Fell running – essentially running up and down hills and mountain sides – is booming. Always a quintessentially British pursuit and resolutely amateur, participation numbers are on the rise. So what’s fell running all about and why does it appeal to so many?
The popularity of extreme sports is increasing almost exponentially as people look for alternatives to the sometimes mind-numbing environs of the gym and punishing road running. Around 300 athletics clubs now affiliate themselves with the Fell Runners’ Association, with members able to compete in fell races around the UK. Numbers for races are limited to around 300 due to legitimate environmental concerns of landowners, but most races are full to capacity.
Fell Running is cheaper, more accessible and more agreeable than you might think
While many marathons charge around £40 to enter (the London Marathon costs upwards of £100), fell races are dirt cheap, with most entry fees at around a fiver or even less.
To the untrained eye it would be easy to imagine most fell races taking place in hostile conditions… slogging up a desolate hill-side in howling wind and rain. However, races mostly take place during the summer, and while we all know British summertimes can be hit and miss at best, more often than not races take place in much more hospitable conditions than one might imagine.
Getting fit in stunning surroundings
Fell races take place in the most stunning surroundings, such as the Lake District and the Peak District – and therein lies much of the appeal. If your alternatives are hammering away along rock hard roads or schlepping through muddy parks, it’s not much of a contest is it? Fell-running gives us the chance to take in some of Britain’s most beautiful sights at the same time as challenging ourselves and maintaining high levels of fitness.
Another attractive aspect of fell-running is a notable lack of obsession with performance. Like ultramarathons, it is less about shattering PBs and more about camaraderie and being at one with nature – an altogether rootsier and almost folky affair, off the beaten track and in entirely unspoiled natural surroundings. The prizes handed out at the end of many races tend to reflect this humble charm – with bottles of beer, cheeses and cakes more likely to be given out than trophies and medals.
Testing, unifying and addictive
None of this is to play down the physical challenge faced by fell runners. Chugging up steep inclines, followed by the often rocky descent, is not easy. Fell runners commonly report a post-race feeling of complete exhaustion coupled with genuine euphoria. It is that addictive sense of achievement that ensures people seldom go fell-running only once.
Again like ultramarathons, fell-running satiates the very human and inherent need in most of us to return to nature, and overcome the challenges nature presents us. And fell runners tend to be a gregarious bunch too. You will almost always find a genuine solidarity and kinship among the pack, cajoling and encouraging each other through those tough times, collectively striving for the same goal.
With many fell races culminating in a nearby country pub, it is not difficult to see why this particular sport is thriving while others, like cross country, are not attracting the same numbers.
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We champion the sport so the athletes taking part can develop their confidence and we always encourage new people to take part or support their running club.
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