Winter Hydration for Runners

We all know that fell running in hot weather is hard work; we heat up, we sweat and need to rehydrate.  But what about in winter?

It’s just as important to stay properly hydrated whatever the weather but in winter when it’s cold we don’t have the same psychological and physiological triggers telling us to drink. In cold, dry weather sweat evaporates quickly and so we might not notice how much we are sweating and because we don’t feel hot there is less urge to drink.  Some scientific studies have also shown that in cold weather as the body shuts the blood supply to its periphery, the urge to drink is reduced.  There’s also a phenomena known as cold diuresis where the body increases the production of urine as it gets cold which in turn can increase the risk of dehydration.

In cold, dry conditions the air that is breathed in gets warmed and humidified during respiration so every breath out robs the body of a tiny bit of water.  This all adds up on long runs, especially when you’re breathing hard.

running in cold, dry weather

running in cold, dry weather

It doesn’t need to be hot to make you sweat; if you’ve ever run in the rain wearing a waterproof jacket and complained that it’s leaking, that’s actually sweat that hasn’t been able to evaporate.  Likewise when you take your backpack off you’ve probably noticed a “sweaty back” even on a cold, winter day.  Again this is a sign of how much fluid we lose even in lower temperatures.  Extreme dehydration is dangerous but even in the early stages it has a detrimental effect on performance, causing you to slow down and increasing the feeling of fatigue.

So it is apparent that drinking during your longer winter runs is just as important as it is in summer.  I like to use Nuun electrolyte replacement tablets for both summer and winter hydration.  The tablets dissolve quickly and are easy to break in two to fit into narrower necked hydration bladders.  They come in a range of flavours that aren’t too overpowering and unlike high sugar carbohydrate drinks aren’t sickly sweet.  The added electrolytes are important, especially for very long runs and are another reason why I prefer them to carbohydrate only drinks.

Nuun (pronounced Noon) tablets

Nuun (pronounced Noon) tablets

There are several ways to carry your drink, each has advantages and disadvantages and different people have different preferences.  I like to use a bladder in a backpack so that I can keep sipping with minimal disruption and because there is no air in the bladder the contents don’t slosh around as it empties.

bladder and hose combination

bladder and hose combination allows frequent sips

However the downside of this is if you plan to refill the bladder during your run (as in an Ultra distance event) it can be a tricky and time consuming process, particularly with a narrow necked bladder.  In this case a wide necked plastic bottle might be better as it will be much easier to access and quicker to refill.  Some rucksacks are designed to carry bottles on the front shoulder straps which are easy to use, but for me, annoying when they start to slosh around when half full.  I also find them a bit heavy and uncomfortable when full.

backpack with bottle holder

backpack with bottle holder, prone to sloshing!

Alternatively you could use a bumbag designed to hold a water bottle.  You need to either reach behind you or more realistically spin the bag round to remove and replace the water bottle.  I don’t really like this method if I’m likely to be running fast as I find that it makes the bumbag more prone to bouncing up and down.

inov-8 bumbag

bumbag with water bottle, not easy to reach

For some shorter runs or races when I only want to take a small amount of drink I will reuse a baby food sachet, cleaned and then filled with my Nuun drink.  Carried in my bumbag this gives a few mouthfuls of liquid, just enough to get me round.

reusing a baby food sachet filled with drink

reusing a baby food sachet filled with electrolyte drink

You could even run carrying a water bottle in your hand.  There are bottles designed specifically for this but for me it is a big No No for a number of reasons:  It disrupts your running style, it is uncomfortable, it hinders you from using your hands to do anything else (e.g. check your map, open a gel etc).  I think that if your run is short enough that carrying a bottle won’t annoy you then it is short enough not to need a drink.  If it’s long enough that you will need a drink then find a more efficient way of carrying it and let your hands swing freely in an efficient running style!

hand held water bottle

running whilst holding a water bottle – why?

I always ensure that I am fully hydrated before a long run or race in order to delay the onset of dehydration and then sip frequently during the run.  I find that little and often is better than glugging loads down at once.

So whatever your chosen method of carrying a drink, remember that rehydrating on your longer runs is important even in winter.  Using electrolyte replacement tablets such as Nuun in your drink is an effective way of preventing dehydration and the associated decrease in performance.

Bearing that in mind you can get out and enjoy your trail and fell running this winter – happy hydrated running!


The Joy of Winter Running

“In his autumn before the winter comes man’s last mad surge of youth”

What on Earth am I talking about?

It’s mid November, the sky is monotone, the landscape leached of colour as if nature is restricted to a drab palate with which to paint her surroundings.  Heavy rain and strong winds sweep in from the south, the ground is heavy, sodden and summer’s golden rays have long faded.   Running on a day like today just doesn’t inspire me, there is little aesthetic pleasure to be had, no urge to linger and drink in the sights and sounds around me.  Instead I speed up, not wanting to spend any more time than absolutely necessary in this environment. My gaze is restricted to the few metres immediately ahead of me, head bowed into the wind, squinting against the lashing rain.

But winter running can be a joy.  Some days sparkle like bright jewels glittering amongst the oppressive grey.

winter running in the Peak District

winter running in the Peak District

Clear nights lead to crystal blue days and the first hard frosts bring firmer ground.  The crunch of ice crystals replaces the squelch of feet in mud.

winter running

hard frost and the crunch of ice

On high pressure days the air is still, sounds carry: the tinkling of the icy brook, the dripping as a weak winter sun thaws icicles on gritstone boulders, the frosty remains of the bracken expanding as they slowly warm.  The landscape breathes.  These are my favourite days, when piercing blue skies seem to overload the senses and the clear air brings the distant horizon into sharp focus.   On such days I love to explore the remotest parts of the Peak District, making the most of the few hours of daylight to enjoy the solitude of the harsh environment.

running under a piercing blue sky

winter running under a piercing blue sky

On some winter days a layer of cold air in the valley bottom condenses forming a sea of cloud.  When conditions are right the hills above enjoy clear skies and sunshine whilst all below is shrouded in grey.  It’s a joyful experience to emerge from the cloud into the sunshine and enjoy the colour and long winter shadows.

winter running

above the sea of cloud

Even on cloudy days, there are rewards especially after heavy snow when running becomes a real adventure!  Then the landscape softens, sharp edges are smoothed by the snow, paths disappear and what was once familiar takes on a different aspect.

running in snow

adventure running!

Somehow snow brings on a surge of youth, the urge to “play out”, to explore and experience adventure!  The once tame trails of summer become a playground.  Nature offers up the challenge of running through deep snow and on ice.  The challenge has to be accepted!

snowy run

running or climbing!

So whilst all is wet, windy and grey, running is done simply for training rather than for any other pleasure.  But we can hope.

the joy of winter running

the joy of winter running – that’s what I’m talking about!

Winter is around the corner and maybe it will bring joy to running on the trails and fells.  That’s what I’m talking about!


Autumn Running

Trail Running and Fell Running in autumn is a bitter-sweet experience.

The long, warm, summer days are a fading memory.  No more long days out on the hill with the sun still shining at 9pm.  No more evening races where the best athletes in the sport line up with first timers and share a friendly drink and chat afterwards. The days are much shorter now, the weather harsher and more kit needs to be carried, even on short runs where once a tee shirt and shorts were sufficient.  Cold hands and wet feet become the norm, mud replaces grass and extra motivation is needed to head out into the wind and rain.

running in hail

wish I’d worn leggings!

But autumn running in the Peak District does have its rewards: gold, silver and bronze become the predominant colours as the heather and bracken die back, the leaves fall and the birches, stripped of their foliage reveal their bright bark.

autumn trail running

trail running through silver birches

autumn running

trail running through fallen leaves on a bright autumn day

The smell of bracken is replaced by the earthy scent of fallen leaves and occasionally the sound of a bellowing stag drifts down from the moor as he tries to establish his dominance over the herd.  On clear nights the first frosts form and, for me, the best thing about autumn running is on the cold mornings when still air has condensed in the Hope Valley forming a blanket of cloud whilst the hills above are bathed in sunshine.

morning trail run

frosty morning inversion in the Hope Valley

The dark evenings present opportunities too: out come the head torches and easy trail runs through the woods and moors take on a different excitement as owls screech, sheep stare with glowing eyes and the odd grouse gets wakened from sleep to flap away noisily – a sound guaranteed to quicken the pulse!

head torch running

head torch running

So although I’m sad to say goodbye to the summer it’s good to make the most of the sights, smells and sounds of autumn.  So get out between the October storms and enjoy autumn, for a trail runner or fell runner the season still has a lot to offer.


Trail Running at Night

Trail running at night – don’t be afraid!

I’m alert, senses heightened to the sounds and smells around me: an owl hoots away to my left, I notice the musky scent of fox and the damp, earthy smell of the newly fallen, autumn leaves.  Emerging from the trees my eyes are drawn to the faint afterglow of sunset just visible on the western horizon whilst away to the east the moon, big and bright is rising from behind the hill into a small, thin patch of wispy cloud.  This is night running!

the remains of the day on the western horizon

the remains of the day on the western horizon

A small group of us are making the most of the darker evenings, just because it’s dark doesn’t mean you can’t run off road!  Before the moon has chance to rise we turn our head torches off and look up.  Almost all of the day’s cloud has dispersed and as we adjust to the darkness stars come out before our eyes.  We take a few moments to share our knowledge of the various constellations before turning the torches back on and continuing on our nocturnal adventure.

Back into the woods and several pairs of bright, pinpoints of light appear before us – we are being watched!  But we have bravery in numbers and as we get closer the sheep look at us with curiosity as if to wonder what we are doing out after dark.

head torch running

headtorch running

Dropping down to the stream we notice the temperature change, our breath steams and a thin mist is just beginning to form in the colder air.  Our ears deceive us, the stream sounds like a torrent when in fact it is barely shin deep.   We don’t talk, the sounds of nature are enough: the stream, the snap of a twig underfoot, our breathing and our footfalls on the soft earth.

Climbing back up to the moor we snake our way along the ancient hollow-way, cut out hundreds of years ago when men toiled to make a living from this land.  As we emerge we turn around and see the moon again, risen now and casting its silvery light on the landscape.trail running in moonlight

We head back to the road, to our cars, to our homes, but we will return to the wonderful landscape and to the magic of trail running at night.

Fancy a night time trail run? Check out the dates of my next guided runs:

Spectacular Snowdonia

This year I’ve been lucky to experience some spectacular mountain running days in Snowdonia.

Time spent preparing for, supporting others on and completing the Paddy Buckley Round meant lots of trips to North Wales and fortunately some stunning days out in the hills.

These images are what inspire me to go mountain running:

2014-03-07 13.17.55 2014-03-07 15.17.55 2014-04-11 11.56.23 2014-04-15 11.00.59 Siabodleg5 #32014-07-11 20.37.54 2014-07-11 20.56.12 2014-07-11 20.56.21 night leg

This video shows a magical summer evening view I experienced whilst running:

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Paddy Buckley Round

The Paddy Buckley Round covers 61 miles and ascends around 28,000ft as it crosses 47 peaks of North Wales.

Moel Siabod leg in beautiful weather

Moel Siabod leg in beautiful weather

As well as the obvious investment of time spent training to get fit for the challenge it also requires a large amount of planning in terms of route choice, (it can be started anywhere unlike the Bob Graham Round which always begins in Keswick) equipment, food and support crew.

Planning the route:

The Paddy Buckley can be broken into 5 main legs, each finishing at road crossings where support can be accessed. I chose to run on a 23.30 hr schedule starting at 11am from Capel Curig, the idea being to get the longest and arguably most complex navigation leg over whilst I was fresh.  The 11am start meant that if I was on schedule I would be into the Snowdon leg as it went dark and would see dawn as I approached the Glyders.

Getting to know the route is important and so I made a number of visits to Wales paying particular attention to the section between Moel Siabod and the Moelwyns which features a number of knolls that have to be visited.  This part of the route is also particularly boggy and knowing the least wet line can save time and energy.  I also carefully reccied the Elidir’s section including the line to Mynydd Perfedd as I knew I would be running this in the dark.

I also chose to have support at the old quarries at Croesor where friends would walk in with more water and a little food.

Planning the kit:

kit for Paddy Buckley Round

do I really need all this?

One thing I found really difficult was deciding what kit to take: bottle or bladder? bumbag or back-pack? waterproof or windproof or both?  The weather is obviously an important factor and so with a hot, dry forecast I opted for an Inov-8 race pac4 with a 1 litre bladder that I would refill at the end of each leg.  I carried a Montane Minimus waterproof smock and Featherlite windproof bottoms.  I also had a dry bag containing my emergency kit consisting of OMM Rotor Smock, hat and gloves plus spare torch batteries, plasters, bog roll and paracetamol (thankfully the bag remained unopened!).  For the last couple of legs I swapped the sack for a small Inov-8 bumbag.

hot sun and steep hills

hot sun and steep hills – race pac and bladder

I wore a light coloured buff for sun protection rather than warmth and a new pair of wool socks.  Shorts were Mammut MTR 141 whilst my top was a short sleeved cycling shirt which I use for longer distances as the rear pockets allow easy access to gels, map compass etc.  I also carried a long sleeved top to put on if it got cold (I put this on at the start of the night leg).  For footwear I chose my trusty Inov-8 Roclite 285 shoes and had a pair of Inov-8 X Talon 212 in the support vehicle as back up just in case.  The leg over the Glyders has a couple of sections of loose scree so at the start of this leg I changed socks, putting on Inov-8 debris socks.  These worked well, it’s just a shame that the leg starts by crossing wet ground to the comfort of dry socks only lasted a few minutes!

For the night legs I used a Silva Cross Trail II kindly loaned by Matt at Lumenator.  I used the torch on medium power with just a couple of bursts on full power for route spotting.  The 3xAA batteries in the external pack easily lasted the 5 or so hours of darkness.  I also wore an Alpkit Gamma torch around my waist, angled down to shine just in front of me.  I find this helps maintain some depth perception and was really useful over the rocky ground after Crib y Ddysgyl and on Elidir Fawr.

on leg 4 in the dark

on leg 4 in the dark

I made laminated maps of each leg with split times and any important route notes annotated on to them.  I used the Paddy Buckley 1:40,000 for general planning but used a 1:25,000 scale on the actual day (for me particularly important for trying to map read at night or with rain on the map).

Planning the food:

I was pretty clear about the food that I would eat whilst running: a mix of gels (SIS and Mule), Clif Shot Bloks, baby food pouches (Ella’s kitchen) and Nakd bars.  This was washed down with High 5 Zero electrolyte.  What I wasn’t so sure of was what to eat at the support points.  I managed a couple of bananas but also knew I would want something savoury to counteract the sweet stuff so I opted for tuna sandwiches, boiled potatoes with salt & butter, Bombay Bad Boy spicy pot noodle and spicy rice crackers.  I also had a few cups of licorice tea.

support point Paddy Buckley

Bombay Bad Boy!

I found the sandwiches were a mistake, I simply couldn’t chew the bread and ended up just eating the tuna.  The potatoes were fine and the pot noodles were brilliant with the hot sauce being really welcome after hours of sweet tasting food.  I decanted the tea into a bottle to take with me and swigged it with the rice crackers as it cooled.

The schedule:

I worked on a 23.30 schedule factoring in 10 minute breaks on each leg.  The schedule and split times can be seen here Splits.  (the last 3 spits are estimated as my watch ran out of memory)

How did it go?

The weather on the day was hot and sunny giving the advantage of excellent visibility but adding to the risk of dehydration and hyperthermia.  The night leg was partly cloudy with a little hill fog over the Glyders at dawn but on the whole giving no problems with navigation.  Even overnight the temperature was mild and the sky never seemed to get fully dark, the distant hills always a faint silhouette.

starting the night leg

starting the night leg

I made one glaring error coming off the Glyders and descending the wrong gulley which cost me half an hour and a lot of stress!  Apologies to my supporter Mike who was even more stressed – an introduction to down climbing wasn’t on the agenda when he agreed to help out!  I also lost time on the last leg, coming off the very last hill where I lost the path and ended up in deep heather, not having reccied this section.

I completed the round in 23.05, twenty five minutes up on schedule.

Lessons learnt:

Route finding on a recce when you are fresh is totally different to doing so when you’ve been on the go for 18 hours.  Don’t assume you know it.
Recce as much as you can and in different weather conditions.  The only section I hadn’t checked properly cost me time.
Stay hydrated.  Using a bladder meant that I drank little and often which seemed to work, particularly in the heat of the day.  I chose an electrolyte drink rather than electro / carb mix and this seemed to work fine.
Keep eating, even if you’re not hungry.  Towards the end of the run I used Clif Shot Bloks in the side of my mouth, letting them dissolve rather than having to chew and swallow. Take a spare map: mine fell out of my pocket on leg 1 but thankfully we had a spare.


I had a great time on the round, helped mainly by excellent (if a little too hot) weather conditions.  It would not have been possible without the support of friends so thanks to Ian L, Tim, Ian F, Jules, Mike, Neil, and particularly Lynn and Darrell who drove lots of miles and met me at every support point.
Thanks to Ian F, Mike and Tim for the photos.

23 hours later!

23 hours later!

Fell Running in the Peak District

There are lots of reasons why the Peak District is a great location for fell and trail running.

First of all there’s the scenery; from rough open moorlands to pretty limestone dales, each with their own flora and fauna and the stark contrast between the gritstone and limestone landscapes.  Then the variety; tough, steep hill climbs or flat routes around pretty reservoirs or along valley bottoms.  For the competitive runner there are beginner friendly summer races and tough, long, testing challenges.  And all of this is easily accessible from the major road and rail networks.

trail running in the Peak District

fantastic Peak District scenery

If you’d like more information or would like to arrange a guided run, contact me:

Have you tried fell and trail running in the Peak District yet?

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Blue Sky and Birdsong

One of my favourite times for fell running is early in the morning.

On the short drive out to the Peak District, passing cars heading in the other direction I reminded myself how lucky I am to be going for a run when the rest of the world is heading for the office!

Today the skies were blue and although the sun was up it had yet to warm the air and the chill breeze meant that a windproof was needed.  As I was getting changed the distinctive call of a curlew drew my attention and I saw a pair of birds on the moor close to the road.  I love easy runs when I can focus on the natural sights and sounds around me, nature is my earphones!

My run took me along the edge of steep ground with a fantastic view of the Hope Valley.

Running above the Hope Valley

running above the Hope Valley

Crossing the minor road I climbed Higger Tor and crossed its flat summit before dropping off the south side.  Easy running and a few short, steep steps brought me onto the old fort of Carl’s Wark, another flat top with a jumble of gritstone boulders on its southern flank giving way to easier running on a grass, heather and bilberry slope.

skipping over the boulders

skipping over the boulders

I headed downhill aiming to cross the pretty Burbage Brook by means of a hop over the rocks.

crossing Burbage Brook

crossing Burbage Brook

Warmer now I stopped to take off my jacket and spent a couple of moments soaking in the atmosphere: the warm sun, the burbling of the stream and the sound of a cuckoo in the woods to the north.  How wonderful fell running can be!

Setting off again I climbed gradually up to the wide trail that bisects the valley and turned north towards the cuckoo.  The trail gives fantastic views with natural and quarried gritstone edges to the east whilst to the west there is the forest and brook with Carl’s Wark and Higger Tor standing proud beyond.

running below Carl's Wark and Higger Tor

running below Carl’s Wark and Higger Tor

As I neared the head of the valley, from the rocks to my right I heard a different, rarer sound: the high pitched cheep of a Ring Ouzel.  This small, blackbird like migrating bird visits the Peak District crags in summer to breed before heading back to warmer climes in winter.

Leaving the thrush to it’s territorial feud I approached the end of the trail and below Burbage Bridge I crossed the stream again, swinging back towards Higger Tor.

running below Burbage Bridge

crossing the brook below Burbage Bridge

Almost finished, as I approached the car I again noticed the curlews.  I must have been closer to their ground nest this time as they were much more vocal in their calls.  One bird flew noisy circles around me before landing only a few feet away in a determined effort to distract me from its precious home.



Run finished, and not yet 9.00am.  A morning of blue sky and birdsong and I’m again reminded of how fantastic trail running and fell running in the Peak District can be.

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Spring Feast

Fell Running is fun again!

After an interminably wet winter it seems that Spring has arrived.  Three consecutive days of blue skies and distant horizons has made running in the hills a pleasure once again and left me hungry for more.

mountain running under blue skies

mountain running under blue skies

Like a starving man at a banquet I have gorged on the season’s new promise, feasting on the mountains of Snowdonia under crystal skies.

Edale Skyline run

sun on my face

The Edale Skyline, relishing now the challenge of its energy sapping peat and delighting in the views across Kinder.

enjoying spring running

enjoying spring running

And closer to home the trails of Burbage and the splendid vista westwards towards Win Hill and Mam Tor.

And today as I ran away from Stanage Edge, warmed for once by sun rather than exertion, the sweetest dessert – the cry of a Curlew – surely a sign that the long, wet winter is behind us.

I’m Running Up That (Win) Hill

One of my favourite runs in the Peak District is the trail run from Ladybower Reservoir to the top of Win Hill.

It rises 280 metres in just over 3km on good terrain.  It is never too steep to force you to walk and so is a great training run.  The views from the summit are probably the best in the Peak District and from the top you can carry on westwards to Kinder, drop south west towards Hope to climb its twin; Lose Hill or even retrace your steps and add another couple of hill reps!

Trail run route up Win Hill

the trail running route up Win Hill

Come with me on a video tour and see one example of what makes the Peak District such a fantastic location for trail running.