Fell and trail running seems to be ever increasing in popularity. As a relative newcomer to the sport, even I have noticed competitor numbers increasing year upon year in my local races. Some of the pre-entry race places have become harder to get hold of than unicorn poo. For example, the Edale Skyline, Ben Nevis, Jura, the Gallop and more all fill up usually within minutes of opening. This seems to be the pattern more and more, with runners having to hover over SI Entries at race entry opening time. It feels more like trying to get Glastonbury tickets than a race place.
It is no bad thing that more people are finding a love for running in the hills. Even I am one of those who shifted from the roads to the trails. But how can we explain this? The sport has been around for decades afterall. I’ve just watched this great short film ‘Dreams of Mountains: A Fell Runner in the City‘ by Ed Swinden which goes some way to try and explain this. Not only is it fully of a few familiar faces and events, it’s a fantastic insight into how and why a group of relatively new hill runners have come into the sport.
More and more runners from towns and cities are finding the sport and falling in love with it. The countryside has never been more accessible to us, physically from a transport point of view, practically with all the great kit available to us and educationally with social media bringing the fell running community onto our radar. A fell race is no longer the sole stomping ground of competitors from the surrounding villagers. It’s not unusual to see club vests from all over the country descending on a tiny Derbyshire playing field or remote Lake District village.
As suggested in the video, us “townies” may never be able to ever compete with those living in the middle of the fells and peaks. We don’t all have the luxury of being able to leave our front door and run up a hillside, and that is the best way of getting good at doing it: do it everyday. My location is somewhere in the middle, semi-rural but not mountainous. So it’s all about making the most of the situation and finding the best local hills to build stamina. Whether this means working out a route that packs in every local undulation or running up each little hill more than once. Make your area work for you.
The fell running community is a brilliant one, full of friendly folk dedicated to a sport they love be they competing or organising. Yes there is the on going question of how to make pre-entry to races fair and reasonable, but I’d say there is certainly room to welcome more folk into this wonderful world of hills.
Happy running x