hills before, thankfully, descending. All while taking in beautiful views between breaths (heaves).
After a few days, my quads need a serious massage, and my calves are so tight that sideways walking downstairs seems to be the only way to descend 20ft, let alone 500ft.
The genuineness of fell running is reflected in the humility of the people I met. Fine-standing folk whose legacies are as much about who they are as the races they have won. And after a long run, homemade cakes and apple pie await you for 50p a slice. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced anywhere else. Fell running is everything I want and hope a subculture can be.
Words by Chris Baker.