Depending on what type of running I’m doing I use different waterproof jackets. For fell races I go for as small and lightweight as possible and use the Montane Minimus smock. However for day to day use on navigation and guided running sessions or for more serious outings in the winter months I’m prepared to compromise: a little more weight and bulk from something that is a bit more robust.
There are plenty of jackets that fit into that category and one that I would recommend is the Berghaus Voltage
Made from Goretex Active fabric the jacket has a full length waterproof zip, two generous sized pockets, volume adjustable roll away hood, elasticated hem and elasticated cuffs with an additional velcro adjuster. At 365g (Medium jacket) and a small pack size it shouldn’t pose too many problems packing into your running sack.
The 3 layer Goretex feels comfortable on the move yet sturdy enough that it won’t de-laminate when worn under a rucksack (a problem with some super-light jackets). It also feels a bit more reassuring than more lightweight jackets: you feel like it will keep you dry!
If I could change one thing on the Voltage waterproof I would add an external chest pocket for map & compass etc that is easy to get at when wearing a rucksack or bum bag (the two side pockets are good but you need to be careful not to cover them up with your rucksack if you want access to them). Other than that it looks a great jacket if you want something a little more durable and protective than a super-light race jacket. See more of the jacket in my video review:
Well if you want to light up the whole hillside with hundreds of lumens you could shell out the best part of £150 on a Petzl Nao or the 550 lumen Silva Runner. Even with these “serious” torches you’re not guaranteed that the batteries will last the overnight section of a 24 hour event, especially in winter.
But what if mega brightness isn’t the be all and end all and you want an affordable headtorch that will do for a few hours night running on easy trails?
Last year I used an Alpkit Gamma (88 lumens) and loaned it to clients for guided night runs on non technical trails. I also used it as my back up torch when doing more serious overnight running (I even wore it as a waist torch to supplement my headtorch whilst doing the Paddy Buckley Round) and found it perfect for my winter coaching sessions.
Lightweight Gamma at 118g including batteries
The Gamma has an overhead strap and rear compartment taking 3 AAA batteries and weighs in at only 118g (including batteries). As well as the main Cree light it has single white, red and green LEDs which are useful when map reading or when lower brightness is all that is needed (such as when coaching as I can use the single LED without blinding the runners!)
rear red LED on the Gamma
Now Alpkit have launched a new torch, the Viper. Again powered by 3 AAAs but housed in the main unit rather than in a separate compartment the Viper does away with the overhead strap and weighs in at a slightly lighter 97g (including batteries) It is also slightly brighter with a 100 lumen main beam and two lower powered LEDs giving a wide beam option.
Slightly lighter Viper
Both torches have a tilt mechanism on the main body which move with a sturdy “click” (unlike some more expensive torches) whilst one press of the single button allows you to cycle through different brightness levels and flashing modes. (the Gamma has a second button at the rear for the rear red light with a choice of steady or flashing).
On the run the Gamma was slightly more balanced due to the batteries being at the rear rather than in the head unit. It was interesting that the Gamma gave a cooler, blueish light compared to the warmer orange of the Viper. The extra lumens of the Viper gave a slightly greater range of beam.
Gamma left vs Viper right
Battery life for both torches on full power is around 4 hours (constant use) before gradually dimming – not enough for a full night on the hill but fine for a couple of hours. (I prefer to use rechargeable batteries so that I can go out fully charged every run).
Whilst neither torch is bright enough for fast, technical night running they are perfectly adequate for straightforward trails and footpaths and make a great, affordable back up torch. At only £15 and £12.50 respectively (including 3x AAA Duracell batteries!) the Gamma and the Viper offer fantastic value for money.
So if you’re thinking of spending a lot of money on a headtorch you might want to ask yourself if you need reactive lighting, 250+ lumens, USB rechargeable batteries etc. etc. Unless you’re running very technical trails this winter….
… you could buy an Alpkit headtorch and spend the rest of the money on a decent waterproof jacket!
Fell running, particularly steeply uphill puts a great deal of stress on the lower leg muscles.
I frequently suffer from sore or tight calves, especially after racing and often need a couple of days recovery before I can run again comfortably. Anything legal that can help speed recovery is worth investigating and so I was very interested to hear of the Firefly device. It’s a small battery powered device that you strap to your leg which delivers a light electric shock.
How does it work?
By neuromuscular electrostimulation! Basically a small battery delivers an electric shock to a nerve which causes your lower leg muscles to contract, thus increasing blood flow. This helps clear metabolic waste and reduces the dreaded DOMS – the delayed onset muscle soreness that we get the day after a hard run.
There is scientific evidence that the device actually works and several case studies attest to this.
The device is intended to be used immediately after exercise and has a peel off strip which allows you to stick it to your leg just below the knee. You can also get a velcro strap that further holds the device in place. Once fitted you can go about your normal routine including walking and driving.
Firefly attached to lower leg
What does it feel like?
Weird! It’s a little bit like the shock you’d get from a gentle electric fence. The device has 7 levels which allows you to alter the intensity of the stimulation which is delivered about once every second. I played around with the settings and found that the effect ranged from a mild localised twitch to quite a pronounced twitch in the lower leg and foot.
The effect isn’t at all painful and not even unpleasant. At first I was fascinated by the involuntary twitch and found that if I adopted different positions: legs bent, legs extended etc. I could vary the amount of twitch it produced. After the first 20 minutes or so you forget the device is there and I even slept with it on overnight without it affecting my sleep.
Is it expensive?
The device costs £29 for a pack of two (the velcro straps cost more but it can be used without them). It is designed as a disposable product although with a battery life of around 24 hours I actually used one 3 times. So although it isn’t cheap if you plan on using it weekly it might be something that you occasionally use. It works out cheaper than a sports massage and might be something that you use instead of.
device with velcro strap
So the big question: Did it work?
I used the device on a number of occasions and only on one leg so that I could compare the results between a leg that had received the neuromuscular electrostimulation and one that hadn’t. The first time was after an undulating 40 minute run. I wore the device for around 5 hours immediately afterwards whilst I was mainly sitting on the settee. The next day I couldn’t feel any noticeable difference whilst walking but if I pressed my calves one did seem to be a bit less tender than the other, however this wasn’t enough evidence to convince me!
The second trial was after a mammoth eight and a half hours in the Welsh mountains. Again I wore the Firefly on only my left leg and this time kept it on overnight giving a good eight hours of stimulation. The next day I was surprised that I didn’t have muscle soreness in either calf so again it was difficult to say if the device had worked. However what I did notice was that when I ran again a couple of days later the stimulated leg’s calf muscles were less tight than those on the non stimulated leg. Self massaging my calves afterwards it did feel like one was less tight than the other. I was keen to get a second opinion and so I had someone else have a feel to compare the calf muscles on each leg and they confirmed that one was noticeably tighter.
The Firefly is a very convenient way of recovering. It takes seconds to put on and you can then carry on as normal for example driving home from a run or race. I am still experimenting with the device, intending to use it after races to confirm if it really does reduce tightness in my calf muscles. If it does I will be happy to purchase it again as I have had problems with calf and achilles injuries in the past which have been very hard to shift.
I have tried out several remedies such as compression socks and foam roller and there’s one thing I can confirm without doubt: It might be electric shock treatment but it’s a lot less painful than a sports massage!
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!