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.

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_MG_0778 motion logoPictured 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.

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_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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Summer of Run

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted a campervan. The idea of being able to travel, eat and sleep in a vehicle is something that greatly appeals to me. It’s a holiday on wheels, a golden ticket to a lifetime of adventure.

I suppose my camper obsession can be traced back to the time when my Dad took us to look round a motorhome dealership. Prior to this, we’d always stayed in a caravan during the summer holidays, typically on the South West coast. So when my Dad suggested that we might finally ‘upgrade’ and buy something of our own, you can imagine how excited I was. I had this vision of us travelling around the country as a family, visiting new and exciting places every weekend. I was going to be the envy of all my friends. Unfortunately for me however, it wasn’t meant to be, especially when my Dad saw the price tag for purchasing such a luxurious commodity. So the dream was firmly put on ice, but it never disappeared from my mind.

“I’M AN IMPULSIVE KIND OF GUY”

Fast-forward 25 years and my dream suddenly became a reality. I was finally in the enviable position of being able to afford a campervan. Although, given that I have absolutely no DIY skills or practical skills whatsoever, I knew I would have to buy something that was already converted or pay someone a great deal of money to do the work for me. Now, when I say I have no DIY skills, perhaps I’m doing myself a disservice. Last year I changed a lightbulb in the kitchen and 5 years ago I also changed a fuse in a plug. So although I’m not completely useless, I still figured it was best not to attempt to carry out any work above my skill level.

So I began some extensive research into which campervan would be best for me to buy. This extensive research involved typing ‘VW camper’ into Google and then clicking on the ones that looked the best. It didn’t take me long to find one that met my criteria and a few days later I found myself driving it home, after almost having to sell one of my kidneys to pay for it. Now, if you get the impression that I’m an impulsive kind of guy then you’d be absolutely right. I don’t do forward planning, organising, researching or reading instructions. This will become even more apparent as you continue to read this blog…

Our plan for the summer was to head to Italy (shock horror!) for a few weeks as we had 3 races planned during August; the PizTri Vertikal (a VK), the FlettaTrail, both in Malonno, and Staffetta 3 Rifugi, in Collina. I was especially excited about the first two races as Malonno was somewhere I’d never been before, which is surprising, given the fact I spend around 5-6 weeks in Northern Italy almost every year. It’s also famously considered as the ‘home of mountain running’, so of course it was only a matter of time before I had to pay a visit.

BOOKED IT, PACKED IT, F*****D OFF” Peter Kay

Our holiday checklist was almost complete, I now had a van and I roughly knew where we were heading. All that was left to do now was carefully and meticulously plan our journey. So the night before (yes – the night before. That wasn’t a typo), I booked a ticket on the ferry to Calais for the following day and bought a Sat Nav from Halfords. Obviously I spent time copious amounts of time researching which was the best one to buy. Basically, I just went in the shop and bought the most expensive one that had the biggest reduction in price, figuring it would be the best. No point in messing about. Plus, time was of the essence; I still needed to finish packing and buy everything else I thought we might need for a few weeks on the road.

IMG_4326Pictured above: The beautiful view from the end of the Mont Blanc tunnel – crossing the border from France into Italy.

With our journey now fully planned (cue me typing Malonno into the Sat-Nav), we were soon on our way and heading towards sunshine and mountains. A quick stop over in France en-route, then through the Mont Blanc tunnel and into Italy. The journey was surprisingly problem free, all except for the fact that I’d not budgeted or planned on paying toll fees, for what felt like every motorway in Europe. To be fair, I’d not planned anything at all, so it shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise. However, I soon forgot about everything the moment I took my first glimpse of the mountains. Or was it my first sip of cheap French wine? Either way, both did the trick and we enjoyed a fantastic night in the Aosta valley, near Cogne, before heading to Malonno the following day. The views of the mountains were simply spectacular and I’ll certainly visit again, although next time for more than a few hours.

IMG_4335Pictured above: A charming view on my evening run, the Cogne valley, Gran Paradiso.

Eventually we arrived in Malonno and thankfully had a couple of days to relax before our intended races. The GB representatives, aside from myself, were Kirsty Hall (VK), Heidi Davies (FlettaTrail), Jack Wood (FlettaTrail) and Karl Gray (FlettaTrail). I planned on running both the VK and FlettaTrail, as I just wanted to make the most of every experience and opportunity.

FullSizeRender 2Pictured above: The view of Malonno from our bedroom window.

The organiser Alex, who also runs the Corsa in Montagna website, made us all feel extremely welcome and we were literally treated like celebrities around the town. It was an amazing feeling, especially when we arrived at the pre-race celebration to be presented with our numbers. It can only be compared to the start of a wrestling or boxing match, with Alex doing an amazing job of introducing each one of the invited elite athletes to the stage. Check out the video below to get an idea of how a mountain race is organised in Italy… #TheBullet #JackWooooooooooooooooooood

20861800_1606778012722951_3159098109873626804_oPictured above: The elite male athletes take to the stage.

RACE NO.1: THE PIZTRI VERTIKAL

The day before the FlettaTrail, I had the small task of racing in the PizTri Vertikal. Kirsty Hall was also competing in the ladies’ race, both of us making our VK debuts. Once again we were introduced to the crowds of spectators in similar fashion, before tackling a brutal 1000m of climb in little over 2 miles. Now I love to climb, but this was something else! It made Trooper Lane look flat. I began the race at a sensible pace and for the most part I was jostling for a top 15 position, pretty impressive considering that nearly all of the Italian national team were competing.

I felt pretty good in the first half of the race, probably up until 750m of continuous ascent. Then we hit the final section and my wheels well and truly fell off. The incline ramped up more steeply than ever before and by the end I was literally clawing my way to the finish (see evidence below).

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The reward for my effort was a few pints of Bèpete BAM at the finish. At first I thought the beer pump was a mirage, but after drinking three at altitude, I knew it was the real deal. A surreal post-race experience at the top of a mountain, but one I could certainly get used to. It’s a shame I had another race to prepare for, as I’d probably still be sat at the top with a beer in my hand right now.

RACE NO.2: THE FLETTATRAIL

Glorious sunshine? ✔

Amazing mountainous location? ✔

Perfect organisation and hosts? ✔

Elite competition inc. the full Italian national team? ✔

12.5 miles of mountainous trail? ✔

4,500ft+ climb? ✔

Free food and beer at the finish? ✔

Priceless experience? ✔

I was really excited, but at the same time extremely nervous. I wasn’t well prepared, especially considering the fact I’d not run over 10 miles for months. I was however, determined to enjoy the atmosphere and the spectacular surroundings. I wasn’t going to let a few nerves spoil my day because I knew I was part of something very special. As a mountain runner it doesn’t get much better than this.

IMG_4420Pictured above: Digging deep during the FlettaTrail, Malonno, Italy.

I set off sensibly and let the main protagonists slowly disappear from sight. I had to run my own race or risk blowing up on the first climb. I’d not had time to recce the course either, so I was unsure of what to expect. Although, after studying the race profile, the first half of the race looked much harder than the last. Therefore, I worked hard on the initial climbs and placed myself inside the top 15, aiming to hold this position all the way to the finish.

IMG_4846Pictured above: Halfway into the FlettaTrail, Malonno, Italy.

My race tactic was working perfectly, I was climbing well and feeling strong. At one point I even thought I might improve on top 15. However, about 8 miles later I really began to suffer. I was desperately thirsty and in need of an energy gel or a sugar boost. By mile 11 my wheels had well and truly fallen off. I reached the last checkpoint after a long descent and just stood for a minute whilst I downed about 5 cups of water. I walked for a small section and then dug deep for the last 2km until I reached the outskirts of the town. I’d lost 4 places in the last couple of miles but it wasn’t a complete disaster. 18th was still a respectable result and considering I wasn’t anywhere near top shape before the race, I can’t really complain.

IMG_4528Pictured above: The finish line with the FlettaTrail GB team and organisers

 

RESULTS | PHOTOS | STRAVA

IT’S NOT ABOUT THE WINNING. IT’S ABOUT THE JOURNEY, THE EXPERIENCE AND THE FRIENDS WE MAKE ALONG THE WAY.

Of course the race finished in the usual fashion, with plenty of wine, beer and food at the finish, followed by a party of EPIC proportions. The Italians might be the undisputed kings of mountain running, but we proved that the English are world leaders in drinking. What began as a fairly tame evening, suddenly transformed into one of the best nights I’ve ever had. By 8pm, it was like a scene from a typical FRA annual dinner. The beer was flowing, men were dancing topless and people were being thrown around the dancefloor as it began to turn into a mosh pit. Rob Jebb would have been proud. One of the funniest moments was when Marco Filosi, AKA. The Condor, took to the stage, grabbed the microphone and belted out some unplanned karaoke to hundreds of onlookers. The carnage continued long into the early hours. I unleashed a catalogue of my finest dance moves e.g. ‘The Chainsaw”© and “The Carrier Bag”©, Jack Wood was last seen licking men’s nipples and Heidi Davies drank more in 4 hours than she has done in 4 years.

It was certainly a night to remember.

IMG_4412Pictured above: Enjoying a beer with my friend Francesco Puppinho AKA. Puppi

PARTY.jpgPictured above: Heidi with the Italian team at the beginning of the night (Pre-carnage).

It’s not about the winning, it’s about the journey, the experience and the friends we make along the way. This was another unforgettable trip that I’ll never forget and I thank everyone who made it so memorable.

Of course, I couldn’t finish this blog without a huge thanks for the man that made all this possible. Alex Scolari AKA Skola, is a truly amazing guy. The time and energy he devotes to mountain running and the passion he has for the sport is unrivalled. It’s not possible to praise him enough. The FlettaTrail is a very special and unique race, and one that I’d recommend goes on every trail runner’s bucket list.

It’s true what they say, Malonno really is the home of mountain running.

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Pictured above: Enjoying a run in the mountains on our final day in Malonno with Jack, Kirsty and Puppi.

 

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Supported by inov-8 | Powered by Mountain Fuel | Timed by Suunto

You know you’re a fell runner when…

1. You can’t EVER remember having a full set of clean, normal looking, non-fungal infected toenails (many thanks to Gavin Mulholland for the photo).

Gav's feet

2. You’re the first to complain about a badly poured pint, but when needs must, you wouldn’t think twice about drinking from a stream, with a floating sheep carcass bobbing around only a few yards away.

3. Being able to distinguish how late you’ve arrived to a race, judging by the lack of toilet roll and level of aroma emanating from the Portaloos.

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5. You think that any race costing more than £3 to enter is a ‘bloody rip off’. You air your views all over social media about having to re-mortgage and proclaim ‘it wasn’t this expensive back in the day’.

6. Your navigation plan consists of following anyone wearing a local vest*.

*With the exception of Steve Smithies (CVFR) and Tom Addison (Helm Hill) – you have all been warned!

IMG_3094 2.JPGPhoto courtesy of Steve Frith

7. You’ve visited more service stations than a long distance lorry driver. So much so that you could list your top 10 based on the following criteria;

a) The quality and cleanliness of the toilets.

b) The standard and price of the coffee shop/s.

c) Cash machines offering ‘free withdrawals’.

d) The choice of post-race food (extra marks for a Greggs, KFC or somewhere with a meal deal)

e) The price of bottled water. Anything over a quid is simply offensive.

8. You have more Pete Bland vouchers than actual money. Post-Brexit, they’re now considered legal tender.

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9. You’ve owned/handled millions of safety pins in your career. Yet when it comes to race day you can’t find a single one. They’re completely hidden in some parallel universe with all of your teaspoons and odd socks.

10. Anything with less than 1000ft of climbing is considered ‘flat’.

11. You’ve just climbed some of the most iconic peaks in the UK and someone asks you after the race what the views were like from the top. All you can remember is the sight of someone’s backside* for the entire duration of the climb.

*I could easily pick Simon Bailey’s bum cheeks out of a 1000 people in a police line up.

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12. You will never EVER declare yourself fully fit before a race*. You have a list of excuses as long as your arm, consisting of all your injuries, niggles and ailments.

*Before proceeding to defy the laws of nature by going on to completely smash your PB and beating all the people you told about being injured/ill prior to the start.

13. Your car boot is littered with fell shoes and post-race kit, resulting in a fragrant scent that Dior would describe as stale cat piss, with a subtle hint of rotting corpse.

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14. You’ve urinated against more trees than a Jack Russell and had more open-air dumps than Bear Grylls.

15. You consider age to be irrelevant. Beating someone who’s more than three decades older than you is just as satisfying as beating someone in your age category, regardless of gender*.

*90% of fell runners have been ‘Dodded’ at some point in their career and if you haven’t yet, then it’s only a matter of time.

16. Your top 3 greatest pleasures in life consist of;

a) Poring over a freshly printed map (despite 50% of us shamefully not knowing how to read one)

b) Wearing a new pair of fell shoes for the first time.

c) Destroying your fell running ‘nemesis’ in a race.

Before and After

17. You realise that your best ever 10K minute mile pace and Parkrun PB mean absolutely nothing in fell races.

18. You accept the fact that it’s OK to go to bed without washing after a really, REALLY hard day on the fells #justsaying

COMPETITION ENTRIES:

19. Your ‘race nutrition’ is a flapjack wrapped up in your hanky. Ben Heathcote, Northumberland Fell Runners

20. You’ll do anything for a FREE t-shirt! Judy Howells, Wharfedale Harriers

21. You ‘shart’ mid-stride and don’t bat an eyelid. Just me then? James Williamson, Clayton Le Moors

22. You keep buying kit you don’t need … of course depends who’s asking, then you always need it!! Si Caton, Manchester Harriers

23. You know you have a race map somewhere and are determined to find it rather than pay £4 for another! Judy Howells, Wharfedale Harriers

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24. You have experienced first hand falling and banging your noggin on sharp jagged rocks, bleeding to near death, but dusting yourself off wrapping a buff around your wounds and worrying more about the fact you forgot to pause your GPS watch. Damien Briscoe (A.K.A The Penistone Pantani) Calder Valley Fell Runners

25. You see a hill and “normal people” are calling it a mountain. Shaun Burgess

26. You ‘fell’ but still carried on running! Ross Hay

27. That ginger bloke is stood in all the difficult places on a course, just making sure you don’t quit 😉 Chris Barnes, Ribble Valley Harriers

28. You have a line of dried mud around your ankles and your co-worker asks if you have a tan line…. Fiona @Turtleslow16

29. When you include a hat fer a kit check and it stays in your bumbag. Buff can go on yer head, on yer wrist, round yer neck and is great as an emergency bandage. Pete Hill, Horwich

30. You’ve bashed your knees at a race, can’t kneel down and therefore haven’t cleaned the mud off your feet properly. This irritates your girlfriend so much that she does it for you. Pat Wardle, Skipton AC/Horsforth Fellandale

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31. You know you’re a fell runner when you’ve most of Inov-8’s back catalogue in your shoe stash. Kris Lee, Radcliffe AC

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32. You know you’re a fell runner when having a pre-race wee between two open passenger car doors is considered private. Carolyn Shimwell, Calder Valley Fell Runners

33. You finish the Ben Nevis race, and moan about the hills on the road. Eugene McCann, Newcastle AC

34. You know that moss is definitely nature’s finest loo roll. Wayne McIntosh, Clayton Le Moors

35. You’re telling your date that “do you know I actually run up mountains” and asking her to feel your quads to try to impress her. But all she is interested in is the next glass of wine. Phil Moyles

36. When Joss Naylor is your hero, you hope he’s alive when you turn 50 so he’ll shake your hand, and you vow to put right anyone who claims not to know who he is. Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

37. When you do the 3 Peaks in just over 4 hours and your friends look at you in amazement and think you’re bonkers. But secretly deep down you’re gutted that you didn’t do it faster and vow to get your revenge the following year. Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

38. When 100m is too much tarmac. @Cooperjacobs

39. You will never ever admit to being lost. @Cooperjacobs

40. Rolling your ankle doesn’t mean breaking your stride. @Cooperjacobs

41. You know what ‘Fishwicking‘ is and have done it. @Cooperjacobs

42. You consider pork pies as sports nutrition. @Cooperjacobs

43. Bad weather is an excuse to stay out longer testing the limits of your kit. @Cooperjacobs

44. You get mad at the inov-8 ad “Mud washes off. Failure doesn’t”, cos you’ve washed your CVFR top a million times and the mud stains from Heptonstall are still there. In fact the mud stains are a badge of honour. And guess what? I’ve done a fell race so how have I failed. Ever? Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

45. Your bumbag with FRA kit is in the back of the car always ready to go! Clark Hind, Holmfirth Harriers

46. When you read “Barlick Fell Runners” each time you put your vest on for a road race…yep I’m one of Barlick’s ‘non Fell Running’ fell runners. Dan Balshaw, Barlick Fell Runners

47. You get a gob full of bog water and think nowt of it. Steven Pepper, Glossopdale Harriers

48. When it’s raining outside and all you can think YES! it’s going to be an ace muddy run. Luke Meleschko, Halifax Harriers

49. You run through freshly delivered cow s**t which splashes half way up your leg. You think nothing of it and carrying on running like it’s normal. Luke Meleschko, Halifax Harriers

50. When you have had to go to work in backless slippers for a week due to full thickness heel blisters. Nick Alan Hart

51. When your cat sits in your kit bag so you’ll know to feed him before you run off into the hills. Steve Jones, Keswick AC

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52. When your cat lives in an inov-8 shoe box. Steve Jones, Keswick AC

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53. When the post-race meal of pie, peas and gravy is considered the finest cuisine in your eyes! Steven Bark

54. When the wrong choice of shoe does this to your feet, but you carry on regardless to beat your team mate. Stephen Firth, Bingley Harriers

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55. You silently congratulate yourself on taking a really good grassy ‘line’….. then remember that you’re actually just out for a stroll with your mum/school group/dog. Ali Richards

56. When tha nos difference between a hat and a buff …..rule 8 innit (Paul Haigh) Pete Hill, Horwich

57. When….you learn to put your brain in your pockets downhill….LET GO!!!! Fed Gibbons

58. When queueing for a stile and someone overtaking the queue makes your blood boil! Anna Aspinall, Goyt Valley Striders

59. When your hat, buff, vest, gloves, shorts and even watch and legs!!! are in your team colours Calvin Ferguson Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

60. When you take the straight course through the wettest, boggiest bit and curse everyone running faster around it are wimps. Mark Williams

61. When you recognise the onset of hypothermia is a sign to run faster. Mark Williams

62. When you read 599 blogs about the 3 Peaks. Chris Barnes, Ribble Valley Harriers

63. You know you is a fell runner when yer get a piccie of yer mug int’ fellrunner mag. Pete Hill, Horwich

64. When you stalk other runners on Strava to download GPX files for Champs’ races. Phil Winskill, Keswick AC

65. When you abuse printing facilities at work to provide every runner in your club with a map of an up and coming champs race. Phil Winskill, Keswick AC

66. When you’re mates with Darren Fishwick. Phil Winskill, Keswick AC

67. When Darren Fishwick asks where you are to others on the startline. Phil Winskill, Keswick AC

68. When you run straight through bogs instead of prodding them lightly by placing your forefoot on the bits that look firm to see if there’s any give. Damien Briscoe, Calder Valley Fell Runners

69. When your Strava runs are frequently titled “sheep/lamb rescue”. Carolyn Shimwell, Calder Valley Fell Runners

70. When you feel strangely aroused by a trig. Damien Briscoe, Calder Valley Fell Runners

71. You have enough Pete Bland race numbers to wallpaper your entire house from top to bottom. Rosie

72. When your “emergency food” went out of date 4 years ago. Wayne McIntosh, Clayton Le Moors

73. When you drive down the A66 without even looking at the road once. James Williamson, Clayton Le Moors

74. When you nip out for milk and come back 2 hours later covered in sheep turd without any milk. James Williamson, Clayton Le Moors

75. When you have more shoes than your wife! Adam Wallwork, Trawden AC

76. When you encourage your wife to keep an eye on the tracker you wear! Andrew Britton Rachel Britton

77. When even the sheep know you by your first name and most of them laugh at the fact you spend more time up on the hills than they do. David Anthony Davidson

78. When you always take the office stairs to get in some extra climb between meetings. Andrew Britton, Idle AC

79. When you have a big toenail that would rival Gavin Mulholland’s! Paul Scarisbrick

80. Mid-bonk, you’ll drop to your knees & frantically claw in a boggy puddle for a dropped jelly baby. Neil ‘Braveshorts’ Wallace 

81. When u have to retrieve 30% of your shorts from up your bum after every descent. @TheOldMongoose

82. When the only flat thing in your life is your flat cap. Andrew Falkingbridge, Stainland Lions

83. When you go on a 9 day holiday to run in various locations around Europe. Daniel Green

84. When ‘a bit of clag’ is considered a favourable weather condition. Chris Usher

85. You’ve got a big pile of inov-8’s in various states of disrepair outside your door. RuslandSherperdess

86. You look forward to your significant birthdays so you can move up into the next vet cat, whilst forgetting​ your rivals are also getting older (but unfortunately not slower) at the same rate. Helen Elmore

87. When you are checking out the FRA website for racers and results whilst you should be working at your computer. Simon Taylor, Darwen Dashers

88. When the cleanest bit of kit you own are the waterproof pants in your bum bag – that have NEVER been worn. Colin Woolford

89. When you got seriously wound up that Nicky Spinks wasn’t even considered to win Sports Personality of the Year 2016. Danny Richardson

90. When the disappointment that the AL you trained for is actually a BM – hurts more than the actual run. Colin Woolford

91. When you force yourself to run past the photographer on the stupidly steep section. Simon Bayliss

92. When you look at your muddy black toenails and feel proud rather than disgusted. Charlotte Akam, Cumberland Fell Runners

93. When you moan about road running. Matthew Lawlor, Barlick Fell Runners

94. When the compass you got in year dot for Xmas has never been used. Nick Gaskell, Trawden AC

95. When you enter competitions to win stuff; because you’re too tight to buy it. Andrew Graham

96. When you call your dog ‘Fly’. Adrian Leigh

97. When your flailing snot on a descent can take out the runner behind. Martin Jones

98. When your essential race kit includes tupperware for the cake stall. James Edwards

99. When you want to save for a mortgage but you see a good deal on what will be your 15th pair of X-Talons or Mudclaws this year. Calvin Ferguson, Calder Valley Fell Runners/Darwen Dashers

100. When you have a photo of Darren Kay’s legs as your phone screensaver. Mark Burton, Pennine Fell Runners (But wishes he was Calder Valley)

101. When you’re on Facebook in your soaked Y-fronts trying to win a free T-shirt. Mark Burton, Pennine Fell Runners

102. You’re a road runner but try a fell run saying never again I HATE MUD”! Couple of years down the line you sack the road for fell due to loving the MUD and all the lovely people I have met and become friends with along the way. Diane ‘Maccers’ Macdonald, Keighley & Craven

103. When the only presents you ever ask for again are inov-8. David Cooper, Pudsey Pacers

104. You try & convince the Mrs that she should consider giving birth to your impending child in Fort William hospital so you can still run the Ben Nevis race. James Williamson, Clayton Le Moors

105. When you get aroused by your male teammates showering together after a race. Helen Buchan, Calder Valley Fell Runners

106. When u r forced 2 look at your team mate’s gollum feet, who then chases u around on said gollum feet! Helen Buchan, Calder Valley Fell Runners

107.When all this corporate **** **** that’s trying to worm it’s way in to fell running annoys you more than Corbyn V May. Now take your online entries and your inflatable finish lines and **** *** Chris Barnes, Ribble Valley Harriers

108. When Chris Barnes chases after you with a vest after meeting his “qualifying standard”. Bryan Searby, ‘future’ Ribble Valley Harrier?

109. When you choose to race in only a vest and it’s minus 10°C outside, it’s snowing and the wind is blowing at 100mph. Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

110. When you attempt your first dangerous downhill descent, your life flashes before your eyes and you realise how boring your life was before you were introduced to fell running. Steve Woods, South Leeds Lakers

111. When you recognise types of fell shoes just by their studmarks. Gavin Mulholland, Calder Valley Fell Runners

112. When you collect enough safety pins to organise your own fell race. Gavin Mulholland, Calder Valley Fell Runners

113. When beer is your recovery drink. Chris Jackson, Glossopdale Harriers

114. You have 4 different OS maps cut and stuck to make one big Bob Graham map on your living room wall, while surrounded by your pacing notes and a list of your actual times. All above 3 x pairs of inov-8 trainers you wore on various legs while completing said BG. Andrew Britton, Idle AC

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115. When spending a night in the Priest’s hole is fun. James Williamson, Clayton Le Moors

116. When finding the best lines doesn’t involve cocaine. Matthew Lalor, Barlick Fell Runners

117. When you contemplate growing a beard and adding checked shirts to your wardrobe. Kris Lee, Radcliffe AC

118. When your mates ask you if you fancy doing Manchester 10k or a Tough Mudder and you look at them in utter disgust! Carolyn Shimwell, Calder Valley Fell Runners

119. When a car door is perfectly good cover for stripping off your freezing soggy kit. Zoe Barton, Glossopdale Harriers

120. When you try to convince your parents they want a short break in Llanberis in October, so that they can babysit during the FRA relays. Zoe Barton, Glossopdale Harriers

121. When you secretly check the date for next year’s race less than 30 days after firmly telling yourself and everyone around you unequivocally and without a single doubt that you will absolutely never ever under any circumstances put yourself through that again. Adam Oliver, Helm Hill

122. When you get upset after realising that the lovely bum you’ve been following for the past hour actually belongs to a bearded man. Jacob Daniel Tonkin, Keswick AC

123. When you have the legs of a warrior and the upper body of a chicken. Pete Nicholson, Asics Front Runner

124. When all that concerns you is where when and how far is the next race! Bill Beckett, Chorley AC

125. When you don’t mind being ‘man handled’ over a stile. Rachel Lowther, Barlick Fell Runners

126. When your partner suggests getting an early night and you think she’s just being considerate because you’ve got a long run tomorrow. Tom Thomas, Saddleworth Fell Runners

127. When the mid-race downpour at Weets champs race doubles up as your post race shower. John Millen

128. When a breath of fresh air turns in a marathon and imminent divorce as you keep adding on hill reps just to get that extra edge. Paul Haigh, Calder Valley Fell Runners

129. When you spend more time running through mud than running a bath. Andy Smith, Stainland Lions

130. When you walk the uphills in cross country and overtake people running. Arthur Raffle, Altrincham AC

131. You nickname your particularly dodgy toenail your ‘X-rated Talon’. Tamsin Cooke, Calder Valley Fell Runners

132. On a summer run, you seriously consider jumping from cowpat to cowpat cos the ground’s too hard! Tamsin Cooke, Calder Valley Fell Runners

133. You travel 40 miles just to run 4 miles an your run doesn’t end till you get to the pub for a cold beer and 5 packs of crisps. Alun Wood, Mynydd Du

134. You are pleased to win an electrical crimping kit and 1/2 a bunch of bananas (Blackstone Edge Fell Race) James Williams, Calder Valley Fell Runners

COMPETITION WINNER:

Congratulations to Tamsin Cooke (entry 131)! 

You know you’re a fell runner when…you nickname your particularly dodgy toenail your ‘X-rated Talon’.

tee comp

How to ENTER into the free inov-8 competition:

  1. Simply complete this phrase – ‘You know you’re a fell runner when…’ and submit your entry to me via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #GetAGrip (include your name and running club – if applicable).
  2. LIKE and SHARE this blog on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter

COMPETITION RULES:

  1. You may submit as many entries as you wish.
  2. The best (funniest!) entries will be posted on this blog (with credit to you)
  3. Entry into the competition closes on Wednesday 14th June 2017
  4. Entries will be judged by the inov-8 team and the winner will receive a free inov-8 tee in their choice of size and colour.

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Why I Run – by Heidi Davies

So why do you run?

If you’re asking me that question, I bet 9 times out of 10 you’re not a runner yourself. To you, running is awful. You couldn’t think of anything worse than dragging your body weight around on your own two feet and trying to put your frame of muscles and bones into fast forward motion. To you, that would be a version of hell itself. Am I right?

Elan ValleyPictured above: Heidi training in the Elan Valley

“What!” I hear you exclaim “You actually enjoy putting your body through so much pain?”

“Don’t you get bored?”

“Don’t you get tired?” 

“Wouldn’t you rather just watch TV?”

“But, how do you actually enjoy running?”

Maybe you think running just isn’t your thing. I mean I don’t blame you; why would you even want to get out of breath? That’s just not any fun right? Life in your comfort zone is so much better isn’t it. At least you know where you stand, right?

WRONG!

I’m sorry to disappoint but I’m going to have to prove you wrong.

So why do I run? I’ll tell you why… let’s start from the beginning.

I run to make my younger self proud.

If you were to say to my ten-year-old self that I would become a runner, I’d have laughed before eagerly sticking my head back into the book I was reading. As a young child, sport just wasn’t my thing. I’ve always been a trier and tried and failed (miserably) to even catch a ball in Primary School; failing to even keep my eyes open when the ball came towards me. I sucked at sport and I always dreaded the PE lessons and games of rounders we were required to play. It was only natural that I would dread my first experience of running in a local primary schools’ cross country race. My young naive eleven year old self thought I was in for the worst experience of my short life so far. However, I surprised myself and actually enjoyed that initial thrill of trying to run as fast as I could around a boggy field. I found it a battle with myself as much as against the other children, which suited my slightly shy, introverted personality. This was it! I had found my true calling. I had pushed forward into the unknown on that one afternoon in my last year of Primary School and I haven’t looked back since.

Finish LinePictured above: THAT moment. Crossing the finish line to take the bronze medal in the European Mountain Running Championship, Arco, Italia, 2016

I run to discover the unknown.

For non-runners the unknown and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be a scary, unnerving experience. Even more so when you haven’t actually pushed yourself out of your physical comfort zone since you were a child playing tag or such like on the school yard. The unknown is something I have come to love as a runner. As a runner the “unknown” is a glorifing experience. It’s the unknown that drives me to continue to put one foot in front of the other, over and over because I want to understand how far my body, mind and spirit is willing to go. I’m still grasping my understanding of this and every run shows me new possibilities.

Running teaches me that I capable of so much more than I ever thought before. Everyday when you lace up your trainers and step outside into the open air; there is always a question mark hanging over your head. Where will your feet take you today? How far will you go? How fast will you be able to push your body today? This is a question mark that I have come to love as it ensures the running experience is constantly new and refreshing. The world is your oyster. Even more so when you run; if only you have the belief in yourself.

The unknown (1)Pictured above: Running into the unknown

I run because that is what we were born to do.

Running is the most natural form of movement for the human body. It allows us to go back to our roots as a species; to a time when running was essential to our survival. This rings true when I’m out there on the trails; jumping over rocks, floating on silent strides, the wind in my ears with just my shadow and the natural environment for company. It’s easy to feel a strong connection to our ancestors who performed this pure movement many years ago. It is sometimes in these moments that I feel as if I could run forever and never get tired. It is for these special moments that I run, because there is no greater feeling than pushing past your comfort zone and feeling free as if you are flying over the terrain. Running reminds me what a priveldge it is to be alive and to be able to move on this wonderful planet. I have been lucky enough to have had many opportunities to visit different countries and places which I otherwise wouldn’t if I didn’t run. Running truly has opened up my eyes to the world and for this I am forever thankful.

Livigno (1)Pictured above: Training on the beautiful trails in Livigno, Italia. Photo credit: Phil Gale

I run to explore.

The one aspect of running which I have truly fallen in love with, is the ability to be able to use your own two feet as a method of exploration. I think this is probably why I have found mountain running to be my niche in the sport of running during the summer months. Mountain runners are a different breed of runner. Through the nature of the sport, the focus is more on fun and development and there are no egos. Everyone is an equal and has an appreciation for the environment and world in which we live. We know we are lucky to experience this through running remote trails. It’s like that first breath of fresh air you crave after being stuck inside an exam room for hours. Refreshing, invigorating and a completely newfangled approach to enjoying the whole running experience.

Livigno 2 (1)Pictured above: Exploring Livigno, Italia

The culture of mountain running is something completely different to what I’d experienced previously. The one obvious difference is that mountain runners smile. Running in the mountains or on the trails makes people happy. How can it not when you get to scamper over terrain in breathtakingly beautiful surroundings? Yes it can hurt, your lungs can feel on fire, your legs like bricks, but it is pure enjoyment.

I run because the people and stories you make along the way are so heartwarming.

The social side of running is something I really enjoy too. I have made many friends through the sport from all different countries and the combination of running and being in beautiful places either competing or for a training camp seems to just pull us runners together. Runners can sometimes be seen as our own unique crazy species so it is only natural that if you see another runner you automatically want to share stories of your running adventures. Running is something that bonds people together to allow them to have a greater sense of purpose in life too.

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friendships2 (1)Pictured above: Friends for life. The European Mountain Running Championship 2016, Arco, Italia

I run to inspire others.

I have really discovered how running can inspire others as I have been helping to inspire the next generation of runners in my local area. Seeing the children smiling and being really enthusiatic and desprate to get outside and move their body’s just because of something you have said is truly heartwarming. Even just running down the street and exchanging a word or two with a passer by and seeing them smile can make you realise how much sport and running does bring people of all kinds together. Because running is something all humans have in common even if some people dislike or cringe at the thought. Trust me, that is only a thought. Yes it may be a horrible thought, but once you get your running shoes on and get out there, you’ll probably come to love it too.

Running is so much more than just a sport. It’s more than just a race.
It’s about the inspiring people you meet, the incredible places you get to visit, the close friendships you build and the unforgettable memories you make.

I run because running is freedom to me and there is no better way to experience life’s journey.

THAT’S why I run.

You can read more about Heidi Davies and her mountain running adventures by visiting her blog.

Other related posts: Heidi Davies: The life of a teenage trail runner | Why I Run – by Lisa Tamati

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The 63rd Yorkshire 3 Peaks Fell Race

It’s been no secret that one of my major targets this year was to do well in the Yorkshire 3 Peaks fell race. I was looking forward to it for a number of reasons; firstly, this iconic event is now sponsored by inov-8 and it’s always an honour and a privilege to represent the brand; it is also a race that would serve as selection for the GB long distance mountain running team and I knew if I trained hard enough then there might be a small chance of me making the cut; and finally, I’ve always felt like I’ve had unfinished business with the 3 Peaks. I’ve competed twice before and never performed well, just thankful to finish on both occasions. Perhaps this was the year where I might finally make my mark.

18238474_10155527919897446_1076604862502096597_oPictured above: The impressive view of Ribblehead viaduct (courtesy of MountainFuel)

I was under no illusions that I’d always have my work cut out if I was going to perform well. I’ve never considered myself a long distance specialist, always favouring speed over endurance. So I set about entering longer, tougher races at the beginning of the year in preparation. I enjoyed good results at both the Hebden 22 and the Wadsworth Trog. I even entered the Haworth Hobble for training and experience, although a bout of illness before the race meant I sensibly had to withdraw. I did however, manage to get a number of long distance training runs under my belt and I knew I wasn’t in bad shape. On reflection, my training prior to the race was a little hit and miss. It lacked the consistency and quality I really needed, but I was still confident I could run well and put in a respectable performance.

MY PLAN WAS TO USE EXPERIENCED ATHLETES LIKE ROB JEBB, ROB HOPE AND IAN HOLMES AS A MEASURE

Without doubt the most surprising thing about race day was the weather. Last year I remember wading through snow at the top of Whernside to spectate. Roll on 12 months and it couldn’t have been any different! The sun was shining and the ground completely bone dry. I almost wondered if I’d turned up on the wrong date. Definitely vest weather and a day for the Roclite 290s. Record breaking conditions for sure. I had my fingers crossed that Victoria Wilkinson would do the business, especially with the blistering form she’s been in so far this season

 

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The start of the 63rd Yorkshire 3 Peaks Fell Race (courtesy of inov-8 & MountainFuel)

When the race began I tried to settle into a steady pace from the start. I had no choice but to run sensibly, after all I wasn’t in any shape to challenge for the win. At my very best, I’d hoped I could push for a top 5 place and perhaps even break 3 hours. However, realistically I knew based on current form, a top 10-15 would be a good result. My plan was to use experienced athletes like Rob Jebb, Rob Hope and Ian Holmes as a measure. These are guys who always perform well every year and know how to pace a good 3 Peaks. So on the climb up to Pen-Y-Ghent I tried to sit behind Holmesy and Jebby and let them dictate my early effort. Easier said than done as I watched the latter slowly disappear into the distance.

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Pictured above: The climb and descent on Pen-Y-Ghent 

I expected to enjoy the first half of the race. It’s not really until Ingleborough that I usually begin to suffer. But today was different. In all honesty, I felt laboured from the start. I should’ve cruised to the top of the first climb but instead I felt heavy, tired and lethargic. I knew there and then that I was going to be in for a long day. As I shuffled towards the summit, I glanced at my watch and saw I was way down on my target pace. I can’t even begin to describe how tempted I was to pull out. I just didn’t feel good. Only a week ago I’d trotted up and down Pen-Y-Ghent and felt amazing. Today couldn’t have been any different. One by one I watched people sail past and there was nothing I could do in response. I had no choice but to convince myself that things might feel easier as the race progressed, but deep down I knew I was preparing myself for a 3 hour suffer-fest.

“I HAD CHRIS BARNES’ BIG GINGER HEAD IN MY THOUGHTS ALL THE WAY ROUND”

To try and make the distance more manageable I broke the race down into smaller sections in my head. The next milestone for me was Ribblehead. On the approach, it was such a relief to see so many familiar and friendly faces as we hit the main road. I made the most of every offer of food and drink and guzzled down as much liquid as I could. In fact I swigged so much flat Coca-Cola during the race that I wouldn’t be surprised if they offered me a new sponsorship deal. The combination of that and some Mountain Fuel powered me up the steep climb to the summit of Whernside and it was easily the strongest section of my race.

18216673_10155527919902446_1733979316284418867_oPictured above: Ribblehead viaduct and the climb to the summit of Whernside (courtesy of MountainFuel)

I can honestly say that in terms of running, I really didn’t enjoy the race. But in the back of my mind I knew I had to finish. Quitting wasn’t even an option. For a start, I had too many people supporting me on the route with drinks and kind words of encouragement. But most importantly, the absolute main reason that I didn’t quit was because I knew Chris Barnes would publicly humiliate me on Twitter if I had to catch ‘the bus of shame’ back to the start.

Barnesy.jpgPictured above: Chris Barnes in his prime *note his colour co-ordinated socks (courtesy of Woodentops)

Now don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t even think twice about pulling out if I was injured or ill, or if I thought my effort would hamper my chances of doing well in other important races. However, today if I threw in the towel then I’d be doing it because I wasn’t going to finish in the time or position that I wanted. I’d be doing it out of pure selfish pride because I didn’t want to get beaten by people I’d usually finish in front of. It’s not the fell running way and it’s certainly not my style. I’d not blown up, I was well hydrated, the conditions were perfect and I wasn’t suffering from a serious injury. I had no excuses, other than the fact I was just having one of those days. I just never got going from the start. So instead, for over 3 hours (more than should be legally allowed), I just had Barnesy’s big ginger head in my thoughts ALL the way round. When the going got tough, I imagined Barnesy tweeting pictures of him driving the bus with me sat in the front seat. When Vic Wilkinson came steaming past me on the track near the bottom of Whernside, I thought about all of the interesting hashtags he’d use to take the piss on social media. And when I fell on the final descent, after swearing and crying out for a cuddle from my mum, I thought about nothing but crossing the finish line so that I could put Barnesy firmly back in his box.

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Pictured above: The descent from Whernside and the climb towards the summit of Ingleborough (courtesy of Andy Jackson, Racing Snakes & Sport Sunday)

The last few miles of the race were a real slog and they weren’t pretty. But I eventually finished, albeit a little battered and bruised, in a respectable time of 3:13:43. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see the finish line.

I must say that one thing I did enjoy about the race was the atmosphere of this iconic event. Hundreds of spectators had turned out to support us all on the route and I was grateful to every single person who cheered, gave me jelly babies and numerous offers of drinks. The support was nothing short of amazing. It really does make a huge difference when you’re out there racing, so please consider this as my thanks to you all.

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Pictured above: Enjoying the finish and posing with my CVFR teammates Karl Gray (C) and Andy Swift (R) (courtesy of WoodentopsMountainFuel)

PRIOR TO SATURDAY, I’VE ONLY EVER BEEN ‘CHICKED’ TWICE BEFORE IN MY CAREER

I couldn’t finish this blog without praising the race winners. Firstly, Murray Strain, who demonstrated his class by beating a highly competitive field in a sensational time of 2:49:38. Also a special mention to my teammate Karl Gray, who at the tender age of 50, finished 4th and broke the V40 record in 2:56:37 – amazing!

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Pictured above: 2017 Race winners Murray Strain and Victoria Wilkinson (courtesy of Woodentops)

However, the day belonged to one person (super-woman!), Victoria Wilkinson. Prior to Saturday, I’ve only ever been chicked* twice before in my career. The first time, about 10 years ago, when I got mudged** on a long race in Northern Ireland. Then in 2008, when I got czeched*** at the 3 Peaks, and now finally in 2017, when I got well and truly vicked****. Words cannot express or signify the enormity of this result as she set a new female course record in 3:09:19, knocking over 5 minutes off the previous record set by Anna Pichrtova in 2008 (3:14:43). I can only describe it as one of, if not THE, finest ever performances on the fells by a female athlete. Vic was simply outstanding and it was a privilege to watch her in action as she ripped through the field and completely obliterated the record. She had an enormous amount of pressure on her to deliver this result and I’m so, so pleased for her. I can’t think of a more deserving, humble and talented champion. She’ll absolutely hate me for writing this, because she never allows herself to bask in the limelight, but Vic you are simply amazing.

*Beaten by the first female **Beaten by Angela Mudge ***Beaten by Anna Pichrtova ****Beaten by Vic Wilkinson

It’s safe to say that this wasn’t my finest 3 (and a bit) hours and I can confirm that I never, EVER want to run the 3 Peaks again. But it wasn’t all bad so please don’t let me put you off if you’re thinking of doing this race next year for the first time. It really is an amazing event (I promise!). I’ve tried to reflect on my experience by summarising my highs and lows from the race…

10 THINGS I LOVED

  1. The AMAZING support and atmosphere!
  2. The food before, during and after the race
  3. 3 x bottles of flat coke
  4. Pints of Mountain Fuel (thanks Rupert!)
  5. Swifty taking a dump at the bottom of Whernside
  6. Vic Wilkinson!
  7. Phil Winskill’s abuse and his jelly babies
  8. My Roclite 290s
  9. FINISHING!!!
  10. Having my photograph taken many, many times 😉

10 THINGS I HATED

  1. The climb up to the summit of Pen-Y-Ghent
  2. The descent from Pen-Y-Ghent
  3. The flat bit towards Whernside
  4. The climb up to the summit of Whernside
  5. The descent from Whernside
  6. The flat bit towards the Hill Inn
  7. The climb up to the summit of Ingleborough
  8. The descent from Ingleborough
  9. Cramp
  10. Falling pathetically near the finish

So there you have it, my 3 Peaks report before I completely erase the race and thoughts of Chris Barnes from my memory forever…

…I can’t wait till next year’s event already! Please, please, please don’t forget to remind me when the entries are out. Roll on April 2018! Training starts now!

Results | Photos1 | Photos2 | Photos3

 

 

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A rough guide to fell running

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What is fell running and how is it different to cross country and trail running? Is there a clear distinction between fell running and mountain running?

Fell running is traditionally a British sport that shares many of the same characteristics as other forms of off-road running; cross country, trail and mountain. However, it is unique in the sense that races are so unpredictable in terms of the weather and terrain. You have to be a much stronger and hardier athlete to cope with the environment. Speed isn’t necessarily the key, but rather strength and resilience. Experience and mountain-craft also play a huge part. You need to be able to find the best lines, because often you are running on a vague trod (or not!) between two checkpoints. There isn’t always a clear path and it’s usually safer to trust a compass rather than other people in a race!

The video below shows footage from a typical Lakeland fell race (Blackcombe 2017 – courtesy of Lee Procter and inov-8).

In comparison, cross country has significantly less climbing, and is contested on runnable terrain in more controlled environments. It’s much easier to predict a winner as there are fewer factors to consider and usually no chance of anyone getting lost! (Although I should confess to getting lost at least once OK twice in a cross country race!!!)

In the UK, trail running is similar to fell running, but again there is significantly less climbing and the trails/paths are more obvious to navigate and easier to run on.

Mountain running is perhaps the closest discipline to fell running. Both have similar types of gradients (up and down) with the only difference being the terrain (see pic below). The fells are more difficult to navigate during a race, with fewer obvious paths and tracks to follow over much wetter, boggier and softer ground. I would also say that mountain runners are typically faster athletes than fell runners as pace plays a more crucial role in races.

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What makes it so special from your perspective?

Fell running is a very unique and specialist sport. It has taken me to places that I would never have imagined I’d ever visit. I’ve seen glorious sunrises, breath-taking sunsets, stunning views and beautiful wildlife. I’ve also been fortunate enough to run with the legends of the sport and shared precious moments with like-minded friends that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

One thing that I love, across all its forms, is that the ‘superstars’ are a different breed of elite. There’s no arrogance or bravado. It makes a refreshing change given what you see happening in other sports. It accepts athletes of all abilities and encourages them to take part. The fact that it’s not elitist means you’re just as likely to share a post-race pint with the winner as you are with the person who finishes last.

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What are the key attributes from a physical perspective?

Fell running is like a drug, it’s seriously addictive. You’re not just competing against other people in the race, you’re battling against both the elements and the terrain. It’s seriously hard, both physically and mentally. There are no short cuts and no easy races. You have to learn to embrace the pain and push your body to the extreme. Your legs need to be strong enough to cope with the steep, challenging climbs and handle hair-raising descents at breakneck speed. It’s one hell of a tough sport but extremely rewarding.

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What does it give you that road running doesn’t?

Fell running couldn’t be more different to road running. The latter is a far more commercial sport. It’s also more expensive to compete and there is significantly less risk of getting lost, injured or being fatally exposed to the natural elements.

For me, I find road running too predictable, boring and safe. I like the challenge of the environment, competing against the mountain rather than the clock.

Within fell running there is also a greater feeling of camaraderie. My biggest rivals might run for different clubs but in reality we’re all part of the same team. A secret society of friends who all share a love and passion for the outdoors. It genuinely feels like you’re part of one big family and that to me is what makes our sport is so unique and special.

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How accessible is the sport to beginners and how do you get started?

Fell running encourages athletes of all abilities to take part and it’s really easy to get involved. It’s also very cheap compared to road running. A typical race costs around £5 and you can win anything from a bottle of wine, to vouchers for your local running shop. One of my most memorable prizes was a 4 pack of toilet roll, for finishing in 2nd place in the Blackstone Edge fell race! Proof in itself that fell runners compete for the love of the sport and certainly not for the money!

I ‘fell’ into the sport by complete accident (excuse the pun). After trying my hand at cross country, it wasn’t long before I was searching for another, bigger adrenalin rush. Someone I know suggested I do a fell race. It began with a steep uphill climb and finished with a wild and crazy descent. My body was working at its full capacity during the entire race, my lungs were on fire and my heart rate was off the scale! But despite the pain, the hurt and the jelly legs, it was a feeling I’ll never forget. I felt alive and free, enjoying the finest natural high in the world.

To try a fell race for yourself, check out the Fellrunner website for the full fixture list. There are also lots of fell running clubs throughout the UK and anyone can become a member.

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Explain the tactical and mental skills required – such as picking the best line, the importance of a recce beforehand etc.

Like any sport, preparation is the key to success. Races are won and lost by seconds, so it’s important to recce routes and choose the best lines. Knowing which direction to run definitely helps, but the weather is so unpredictable that no route ever looks the same on race day! I always recce my important races and train specifically for those key events because I don’t like to leave anything to chance. The more confident I am about a route and my own ability, the more chance I have of winning on race day.

Having experience helps to make you a better fell runner. You need to know how to race, judge your efforts correctly, know which lines to take and most importantly, learn how to navigate safely across dangerous and challenging terrain. Fell running is extremely tactical and unlike other sports the best athlete doesn’t always win. It pays to run smart.

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The gear required – how specialised does the footwear need to be for those starting out? What are the other key bits of kit?

X-TALON 212                                         X-TALON 225

In theory, you don’t need much kit to get started. However, if you want to improve and make marginal gains then you need to use the best equipment on the market. Shoes, for example, are the most important kit you’ll need in order to perform well. Comfort, grip and weight are essential when choosing the right footwear. I use the inov-8 X-TALON precision fit range for fell running because they’re light and provide excellent grip over the roughest terrain. The X-TALON 212 are my favourite for training and the X-TALON 225 are my preferred choice for racing.

ROCLITE 290                                         MUDCLAW 300

I use a range of specific footwear for all types of running. I favour the ROCLITE 290 for the trails and the MUDCLAW 300 for extreme fell. It’s important to wear the right shoes as they will give you the extra confidence you need on that particular terrain. Check out the video below to see exactly what I’m talking about (courtesy of Andy Jackson and inov-8).

Nothing claws through mud like the MUDCLAW 300! Read more about them here.

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inov-8 LS hooded merino base layer

In terms of apparel, the best piece of advice I can give is to wear merino.

I wax lyrical about the super powers of merino – it’s simply the best. When it comes to base layers there is no better alternative. I even wear merino underpants. However, by far the best bit of running clothing I own is the inov-8 long sleeved hooded merino base layer. Yes, it’s expensive gear, but it’s worth every penny.

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Given all of which, what makes the perfect fell runner?

 My fell running hero and teammate, Karl Gray, once told me…

‘To be the best fell runner you have to climb like a mountain goat, run like the wind on the flat and descend like a demon’.

He’s absolutely right. The perfect fell runner is someone who can do it all, over every distance. To win the English Fell Championship you have to be able to compete on all types of terrain, from anything between 3 – 25 miles and in all types of weather conditions throughout the duration of the season (February to October). It’s a tough ask. But then again, athletes don’t come any tougher than fell runners – we’re a different breed altogether.

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All photography by Dave McFarlane (courtesy of inov-8).

Related blogs: HOW I ‘FELL’ IN LOVE WITH RUNNINGRUNNING TIPS: 10 WAYS TO BEAT THE MUD

Kit: inov-8 MUDCLAW 300 | inov-8 LS hooded merino | inov-8 3QTR tights | inov-8 Stormshell jacket | inov-8 race ultra skull | inov-8 merino sock mid | inov-8 race ultra mitt

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Ready to Roc!

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I was recently asked by inov-8 to test their new range of Roclite shoes* – the Roclite 290, Roclite 305 and the Roclite 325. The Roclite has been a popular choice of shoe with trail runners over the last decade but ironically I’ve never actually owned a pair. The inov-8 range is huge and I only ever wear a selection of my favourite shoes – the X-Talon 225 and X-Talon 212 (fells), the TrailTalon 250 (trails/mountains) and the RoadClaw 275 (road). In all honesty I was initially unsure about how much I would use the Roclites and what I would wear them for. Inov-8 persuaded me to work this out for myself to see exactly where they fit into their range and how I might use them for training and racing.

*The 305 and 325 are also available in waterproof GORE-TEX versions – check out Roclite 305 GTX & Roclite 325 GTX.

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Let’s start with the Roclite 305. When the shoes arrived I was immediately impressed with their slick and stylish design. It almost seemed a shame to get them dirty and I even considered preserving them for travelling to races and trips to the pub. However, as soon as I tried them on I couldn’t wait to test them out. This is a shoe that was made for the trails.

305Pictured above: The inov-8 Roclite 305

If you’re a fan of the TerraClaw 250 then you’ll love the new Roclite 305. The shoe is a standard fit, with an 8mm drop (heel to toe differential) and sticky rubber sole compound. At 305g, they’re light enough to race in but, to be honest, I think that they’re an ideal training shoe. They’re extremely comfortable to wear and my feet always feel really well supported and protected. The key features include a strengthened rubber toe cap, which is useful when you hit a stray rock at pace, and the X-Lock design which wraps around the heel of the shoe to provide additional support during a run. I also really like the integrated tongue, which is attached to the upper and helps to prevent mud and debris from getting into the shoe.

Pictured above: A close-up view of the X-lock design for enhanced support (L), the multi-directional lugs on the sole which provide excellent grip (C) and the integrated tongue gusset (R)

Living in the South Pennines (England), most of my training runs consist of road, grass, tracks and muddy fell. I find it a real challenge choosing the right shoe to cope with the ever-changing terrain. What I like most about the Roclite 305 is how confident I feel wearing them on almost any surface. The grip is good enough to handle both the trails and fells, although in extreme conditions I would obviously opt for something more suitable like the Mudclaw 300 or the X-Talon 212 as they both have more pointed, deeper lugs (8mm) on the outsole, compared to the flatter, 6mm lugs on the Roclite.

Overall I’d describe the Roclite 305 as the perfect ‘all-round’ trail shoe and would highly recommend them to anyone who wants support, comfort and grip on diverse terrain.

Pictured above: The Roclite 305 in action

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img_8130Pictured above: The inov-8 Roclite 325

The Roclite 325 is a lightweight boot version of the 305, sharing the same design and features. Personally, I haven’t run in them but I have used them for fast-paced hiking in the Lake District hills. Not only do they look great but they’re extremely comfortable to wear and an excellent alternative to a traditional walking boot. A few years ago I walked the GR20 in Corsica and the Tour Du Mont Blanc (similar to UTMB) with a small group of friends. I remember looking for a lightweight trekking shoe and in the end I wore a pair of trail running shoes. Had the Roclite 325 been an option at the time then they would have been the perfect choice. I also think they’d be ideal for extreme long distance challenges like the Spine Race*, especially the GORE-TEX version of the shoe, which would provide extra protection from the elements.

 *Just to confirm I have never done the Spine Race, so I’m only making an assumption based on the terrain and wintry conditions.

Pictured above: A close-up view of the X-lock design for enhanced support (L), the multi-directional lugs on the sole which provide excellent grip (C) and the integrated tongue gusset (R)

The Roclite 325 will appeal to a specialist audience so if you’re looking to invest in a lightweight boot for either walking or running then this could well be the model for you. I would, however, recommend trying on this shoe because purchasing. They fit my feet perfectly when I wear one pair of running socks but if I’m walking all day then I like to wear a thicker pair of socks. It’s probably worth ordering a pair in a slightly bigger size to compensate for this.

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img_8139Pictured above: The inov-8 Roclite 290

I’ve purposely saved the best until last. When it comes to racing, I’m all about travelling light and fast. In my opinion the Roclite 290 is THE perfect trail racing shoe. It shares most of the same features as the 305 but it feels closer to a precision fit rather than a standard. I also prefer the lower drop, 4mm compared to 8mm. Although there is only a 15g weight difference, the 290 feels much lighter than the 305 and is specifically designed for moving fast over all types of terrain. Such is the comfort and fit of this shoe that I’ve done most of my winter training in them, despite much of my running being confined to the road.

Pictured above: A close-up view of the Y-lock design for enhanced support (L), the multi-directional lugs on the sole which provide excellent grip (C) and the standard tongue (R)

Although they are essentially a lightweight version of the 305, there are a few notable changes. Firstly the 290 has a Y-lock design around the heel base as opposed to the X-lock so there is a slight difference in support (nothing of considerable note). The tongue is also separate from the upper like most regular trail shoes and not integrated in the same way as the 305 (although I personally prefer the integrated tongue).

I’ve worn them for hilly training runs and races over long distances on tracks, roads and open fell. This really is the ideal shoe to do it all. They cope better than any other shoe when it comes to variety of terrain – and without me having to sacrifice comfort for weight.

Pictured above: The Roclite 290 in action 

The Roclite family is a great addition to the inov-8 range. I would recommend all three shoes depending on what you need them for. After testing them I’ve found a use for each and I’m sure, if you’re like me, you won’t need much persuading to do the same!

Discover more about the technical features of the shoes in the Roclite range and check out all colour options for men and women in the 290, 305 and 325.

VIDEO: THE NEW ROCLITE: A DECADE IN THE MAKING

Photography by Robbie Jay Barratt and Mark Everingham

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The Hebden

the-hebden

THE HEBDEN IS ESSENTIALLY THE CALDER VALLEY’S GREATEST HITS

The Hebden, is an LDWA event for both walkers and runners, with a choice of competing on either the 15 or 21 mile route. Such is its appeal, I’ve raced it for the last six consecutive years and I’m not about to give up anytime soon. Technically speaking, it’s not actually a race, it’s a long distance walking challenge that also allows runners to compete. It’s a low-key event and there are no prizes or medals at stake. Nobody really cares if you win, least of all the organisers. It’s purely for enjoyment, a chance to share an experience on the hills with other like-minded people and the reward of completing a long distance challenge in often tough and wintry conditions. The Hebden is essentially the Calder Valley’s greatest hits – a stunning collection of the very best views and landmarks that the local area has to offer. From the beautiful woodland paths of Hardcastle Crags to the imperious Stoodley Pike Monument, which dominates the moors of the Upper Calder Valley. This is a race that has it all and it’s easy to see why it’s become such an iconic and popular event amongst the running community.

I first ran The Hebden in 2011 by complete chance because that particular year it was included in our Calder Valley club championship. At the time there was a strong feeling of animosity between some members of the club because many were concerned we would be ruining a walking event by turning it into a race. I could understand their point but I strongly disagreed. Mainly because the organisers, Alan Greenwood and Carole Engel, were extremely welcoming and very happy that we’d chosen their event as one of our long distance counters. There was, and still is, no reason why the route cannot be shared and enjoyed by both runners and walkers alike.

Pictured above: The walkers and runners all gather in the church hall to register and fuel up before the race (Photos courtesy of Nick Ham).

Quite often before a race begins there is a tense atmosphere with people full of nervous energy. However, at the Hebden everyone is calm and relaxed, chatting about the route and enjoying the plethora of food and drink that’s on offer. I usually eat a light breakfast at home because I know that when I get to the church hall for registration, I can have as much coffee and toast as I like before the race gets underway. I particularly enjoy being mothered by the wonderful Carole and her army of helpers. They cannot do enough to make you feel welcome and looked after. The kitchen is a hive of activity, with a constant stream of happy, smiling people queuing patiently as they wait to be served. The food and hospitality are reason enough to compete in this fantastic event.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPictured above: Chatting with Alan before the start of the race (Photo courtesy of Nick Ham)

I look forward to this race because it never fails to disappoint. Alan is an excellent race organiser – always in control, unflappable in a crisis and genuinely just a really great bloke. He always sends me an annual race reminder so I don’t forget to enter, and he regularly updates me on how the money raised from entry fees has helped to improve the paths and tracks on the route and around the valley. His team puts a tremendous amount of work into the race and the upkeep of the local area. Part of the reason I like to support this event is to help raise its profile and encourage more of this positive action to happen.

Hebden map.jpg
Pictured above: A basic map of the route (anti-clockwise) with the start and finish indicated by the green dot.

This year is much like any other. I’m running with my training partners, Karl ‘The Legend’ Gray and Gavin ‘Mad Legs’ Mulholland, and we’ve all signed a peace treaty by agreeing to race together. We’ll obviously run hard but this is essentially a training exercise and our journey will be filled with good conversation and quality banter. I’m pretty relieved to be honest, as I no longer have to worry about being dropped by either of them – Karl’s impressive training schedule is usually a pre-race concern. I’m also relieved that I’ve managed to get to the start line on time. A few years ago I actually missed the beginning of the race because I was queuing for the toilet. When I came outside everyone had already set off and it took me at least 2 miles to catch up with the leaders!

“I’M DREAMING ABOUT GIANT SLABS OF TIFFIN AND MONSTER SLICES OF CAKE

The route circumnavigates the picturesque market town of Hebden Bridge, which lies at the heart of the Calder Valley. It begins with a fast run out on a woodland track parallel to the railway line, before competitors turn and face the challenging climb of Brearley Lane. A few moments later this effort is duly rewarded with spectacular views and much of the route can be seen across the valley.

Pictured above: The climb to Old Town (L) (Photos courtesy of Nick Ham) and arriving at the first checkpoint in Old Town with Joe Crossfield & Gav Mulholland in 2014 (R) (Photo courtesy of Geoff Matthews)

I find it difficult to hold back during the first few miles of the Hebden because I get carried away with setting a fast pace. I have to force myself to slow down so that I have something left in the tank during the final stages. I glance behind and Karl gives me ‘that look’. His diesel engine takes a bit longer to warm up than mine (usually about 10 miles) so I take my foot off the gas a little. He doesn’t need to say anything. I know the legend well enough by now. A raised eyebrow speaks volumes. Instead, my thoughts turn to the first checkpoint at Old Town. I’m dreaming about giant slabs of tiffin and monster slices of cake. Forget everything I’ve already mentioned about this race, the food stations on the way round are THE best bit! There isn’t a single event on my calendar that has this many opportunities to eat DURING a race! I know that Gav is just as excited as me, and when we reach Old Town I grab the biggest piece of tiffin I can find. I don’t have a problem with eating and running at the same time because they are both my two favourite things in life – don’t ever let it be said that men cannot multi-task. If Shaun Godsman was here now he’d be in heaven. In fact he’d probably just sit here all day and finish off the rest of the cake before the next runner arrives.

10714054064_0a0c76aac3_c.jpgPictured above: The Wadsworth War Memorial above Midgehole (Photo credit)

Stoodley.jpg
Pictured above: The view to Stoodley Pike with Heptonstall Church in the foreground (Photo credit)

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve run on this route, but what amazes me is how different it always looks when I do. I always see something new that I’ve never noticed before. For example, it took me 4 years to spot the Wadsworth War Memorial above Midgehole. It looks like a mini version of Stoodley Pike, except it doesn’t stand as prominently on the horizon because it’s well hidden by the trees. It’s worth a visit if you’ve never seen it before, although you may struggle to find it! The view across the valley to Heptonstall and Stoodley Pike is also a treat, although today I don’t really have time to appreciate it.

8272066059_aeec9e14e8_b.jpgPictured above: Gibson Mill (Photo credit)

The route continues beneath the monument as it joins the Calderdale Way (leg 4 in reverse). Descending towards Midgehole is both fast and technical but once you hit the road then it’s a long runnable slog to Gibson Mill, through Hardcastle Crags. I always know that if I reach the mill in sub 50 minutes then I’m running well. I glance at my watch – 49 minutes. We’re bang on target. That means we can spend a bit more time stopping for food at the next checkpoint as a reward 😉

“THIS IS A MAGICAL PART OF THE CALDER VALLEY. A SECRET SANCTUARY OF FLORA AND FAUNA THAT EXUDES TRANQUILITY AND CALM

Upon reaching Gibson Mill we opt for the stepping-stones instead of the bridge as they’re not covered in ice or submerged underwater. A couple of years ago (after the floods) we didn’t have the luxury of choice, it was either swim or take the bridge!

30119948953_bd1560a876_b.jpgPictured above: The stepping stones at Gibson Mill (Photo credit: Paul Norris)

After crossing the stream it’s another long climb through the woods before we reach Heptonstall. Unfortunately, the route doesn’t take us past the church or through the charming cobbled streets of the main village, but I’d seriously recommend a visit if you’ve never been before.

The good news for me is that I know there’s another checkpoint at the top of the climb and it usually has lots of jelly babies. When we arrive I’m not disappointed. Both my mouth and bumbag are quickly refilled.

5649663467_f7bc1195f9_b.jpgPictured above: The church of St Thomas in Heptonstall (Photo credit)

From here we continue to follow the Calderdale Way (in reverse) until we reach Blackshaw Head, before descending back down the valley towards Burnley road. This downhill section of the course, through Jumble Hole Clough, is my favourite by far. I always feel like I’ve accidentally stumbled onto the set of The Hobbit and I’m being chased through the woods by an army of Orcs. This area forms the old boundary between Yorkshire and Lancashire. So if I do happen to spot any Orcs then they’ll probably arrive from Tod’Mordor’- the dark side of the valley 😉 Perhaps these feelings are heightened further because my tiny companions look just like hairy hobbits, especially Gav, who could easily be used as a body double for Bilbo Baggins. Jokes aside, this is a magical part of the Calder Valley. A secret sanctuary of flora and fauna which exudes tranquility and calm.

14760013922_54b6b9f65f_bPictured above: The remains of Old Staups Mill, Jumble Hole Clough (Photo credit)

My favourite descent is swiftly met by my favourite checkpoint. It’s like an Aladdin’s cave stacked full of sugary and savoury treats. There’s so much choice that we have to stop for couple of minutes just to make sure we don’t miss out on anything delicious. I’m offered a coffee on arrival and I’m very, VERY tempted to say yes but decide it won’t be the easiest thing to drink on the steep climb towards Stoodley Pike. Instead I grab a beef pate sandwich and another monster slab of tiffin (rocket fuel!). I chuckle to myself as I spot a pile of beef dripping sandwiches and wonder how many other races in the world offer this kind of food halfway round!?! I’m just waiting for the year that Gav (the herbivore) eats one by mistake!

Pictured above: My favourite checkpoint near Callis Bridge (Photos courtesy of Nick Ham)

The climb to Stoodley is the longest and steepest ascent in the race but today Gav is making it look easy. I exchange glances with Karl and we wonder if he’s on performance enhancing drugs or whether he really did eat a beef dripping sandwich by mistake. Either way he’s got far too much energy so I put him back on his lead, just in case he tries to run off and leave us. Besides, in another 2 minutes the KGB (Karl, Gav & Ben) will need to be camera ready for SportSunday so we can pose for team photos. It feels a bit like Groundhog Day because every year the lovely Laura and David Bradshaw stand in the same place taking images. The only difference being the weather, and today we’ve been very fortunate.

HEB 1_0002 (1).jpgPictured above: With the legend Karl Gray (C) and Mad Legs Mulholland (R) (Photo courtesy of SportSunday)

“THERE IS NOWHERE TO HIDE ON THE KILLER STEPS. IT’S DEATH OR GLORY

Although the route doesn’t travel directly past Stoodley Pike, Calder Valley’s most famous landmark dominates the skyline from start to finish. Very rarely does it disappear from sight and it looks impressive from every angle. The monument is almost within touching distance as we reach the summit of the climb but we immediately turn left and head in the opposite direction towards Erringden Moor. A few years ago we got lost in the mist whilst crossing the moor but thankfully there’s no chance of that happening today. Gav leads the way and within minutes we begin to quickly descend through Broadhead Clough towards checkpoint 4. This marks the point where the 21 mile route leaves the 15. In the past I’ve been sorely tempted to switch direction and just complete the shorter race. However, today I’m feeling good and another piece of tiffin helps persuade me to carry on.

4703293289_6e90bd9c21_b.jpgPictured above: Stoodley Pike standing tall and proud. The Hebden route can be seen in the top right hand corner of the image (Photo credit)

In my opinion, the climb out of Turvin Clough to the top of the valley is the crux of the race. After 15 miles, it separates the men from the boys. My legs feel heavy and I’m beginning to tire. Unfortunately for me there is nowhere to hide on the ‘killer steps’ – it’s death or glory. Survival mode kicks in and I’m forced to dig deep. I know once this climb is over I can make it to the finish. It’s a huge mental achievement. Gav skips up them effortlessly and I just try and hang on to the back of him. I can hear Karl behind me trying to do the same. Surprisingly, at the top I actually feel ok. In fact, I’ve not only survived them but I’ve somehow discovered a second wind. I decide it’s a good time to give Gav a taste of his own medicine so I push the pace to the next checkpoint. I think it’s the thought of more tiffin that spurs me on.

Steps of death.jpg
Pictured above: The ‘killer’ steps (Photo courtesy of Brian Fisher)

The route briefly rejoins the Calderdale Way (Leg 1) before descending sharply down towards Cragg Vale. Then, just before we hit the main road we turn once more, back uphill to Hollin Hey Wood and the final ascent. Now, as much as I hate the killer steps, they don’t even begin to compare with how I feel about this climb. It absolutely fills me with dread. I can’t EVER remember enjoying it and I ALWAYS struggle to run up it without wanting to stop. But not today. Today I’m determined to put my demons to rest as I prepare to launch one final attack. I take a deep breath and give it everything I’ve got left in the tank. It’s very rare that I ever run faster than Gav on a climb so I must be going well. You can imagine my relief and excitement as I sprint the final few steps to reach the top. It’s only taken me 6 YEARS to finally conquer it! Thank God it’s all downhill from here.

I check my watch as we begin to descend and I know we’re on for a sub-3 hour finish. I’m happy with that. We cross the line in 2:56, just 3 minutes outside of the record. Not bad considering all the time we spent pausing for food.

Strava | Photos 1 | Photos 2 | Results

The only way to finish a good run at the Hebden is to eat, shower and then eat some more. So I kick off the post-race celebrations with pie and peas (Yorkshire style), mint sauce on top and not a slice of beetroot in sight (take note Lancastrians). Apologies to Caroline Harding who has to witness me eating inhaling it in less than 20 seconds. After a (very) brief pause it’s straight on to the rhubarb crumble, countless mugs of tea and finally, all washed down with some glasses of mulled wine. I think at this point you can safely say I’ve got my money’s worth from the entry fee. Unfortunately the quality of the showers aren’t quite on par with the standard of the refreshments. I can confirm that the cold water does nothing to help revive Gav’s #PRP!

IMG_2510.JPGPictured above: The amusing race report in the Halifax Courier

kgb.jpgPictured above: The KGB (From L to R – in that order) with the wonderful Carole Engel (post-race).

So there you have it – the full Hebden experience. If you, like me, are a fan of running, eating, and spending a day on the hills with other like-minded people, then this is the event for you. But be warned – this race sells out quickly and there are only a limited amount of places available for both the 15 and 21 mile challenges. Keep an eye on SiEntries for the 2018 edition of the Hebden and other LDWA events.

Finally, I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks and appreciation to Alan, Carole and their amazing team for all their hard work and organisation. Without you it wouldn’t happen and it certainly wouldn’t be the same. See you again next year!

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