The World of the Vertical Kilometer®

A VK (Vertical Kilometer®) is no ordinary race. The rules are simple – run uphill as fast as you possibly can! Every VK is different and unique, but MUST always include 1000m of climb, in less than 5km of distance.

Such is the popularity of this type of race, there is now even a Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit, with fixtures all over the globe, most commonly held in the mountains of the Alps and Pyranees. There are now even two Vertical Kilometer® races in the UK – the Salomon Mamores VK and the Snowdon VK.

There is even such thing as a K3, a triple VK race, with a jaw-dropping continuous climb of 3000m. I wouldn’t recommend tackling this beast until you’ve completed a standard VK. However, if you are interested, check out this Red Bull blog for more info.

Trentapassi-VK-2017The Trentapassi VK, Lago d’Iseo, Italy 2017. Photo credit: Lessons in Badassery

In 2017, Italian Philip Goetsch set a new world record for the discipline at the Kilomètre Vertical® de Fully, in Switzerland. At 1.9km and reaching an altitude of 1,500m, he completed the 1,000m lung-busting ascent in an astonishing 28’53”!!!

Earlier this year, at the Vertical® du Grand Serre, in France, in a super-human time of 34’01”, Axelle Gachet-Mollaret became the new women’s world record holder for the VK, smashing her own previous WR from 2018. This particular race is famously known as the world’s shortest and steepest VK, with an incredible 1,000m of vertical climb over a distance of just 1.8 km!

PizTri VertikalThe Piz-Tri Vertical, in Malonno, 2018. Photo credit: Justin Britton

I consider myself to be an experienced trail runner, having trained and raced for most of my life. But it wasn’t until last year that I completed my first ever VK.

In all honestly, it was one of the toughest, most challenging and excruciatingly painful experiences of my entire life. It took me over 41 minutes to complete the 4km route – my lungs were burning, my legs were on fire and I was gasping for breath for the entire duration of the race…but in a strange and very sadistic way, I absolutely loved it!

For anyone reading this and still wanting to try a VK, there are a good number of reasons to sign up and take part. Firstly, they’re an amazing challenge – a race completely different to anything that you’ve ever done before.

To run a fast VK, it requires lots of training and maximal effort during the race, from start to finish. But you could always just run (or walk) for fun! They always finish at the top of a mountain and the panoramic views are always incredible. The PizTri Vertical, in Malonno, Italy, even has a mobile bar at the finish, serving Bèpete BAM mountain beer – definitely worth the effort to get to the top! Please remember that at some point you will need to return to the bottom of the mountain and drinking at altitude usually makes the 1000 metre descent more challenging than the uphill race itself.

MY VK TOP TIPS!

  1. Practice makes perfect!

Power to weight ratio is the key to VK success. Training your body and legs to climb continuously at pace for 1000m takes serious commitment and effort.

Ideally, the best training is on a VK course or a hill over 1000m. It takes practice to train your body to climb for this length of time and you need to know how to pace your effort. However, if you live in the UK, then obviously you might struggle to find a climb over 1000m, especially if you live in England! In all the VK races I’ve competed in so far, I’ve always felt strong up until around 700m of climb and the last 300m is my ‘death zone’!

It’s also important to vary your training as running up and down too many long mountains all of the time is not always good for the specific demands of a VK. I would recommend regular hill reps, but varying the gradient, distance, terrain and speed, especially as every VK race is different and unique. Leading up to an event, sessions below 60 minutes will help keep you sharp and ready for race day. Check out this article for some ideas for hill training.

70692060_2352674458134741_6927103016550006784_nKirsty Hall competing in the Salomon Mamores VK, 2017. Photo credit: James Mackeddie
  1. Poles apart!

Most of the top European mountain runners use poles during VK races. That said, you don’t have to run with them! Poles help to balance your centre of gravity and are advantageous when gradients become much steeper, but only if you know how and when to use them. Personally, I’m no expert with poles, but I would recommend trying them if you’re serious about improving your climbing performance, particularly on the steeper VK courses. You will need to practice your technique before using them during a race. Check out this blog by Ian Corless for some handy tips. 

  1. Strength exercises!

All the best runners have a super strong core. It’s what drives everything during exercise and is essential when you’re climbing the hills. If you improve your core strength, it will help to improve your technique and ultimately this have a positive impact on your results. You don’t even need to go to a gym to improve your core strength, as exercises can be done in the comfort and convenience of your own home. Try and challenge yourself to doing a certain amount planks, sit ups, press ups, burpees etc. daily or a few times a week. There are lots of websites that provide good ideas and guidance on core and cross workouts for runners.

The more consistently you train, the easier it gets. My good friend, Peter Maksimow, Team USA international trail and mountain runner, has the perfect daily routine – 15 minutes of planking, 50 pull-ups, along with 160 pushups (2 sets of 80-with and narrow stance) and 320 sit-ups/crunches (varying types). His plank record is 2hrs 22min 22sec and he admits to drinking several beers during that time. No matter what he’s doing, or where he is in the world, he will always make sure he completes these exercises – even if it means planking on the floor in an airport!

Most importantly, you need a strong pair of legs for competing in Vertical Kilometer® races. Exercises such as lunges, calf raises, leg press, leg extension, squats and box jumps are all great ways to help improve your leg strength. Check out this simple strength plan from Runners World if you need a few handy tips.

  1. Treat your feet!

Running light = running fast in the world of Vertical Kilometer®. So it’s incredibly important to wear and use the right kit – this includes clothing, poles and especially shoes! My top recommendations are the inov-8 X-Talon 210 and the Hoka Evo Jawz. Both are incredibly lightweight and have unbeatable grip, especially the former.

Also look out for the new inov-8 X-Talon G 235 shoes, available to buy at Sportsshoes.com from the beginning of December 2019. They share the same incredible grip as the 210 model, but with the addition of graphene in the sole, meaning they will last up to 50% longer. The uppers are also more durable, with greater protection from sharp rocks. They are my perfect choice for VK racing!

DF22ECBF-392F-491A-8B89-37CA8CAA4F3EThe Puig Campana VK, 2019.
  1. Have fun!

Choosing and racing a Vertical Kilometer® is tons of fun! There are loads of races to choose from and it will give you a great opportunity to visit somewhere new and exciting.

You don’t always need to race either. Some VK routes, like the 1000m climb to the summit of Puig Campana, in Alicante Spain, is marked with permanent signs. You can have a go at your own leisure, without having to compete in a race environment. Visit the official website of Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit to see the official fixtures for next season, or check out this blog on the Trail and Kale website, for some top VK recommendations.

Finally, just a word of caution…VK’s can be addictive and can seriously improve your health!

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A Fell Running Obsession – Ben Mounsey

I’m not the greatest runner in the world and nor do I claim to be. In fact the more I think about it, I’m not even the fastest person in my house. But fear not, I do know a few things about the sport and I can spin a good yarn – it’s safe to say that I have more than a few stories to tell.

Over the last 15 years, I’ve competed in some pretty epic races, visited some amazing countries, ran up and down some spectacular mountains, and I’ve trained and raced with the very best mountain runners in the world. So if you fancy a few training tips, travel advice, or just simply enjoy listening to tales of adventure (mostly amusing and self-deprecating), then this event on Tuesday 12th of March, at the Ellis Brigham store in Manchester at 7pm, might just be of interest…

https://www.evensi.uk/fell-running-obsession-mounsey-ellis-brigham-mountain-sports/291215234

Quarry3Andy Jackson Photography

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Mounsey VS Mudclaw

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The new MUDCLAW G 260 is inov-8’s latest running shoe to utilise graphene – the planet’s strongest material.

200 times stronger than steel, graphene has been infused into the rubber outsoles, making the 8mm studs stronger, more elastic and harder wearing.

In June 2018, I was given a prototype pair of the MUDCLAW G 260 and asked to see how many running miles I could put into them. Seven months later, I’ve managed to rack up a mammoth 1,100+ miles and counting (see photo above).

The revolutionary graphene-enhanced rubber compound used in the outsole of my prototype pair is the same used in the final version of the MUDCLAW G 260, which is on sale now at inov-8.com and via selected retailers. The only changes are in the upper of the shoe, where, following more rigorous testing, inov-8 have used our most durable materials to date.

BenMounsey_mudclawG. Photo by Justin Britton

Put to the test!  Racing in my MUDCLAW G 260 prototypes at a Vertical Km Race in Malonno, Italy. Photo: Justin Britton

MOUNSEY VS MUDCLAW

As a brand ambassador for inov-8, I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the testing and development process for the new inov-8 MUDCLAW G 260.

Initially, I tested a number of different prototypes, before receiving a pair in June 2018 that I’ve been wearing for the last seven months.

It is worth pointing out that the shoes I tested were prototypes, so while the rubber outsole compound has not changed, there have been some changes to improve the upper materials for the final production model that is now on sale.

The first thing I noticed about the shoes was how super-comfortable they were. I have what I think are fairly normal shaped feet, perhaps a little skinny, but not too much. From that first feel, I instantly knew these were shoes I could use for both training and racing.

The grip is the most aggressive I’ve ever seen and the best I’ve ever tested. It’s given me more confidence than ever before to attack any type of descent.

With the sticky rubber having been infused with graphene and promises made that these outsoles would go the distance, I was super-keen to test their durability and lifespan. I wanted to see if they could cope with the rigorous demands of fell, mountain and trail running, and, of course, a high volume of mileage, all of which I logged on my Strava account.

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Pictured above: Mileage totals from my Strava account, including the 1,123 miles I’ve put into my MUDCLAW G 260 prototypes

In fact, I saw the opportunity of testing these shoes as something of a personal challenge – could I use them enough to the point where they might actually wear out!? And so the battle began, Mounsey vs Mudclaw.

Over the last seven months my trusty pair of prototypes have travelled with me all across Europe. I’ve tested them on all types of terrain – from the hard, rocky ground of the Italian Dolomites to the snowy mountain peaks of the Swiss Alps, the loose, rough rock slopes of Mount Vesuvius and, of course, the soft, muddy fells of the UK’s Lake District.

Most recently, I wore them to complete the Dales Way (UK) – and 81-mile trail (muddy in places) from Ilkley in Yorkshire to Bowness in Cumbria. It was an easy decision to make – there is no other shoe that offers the same grip, comfort, grip and durability.

I know, yes, I’m an inov-8 ambassador and I rave about the brand’s products, but honestly, these are my favourite ever inov-8 running shoes. They are also the first and only pair I haven’t been able to wear out!

7 months, 1123 miles, 8 countries, 15 races, 226 runs, all weather, all terrain, 1 shoe

Spine Race kit - MUDCLAW G 260

The new MUDCLAW G 260 with graphene grip, available to buy now

The MUDCLAW G 260 shoes with revolutionary graphene infused (G-Grip) rubber outsoles, weigh just 260g, feature a 4mm drop (heel-to-toe differential) and a snug inner fit for foot stability. The super durable graphene-enhanced studs (which look more like fangs) claw through mud and soft ground, while also moulding and sticking to rocky, wet terrain.

The shoes are perfect for trail and fell runners, as well as obstacle course racers, orienteers and cross-country runners, all of whom compete in muddy underfoot conditions.

Runner’s World (UK) have just published their ‘first impressions’ review of the shoes. ‘When the apocalypse finally arrives, only cockroaches, Keith Richards and the inov-8 Mudclaw G 260 will survive’ – read it HERE.

SHOP MUDCLAW G 260

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The inov-8 #GetAPic Sport Photo Competition 2018

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The inov-8 #GetAPic Sport Photo Competition 2018

I’m delighted to announce, that the winner of the inov-8 #GetAPic Sport Photo Competition 2018 is…

JIM HARRIS

For his beautiful photograph of a Bob Graham Round attempt, capturing runners as they climb the super-steep Steel Fell, from Dunmail Raise, in the Lake District.

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A HUGE thanks to all those who entered, it was a very hard decision for the panels of judges to make. Of course, another HUGE thanks to inov-8 and James Appleton for providing the prizes and supporting the competition

Here are all the entries…

1. LEWIS DEAN – ‘Sheep are great on the descent!’

Underskiddaw, Keswick (6th July 2018)

SHEEP.pngThis was my first visit to the Lakes, I was absolutely astonished. Couldn’t believe and kept saying to myself, this is on my doorstep. I was there as a result of supporting my first Bob Graham Round, I was doing legs 1 and 2. I possibly pushed myself a little hard on the climbs to get ahead of the other chaps so I could try and snap a few photos. I felt like a tourist, which I suppose I was, it was incredible. This photo takes me back to climbing Skiddaw and I just felt incredibly blessed. I took a few more, but this one truly resonates with me and takes me back to that very first time in the Lakes.

 

2. LEWIS DEAN – ‘Dark side of Blencathra!’

Threlkeld, Keswick (6th of July 2018)

BLENCATHRA.pngLooking back and just seeing a silhouette of the mountain ridge looked incredible. Again, I feel a wave of nostalgia creeping over me as I look back on these photos. We were so lucky with the weather that day, no boggy terrain whatsoever, just dry ground underfoot making for an incredible descent. I was once again, having to speed up to catch the others as I was just completely overwhelmed by the beauty I was engulfed by as we made way into the ‘valley’.

 

3. LEWIS DEAN – ‘Be careful, disused mines ahead!’

Belmont, England (20th of November 2018)

MINES.jpgI’m not great with self-navigation and especially when it concerns a map and compass. I was attempting to traverse with a map and compass and a little memory of the Rivington Pike Marathon route. Needless to say I got lost and wondered into heavy marshland where I felt at any moment I could sink under the ground and be lost for ever. It was particularly concerning when I hit a sign that warned me of disused mines ahead, I soon found comfort in the GPS of my phone and wandered back to a safe track. This photo reminds me of that moment, realising, I’m incredibly inexperienced and have a lot to learn. I would begin to think further about how I’d be truly out of my depth should I have been in a location further a field, lost in complete wilderness without the means to find my way back. It’s allowed me to truly sit back and reflect on how I’ll need to gain more exposure to events like that, being uncomfortable is truly the feeling of learning. Here’s to 2019 and the year I’m able to confidently and comfortably navigate using a map and compass!

 

4. FINLAY GRANT – Upper Swaledale Valley (30th August 2018)

20180827_131341.jpgPhoto of the village of Reeth and the Lower Swaledale valley on a warm-up run of the course for the Reeth Show fell race, which I ran later in the day.

 

5. FINLAY GRANT – Reeth (27th August 2018)

20180830_123624.jpgPhoto of me and the Upper Swaledale valley in the distance from the summit of great shunner fell on a training run to the summit and back again.

 

6. ADAM OLIVER – Helm Hill, Kendal (31st October 2018)

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7. PAUL HAIGH – ‘One man and his dog’.

Luddenden Valley, Calderdale (16th December 2018)

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8. PAUL HAIGH – The Calder Valley (18th October 2018)

20181018_075846.jpgComing down from Crow Hill, Calder Valley, just after sunrise at 8am, with cloud still lingering on the hills.

 

 

9. EUAN BRENNAN – Scotland, 2018

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10. EUAN BRENNAN – Scotland, 2018

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11. EUAN BRENNAN – The Alps, 2018

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12. STUART COWAN – Screel Hill and Bengairn, Scotland (17th December 2018)

View from Screel Hill looking towards the Solway firth - Stuart Cowan (2).jpgPhoto taken during a morning hill run over Screel Hill and Bengairn near Palnackie in Dumfries and Galloway. The view is looking towards the Solway Firth, Hestan Island and Auchencairn Bay.

 

13. STEPHEN SMITH – ‘The Mass Start’

Wainstalls Road, Calderdale (20th May 2018)

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The Calderdale Way Relay, as we headed to the end of Stage 4, the mass start at Stage 5 saw the group of runners head over the skyline towards Shelf.

14. STEPHEN SMITH – ‘What’s that coming over the Hill?’

Skipton (11th February 2018)

GetaPic-2.jpgWest Yorkshire Winter League Race 4 hosted by Skipton AC, runners come over the hill following the climb up the golf course. It was a bit muddy!

 

 

15. STEPHEN SMITH – ‘Looks Like Snow’

Queensbury (4th March 2018)

GetaPic-3.jpgWest Yorkshire Winter League Race 5, Queensbury. The snow race, such a bleak day with the runners kit standing out amongst all the white stuff.

 

16. DAVE CULPAN – Hebden Bridge, Calderdale (1st June 2018)

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I like this image as it was taken early in the day along the canal in Hebden Bridge whilst cycling on route 66.Very calm scene of a typical canal boat moored next to centre vale park in the heart of the Calder Valley.

17. DAVID GRIFFIN – Amalfi Positano Wine Trail (26th October 2018)

AmalfiThe gods parted the clouds on my recce run on the Amalfi Positano Wine trail race.

 

 

18. DAVE MIDDLEMASS – Sunrise on Latrigg (15th November 2018)

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19. DAVE MIDDLEMASS – Panorama of Chevin Chase crowds (26th December 2018)

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20. DAVE MIDDLEMASS – Kilnsey, Yorkshire Dales (28th August 2018)

DSC04391.JPGStart of Kilnsey Crag Fell Race from the top of ‘The Chimney’.

21. BECKY RENDELL – Jurassic Coast (November 2018)

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I wanted to recce a coastal trail route so grabbed a new running friend and me, plus a generation, AKA my mum, and headed to the Jurassic Coast on a sunny November morning. We ran along the undulating South West Coast Path from Lulworth Cove, passed Durdle Door and I snapped this picture (out of breath and on my iPhone!) of them climbing the hill nattering away and admiring the view! Just as well we did because when we came back for the race a couple of weeks later we could’t see the sea it was so misty!

 

 

22. BRYN EVANS – Sunset at the Round Rotherham (20th October 2018)

IMG_5079.jpgThe nerves of my longest ever run were eased by a beautiful sunrise as the settled fog started to disperse. It set up a lovely long day of plodding.

 

 

23. BRYN EVANS – The Reward (28th December 2018)

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We all hate injuries. My wife hasn’t been able to run with me for 8 months so we went for a test run Xmas day and then celebrated by going up Old Man Coniston a few days later fuelling ourselves with Xmas leftover sandwiches. Responsible recovery.

24. BRYN EVANS – Goodbye 2018 my old friend (31st December 2018)

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A final long run of the year with plenty of climb in the West Pennines over Darwin Moor. No rain, just a chilly breeze. No pace watching, no thinking about work, just a run for fun after far too much indulgence.

25. KAMILLA KONCZ – The Old Man of Coniston (28th December 2018)

IMG_20181228_150145_319This was taken when climbing the Old Man of Coniston, with my two children. It was a wet and foggy day, but still a very enjoyable climb.

 

 

26. KAMILLA KONCZ – The Lake District (28th December 2018)

IMG_20181229_145916_496_resized_20190102_084143909.jpgThe one with the gingerbread was taken on 28 December during a hike around Elterwater, Hodge Close and Little Langdale. We had Christmas in the UK this year so I made some of my mum’s Hungarian gingerbread for a little taste of home.

 

 

27. KAMILLA KONCZ – The Hebden, Calderdale (January 2018)

IMG_20190102_203438_resized_20190102_084144909.jpgThis one with the snow was taken during The Hebden in January. There was so much mud too! It took me almost 7 hours to get around! Still going again this year, though…

 

 

28. RICH BALDWIN – The Bob Graham Round: Leg 4 (July 2018)

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The following day the long standing record was broken but I’ll remember this day for longer, out on the fells with good mates in fine weather in the best place on earth.

29. RICH BALDWIN – Turner Landscape Fell Race 2018

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The last climb, all downhill from here.

 

 

 

30. RICH BALDWIN – The Bob Graham Round: Leg 4 (July 2018)

download (1).pngKilian Jornet flying past the summit of Kirk Fell and over to Great Gable on his way to break the record for the Bob Graham round in July 2018.

 

31. GERALD GRECH – Lost in Sestriere (29th August 2018)

thumbnail_IMG_4396.jpgThe moment when I realised we were lost on a mountain bike trail in Valle Argentera, Sestriere, Italy at 2600m. The planned 2hour bike trip with 2French friends (father and son) who blindly trusted my guidance ended up in a gruelling 7 hour journey carrying our mountains bike through the woods including a very close encounter with an aggressive cow herd!

 

 

32. CHRIS MURRAY – Marsden Moor, Huddersfield (3rd February 2018)

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33. CHRIS MURRAY – Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge (24th May 2018)

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34. CHRIS MURRAY –  Ogden Reservoir, Halifax (14th May 2018)

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35. JEREMY DOUGHERTY –  Cadillac Mountain, USA (1st January 2018)

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I live in Bar Harbor, Maine, USA, home of Acadia National Park which has steep, rugged, muddy mountains all clustered together, and surrounded by the ocean as we’re on a small island.  You can get in a great 50k with 20k in climbing here in about fifty different ways.
This is a pic from last new years day with local friends climbing of the highest peak on the eastern sea coast of the US, Cadillac Mountain.  It was 0 Celsius that morning and the surrounding ocean was full of sea smoke.  Nobody was in the park, but we are year round runners and embrace the elements here.  It gets real cold at times, but always beautiful.

 

36. JONATHAN COX –  Sgurr Alasdair, Isle of Skye (June 2018)

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37. JONATHAN COX – near Annecy, French Alps (August 2018)

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38. JONATHAN COX – near Annecy, French Alps (August 2018)

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39. JIM HARRIS – Pennine Way (2018)

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40. JIM HARRIS – Haworth, West Yorkshire (2018)

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41. JIM HARRIS – Steel Fell, Lake District (2018)

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42. SIMON WALKDEN – Grindleford Gallop Fell Race, (17th March 2018)

20180317_135659-01.jpegThis picture is of my friend, Chris Marritt, as he braves the side winds on Baslow Edge, heading towards Curbar Gap in the Peak District. The race took place during the Beast from the East 2 and I think this photo sums up quite nicely just how brutal the -10C windchill was during this section of the race!

 

 

43. SIMON WALKDEN – Blacka Moor, Sheffield (4th May 2018)

20180504_072554-01.jpegI captured this rare fogbow on my usual 6 mile pre-work run on Blacka Moor on the South West edge of Sheffield. I reached the perfect viewing spot at the perfect time and just stood for a few minutes marvelling at it. What a way to start the working day!

 

 

 

44. SIMON WALKDEN – Higga Tor, Peak District (21st July 2018)

20180701_125510-01.jpegThis is a photograph from a rare run with my 13 year old son, Sam, who took great delight in showing his Dad how easy it is to run up the steep hills! Here he is, showboating, by leaping off a boulder as we ran along the top of Higger Tor on our way back to Burbage Bridge and Stanage Edge.

 

 

45. PAUL HAIGH – Westminster Bridge, London (30th January 2018)

20180130_190512.jpgThis captures London in a nutshell. Went for a jog along the river after work and came up with this by chance. Love just fitting in running wherever I can.

 

 

46. JOCASTA FLETCHER – Sa Calobra, Mallorca (13th October 2018)

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Boiling hot weather 100+km ride , 2000m + of ascent. What goes down – always goes back up in cycling. Glad I live in Calderdale as prep for these hills! If you can cycling in Yorkshire you can cycle anywhere!

 

47. JOCASTA FLETCHER – Northton, Isle of Harris (31st May 2018)

49178088_10157039736905956_6678146315274158080_n.jpgA morning run along the 5 beaches to the temple under the shadow of Chaipaval – off day during our family cycle adventure doing the Hebridean Way.

 

 

48. OLIVER BLOMFIELD – “Chasing sunsets”

Arthur’s Pike, (18th November 2018)

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49. PAUL MYERS – UNKNOWN LOCATION (2018)

49528599_10218104934353095_412067202557018112_o.jpgFirst outing in the inov-8 Mudclaws.

 

 

50. PAUL MYERS – UNKNOWN LOCATION (2018)

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51. PAUL MYERS – UNKNOWN LOCATION (2018)

49899579_10218104920072738_1309621646939652096_o.jpgJust the perfect day for running!

 

52. JAMES WILLIAMSON – “Snowhere i’d rather be”

Skiddaw, Lake District (8th January 2018)

49592443_1110436815784744_8039151769827147776_o.jpgDawn raid of Leg 1 BGR, heading for Skiddaw, looking towards Blencathra.

 

 

53. JAMES WILLIAMSON – “I see a little silhouetto of a man…”

Bob Graham – Leg 3, Lake District (26th March 2018)

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54. JAMES WILLIAMSON – “Walla, walla, walla!…ooooh”

Walla Crag, Lake District (8th March 2018)

49241478_1110445739117185_809509199657566208_o.jpgWalla Crag, looking over Derwent Water towards Catbells.

 

55. MATT KAY – Buckstones, West Yorkshire (2018)

49803065_10158278961038747_7067353747671744512_o.jpgA brief respite when the Beast from the East came. Nearly lost my fingers to get back home, but nice pic all the same. Wearing inov-8 Roclites too, if that gets bonus points?

 

 

56. MATT BARKER – Loughrigg Fell, Lake District (14th October 2018)

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Taken on the climb out of Ambleside.

 

57. KRIS LEE – Andorra (19th February 2018)

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Skiing in Andorra, my faithful Mudclaw 300s to keep me upright when not on my skis.

 

 

58. KRIS LEE – UNKNOWN LOCATION (2018)

49322408_10155847259317050_8137760898933587968_n.jpgA lovely summer run out in my inov-8 Roclite 290s.

 

 

59. KRIS LEE – Langdale, Lake District (13th October 2018)

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Free shoe cleaning service at the end of the Langdale Horseshoe race.

 

60. CALVIN FERGUSON – “Three Wise Men on a Bob (Graham)”

Lake District (28th July 2018)

49343315_366949937187442_8588607344026320896_nMyself (taking the photo), Andrew Britton & Stuart Russell supporting Mike Clayton on his Bob Graham Round attempt. Glorious views down the valley.

 

 

61. JON BURDON – Holme Valley (2018)

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62. APOLLO KWOK – “Waiting for Kilian”

Great Gable, Lake District (2018)

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63. APOLLO KWOK – Great Rigg, Lake District (2018)

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64. APOLLO KWOK – West Wall Traverse (2018)

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65. MATT KAY – Dovestones (20th October 2018)

49235753_10158281604743747_8873009229280051200_nOut on the tops and looking down on the reservoir below.

 

66. MATT KAY – Turley Cote Lane (10th June 2018)

49409579_10158281607113747_9146719918731821056_nSunny recovery run, snapped this one when out taking my time and just enjoying the views.

 

 

67. ALUN WOOD- “Morning views”

The Lake District (12th May 2018)

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Waking up to this on a recce of the lakes 10 peaks on 12/05/18. Between Esk pike and Great End.

 

 

68. ALUN WOOD- “Lonely Shepherd”

Gilwern Valley, Brecon Beacons (17th July 2018)

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Looking toward Sugarloaf mountain (wales) from the Gilwern valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park.

 

 

69. ALUN WOOD- “Sunset Fan”

Pen-Y-Fan, Brecon Beacons (23rd October 2018)

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Evening run after work up and over Pen-Y-Fan and Corn Du in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

 

70. DAVID SEARLE- Old Man of Coniston, Lake District (2018)

thumbnail_img-20180728-wa0007-01This was taken descending the Old man of Coniston. Myself and a friend went to support another guy racing Lakeland 50 and he only went and won. We went for a run in the morning whilst waiting for the race to start and the clag cleared on the descent.

 

 

71. DAVID SEARLE- South West Coast (2018)

download (6).pngThis was taken on the South West Coast path near Soar Mill Cove. It was a chilly moody autumnal day with a strong offshore wind. Very invigorating.

 

 

72. DAVID SEARLE- Devon (2018)

download (7).pngRunning the ridge at Start point lighthouse in Devon at sunrise. Its one of my favourite spots to watch the new day break before a run. The coast path can be stunning and challenging at the same time.

 

 

73. MATTHEW BARKER- Lake Windermere (14th October 2018)

49727948_10156905143829784_2359203953482137600_nLake Windermere spills over.

 

 

74. MATTHEW BARKER- Ruskin View (23rd June 2018)

49206078_10156905151294784_6412140118546579456_nRuskin view after a steep-stepped climb to graveyard.

 

75. ANDREW BRITTON – “The Last Waltz”

Stair, Lake District (21st April 2018)

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76. ANDREW BRITTON – Newlands Valley, Lake District (21st April 2018)

49204766_10156350294527496_8345444592287481856_nAnniversary Waltz 2018

 

 

77. ANDREW BRITTON – Stickle Tarn, Lake District (17th February 2018)

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78. WILLIAM LAYE – L’Argentine, Switzerland (July 2018)

IMG-20170703-WA0018.jpgIt was particularly striking as coming around into the second half of the loop, as you’re treated to a brilliant contrast of lush fields and imposing rock faces. An extra treat was my first sighting of a Marmot and the strange scream they give out when they see you! An amazing area to visit and so many brilliant trails to run.

 

 

79. WILLIAM LAYE – High Street, Lake District (March 2018)

DSC_0479.JPGComing off High Street, completing the Kentmere Horseshoe route, whilst fending off the ‘Beast from the East 2’, in March. I’d never seen horizontal icicles before which completely engulfed cairns on the higher reaches. A route with a lot of bang for your buck, its just a shame I didn’t bring a sled to keep up with Emma! Perhaps even a bungee cord next time and she could pull me!

 

 

80. WILLIAM LAYE – Langdale, Lake District (March 2018)

DSC_0329.JPGPossibly my favourite place in the world – Langdale. First day out in sub zero temperatures with a fierce, biting wind. We traversed the modest Lingmoor, from the sheltered south side then quickly took cover behind that majestic wall. I’m ever in awe of the sheer beauty, quality and organic nature of Lakeland walls. A skill that’s thinner on the ground and a real craft that we shouldn’t take for granted. I love this picture as it captures all that’s beautiful in that area (except perhaps the warm retreat of the the Langdale pubs!) – Lingmoor, the perfect viewing platform.

 

 

81. DANAE DUMONTET – Upper Joffre Lake, British Columbia, Canada (4th November 2018)

thumbnail_IMG_20190103_140148-2.jpgA run through Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, eventually presented us with this unique perspective of Upper Joffre Lake’s emerald waters. If you look really closely, you can see two people paddle boarding down there!  

82. DANAE DUMONTET – “Feeling on top of the world”

Upper Joffre Lake, British Columbia, Canada (4th November 2018) 

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I hiked Prairie Mountain the day after running Melissa’s Road Race (a half marathon in Banff, AB). My tired post-race legs and I were so happy to finally be at the top, a cartwheel was definitely in order.

83. DANAE DUMONTET – Cheam Peak (Mount Cheam, British Columbia, Canada (12th November 2018)

download (9).pngThis steep trek in snowy, icy conditions rewarded us with stellar views of the Fraser Valley and North Cascade Mountains. (And left us feeling very thankful we’d packed the right gear!).

 

 

84. JAMIE MCILVENNY – “White out at the Hebden”

The Calder Valley, West Yorkshire (20th January 2018) 

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A grand day out, a firm favourite for many Trawden AC runners and the first long distance running for many of our runners. I chose to run as a ‘Support Act’ with my Wife, Roxanne, and several other clubmates and thankfully the snow eased later on.

85. JAMIE MCILVENNY – “Summiting Stoodley on the Haworth Hobble”

Stoodley Pike, Calderdale (10th March 2018) 

Summiting Stoodley on the Haworth Hobble.jpgAnother firm favourite of mine and a supporting role to my Wife on her first Ultra distance race. Fair to say she was finding it tough as we got to the climb up to Stoodley Pike but a chance to take an epic photo with last checkpoint village of Mankinholes beneath the clouds behind.

 

 

86. JAMIE MCILVENNY – “Sunset on The Fellsman”

The Yorkshire Dales (28th April 2018) 

Sunset on The Fellsman.jpgMy main target race of 2018 and what a great experience. My camera was away for most of it to concentrate on the run but couldn’t resist a quick snap as the Sun goes down over the beautiful Yorkshire Dales, leaving the beast of Fleet Moss and Beyond into the night ahead.

 

87. JOCASTA FLETCHER – Grasmere, Lake District (2nd July 2018)

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Day 1 of the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon, somewhere between Grasmere and Overnight camp. Where are we ? and do you think we have to go up and down that to find the control ?

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The Mountains are Cuillin…

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Scotland.

Rugged, wild and free.

It’s difficult to summarise a country in just 3 words, but hard pushed, I’d struggle to find a more concise and fitting description.

Those that know me, are aware of how much I love to travel. Italy being my obvious destination of choice. In my opinion, there is nowhere better in comparison, especially if you share my passion for the mountains. But perhaps I should have looked a little closer to home? I am, after all, a fell runner. I was born to run in the hills and mountains of Great Britain. The sport I love was forged in this environment. So what better place to visit than Scotland.

39685280980_5569c19d7a_o41494379441_1a6ca26096_oPictured above: Running in the Isle of Skye (April 2018), with the famous Cuillin ridge looming in the distance.

Scotland boasts the highest mountains in the UK and has produced some of the greatest ever mountain runners that Britain has ever seen – Angela Mudge, Robbie Simpson, Andrew Douglas and Finlay Wild, to name but a few. So it was something of a New Year’s resolution of mine to discover a little bit more of this amazing country.

In January of 2018, I drove to the Isle of Mull. I was amazed by its beauty and it left me wanting more. In April, I decided to return to the north. I was desperate to see what the rest of the Scottish Islands had to offer and the Isle of Skye was at the very top of my list. It came with a flood of recommendations, my friends would always mention it during conversation. Many legends of our sport have previously graced its rugged landscape. I was treading in the footsteps of giants. No more so than the great Finlay Wild. An 8-times winner of the Ben Nevis fell race and renowned for his fell running prowess. A man with a reputation that proceeds him.

In this adapted extract from The Mountains are Calling, Finlay Wild, Scotland’s pre-eminent hill runner, is attempting to break the record for the fastest traverse of the notorious ridge line of the Black Cuillin.

Finlay Wild.JPGPictured above: The great Finlay Wild.

Finlay Wild stood on the summit of Sgùrr nan Gillean, the northern culmination of the Black Cuillin of Skye. The scree fountain of Glamaig across the deep trough of Glen Sligachan gleamed in dazzling sunlight; islands punctuated the glittering glass of the Inner Sound; away in the east, Ben Nevis stared impassively. The transcendent world of the so-called Isle of Mist was at harmony. The runner was not. He looked back along the ridge he had just negotiated – an eight-mile scythe of alpine pinnacles and splintered crags, flanked by plunging gullies. There is no greater examination in British mountaineering; it is, as Sir Walter Scott noted, unrivalled in its ‘desolate sublimity’. Finlay – a twenty-nine-year-old GP from Fort William, unknown outside the clique of hill running – had beaten the ‘unbeatable’, becoming the fastest to traverse the ridge, but something did not feel right. Doubt crowded his mind.

Starting from where it had all begun on Gars-bheinn, he traced the twisting blade of the ridge, silently counting mountains. His eyes lingered on Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich, the fourth of the eleven Munro summits. A surge of uncertainty. Finlay pulled out a flip book of summit diagrams, leafing through the pages until he located Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich. He looked hard at the drawing, then raised his eyes to gaze again at the mountain. A very simple question burst from his subconscious: had he touched the pile of stones on the 948-metre highest point? He had certainly climbed the peak; the spine of the central ridge made that unavoidable. The cairn though? Had he put his hand on it?

As Finlay descended, first to a road, then along a glen, the ridge now over his left shoulder, his mind dwelt on that airy crest. While he was unable to convince himself that he had touched the cairn, nor could he be sure he had not. His parents and a group of friends were waiting at Glenbrittle, ready to congratulate him. ‘I wasn’t, “yeah, I’ve done it”,’ Finlay remembered. ‘I said that I’ve kind of done it, but I need to check something. Basically, I got away from there as soon as I could and walked back up to the summit. That gave me time to think: what will I do if I haven’t touched it?’

Finlay Wild silhouetted on the Cuillin ridge (1).jpg

Finlay clambered into the glaciated bowl of Coire Làgan, where vast chutes of scree cascade from a cirque of astonishing mountains. To the right was Sgùrr Alasdair, the acme of Skye; to the left, the shark’s fin of the Inaccessible Pinnacle; between them was the steep sliver of Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich, its west face forming the gigantic headwall of Coire Làgan. Scrambling up West Buttress, he made directly for the summit. Once on the ridge, the vista opened: mountains were everywhere; the islands of Eigg and Rum reared immaculate from the sea. It was the sort of day when you may have been able to glimpse the dark dots of the St Kilda archipelago, pitched some 100 miles to the west, jostled by the Atlantic swell.

Finlay was only looking to a summit of slabby rocks. Concreted to the cairn on Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich is a sixty-year-old plaque dedicated to climber Lewis Macdonald. Before it was shattered by lightning, a couplet read: ‘To one whose hands these rocks has grasped, the joys of climbing unsurpassed.’ Finlay knew before he got there. Unlike Macdonald, he had not grasped these rocks.

Desperately searching for a reason, Finlay began to piece together what had happened, why it had happened. He had approached the summit on a marginally different line to previous ascents – a common occurrence on the technical ground of the Cuillin. The newness must have momentarily disorientated him. Unconsciously, Finlay ran past the top, his mind already preparing for the difficulties ahead, principally the basalt-rudder of the Inaccessible Pinnacle and the six-storey down-climb from its top.

The summit of Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich had been ten metres away, amounting to a single metre of height gain. ‘Five seconds,’ Finlay said ruefully.

Finlay’s ambitions hinged on a decision of conscience. ‘The weird thing was that I knew I had done it, but at the same time, parallel to that, I knew I couldn’t claim it the way I had done it,’ he said. Finlay could have been excused for erring, for prevaricating. It was five seconds. The oversight was not deliberate. He had done everything else by the book: adhering to a set of standards enshrined by one-time record holder Andy Hyslop, demanding the contender visits the eleven Munros and two further summits, as well as undertaking four technical and exposed sections of rock climbing. Furthermore, to avoid any doubt over the record’s validity, Finlay had been taking splits at every summit on two watches. In races and mountain marathons there are marshals or checkpoints to ensure competitors do not – for want of a better word – cheat.

‘No-one is policing this traverse,’ Finlay said. ‘These things are done on trust. It is totally on your own conscience.’

Ultimately, there was no doubt, no debate. By strict definition, he had not summited Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich. It was five seconds but it could have been one, for if Finlay had not summited Sgùrr Mhic Choinnich, not gone as high as is physically possible, then he had not traversed the ridge. There could be no record. Not today.

It was a gesture that symbolised the ethos of his sport: nothing was more important than doing things the right way.

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The Mountains are Calling, by Jonny Muir

Jonny Muir was a nine-year-old boy when the silhouette of a lone runner in the glow of sunset on the Malvern Hills caught his eye. A fascination for running in high places was born – a fascination that would direct him to Scotland. Running and racing, from the Borders to the Highlands, and the Hebrides to the hills of Edinburgh, Jonny became the mountainside silhouette that first inspired him.

His exploits inevitably led to Scotland’s supreme test of hill running: Ramsay’s Round, a daunting 60-mile circuit of twenty-four mountains, climbing the equivalent height of Mount Everest and culminating on Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak – to be completed within twenty-four hours.

While Ramsay’s Round demands extraordinary endurance, the challenge is underpinned by simplicity and tradition, in a sport largely untainted by commercialism. The Mountains are Calling is the story of that sport in Scotland, charting its evolution over half a century, heralding its characters and the culture that has grown around them, and ultimately capturing the irresistible appeal of running in high places.

AUTHORPictured above: The author, Jonny Muir

Jonny Muir is a runner, writer and teacher, and The Mountains are Calling, published by Sandstone Press, is his fourth book. A runner since his school days, Jonny ran and raced on road, track and trail before receiving a calling to the mountains. Since then, he has run extensively in the British hills and mountains, and has completed the Bob Graham Round and Ramsay’s Round.

http://heightsofmadness.com

The Mountains are Calling is available from…  

Amazon | Waterstones

 

Come Fly With Me

Come Fly With Me

Once upon a time there was a boy called Ben who lived in Yorkshire, the biggest and best county in England. He grew up on the mean streets of a town called Elland and spent most of his time in the Hudd (Huddersfield).

Then one day he discovered something called fell running. It was a sport that took him to new and exciting places, like North Wales and the Lake District. Sometimes he even ventured as far as Scotland…but never Lancashire… he’d heard bad things about Lancashire 😉 

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Whilst on his travels, he visited a most beautiful and magical land, a country called Italy. It was here that he discovered Peroni, bresoala, truffle oil, huge mountains, epic trails, spectacular landscapes and something he’d never really felt before in England called ‘sunshine’.

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship…

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Over the last few years I’ve become a seasoned traveller. I work full-time as a teacher in the UK from Monday to Friday, yet most weekends I’m jetting off to compete in mountain races all over Italy. Sometimes I feel like I’m living a double life!

I like to travel to different destinations for new and exciting running adventures. For me, discovering fresh trails and experiencing new races is the best possible way to explore the world. I get to see so much more than the average tourist, things that don’t always feature in a typical guidebook.

WHAT COULD BE MORE THRILLING THAN A RACE ON ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS VOLCANOES?!

Take this weekend for example…tomorrow is Friday, so naturally I’ve planned another epic weekend of adventure in Italy…

After I finish work, I’ll drive to Liverpool airport, fly to Rome, eat dinner overlooking the Colosseum and spend the night in my favourite city. On Saturday, I’ll catch the train to Naples, get a lift to the Amalfi Coast from my friend Leo, and stay in his beautiful hotel in Ravello. On Sunday, I’ll compete in the Trail Del Vesuvio, a 21km race on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. Then I’ll spend another night in Ravello, enjoy a run in the mountains on Monday morning, before flying back from Rome and returning to work in the UK on Tuesday. Admittedly, it’s a crazy and hectic travel schedule, but in my opinion a small price to pay for such an amazing experience. After all, what could be more thrilling than a trail race on one of the world’s most famous volcanoes!

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Planning such an adventure can be extremely tricky, it’s often a logistical nightmare and difficult to know exactly where to start. There’s the small matter of finding a race, before the real work begins – booking flights and trains, hiring cars, sorting accommodation, transfers etc. Everything has to be timed to perfection and sometimes I have to rely on luck rather than organisation! Despite this, I’ve managed to enjoy some amazing, action-packed weekends and now I want to help you do the same.

So without further ado, here are my top-tips for the travelling mountain runner…

1. CHOOSING A DESTINATION

Choosing a race is the first and most important decision that you’ll have to make. It can however prove quite difficult, especially as there is so much choice! My advice would be to consider a place or country that you’ve always wanted to visit and then search for a race near to that location. For example, I desperately wanted to run the Path of the Gods, on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. After doing some research on the internet, I accidentally stumbled upon the Trail Campania website which provided me with all the details about the different races in the region. I’ve since competed in 4 different races and explored much of the spectacular Amalfi Coast on foot.

Trail Degli Dei.jpgPictured above: Competing in the Trail Degli Dei race, Agerola, Amalfi Coast, Italy (courtesy of Antonio Naclerio)

There are also several other useful websites that can provide you with a list of European race fixtures, recommendations and all the other information you might need.

Here are a few that I regularly use;

www.italyontrail.com

www.wmra.ch

www.corsainmontagna.it

www.mountainrunning.net

www.european-athletics.org

www.vkworldcircuit.com

Amalfi Trail.pngPictured above: Competing in Rupert’s Trail, Amalfi, Italy

You’ll also need an up-to-date medical form in order to compete in Europe, which must be signed by your doctor. Be aware that unless you have a friend in the profession, you’ll have to pay a charge for this service. If you’re planning on competing in Italy then apply for a Runcard. It costs 15 Euros and is valid for a year.

‘FREE’ IS MY FAVOURITE WORD, CLOSELY FOLLOWED BY ‘REDUCED’ 

In addition to this, if you are training or competing on dangerous mountainous terrain, I would advise paying for specialist travel insurance. Most standard policies, especially those insurance services provided by your bank for example, won’t cover you against an accident of this type. Check the small print BEFORE you run. To be safe, it’s best to get cover for the days that you know you’ll be running/competing, or for the trip as a whole. The best company I’ve used for this is Sportscover Direct. They’re one of the few insurance companies who actually have an option for ‘mountain running’ on their online application form and it’s best to purchase specific cover just in case you do require medical care. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!!!

Video: Sentiero Spinotti e Monte Coglians, Northern Italy

2. BOOKING THE BEST FLIGHT

Before you enter the race, first check that there are flights available, and at the right price. If you’re prepared to search around and be flexible on which airports you fly to and from, then you can really find some great deals. I can recommend using www.skyscanner.net to search for possible flight combinations. Don’t forget to ‘add nearby airports’ to your search list and this will increase the number of options that you have. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly via another place/country e.g Amsterdam, which is one of a number of European transfer hubs for connecting flights. My personal favourite airline is Lufthansa; Germany efficiency at its best. They rarely cancel flights, they’re usually on time and they always look after their customers. You even get free food and drink on the flight and ‘free’ is my favourite word, closely followed by ‘reduced’.

It’s worth knowing that in Italy, Milan and Rome are two of the easiest and cheapest places to fly into. Both cities have 2 airports and most of the mountain races I’ve competed in are accessible from either. As a starting point I’d look for flights to one of these cities, as most UK airports include them in their list of destinations.

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3. GETTING AROUND

If you’re a confident driver, then a hire car is by far the quickest and easiest way to get around and about. For a start, you can be more flexible with your travel plans and you’re not a slave to public transport. It also means you can visit and see more places in the short time that you have available. Just last year alone, I drove a hire car in 12 different countries! Personally I think the best website to search for a car rental is Zest www.zestcarrental.com (they also offer better rates to loyal and returning customers).

IF YOU CAN DRIVE ON THE AMALFI COAST, YOU CAN DRIVE ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD 

I’d recommend using sat-nav to avoid toll charges, especially if you don’t want to pay for the privilege of using faster and more direct roads and motorways. You’ll also need to remember to take your driving license and a credit card with you. The latter is required to allow a pre-authorisation block to be placed on your account, as a security deposit in the event of an unfortunate accident.

If you’re considering driving on the Amalfi Coast you might also want to wear a nappy and book additional life insurance. Only a confident and calm driver can handle the hair-raising turns, deathly switchbacks, steep drops into the sea and crazy italian drivers. It’s certainly not a travel experience for the faint-hearted, but if you can drive on the Amalfi Coast, then you can drive anywhere in the world!

Your mountain.jpgPictured above: Val Di Mello, Northern Italy

Alternatively, you can travel on trains, buses or pre-booked transfers/taxis. It’s always best to book in advance (wherever possible) to save money and in most European countries, public transport is cheap, very reliable and usually runs on time. In Italy, the FrecciaRossa (https://www.italiarail.com/frecciarossa) are (slightly more expensive) high-speed trains, operated by Trenitalia, making journeys between Italian cities as smooth and short as possible. I’s recommend using these if you’d prefer to save time and travel in greater comfort.

If you’re catching a bus in Italy, you’ll have to buy your ticket in a local Tabaccheria (Tobacconist) before you travel. You can purchase them over the counter (single or return) and you must make sure you stamp them in the ticket machine as you get on. If you don’t stamp your ticket (bus or train!), then you risk paying a fine!

It’s sometimes worth checking the price of a flight + train journey, compared to a direct flight. For example, for my latest trip to Italy, the closest airport to Mount Vesuvius is Naples. However, I’ve booked a flight to Rome and a train journey to Naples, rather than a direct flight to Naples – the difference in cost is around £250!

40602594865_c2a352b322_o.jpgPictured above: The steep descent to Deia on the GR221, Mallorca

4. WHERE TO STAY?

Once your travel plans are in place, the next step is to find some accommodation. If you’re a seasoned traveller and lucky enough to have personal connections, then you could always stay with friends in the nearby area. However, it’s unlikely that this will be an option, so the obvious place to start your search is a website like Trip Advisor. Not only can you book a room through the site, but you can see how accommodation has been rated by other guests.

Depending on the length and type of my trips, I book a standard of accommodation in relation to how much time I know I’ll be spending at my chosen destination. For a short weekend break, basic rooms at a cheap price are perfect. I choose them for convenience, rather than comfort and quality. However, if I’m going for a week or two, I’m more likely to choose somewhere more luxurious. My favourite hotel is the Parsifal in Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast. The Mansi family who run the establishment have become great friends of mine and always provide their guests with a most amazing holiday experience. Plus, if you’re fast enough to keep up with Leonardo Mansi, he might even take you for a run in the mountains and show you the best local trails.

IMG_4510Pictured above: Sentiero Spinotti e Monte Coglians, Northern Italy

I think it’s worth emailing the race organiser to ask for their personal recommendation/s. Usually they will have their own connections and their knowledge and advice could make your trip even easier and more enjoyable. If you’re an international athlete, there’s a good chance they’ll offer you free accommodation, because they’re always looking to improve the standard of competition in their race. It’s always worth a cheeky email before you book somewhere!

Another alternative is to use Airbnb. It’s not something I’ve personally tried, but comes highly recommended by many of my friends.

Of course, if you want to enjoy a running holiday without the hassle of meticulous planning and preparation, then check out somewhere like Pyranees Haven, run by fell running legend Gary Devine and his wife, Debbie. Already popular amongst the fell running community, you can enjoy a holiday in the French Pyranees with very little effort in terms of organisation. They offer shuttle transfers from the nearby airports and recommendations for flights to France or nearby Spain. For a package price, you can enjoy excellent accommodation and enjoy amazing home cooked food at half-board. There is also the opportunity to compete in some of the competitive races in the area or simply enjoy running on the local trails. As an alternative, in the winter months, you can switch to the slopes and ski! I can guarantee you’ll have a fantastic holiday and be extremely well looked after!

5. PACK LIGHT!

Choosing the right kit (especially shoes!) is essential and very important. It’s best to research what kind of terrain you’ll be running on and what the weather conditions will be like at that particular time of year. Study the course details on the race website, email the race organiser or ask someone you know that has done the race before (or something similar).

I always wear inov-8 and have shoes for every type of terrain and condition. The X-Talon 210 are suitable for trail and fell races where both grip and weight are both a priority. They are my lightweight racing shoe of choice. However, if I’m racing on dry paths and trails, then I might take the Roclite 290 as an alternative. inov-8 design and make shoes to fit all shapes and sizes of feet and for all types of terrain. So if you’re unsure of which to choose, then either contact inov-8 or myself, for a personal recommendation.

40783325814_cb814412a8_o.jpgPictured above: Putting the inov-8 X-Talon 210 to the ultimate test on the GR221, Mallorca

If you’ve booked a weekend trip or you’re really working to a budget, then you’ll need to pack light and just take hand luggage. A good tip is to stuff the inside of your shoes with running socks, undies, gloves, hats, buffs etc. This way you’ll be able fit more in your case and you’ll have plenty of room to bring back all your prizes…now all you have to do is win your race! 😉

So there you have it, my top-tips for a travelling mountain runner in one handy, helpful blog.

The Mountains Are Calling…don’t leave them waiting!

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Britain’s Got X-Talon

X-Talon

I’ve always been a huge fan of the inov-8 X-Talon. I bought the first ‘original’ pair in 2008 and ten years later I still can’t bear to part with them. In my opinion, the X-Talon 212 is THE most iconic off-road shoe of all-time and I’ve kept them because they’re a little piece of inov-8 history.

X-Talons

Almost a decade after the original release, I found myself in the privileged position of being asked to test the latest additions to the X-Talon family, the X-Talon 230 and the X-Talon 210.

Inov-8 gave me the simplest of briefs; don’t ask any questions, just go out, test them to the limit and let us know what you think. So for the next 3 months I did exactly that. I wore both shoes for almost every single training run and race. I wore them on every type of terrain, in all weather conditions, and I tested them in 3 different countries.

THE X-TALON 230

MODEL SPECIFICATION

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Pictured above: The X-Talon 230; Men’s design (L) and Women’s design (R)

First impressions were excellent; I’m a big fan of the new colours and design.

Then I tried them on…and in all honesty, I wasn’t convinced. I was worried that the upper was (dare I say?!?) too robust, perhaps a little too rigid. I wore them round the house for a few days, just to get used to the new fit and feel.

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During my first test run, I quickly realised that the material of the upper was non-water absorbant. My feet were still warm and dry after I’d been running through water, mud and bog – a HUGE thumbs up! Especially as I do most of my training on wet, open moorland in the Yorkshire Dales. The shoe also has a gusseted tongue, which like the ROCLITE 305, helps to keep out unwanted mud and debris.

Black & White230_3_MG_0590 with logoPictured above: Testing the inov-8 X-Talon 230 in Threshfield Quarry, North Yorkshire  (Photography by Andy Jackson)

The first thing that caught my attention was the grip. This has always been the most impressive feature of the X-Talon range and like its predecessors, the new 230 does not disappoint. This shoe is fantastic on all surfaces; thick black ice the only possible exception. I have tested it on all types of terrain and I can say with confidence that it’s a grip I can trust. This of course is the most important factor for any fell shoe. The design of the sole and 8mm lug pattern is the same as all other previous generations, except that the new X-Talon 230 has a different type rubber, with STICKYGRIP technology.

THE X-TALON 230 IS INOV-8’s TOUGHEST AND MOST DURABLE SHOE YET

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Over the next few weeks I wore them again and again. Eventually they began to mold to my feet. It’s the first time I’ve had to ‘break in’ a pair of inov-8 shoes, but one of the major features of this shoe is the strength and protection of the upper. It was worth the effort and I’m glad I persisted with them.

I’ve used the X-Talon 230 as my main training shoe over winter. I’ve done much of my running high above the snow line, in the Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District and Scotland. In cold, wet and challenging conditions my feet have managed to stay a little drier and warmer for longer. The robust upper is noticeably thicker and stronger than that of previous X-Talon models. After months of rigorous testing, the uppers have shown no signs of wear and tear. This is a shoe that’s made to last and the X-Talon 230 is by far inov-8’s toughest and most durable shoe yet.

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Quarry2Pictured above: Testing the inov-8 X-Talon 230 in Threshfield Quarry, North Yorkshire  (Photography by Andy Jackson)

The fit and feel is very different to any of the other shoes in this range. Something else that’s worthy of note is that this is a precision fit model and suits runners with very narrow feet. Inov-8 now use a 1-5 scale (most narrow – widest fit) to help their customers choose the correct fit. The X-Talon 230 is classed as a ‘1’ on the scale and it probably explains why the shoe took me a few runs to wear in. One advantage of this however, is that the shoes mold to your feet and there is less movement inside them when you are descending at pace or running across challenging terrain.

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IMAGINE THE OFFSPRING OF TWO BEAUTIFUL MODELS. IN THIS PARTICULAR CASE, I’M TALKING ABOUT THE INOV-8 X-TALON 225 AND THE X-TALON 212. THE RESULT? THE NEW X-TALON 230

Any fans of the classic X-Talon 212 and the X-Talon 225 will have noticed that the 230 is a shoe that shares much of both designs, combining all of their best features, with a few new additions of its own. The protective rand, made famous by the 212, wraps around the foot to provide comfort and protection. This, coupled with the tough upper material, an improvement of the 225, makes the new 230 feel like an indestructible shoe. I later discovered that there is also a rock plate built into the sole, which helps to protect feet against sharp rocks. This is a new feature of the X-Talon range after successful implementation in models such as the TRAILROC 285.

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WITH SO MANY GOOD FEATURES, WHAT WOULD I IMPROVE?

I suppose the obvious improvement has already been mentioned. These shoes need wearing in, I wouldn’t recommend racing in them straight from the box. They’re also harder to get on (and off!) than other models, mainly because of the thick upper material and precision fit. The pair I was testing also happened to be a size 9.5 and I’m always a 10 in inov-8. Only a slight difference, but the 9.5 fit me perfectly, so perhaps they’re worth trying on for size before you buy. Finally, I did notice that when my feet were completely immersed in water, after a while, the shoes began to foam a little whilst I was running. I later realised that it was probably my own fault, as I must’ve used too much detergent in my washing and the foam was from my socks! It’s happened a couple of times so I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m probably best not doing the washing in our house anymore. It’s now a ‘pink’ job rather than a ‘blue’ 😉 Worth mentioning if you end up having the same problem, or if like me, you just want to cleverly avoid household chores.

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Aside from these tiny details, the X-Talon 230 is the ultimate off-road running shoe. It borrows the best features from all of inov-8’s most successful models and can be worn with confidence on the fells, mountains, trails and cross-country. So if you’re looking for a tough, versatile shoe with outstanding grip, then look no further. The 230 can do it all and is built to last.

Quarry3Pictured above: Testing the inov-8 X-Talon 230 in Threshfield Quarry, North Yorkshire  (Photography by Andy Jackson)

 

THE X-TALON 210

MODEL SPECIFICATION

210_3If you were to ask me which of the previous inov-8 X-Talon models was my all-time favourite, it would be an easy answer. It’s a bit like asking me to choose my favourite Italian aperitif. Obviously it would be Aperol Spritz and for my choice of X-Talon, it would be the blue and green X-Talon 190. Over the years, I’ve probably owned more pairs of 190’s than I’ve drank bottles of Aperol; both well into double figures. So when inov-8 eventually discontinued my favourite model, I’ve been looking for a worthy replacement ever since.

190

Pictured above: The previous generation inov-8 X-Talon 190

Despite the fact the 230 and 210 are from the same X-Talon family, that’s pretty much where the similarity ends. The only thing they really share is the same STICKYGRIP technology and 8mm lug pattern. The latter has been stripped back for lightweight competition. No rock plate in the sole, plus a much lower drop and reduced footbed, 3mm rather than 6mm for both. This means that you’re slightly closer to the ground in the 210’s and you feel much more of the terrain underfoot.

THE X-TALON 210’s ARE SO LIGHT AND COMFORTABLE, IT FEELS LIKE I’M WEARING SLIPPERS ON MY FEET

Both shoes have uppers made from a non-water absorbing material, but that of the 230 is much thicker and stronger. The 210 is more breathable and feels like a completely different shoe altogether. This is also down to the fact that they are slightly wider, 2 on the fit scale, but still precision fit. Unlike the 230, I raced in these straight from the box and they felt like slippers as soon as I put them on my feet.

210 Threshfield Quarry_Orange.jpg210.jpg

_MG_0885Pictured above: Testing the inov-8 X-Talon 210 in Threshfield Quarry, North Yorkshire  (Photography by Andy Jackson)

Now, you might be thinking why and how I can champion another X-Talon shoe, when I’ve just been waxing lyrical about the new 230’s for the most part of this review. It’s a good question and here is the answer…

When I race, I like to run light and fast. When I train, weight is not an issue, but rather comfort and protection. I wear different shoes for different purposes. The X-Talon 230 is suitable for both training and racing, but given a choice, I’d personally prefer to use it for training and then race in the X-Talon 210. The only exception to this (self-made) rule, is if I were to compete in a long race, or if I felt I needed a more durable shoe to cope with extreme conditions or terrain. Therefore, the X-Talon 210, like the old 190, is my new lightweight racing shoe of choice.

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Amalfi Trail RunningPictured above: The inov-8 X-Talon 210 in action (Rupert’s Trail, Amalfi, Italy)

SO WHAT WOULD I IMPROVE?

In truth, there wouldn’t really be much I’d improve about the X-Talon 210. Perhaps the only thing I would change is the width, to a ‘1’ instead of ‘2’ on the fit scale. It’s a personal preference and not a huge issue at all, but I have very narrow feet and that’s one of the reasons why I run in two pairs of socks. I like to reduce any movement in the shoe and prefer a narrower toe box. The fit of the 230’s is absolutely perfect for me.

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_MG_0862Pictured above: Testing the inov-8 X-Talon 210 in Threshfield Quarry, North Yorkshire  (Photography by Andy Jackson)

Like the 230, I’ve tested the X-Talon 210 on all types of terrain and in all kinds of conditions. They’re so light I hardly notice them on my feet. There isn’t a better lightweight shoe on the market that offers this much grip and comfort.

I’ve even got used to the colour! Although I have to confess, red and white instead of bright orange would certainly match both my inov-8 and Calder Valley kit!

For what it’s worth, this is my improved design for the 210’s. Inov-8 please take note ;-)…

X-Talon_Red and White

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A year on the run

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The moment you struggle to find truffle oil in your local supermarket, is the moment you realise you’re no longer cut out for a life in England.

These days it’s no secret that I’m far more Italian than English, my transformation close to complete. I own an impressive collection of expensive shoes, drink espresso standing up and proudly wear a leather man bag. It’s only a matter of time until I move abroad. Until that day comes, I’m happy to travel and search for new adventures, exploring places that, perhaps in the future, I might one day call my home.

For my final blog of 2017, I’d like to share a collection of my favourite images, from all of my running adventures this year, in the hope that it might inspire others to seek out similar challenges and explore new and exciting places.

Here is my year on the run…

JANUARY 2017

inov-8 photo shoot, Loughrigg, Lake District, England, UK

© Dave McFarlane

Grizedale Forest, Lake District, England, UK

Testing the @inov_8 Mudclaw 300 on the wet and slippy trails in Grizedale Forest.

‘The Hebden’, Calder Valley, Yorkshire, England, UK

Joint 1st place in The Hebden (21 miles) for The KGB (Karl, Gav & Ben)

‘The Hebden’ blog

Race website

 

FEBRUARY 2017

Sharp Haw, Yorkshire Dales, England, UK

Despite being a little camera shy 😂it was a real pleasure to work with the super talented Col Morley on a photoshoot for his extremely impressive portfolio. To see more of the shoot and other work just visit his site…

© Col Morley

 

MountainFuel training weekend, Lake District, England, UK

Fantastic weekend training in Keswick with the @mountainfuel_uk team! Nothing better than spending time in the mountains with good friends.

The Northumberland Coastal Marathon, Northumbria, England, UK

Mega chuffed to win the Northumberland Coastal Marathon today (27.5 miles! – so in my eyes an ultra 😂) in a new record time of 3:11 (previous 3:15). Legs are battered now though! The new @inov_8 Roclite 290 were the perfect choice for the mud, sand, rocks and sea!

Race website

MARCH 2017

Long Mynd Valleys, Shropshire, England, UK

Nothing better than a sprint finish at the end of a 11 mile fell race with 4500ft of climb 😂

Race website

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APRIL 2017

Donard Challenge, Northern Ireland, UK

Despite taking a bad fall in the last 1km I had a cracking run. Quality fell race.

Race website

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Burgau, The Algarve, Portugal

Sunny trails, epic coastline, beautiful beaches and Pastel De Nata for breakfast. Portugal once again delivering the goods.

Sóller, Mallorca

Unbelievable mountain trails on the route of the GR 221 and some epic cycling. Highlight of the week was tackling the beast that is Sa Calobra.

The inov-8 Yorkshire 3 Peaks, Yorkshire Dales, England, UK

Huge thanks to everyone for their amazing support at the 3 Peaks fell race. Firstly all of my family and friends, my amazing sponsors @inov_8 & @mountainfuel_uk , and all those people spectating on the route offering kind words of encouragement (abuse 😉 😂- Phil Winskill) and much needed water & jelly babies. Unfortunately I didn’t quite set the world alight with my laboured effort and I was way down on my target time, but in the end I was really (really!) relieved to grind it out and finish the race. Now back to the shorter races!!!

My ‘3 Peaks’ blog

Race website

MAY 2017

Inter-Counties, Broughton Heights, Scotland, UK

ALWAYS a really proud moment to represent Yorkshire. 15th place at the Inter-Counties Fell Championship was enough to help the team to silver. As defending champion, not quite the dream result of 2016, but based on current form it was a good, solid performance. No margin for error today. A fast race with minimal time gaps. Huge congrats to Lancashire for winning the team prize by just 1 point and of course to our ladies for taking gold against favourites Cumbria. Also to race winners Andy Douglas (different class!) and Lizzie Adams. Massive thanks to Mr and Mrs Yorkshire (Dave & Eileen Woodhead) for selecting and organising the teams. Finally congratulations and thanks to the race organisers and marshals for hosting a fantastic race.

Calderdale Way Relay, Calderdale, Yorkshire, England, UK

I must be a glutton for punishment. First I ran leg 1 of the CWR with Swifty and then leg 3 with fat boy Godsman! Really proud to play a small part in Calder Valley’s CWR victory.

Trail Degli Dei, The Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy

A return to the Amalfi coast for one of the most stunning races of my life. If you have never been then you really MUST visit! Check out the Hotel Parsifal in Ravello for the best accommodation.

Race website

 

JUNE 2017

Blencathra, Lake District, England, UK

I’ve always fancied doing the midweek Blencathra fell race, but never managed to get there in time after work. So this year I made sure I did, and I can honestly say it was worth all the effort and travelling. Only £3 to enter for a fabulous route with magnificent views and a quality field. I can’t recommend it enough; it’s everything that’s good about fell running. Great to catch up with everyone for pre and post race craic. Congratulations to super Lou Roberts for notching up yet another win and to everyone else who ran. Epic battle in the men’s race too, I just managed to get my big nose in front on the last climb and hang on for the win. Huge thanks to the organisers and marshalls for putting on my favourite race of the year so far. It reminds me exactly why I’m a fell runner.

Race website

MountainFuel Billy Bland Challenge, Lake District, England, UK

The Billy Bland Challenge Race leg 2

This leg is around 13 miles and 6000ft of ascent and covers 12 fell tops.

It was a pleasure to race with @cal_tin on the BBC leg 2 last Sunday. Taking a 5 minute lead from leg 1, we were able to extend this and in doing so also record the fastest time for leg of 2hours and 20 mins, knocking 7 mins off the previous record.

Website

© Col Morley

JULY 2017

inov-8 Get A Grip weekend, Lake District, England, UK

I’ve had the most amazing weekend in Keswick with the staff and competition winners of #TeamGetAGrip inov-8 😊Finished off with a great race on Skiddaw today. Super proud of everyone for their outstanding efforts. Makes me appreciate how lucky I am to be involved with such great people and a brilliant brand. Huge thanks to @inov_8 and @freestak for making it happen.

The Alva Games, Scotland, UK

Not the most sensible decision I’ve ever made given the fact I’m nursing a knee injury…but a strong climb meant I managed 2nd at the Alva games today. Pity I was crap on the descent but to be expected. The main thing is I picked up some vital BOFRA points and I can still walk.

Race website

 

Lingmell Dash, Lake District, England, UK

Hugely enjoyable weekend in the Lake District with friends. Saturday began with Leg 2 BG support for Andy Swift in the morning and then a win at Lingmell Dash in the afternoon. Many thanks to Stephen Wilson of Grand Day Out Photography for some cracking photos of the race.

Race website

© Grand Day Out Photography

SportShoes.com inov-8 photo shoot, Bingley St Ives, England, UK

Quality photoshoot with @sportsshoes at Bingley St Ives, modelling the new @inov_8 Autumn/Winter collection 2017. The inclement weather was perfect to test the latest range of waterproof jackets. More images and product reviews coming shortly.

AUGUST 2017

PGL 2 Centre Adventure, Mimosa and Segries, France

Beautiful morning runs around the trails of Vagnas in France, with the Brooksbank School staff and students.

Piz-Tri Vertical & The FlettaTrail, Malonno, Italy

Easily one of the best experiences of my running career so far…double dipping in Malonno. First the PizTri Vertical last Saturday for my VK debut and then the famous FlettaTrail the following day. Finishing in the top 20 of both races against the very best international athletes. Nice bonus of 2nd vet in the combined race competition too. HUGE thanks to the main man @skola14 for making it happen – Italiano leggenda! Also to the wonderful people of Malonno and the Italian national team for your warmth, friendship and gracious hospitality. Grazie mille!!!

My ‘FlettaTrail’ blog

Race website

Staffetta 3 Rifugi, Collina, Forni Avoltri, Italy

Really proud to be part of team SS Lazio today the 3 Rifugi relay in Collina. An amazing run from @maximiliannicholls on leg 1 (in 3rd place!) set us up for a top 10 finish! Huge congratulations to our Capitano @tony_tamussin_ AKA. l’Aquila 🦅 for running a PB of 21 minutes on leg 3.

Race website

Kilnsey Show, Yorkshire Dales, England, UK

The Kilnsey Show crag race, Yorkshire. Less than 9 minutes of sheer explosive speed, power and unbelievable agony. Easily the most unique fell race I’ve ever done and certainly one of the most memorable. After furiously sprinting to the summit, the infamous descent down ‘the chimney’ was over just as quickly as it started. I just tried to ignore the fact that one slip, or false move, would prematurely end my season or running career! 😜There isn’t a single moment where you can relax or take it easy. This race requires a ‘foot to the floor’, ‘eyeballs out’ and ‘FULL GAS’ effort for entire duration. But despite all the risk, the drama and the pure physical pain, it was an amazing experience and one I’ll look forward to doing over and over again. The crowds and support were amazing, the atmosphere absolutely electrifying. If you’ve never done this race before then it needs to be immediately added to your bucket list. I was happy with 7th on my Kilnsey debut, in a highly competitive field, but hopefully next year a podium spot after some specific training and a return to top form. Huge congrats to winners Nick Swinburn and my amazing @inov_8 teammate Victoria Wilkinson, who also smashed the women’s record to pieces, only a few days after doing the same at the Grasmere Guides race. What an athlete!

Race website

© Woodentops

Piece Hall photo shoot for Calderdale Council, Halifax, England, UK

I’ve done some pretty cool things during my running career, but this morning was something very special. Shooting a short ‘Chariots of Fire’ style film for @calderdale council in the amazing Piece Hall, Halifax. As a local lad, it makes me really proud to see it brought back to life after a few years of redevelopment. If you haven’t paid a visit then you really must. Cool bars, cafes, shops and restaurants, all independently owned. Lots of brilliant events planned and tons of stuff taking place in the future. Watch this space. Major thanks to @robin.tuddenham for making it happen and for organising today. Also to @craigchewmoulding_atmosphaera for capturing it all on camera. It was a pleasure and an honour to be involved.

Website

© Craig Chew-Moulding

SEPTEMBER 2017

The World Masters Mountain Running Championship, Pruske, Slovakia

Absolutely destroyed myself on the final climb to finish individual 5th and team bronze🇬🇧 in the World Masters Mountain Running Championship (M35) in Slovakia yesterday. Congratulations to everyone who competed, especially my GB compatriots who also won medals! What a great day and a fantastic way to end a summer of run. On the final day I enjoyed breakfast in Slovakia, coffee in Czech Republic and lunch in Hungary!

Race website

The Cleveland Way, North Yorkshire, England, UK

The Cleveland Way. Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay along a stunning coastal path. Exploring another section of the beautiful North East coastline on foot. Such a beautiful part of Yorkshire, despite the biblical weather conditions. Definitely a day for merino!

Website

OCTOBER 2017

The Tartufo Trail, Parma, Italy

Italy is ace. Why am I not living here? So tempted NOT to get back on a plane home tonight. Love the people, the weather, the food and the montagna ❤️🗻
A weekend is never enough, but soooo worth the travel and effort. Parma is beautiful, Calestano on point and I’ve ticked off yet another region on my Italian hitlist. It’s been a blast. Hopefully next year I can return to defend my Tartufo Trail crown. Another successful running mission in bringing some @inov_8 love to italia. Grazie mille to Francesco Caputi and family for making it happen. I’ll be back soon to visit, that’s for sure. Paolo, @peter_barbier@_gloria_robuschi_ = 👍💪🇮🇹😜👌
It’s not about the winning. It’s about the journey, the experience and making new friends. Of course it’s also about the meat, cheese, wine and beer…and sunshine.

Always the sunshine ☀️

Race website

British Fell Relays, Llanberis, North Wales, UK

Great day out at the British Fell Relays in Llanberis, very happy with 4th place overall.

Race website

Florence, Pisa and Lucca, Italy

Beautiful Firenze 🇮🇹❤️It’s been such a long time since I last visited Italy, I was starting to get some serious withdrawal symptoms. Capturing the beauty of Florence, Pisa and Lucca in miniature and minimalistic photography. An amazing few days in Tuscany with @rachel_lumb & Brooksbank students.

Burgau, The Algarve, Portugal

Beautiful Burgau and the glorious Cape St. Vincent, Portugal. A breathtaking sunset at the most south-westerly point in Europe.

NOVEMBER 2017

Due North Events, Kettlewell, Yorkshire Dales, England, UK

Fantastic training weekend in Kettlewell, organised by @eventsduenorth 👍a real pleasure to be involved, great to meet another fantastic bunch of runners and pass on some fell running tips and techniques.

Website

Coniston, Lake District, England, UK

Winter has well and truly arrived…
What a fantastic couple of days training around Coniston, especially above the snow line. The perfect opportunity to test the new @inov_8 X-Talon 230 and the inov-8 Protec Waterproof Shell. Amazing kit!

DECEMBER 2017

Positano Wine Trail & Rupert’s Trail, The Amalfi Coast, Campania, Italy

2 races, 2 days, 2 wins! Didn’t have much left in the tank at the end of some super-tough mountain racing this weekend. Huge thanks to all my friends in Italy who made this weekend possible and so memorable. I’ll be back really soon (no doubt about that!)

Race website

Wasdale, Lake District, England, UK

Such an amazing few days running around Wasdale. Snow on the tops, glorious sunshine and unbelievable views. You never forget days like these. So glad I ran with my camera…

As always, I would like to give a huge thanks to my main sponsors inov-8 and Mountain Fuel for their continued support throughout this year. Now bring on 2018!

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The ‘Running Hard’ Blog Tour 

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It is a great and enduring argument to determine just who is the greatest sporting athlete of all-time. Exactly what criteria would determine the winner? Should their success be simply measured in honours; or is it the influence and impact that they have on others? In my opinion, it should always be both. Therefore, it’s not possible for everyone to agree on the matter. What is certain, however, is that we would all choose a different sporting hero for reasons of our own.

I am often asked who I consider to be the greatest. For me, a passionate and seasoned fell runner, it’s an easy question. My answer is, and will always be the same; the legendary fell runner, Kenny Stuart. Now you may be reading this and perhaps wondering exactly who he is. It doesn’t surprise me if this is the case. The fact that you might not have heard of him is one of the many reasons why he is my number one choice. Aside from the obvious, in my opinion, a sporting hero should be humble, down-to-earth, hard-working, respectful and honest. Kenny Stuart has all of these qualities and more. He is one of the greatest athletes our country has ever produced. A modern day, unsung hero. A regular, working-class, no-nonsense kind of guy. A real person, with real values. Someone who we should all aspire to be more like. An idol and an inspiration.

IMG_4135Pictured above: With my fell running hero, Kenny Stuart.

It is therefore, with great pleasure, that I am able to introduce a new guest blog which features my own sporting hero, Kenny Stuart. This superb literary contribution has been provided by renowned author, Steve Chilton, as part of his ‘Running Hard‘ Blog Tour.

I have requested this particular extract from his book, because it holds a very special and personal meaning to me. It features an account of the Snowdon Race in 1985 and Kenny’s attempt at winning this iconic race. Something, I myself might hope to accomplish one day.

 

CHAPTER 19: Like winning the FA Cup

A few weeks later came what I consider one of the greatest fell racing performances ever. On 20 July 1985 Kenny Stuart set a new record for the Snowdon race that has not been bettered since, against a top field that included some of the leading Italians. Fausto Bonzi held the record of 63-46 from the previous year’s race, but Stuart took this apart with a startling time of 62-29.

Kenny Stuart has very clear memories of that day. ‘I got three quarters of the way up and Robbie Bryson started to push hard and I went with him. I expected the Italians to follow suit and they didn’t. I was really on a knife edge when we hit the summit. So I let him get there, about nine seconds ahead of me. I was more frightened of the Italians coming from behind than Robbie. I just felt I could beat him going down. He wasn’t a brilliant descender, and I had the strength to do it. I caught him and the Italian challenge didn’t materialise. It was a bit like the Butter Crags race [earlier that year], in that I felt really good on the day, conditions were good. It was warm but not too warm, with probably a slight wind behind you going up. Everything just fell into place.’

At the turn in the race, Bonzi was 30 seconds adrift of Bryson and Stuart. The television report on the 2015 Snowdon race (which was the 40th anniversary of the event) noted in the commentary that on this day in 1985 the first five runners at the summit took under 40 minutes for the ascent, and that no-one has done that since, which Kenny thinks is quite likely to remain the case.

1984 Snowdon race.jpgPictured above: Kenny Stuart (106) sandwiched between two Italians (102 and 103) on the climb towards the summit of Snowdon (1984).

Bryson lost his lead going down, and Bonzi closed on him. Stuart pulled clear to win by over a minute. Renowned as a fast descender, Jack Maitland thundered down in a time that was actually six seconds faster than Stuart, taking 2nd place for his troubles, with Bonzi 3rd – well beaten yet still only 10 seconds off his record time. Colin Donnelly also distinguished himself, coming down in a time that matched Maitland to take 4th place from Italian Pezzolli, with Bryson 6th. Hugh Symonds was 12th, commenting, ‘Bryson may still have the fastest time to the summit. He was good. But the path here burns your feet on a hot day, possibly worse than Skiddaw.’

Symonds went on to point out, ‘that there is no point in being first to the top in a race if you are not first to the bottom. That was very much my attitude.’ Taking up this point, I wondered whether Symonds was actually better at going up or down. ‘At first I was much better at ups. I thought if I am going to be any good I need to train for downs. I had a good training partner in Bob Whitfield from Kendal AC. He lived in Clapham (in the Yorkshire Dales) and we used to alternate our training between Sedbergh and his patch (and run around the Ingleborough area). Bob was a fantastic descender. I think training with him helped me learn to descend. I would also choose some of the steepest places in the Howgills and specifically practise running downhill fast. I would do rep sessions with downhill as well as uphill in them.’

Although he admits he was beaten by the better man on that day Jack Maitland is justifiably proud of how much he and Bryson contributed to the result that Kenny Stuart achieved. ‘Robbie was a great Irish guy, a good climber but not so good as a descender. Although I was well beaten by Kenny, I would be interested to see all-time records for times down Snowdon. Mine was a pretty fast descent time.’

As part of the race build-up in 2010 Kenny Stuart was interviewed, now 25 years on, about his memories of the day, and thoughts about the record’s longevity. In part, he commented:

I remember the conditions being very good. I do recall being pushed at least until three-quarters of the way up by the two Italian chaps, who were very good. Bonzi held the record actually. Then it was taken on by Robbie Bryson who pushed very hard to the summit. It was a memorable ascent because it was very fast and I knew it. I held back a little coming off the top as I didn’t know if Robbie had taken it out too fast. I think he had taken it too fast for himself, but I recovered and went on to break the record, fortunately.

I think every fell runner knows when they start a race, within the first half mile he knows how he is going to feel, and I felt good right from the start. The year before that, it was a very red hot day and the Italians set a blistering pace and I died a death at three quarters. I managed to come back and hold on to third position but I ran 65 minutes and it felt a lot slower than that.

I am quite amazed it [the record] still stands, but is something I am reasonably proud of. I think it is time it was broken. The record might stand for a number of years. If athletes of a certain calibre, maybe Africans, came over en masse they might break it. But it will take some breaking.

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Pictured above: The ‘Top 10’ results at the Snowdon International Race, 1985

About the book 
Running Hard: the story of a rivalry. Sandstone Press. Format: Paperback. ISBN: 9781910985946. Publication Date: 19/10/2017. RRP: £9.99

For one brilliant season in 1983 the sport of fell running was dominated by the two huge talents of John Wild and Kenny Stuart. Wild was an incomer to the sport from road running and track. Stuart was born to the fells, but an outcast because of his move from professional to amateur. Together they destroyed the record book, only determining who was top by a few seconds in the last race of the season. Running Hard is the story of that season, and an inside, intimate look at the two men.

His book Running Hard: the story of a rivalry is published in paperback on Thursday 19th October.

About the book’s author

Steve Chilton is a committed runner and qualified athletics coach with considerable experience of fell running. He is a long-time member of the Fell Runners Association (FRA). He formerly worked at Middlesex University where he was Lead Academic Developer. He has written two other books: It’s a Hill, Get Over It won the Bill Rollinson Prize in 2014; The Round: In Bob Graham’s footsteps was shortlisted for the TGO Awards Outdoor Book of the Year 2015 and the Lakeland Book of the Year Award 2016. He blogs at: https://itsahill.wordpress.com/.

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