The Montane Spine Race is arguably Britain’s most brutal race.
Runners have 7 days to cover the entire 268 miles of the Pennine Way.. in the depths of winter. This film by Summit Fever Media follows the 2015 event and gives an insight into how tough the race really is.
The Spine – Britain’s most brutal race?
The film follows a number of competitors on their adventure and captures their raw emotions; from despair at having to drop out due to injury, the sense of serenity at being alone in the bleak, wild landscape and the relief and elation on completing their epic journey through remote terrain in harsh, winter conditions.
Interviews with competitors, race organisers, medical and safety crew along with footage from the film crew and competitors (carrying Go Pro cameras) give a behind the scenes look at the logistics and planning as well as showing the extreme conditions that the runners encounter. For some there is camaraderie as they assist and accompany each other. For others there is isolation; alone, battling against the elements, their own emotions and sleep deprivation.
It might inspire you to do the race or it make you say “never”. Either way it gives a fascinating look at the men and women who plan, organise and compete in arguably Britain’s most brutal race.
The Montane Spine Race Film is available as a DVD or a download from Summit Fever
Socks are just socks aren’t they? They keep your feet warm and stop your shoes from rubbing.
Well maybe that’s so for some socks but others are a little bit more technical. Take the1000 mile Ultra Performance sock. Not only do they have extra padding at the toe and heel where most impact occurs, and airflow channels on the top to help let your feet breathe, they are also made with Cupron copper fibre technology.
So, what’s that? Basically, copper oxide is integrated into the fibres of the sock in order to combat bacteria and fungus and so keep your feet healthy and odour free!
Is it a gimmick? Well fell running comes with the inherent risk of damp or wet feet. I spend a lot of time with feet that are moist at best, soaking and muddy at worst and no doubt in an ideal climate for bacteria to thrive! Anything that can help keep my feet healthy is worth considering and at a tenner a pair they aren’t going to break the bank.
The 1000 milers are comfortable and easy to put on (unlike some other brands!) They also have a clever little touch; the toe seam is a different colour for different sizes – great if you have similar pairs for different members of the family. I’m not sure if I’ll actually get one thousand miles out of them and I doubt they’ll make me run any faster but at least I won’t have smelly feet!
Cloudless, blue sky days with lying snow make running a joy. But what about when the snow gets compacted and icy or melts and then refreezes over night; aren’t these conditions dangerous for running? If just wearing your normal fell shoes then you will definitely need to slow down and alter your running style to avoid slipping. There is also a higher chance of picking up an injury due to slipping, even if it isn’t due to a full on fall.
So in conditions like this I use a type of running crampon or micro-spike. Snowline Snowspikes are Stainless Steel spikes which are attached by chains to an elastomer cradle which simply fits over your normal running shoe.
12 Stainless Steel spikes give a reassuring grip
Snowline Snowspikes Light (there is a heavier version) weigh only 235 grams a pair (UK shoe size 4 – 7) and come with their own small travel pouch which means there’s no risk of the spikes piercing your bum bag whilst carrying them.
Snowspikes Light – 235g a pair
handy travel pouch means no punctures to your bumbag!
They can be put on in seconds simply by stepping into them and pulling the stretchy elastomer over your shoe. 8 one centimetre spikes on the forefoot and 4 on the rear give a reassuring grip on icy ground and if you find that conditions underfoot improve they can be taken off in seconds. They’re not just for trail and fell running either, they’re fantastic when the streets and pavements are covered in frozen snow.
This video shows how easy they are to put on:
We’ve been blessed by some fantastic winter running conditions in the Peak District over the last few days. If we get any more icy weather this winter, don’t stop running because of the conditions underfoot, get a pair of Snowspikes and enjoy the snow!
Fell running is an increasingly popular sport, but have you ever wondered how it all began?
Steve Chilton’s excellent book, It’s A Hill, Get Over It gives a detailed history of the sport; from the early shepherds’ meetings in the 1800’s through to the rise of the Brownlee brothers and the possibility of Kilian Journet tackling the Bob Graham Round! It describes the expansion of the fell race calendar including how some of today’s classic races came into being and also details the development of the Fell Runners Association.
With chapters devoted to Ladies fell running, Joss Naylor, and the Bob Graham Round along with interviews with some of the greats of the sport past and present, It’s A Hill, Get Over It is a must read book for anyone interested in the sport of fell running.
It’s A Hill, Get Over It is available from Amazon and all good bookshops including Outside, Hathersage.
Every so often I come across a product that I find really useful, different or interesting. SplashMaps are exactly that. These lightweight fabric maps are washable, wearable and durable as well as being aesthetically pleasing. Unlike paper maps they won’t turn to mush if they get wet and whereas laminated maps take up a lot of space these can simply be folded up and carried in a pocket or in your bumbag.
SplashMaps – what a great idea!
They have a whole host of uses: you can wear them, wipe your nose on them (sacrilege!), clean your bike with them, use them as a table mat – or even use them as a map! Based on Ordnance Survey and Open Street Map data they are accurate and come in a range of scales including 1:25,000 and 1:40,000 making them ideal for navigating. You can even mark up your route and then wash it away when you’re done.
studying my SplashMap in the Peak District
The range currently includes the National Parks of Scotland, England and Wales, some areas in the south of England and some specialist events maps including one for the Bob Graham Round! It is also possible to have one made to order with your chosen area and the title you want.
Bob Graham SplashMap
Novel and quirky they make a great present for trail runners, fell runners, mountain bikers, walkers or anyone who uses or is interested in maps. So if you see me running around the fells with a map on my head, I’ve not gone mad – it’s a SplashMap!
Fell running over longer distances burns a lot of calories.
On long training runs where I’m happy to slow down or stop for a moment I prefer to eat something solid rather than take a gel. There are plenty of energy bars on the market, some of which are quite pleasant but for the most part they cater for people with a sweet tooth. So I was interested to see that Mule Bar had brought out an energy bar with a difference – containing Garam Masala and Cayenne Pepper!
Eastern Express, spicy not sweet
Made in Great Britain, the Eastern Express energy bar contains a mix of natural ingredients including cashews, almonds, pistachios and various seeds, spiced up to give it a unique oriental flavour. The 56g bar provides 265 calories all packed into a compostable wrapper – not that you should drop it on the hillside mind!
not your average energy bar ingredients
Even though I knew the ingredients, psychologically my senses were expecting something sweet and it was odd to get a Bombay Mix type scent just before biting into it! I’d say the taste is subtle rather than strong so it’s not going to blow your socks off if you don’t like hot spices. It’s definitely worth a try as a change from overly sweet energy bars.
For me, consuming energy gels is a necessity rather than a pleasure. I use them on long races where chewing and breathing whilst trying to continue running at a decent pace is likely to lead to inhaling more than just air! I have also used them on endurance events such as the High Peak Marathon and the Paddy Buckley Round but to be honest the sickly sweet taste isn’t to my liking. So I was keen to try a gel that might not leave me with that sticky, sweet after-taste. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I actually liked the taste of Mule Bar’s Salted Caramel gel. Made with natural, organic ingredients the sweetness is counteracted by the saltiness (must be those Pink Himalayan salt crystals!)
108 calories per 37g sachet
The gels are designed to be taken with water although they are not as thick as some other gels and to be honest I just consumed one on its own half way into a two and a half hour run with no ill effects. The gel contains electrolyte too as well as carbohydrate so will be a bonus in hot weather or for runners who tend to sweat.
putting it to the test on a long run
So if you’ve had enough of sickly sweet energy products on your long fell runs or races and fancy something a little different you might want to try Mule Bars’ interesting new lines.
Wild Running: “The ultimate guide to running the hills, dales and vales of Britain”
Wild Running is the first running guidebook of its kind detailing some 150 routes ranging from Land’s End to as far north as Shetland.
Written by Jen and Sim Benson, two runners with a passion for the outdoors and a wealth of experience including ultra marathons and wilderness expeditions, the book is packed with beautiful photos, descriptions about each region and advice for those less familiar with running in wild places.
Each route listed gives information on length, ascent, terrain, difficulty and how easy it is to navigate. A link to the Wild Running website www.wildrunning.net gives access to O.S. maps, route profiles and allows you to download detailed route directions and a GPX file of each run.
Informative and inspiring, the book is ideal for planning a day trip, a running holiday or simply flicking through as a coffee table book. Wild Running should be on every trail and fell runner’s bookshelf.
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!
More food for thought in regards to fuelling your running. I have recently discovered Bounce Energy Balls, another healthy way to get the carbohydrate and protein for energy and repair that fell running demands. A good source of unsaturated fat they also contain a range of vitamins and minerals.
Bounce Balls come in a range of colours!
The balls come in an interesting range of protein packed flavours each in an individual wrapper. At 42g each they provide two or three decent sized mouthfuls of tasty snack, ideal for halfway round your long run or for instant refuelling as soon as you finish.
post run recovery
I use Spirulina powder in my diet which I mix with other foods to mask its rather unpalatable smell and powdery taste, so I was particularly interested in the Spirulina & Ginseng balls hoping that they would be more tasty than they sounded! I wasn’t disappointed as although they look unusual they taste good.
Spirulina & Ginseng – looks odd, tastes good!
Bounce Balls are also gluten free, good news for runners with wheat intolerance. Typical nutrition information for a single 42g ball (Cashew and Pecan) is:
Energy – 180 kcal
Protein – 4g
Carbohydrate – 22g (9g sugars)
Fat – 9g (1g saturated)
Sodium – 0.095g
So if you’re looking for some wholesome, tasty snacks to fuel your running – put some Bounce Balls in your bum-bag!
Always on the look out for products to fuel my running and recovery I recently came across Mule Bar products. Based in the UK (which I like) they produce a range of items including energy bars, protein bars and energy gels. Using natural, healthy ingredients the Mule Bar range is intended to provide the intended nutrition whilst tasting good.
The energy bars come in a range of seven interesting flavours such as Pinacolada, Summer Pudding and Liquorice Allsports! and include some organic and Fairtrade versions. I found these bars tasty and looked forward to my long runs so that I had a proper excuse to try them out. Mule Bar also do their bit for the environment by using compostable wrappers and donating 1% to the planet
For recovery they produce a high protein bar in chocolate and date or chocolate and banana flavours, both of which are pleasant tasting and are great straight after a long run or hard training session.
Mule Bar gels again come in an interesting range of flavours, two of which are standard non caffeinated plus one containing 50mg of caffeine. Then there is the daddy: the Cafe Cortado gel with a kicking 100mg of caffeine. This caught me out somewhat as the strong coffee flavour, thick gel and high caffeine wasn’t really what I wanted a couple of hours into a mountain run on a hot day. However I think that it would be ideal in other situations such as during the overnight low points on 24 hour rounds such as the Bob Graham or during the wee small hours on the High Peak Marathon. As with many gels these are best taken with a small amount of liquid to wash them down and aid digestion.
So if you’re after a tasty, ethical energy product in a range of interesting natural flavours and which is made by a Britain company then give Mule Bar a try.