SALLY FAWCETT: Run Diaries iv

This month, Sally deals with the transition from trail to fell by throwing herself into a host of new experiences, alongside re-jigging fundamentals such as training volume and race approach.

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The saying “a change is as good as a rest” is certainly ringing true for my running at the moment.

When your focus has been on one race and that comes and goes you are left in a bit of a training/running void. This is what I found after the Trail World Championships. The foot niggle seems to have plateaued and is now manageable, provided I’m sensible. I have found my weekly running limit of 50 miles as opposed to 70-80 miles, gone are the hard tarmac commuting miles, and I’m quite enjoying the extra half hour in bed that allows! I have filled that void with fell races, more specifically Lake District fell races, including the Classic of Ennerdale and Buttermere Horseshoe.

The Classics tend to be longer which suits me, there’s huge amounts of descending which is something I’m trying to improve, I’m that bad compared to the hard core, experienced runners I can only get better. There’s also huge ascent, with most starting with a great, steep 40+minute climb and that’s where my hill strength comes into it’s own. It really gets the heart rate up right from the get go.

The main difference on fell races is the navigation and route choice element, it takes courage in your conviction when you have studied the maps beforehand, chatted through options with club mates (helped by tapping into Dark Peak seasoned runners knowledge), worked out your compass barings on the maps, noted in your head the features to look for when that route choice is coming up, but when you get there the runners in front take another option. The easy thing to do would just be to follow, but who knows if they know the barings, route etc. or are just following. You have to stick to your guns and that takes some doing, you constantly doubt your choices. This is real racing with the brain – fell running has so many more elements than trail running and the focus required is maybe why I find it far more tiring. This happened a couple of times in Buttermere, once around Moss Force when most chose to contour. I was taking steeper direct line, involving dropping and crossing the stream and scrambling up the bank, of course there’s no paths to guide you, it really is a free for all. Although most went the other way, I could see a couple of Dark Peak and Helm Hill runners also doing this so stopped doubting myself and got on with it.

There was also the final descent of Mellbreak onto a track. The trail runner in me wanted to make the most of the runable miles below on the track, so I stuck to the main path. The guys in immediate eyesight stayed high and contoured through the heather. Getting to the track was playing to my strengths as I was able to beat them, and take another 3-4 places in the last couple of miles by taking the slightly longer route but on good running paths and road.


You get to the finish of these races and it’s such a nice atmosphere, everyone hangs around discussing route choices, which were the quickest line and what you’d do next time. The beauty is, you don’t just tick these races off and think that’s that one done, you want to come back and do better, there’s always scope to get better lines, descend better etc. so you are always left wanting for more. The friendly banter after is shared over a beer, you are given an inscribed half pint glass at the finish with beer at Buttermere. This is all in a farmers field or village hall includes runners of all abilities and ages, in fact the legend that is Joss Naylor had been out on the course supportingand  told me as he handed me my 4th female prize at Ennerdale “Come back next year but try harder!” Who am I to argue with Joss, so next year I’ll be back to try harder!


Next weekend is another first, I have done mini mountain marathons before but never the full thing. The Saunders is a 2 day event where you carry everything to get to an overnight mid camp starting from Grasmere. Simon and myself are in the Fairfield, Long score category, with 7 hours on Saturday and 5 hours running on Sunday to look forward to. It will be refreshing when distance is irrelevant, we won’t have any idea how far we’ve been as no gps watches are allowed, instead it will be good old map and compass to get to as many controls as possible in the time limits. Let’s hope my legs have recovered by then, as 2 days post Buttermere my quads feel like they’ve been through a shredder!’

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