Saturday, 7 July 2012

Fell running, the good pain!

When I first moved to the Mourne Mountains I remember being struck by the amount of runners I saw up in the hills. Wiry, stern looking people with impossibly muscular legs running up impossibly steep hills. Naturally I just presumed that they were genetic freaks and that they were operating on a different physical plain to the rest of us. This was confirmed when I read the results of the races and I saw that the top runners were able to run from the middle of Newcastle, up Slieve Donard and back down in less than an hour! Back then I was unable to even run at all, years of knee abuse had led to them both hyper-extending and a consultant advised me to not run for 3 years. Fast forward to 2011 and I found that I could run again without too much pain and one afternoon I decided to follow the course that was marked out for the Tollymore 'Hill and Dale' race. Being a competetive type, I timed myself to compare with the athletes who'd be racing on the course and was hugely surprised to find my time was good enough for 13th rather than the 113th I'd expected. Fuelled by this knowledge I decided to actually do a Hill and Dale for real. I'm slightly terrified of sprinting downhill so I thought the fearsome 'Binnian to the Top' race would be perfect, a gruelling all uphill sprint up the steep side of Slieve Binnian. It nearly killed me but I got a 7th and was instantly made to feel welcome by the top runners around me, it was also very gratifying to be asked which club I ran for by a couple of club chairmen!

Fast forward again to July 2012 and I've just finished my first full Hill and Dale series as well as the aforementioned Slieve Donard race. I've realised that in the mountains I really am quick (upwards) and slow (downwards), much like when I started racing mountain bikes 20 years ago! I've really enjoyed the races, the physical challenge combined with a brilliant laid back atmosphere which sees the top runners cheering on the slower and vice versa and everyone chilling out after (whilst getting soaked and eaten by midges!). I'm pretty proud to have got 2nd in my category and 5th overall and am looking forward to seeing what I can do if I properly train next year.

Me bothering the local paper with a dodgy mug shot!

So what's this got to do with Rock and Ride? Well, it's actually very much like mountain biking and I'd really recommend it to anyone who wants to get fitter. The thrill of descending is just like on the bike as is the sadistic enjoyment of the climbing. There are definite techniques (that I lack) which see some people flying down the hills with smooth and light steps just like the joy of watching top downhillers. The big advantage of the running though is that £70 odd is all you'll need to spend to get some shoes and away you go. 

I've joined Newcastle running club who have been full of banter and good advice on the few occasions I've been able to join them on club runs and their excellent website is also full of the info you need to get running and racing.

And as for the Donard race, I still can't count myself among the proper runners yet, 1 hour and 46 seconds means that I'm 47 seconds off being a real contender and even worse it means I have to do it again next year!

If you want any info on fell and mountain running or if you want to learn the essential navigation skills that can make it safe to run in the mountains then contact me at

No comments:

Post a Comment