These words have become a bit of a joke and I hear them every time I leave the house to go fell running. But joking aside fell running can be hazardous. If I’m heading somewhere remote I take emergency kit with me which will hopefully allow me to get myself out of trouble. But if something more serious happened and I was found unconscious or incoherent it would be good if the rescuer knew who I was, if I had any medical problems and who to contact other than the emergency services.
So I wear a Safesport id: a small rubber wristband that is engraved with my chosen emergency details. They come in a choice of colours and you get 4 bands of different diameters to suit a wide range of wrist sizes – even my puny wrists!
Safesport id wristband
They cost about £15 and make a useful gift.
So next time you venture out alone running, walking or on yer bike will you have some emergency id on you? There’s a lot of rabbit holes out there!
This weekend I clocked up my one thousandth kilometre in my Inov-8 Mudclaw 300’s.
For a shoe that has to put up with the harshest of treatment; the acidic peat of the Peak District and the abrasive gritstone and rough heather moorland that’s some going! Not to mention being left outside the back door on winter nights.
I use SportTracks software that automatically clocks the mileage (kilometre-age) so I know it’s an accurate count.
SportTracks software keeps count
I’ve had them since October 2010 (again thanks to keeping a training diary with SportTracks) and remarkably the shoes have still got a good amount of tread left on them, particularly the heel studs which can be prone to coming off. Admittedly they’re not quite as yellow as they once were – but who wants bright yellow shoes! The only real sign of wear is in the heel cup.
1000km and still going strong!
I do have a new pair put aside for racing but I reckon I’ll get a good few months more out of these as my winter training shoe and for running guide work.
Do I have a secret for getting such a good life span from my shoes? Well warm soapy water works – and I suppose only being 8 stone helps too!
The Salomon XA Pro 3D is a trail running shoe rather than a fell shoe that I would normally wear.
However I do run on trails and wearing a more aggressive sole is sometimes overkill so with Salomon’s good reputation for their range of running shoes I was keen to put these to the test.
green and clean
First impressions on opening the box were good, a nice bright green colour to contrast with the leaden winter skies! The fit seemed fine, with my usual size 6.5 comparing similarly to other shoes and the asymmetrical laces ensured a snug fit. One thing I did notice was that they felt very stable, almost as if they had a wider, flatter base than I was used to. The Quicklace system is easy to tension but then a bit fiddly to tuck the end away.
I first wore them for a regular 8 mile training run over a mix of terrain including hard packed trail with some muddy sections and puddles, uneven stony trail and a wet, grassy uphill stretch. The XA Pros felt comfortable straight away and gave a reassuring grip on all but the muddiest sections where a pair of Speedcross or Fellcross would have been more at home. The protective rubber toe cap would be a good feature on looser, rockier trails where there is a risk of stubbing your toe. The extremely breathable upper did let the water in but that’s an accepted hazard of British winter running – it will be ideal if we have another long hot summer!
One feature that I did really like is the flush tongue which means that mud and grit stays on the front of the shoe rather than getting in down behind the laces. This makes cleaning the shoe easier than with a normal tongue.
at home on hard packed trail
Satisfied with their performance on trail terrain I decided to try them out over more fell running type ground. They performed reasonably well although I found it hard to contour on steep ground due to the stiff foot-bed and wide base whilst running downhill on wet grass was interesting! This is a bit of an unfair criticism as they aren’t designed for this type of terrain.
They did however cope well with a dusting of wet snow that fell during my run.
coping with a dusting of wet snow
I wasn’t keen on the Quicklace system, the laces were covered with gritty mud at the end and I had difficulty releasing the lace. I prefer good old fashioned laces but I’m sure it’s something I would get used to and maybe isn’t as much of a problem in dry weather.
a not so clean pair of heels
Overall I would say the Salomon XA Pro 3D is a good trail shoe for runners seeking style, breathability, stability and protection. It is perfectly suited to some of the Peak District’s trails and I would use it as a training shoe for less technical, drier terrain. I would even consider wearing it for dry, summer fell races where an aggressive sole isn’t required.
Winter fell and trail running in remote areas can be hazardous.
Have you ever had to stop running whilst wearing only a thin base layer and waterproof top? If so you will have realised that it doesn’t take long to get cold. Although you might not feel too cold whilst running, even in wet and windy weather, as soon as you stop exercising and thus producing heat you begin to cool down rapidly.
remote running in bad weather
An enforced stop, a sprained ankle for example, can easily lead to the onset of hypothermia in such conditions.
One great piece of kit that I carry on remote runs is a Blizzard Survival Bag. This is made of a highly thermally efficient material with a warmth to weight ratio exceeding even goose down. What’s more it is durable and efficient even when wet.
The Active Range version weighs only 280 grams and is small enough to fit into a bumbag. It comes vacuum packed for ease of transport and once opened unfolds into a full length sleeping bag.
lightweight and easy to carry
easily opens to sleeping bag size
It works by trapping a layer of air between two layers of thermally reflective material. Once inside, the draw cord can be pulled tight around your head leaving a small breathing space and keeping you out of the wind and rain. Any heat your body gives off is retained within the bag rather than being lost to the elements.
snug inside the bag
At a little over £20 Blizzard Bags are a really good investment. It’s the first thing that goes into my bag when I’m off running or walking in remote areas.
Next time you’re out on a remote run think about what would happen if you or one of your group had to stop for a length of time. What state would you be in by the time help arrived? This bag might be the difference between an uncomfortable wait and something much more serious.
So get out there, run and enjoy the worst that the winter can throw at us, but stay safe.
It’s cold, wet and windy and dark by 4pm. Doesn’t particularly inspire you to go fell and trail running does it!
But what’s the alternative: Sitting at home watching telly with that nagging, guilty feeling that you haven’t been training? Or paying for a gym membership to run on the DREADmill? (set on an incline so you can pretend you’re running up the Ben!)
So what can we do to help motivate us to get out the door? Here’s what helps me:
Get kitted out. You’ve heard people say there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing? Well they’re wrong! there’s some particularly grim weather, usually found on a bleak hillside miles from where you left the car!
Being cold and wet equals miserable at best and in danger at worst. Yes fell running is a cheap sport requiring minimal kit but it’s best enjoyed in the knowledge that your waterproof jacket will stand up to the rigours of the horizontal rain. Get the best waterproofs you can afford, (if that means economising by buying cheaper base layers, socks, underpants, going hungry, no Christmas presents for the kids etc then so be it!) After running shoes it is the thing I would spend most money on. I have 3 decent running waterproof jackets; an OMM Kamleika smock, an Inov-8 Race Elite Stormshell and a Montane Minimus smock, all of which I recommend.
Minimus in a hail storm – a day when I wish I’d worn my leggings!
I rarely wear more than a long sleeved base layer under my outer layer which is fine whilst you’re moving and generating heat. However if you need to stop for any reason you’ll soon get cold so I carry an extra layer. My favourite is my OMM Rotor Smock which, made from primaloft offers excellent insulation for its weight.
OMM Rotor smock
I hate cold feet. You know those first couple of minutes when you set off for a run and try to avoid all the puddles in a vain attempt to keep your feet dry. You know full well that they’ll soon be wet but you try anyway! I find that wet doesn’t need to mean cold. I use SealSkinz socks which claim to be waterproof but in my experience only remain so for a handful of runs after which they allow in some water so don’t keep your feet completely dry – more moist yet warm. They are quite expensive but what price warm feet? Thin racing socks are a definite no no!
Likewise cold hands, I remember a long winter race when I couldn’t grip the zipper on my bumbag to get to a gel, my hands were that cold. I’ve since learnt that a cheap pair of fleece gloves under a thin windproof pair works quite well. On really wet days I wear Tuff Bag mittens over the top which are great for warmth but not so for dexterity so map and compass work, opening food etc. becomes tricky. Also they don’t mix well with rough gritstone so no hands on rock scrambling adventures if you want them to last.
I’m not too fond of a cold head either so any form of hat is a must but nothing too bulky in case you want to take it off and stuff it in a pocket. In dry cold weather I go for a Buff with a second one around my neck that can be pulled up over my nose and mouth to make a balaclava. I also have a windproof beanie which I wear in wet weather. It doesn’t keep my head dry but I can live with that. I don’t like running with a hood up so would only use my jacket hood in the worst rain.
Although I carry waterproof bottoms for emergencies I rarely wear them on the run. What I do swear by are my Lowe Alpine Powerstretch leggings – which even when wet are comfortably warm. They can sometimes be too warm so if it’s not too cold then a pair of close fitting tights will do. I have some cheap Decathlon ones plus some Ron Hills (not the old school blue ones with red stripes!) Anything that doesn’t absorb water will do.
In summer I run with a bumbag but winter running requires more kit so I prefer a rucksack. This allows me to take the extra clothing I need plus extra food and some bits of emergency kit (see here). I use an Inov-8 Race Pro as I find rucksacks with zip pockets that can be reached whilst on the move are best as they allow quick access to food, map, compass etc.
Don’t be put off by snow. Most of our winters are wet and windy but in recent years we’ve had snow. This puts some people off running as they see it as dangerous. I see it as a chance for adventure!
Get a grip. For me there is only one shoe for winter conditions. From boggy ground to deep snow, it has to be the Inov-8 Mudclaw.
Mudclaws – must haves for winter fell running
MicroSpikes give a reassuring grip on ice and compacted snow and can be slipped over your trainers in seconds and are easily carried if not in use. Get a pair of these and you’ll be longing to get out in the snow like you did when you were a kid!
getting to grips with winter running
Running in falling snow or hail is the hardest thing to deal with as you instinctively close your eyes to protect your eyeballs (lovely soft snowflakes actually really, really hurt if you get them in your eyes!) I use ski goggles to prevent this.
Embrace the night. The long summer evenings are a fading memory but there’s no reason not to continue running at night. Night time fell runs are an adventure so persuade your mates that it is a good idea and head out to the trails and fells. You needn’t go far, even a run through the local park or woods adds a bit of variety and a new challenge. Choose somewhere you are familiar with at first as it is very easy to become disorientated in the dark.
head torch running
The first time you see sheep’s eyes staring back at you or you startle a sleeping grouse can be a shock but you do get used to it. (Actually I haven’t yet got used to stepping on grouse but I’m ok with the reflecting eyes!) So you’ll need a decent head torch and there are plenty to choose from nowadays. You can spend a fortune on programmable, reactive light models like the Petzl Nao but that’s probably overkill unless you’re doing some seriously remote running and need long battery life. You don’t need to light up the whole hillside with hundreds of lumens unless you’re in Mountain Rescue! My LED Lenser H7R does a great job and is USB rechargeable so I can always set out with it fully charged. Be aware that some modern torches don’t get gradually dimmer – they simply turn off when the batteries get low, something I found out to my cost! So remember to take spare batteries and unless you can find them in your pack, take the old ones out and put the new ones in all in pitch darkness with cold hands and in a howling gale you’ll need an emergency light or a partner with a torch.
Strength in numbers. Unless you’re very experienced it might be best to do your remote winter running with a partner or group. Make an arrangement with some mates to go for a run and stick to it – whatever the weather! It’s easy to decide against it if it’s just you but you’ll be more likely to run if you feel you are letting the side down. Get a gang together and share the love (of the rain) Having a few of you together is also safer should something go wrong.
share the fun and stay safe!
Time for a quickie. Even the hardiest of runners will not relish going outdoors when it’s dark and lashing it down. It’s here that you need to be flexible with your training. If you’ve planned for a long run and the weather’s awful, go for a quick one instead. A quick 20 minute tempo run will have a good training effect and keep you warmer than a steady plod.
So let’s face it winter’s here and there’s nothing we can do about it, but there are things we can do to make fell and trail running more appealing. So stick with it this winter, you never know we might even have a few days like this:
Inov-8 Roclite have been my shoe of choice this year.
I’ve used them for working, training and racing. Unfortunately the rough gritstone, coarse heather and acidic peat of the Peak District have taken their toll and after 878 kilometres (I know thanks to SportTracks training software which calculated it!) the uppers have given up the ghost!
Interestingly, compared to the uppers the sole has fared pretty well with quite a lot of tread remaining.
there’s miles left in them lad!
The shoes have done me well and have had some great adventures:
Roclites doing what they were designed for
And have seen some stunning running conditions:
blue sky running
struggling on Ennerdale fell race – me, not the shoes!
So I reckon that I’ve had my moneys worth out of them and whilst I’m always reluctant to throw my favourite bits of kit away, the good news is….
I’ve got a shiny new pair!
ooh – new shoes!
For out and out bog and mud I wear Inov-8 Mudclaws but for mixed fell and trail running I don’t think you can beat Inov-8 Roclites. So I’m off to hit the fells with my new shoes – it will be a shame to get them dirty!
So the clocks have changed and our trail and fell running is limited to daytime – we can’t possibly run off road in the dark can we?
Of course we can – fell running in the dark is great! All we need is a decent head torch and a bit of common sense. I’ve got a selection of head torches, the latest being LED Lenser’s new SEO5
So what do I look for in a running head torch? Well: bright, light and comfortable would sum it up. Years ago when I first tried fell running at night it was difficult to get a head torch that was bright enough without it being huge and cumbersome with a battery the size of a malt loaf! With today’s technology bright and light is possible at the same time.
My first impression of the SEO5 was that it was only slightly bigger than my old Petzl Tikka – I just hoped it would be brighter. On the scales it weighed in at 104g (nice to see that’s below the claimed 105g on the packaging)
LED Lenser SEO5 on the scales
It is powered by 3x AAA batteries housed in the light unit itself so no separate battery pack on the back of the head. The on / off / mode switch is a small button on the top of the torch. The torch came pre assembled with headband (removable for washing) and batteries plus a spare set of batteries – all Duracell too rather than some cheap rubbish which was a nice touch.
After spending 5 minutes trying to decipher the not very well translated manual I gave up and resorted to pressing the button numerous times for different durations and figured out that you had the choice of:
Bright (180 lumens) Dim (20 lumens) or Flashing. It is also possible to select a brightness anywhere between bright and dim. There is also a separate red Led that gives steady or flashing option. In steady white mode a turn of the housing around the lens allows you to alter the beam from a wide circle to a focussed point.
The headband is easily adjustable to allow for use over a hat and is just one single strap around the head (nothing over the top). This gave a good snug fit and despite vigorous head shaking the torch stayed firmly in place, a reassuring sign as the prospect of it coming off and tumbling down the hill in pitch dark isn’t a good one!
No separate battery pack means a comfortable fit
The light can be swivelled down on a ratchet through 8 positions if you need to look at things closer to hand; for example whilst map reading, and the ratchet is quite firm and it seems unlikely that the light will droop whilst on the run – a problem with some torches.
On test whilst night time fell running in the Peak District the torch performed really well giving ample brightness for the type of moorland and woodland terrain I was on. I prefer to run on floodlight mode giving a wider pool of light but sometimes a focussed beam is needed to pick out distant objects such gates or walls. The SEO5 on full power coped with this need, a simple twist allowing me to go from flood to spot and back again.
Bright and light
If I was to be picky and find fault with the SEO5 it would be that the on off switch and focussing beam are tricky to operate with gloved hands (however this is the case with several torches) and it takes a while to remember the sequence of presses and holds required to switch between the modes (again no real difference to other torches and not really an issue once you get used to it)
I haven’t tested the claimed 7 hr battery life on full power (25 hrs on low) but unless the claim is very inaccurate the torch will have enough juice to last all but the longest night run. If I’m unsure how much life there is left in my standard batteries I prefer to use rechargeables and set off all charged up to avoid being caught out.
Tip: If you are taking spare batteries with the intention of changing them “in the field” make sure you take a secondary light such as a key fob light. It will be almost impossible to find your spares, take the back off your torch, remove the old batteries, put the new ones in the right way round… all whilst in the wind and rain, with cold hands in the dark!
So whilst it might not be your chosen torch for an extended overnight winter outing such as the High Peak Marathon the LED Lenser SEO5 is perfectly suited to shorter night time fell and trail runs. Bright, light and comfortable it is.
LED Lenser SEO
If you would like to experience an off road night run contact me to arrange – I might even lend you the SEO5!
The Mammut MTR 201 Micro Jacket is a very lightweight windproof top.
First off, I was really impressed by its weight – or lack of it – the small clocking up only 81 grams on the scales!
Mammut MTR 201 – very light!
The jacket features a full length zip with a small chest pocket, (a feature I really like for stowing compass, cut down map, gloves etc.) The pocket has an internal hole for headphones (so that you can take your “multi media device” with you to the hills and listen to man made sounds rather than birdsong, the wind in the trees, the tinkling stream etc!) There are elastane mesh panels below each armpit to assist breathe-ability (I think these will be good whilst running but a compromise to the jacket’s wind proofing and thus not so good if using the jacket whilst standing around), a hem draw cord and something called finger gaiters in the cuffs (basically an extra bit of material that might, at a pinch, keep your fingers warm although I can’t see how these would do the job of a pair of gloves!) It is DWR treated to make it shower as well as wind proof and time will tell how long lasting and effective this proves to be. Reflective lettering and logo give a little bit of increased visibility at night. The jacket easily fits into its own chest pocket for storage.
I tested it out whilst trail running on a breezy but sunny October day. In action the jacket was very comfortable and whilst the close fit of the small wouldn’t allow it to be worn over bulky layers, as a running wind proof over a long sleeved base layer the fit was excellent.
Mine is a fetching bright green which matches the MTR 141 trail shoe although it should also be available in black.
MTR 201 – very green!
Overall I was very impressed with the jacket, it fits well (I usually find small men’s size to be a bit big!) and is ideal for wearing on a chilly day when you know it isn’t going to rain. It looks good too – if you like green!
The great thing about fell running is its simplicity.
No expensive kit is needed, there’s no need to keep updating to the latest design, it’s just a case of get dressed and go. So there’s nothing much to consider when it comes to choosing a pair of socks, right?
Well that’s what I thought until I went to a talk by experienced Ultra Running athletes, sharing their knowledge with runners hoping to complete the Mammut Ultra Tour of the Peak District. The fact is that during an ultra distance race your body has enough to deal with and so avoiding anything that could slow you down is crucial, things like blisters for example.
An ill fitting sock might not cause you too much trouble on a short run or race but what if you’re on the go for 10 hours or more? That little ruck in your sock, that little bit of skin rubbing on skin is going to cause a problem. That’s where Injinji toe socks come in.
Injinji toe socks
What are they?
Injinjis are designed as left and right foot specific socks with each toe having its own little bit of sock – just like gloves but on your feet! The anatomical shaping helps keep the toes correctly aligned and prevents them rubbing on each other. Sweat is also removed from the toes and thus the chance of getting blisters is reduced. The material is a mix of Coolmax, Nylon and Lycra giving a snug fit with increased reinforcement at the heel and toes where most of the wear is likely to occur.
What are they like to wear?
My first thought on seeing them was “they look odd!” Having had thousands of pairs of socks I have got used to what they look like – and these look different, but that’s no reason not to wear them. The main thing you notice is when putting them on. After decades of putting socks on without thinking you have to actually concentrate on what you’re doing and line up each toe with its own compartment. This was a little bit fiddly and certainly not something that you could do in the dark whilst still half asleep!
Strange but comfortable
Having got them on they felt a little unusual around the toes although I soon got used to this. I first tested them out with my usual fell shoes on a hard hill rep session in the Peak District. My concern was that as there was more material in the toe box they might make the shoe too tight, but this wasn’t a problem and once my shoes were on I felt just as comfy as usual. The run had me on my toes on the way up whilst the steep downhill sections was the sort of terrain that forces your feet to the front of your shoes. The Injinjis were comfortable and supportive (although they didn’t make the hills any easier!)
Overall I liked the Injinji toe socks and will be using them for long days out fell and trail running in the Peak District where the real test will come – but it will take more than gloved feet to turn me into an Ultra runner!
I really rate Montane jackets for fell running & mountain walking.
I have a Superfly jacket for long days on the hill where I’m likely to be walking rather than running and my most used piece of running kit is my trusty Litespeed windproof jacket. So I was keen to get my hands on the Minimus Smock, reputed to be one of the lightest, truly waterproof jackets on the market.
My first impression was Wow – that’s light! The kitchen scales showed it to be 144 grammes (for the small) including stuffsack. Take off the weight of the sack and you get 136g. I then weighed my Litespeed which was 145g without sack so the Minimus is actually lighter.
Wow – it’s light!
So it’s minimal in weight but what about features?
The material is Pertex Shield, a highly breatheable, lightweight waterproof fabric with micro taped seams. The zips are YKK (if you’re precious about your zip manufacturers!) Aqua Guard with storm flaps.
When I’m leading a run or teaching navigation I need constant access to map & compass so a pocket is a must. The smock has a handy chest pocket that easily swallows a section of map, compass, gels etc. The interior of the pocket is mesh so you can open the zip to vent if things get too warm. It has an elasticated hood, cuffs and hem (which I prefer to a drawcord) and gives a snug fit when worn over a simple long sleeved base layer.
Handy zip for map & compass
My first chance to try it out was on a group guided run in the Peak District. The weather was cold and foggy with a threat of rain, conditions when I would have normally worn my Litespeed. A few runners commented on the good looks – a distinctive electric blue with orange zips. The day was a stop start affair, frequently pausing to look at the map and so with the chance of getting cold. The Minimus certainly kept out the chill wind and pulling up the hood and running for a few moments made a real difference and I found I quickly warmed up again.
I like the idea of a smock; no faffing around trying to do up the zip on a windy day with cold or gloved hands and also less weight and less to go wrong. The zips do have extenders making gloved use more easy.
A second, more rigorous test came when I was caught out in squally shower with hailstones mixed into the almost horizontal rain. It was great to have a hood to prevent rain going down my neck and the Minimus did a great job of keeping out the weather.
The Minimus dealing with bad weather
One thing I’ve struggled with in the past is what to use on a windy day with the forecast of rain. The Litespeed is great in wind but is mine has long since lost its DWR coating and so I need a waterproof as well. I have a Kamleika smock which is great but quite a bit bulkier than the windproof. It seems that the Minimus answers the problem – it’s as light and compressible as the Litespeed and waterproof too so could be the “one size fits all” solution. Whilst supporting a recent Bob Graham round I knew I would be on the go for 8 hours or more and that saving weight in my pack was crucial so the Minimus was the obvious choice.
Races run under Fell Runner Association (FRA) rules stipulate that windproof / waterproof clothing must be carried on certain races. Again the dilemma of “what to take?” is a common discussion point between runners on the start line. For me from now on it’s a simple answer “the Minimus” it’s as light as a windproof but it’s also waterproof.
There’s no such thing as a waterproof, breatheable jacket! – if you’re running hard in wet conditions your sweat will condense on the inside to some extent. This is true of the Minimus, but no more so than with my OMM Kamleika smock or a Lowe Alpine top I used previously.
The super light fabric seems that it might not be very durable, but only time and repeated use will tell. As with any waterproof it needs to be looked after; washing with soap and reproofing occasionally with Nikwax TX Direct.
My one gripe is that having used the Litespeed for years I am used to reaching for the pocket zip with my right hand but the Minimus zip closes left to right (as worn) so needs the left hand! I’m sure I can live with that.
So for me it’s a winner; racing, training, guiding runs – from now on I’m going Minimus!