I'm looking to challenge myself more than just running and wanted to know if there were any specifics in how to begin trail / fell running (In this case running up hills / mountains).

Is there anything specific about becoming a fell runner which I should know about, or is it simply "Find an elevated trail and run it" ?

5 Answers 5


A few random tips from many years of mountain running:

  • There is no shame in walking part or all the way up a long hill. The best runners in the world do it.
  • Pick destinations that excite you, even if they're a little harder to get to or feel slightly outside of your comfort zone.
  • Always bring a headlamp.
  • Always bring a lightweight windbreaker. The first serious symptom of overexertion is an inability to stay warm.
  • Always bring an assortment of snacks (50 calories per hour, assortment of fatty, sweet, and salty options).
  • Running with friends is always more fun (not to mention safer).
  • If you're driving to your destination, leave some cozy clothes, water, and a big snack in the car. You will thank yourself.
  • If you invest in one piece of gear, make it a solid running pack. The Salomon S-Lab Adv Skin 5Set is (in my opinion) the best thing on the market by a wide margin.
  • Don't worry too much about running technique. It'll come naturally with practice.
  • Have fun!!!

In general there is nothing better than what you said: Go select a hill and start running. If you have (possibly experienced) company all the better. There is one point that you should keep in mind though: Running technique.

On flat ground technique is already important for efficiency and to go easy on the joints. This is even more important when running down. You need to take care to always run on your forefeet and make ground contact with legs slightly bent, otherwise knee and/or hip problems will ensue. This is especially difficult, as one usually starts a run at the lowest point, so in the end there is a descent. Therefore you must always reach the top with energy reserves for the final descent. For me this is very difficult, as a "summit" is always a great motivation, I need to actively break me down. Another option is to run from a high point or to a place where there is some sort of transportation down.

  • 2
    Adding to this: depending on your geographic location, it might be prudent to pick dates and times to run which you would expect the least amount of standard foot traffic on any trail you intend to run. A crowded trail can lead to increased risk of injury and even more so if you're not an experienced trail runner.
    – bhilgert
    Commented Mar 16, 2017 at 18:53

Adding on to the other excellent answers, here would be a few of my additional tips:

  • Try to pay more attention to the difficulty of a hiking trail before committing to running it. Consider working your way up by running on forest service roads and flat trails before moving to more mountainous trails.
  • Trail etiquette is even more important. Announce your presence in safe locations when you want to overtake a slower group of hikers; don't run full tilt around corners.
  • That there's no shame in walking cannot be overstated enough. Always keep in mind that "getting to the summit is optional; getting back is mandatory." This brings us to...
  • Give some thought to how quickly a minor problem can escalate. A twisted ankle, blisters, running out of water, or an afternoon thunderstorm can be very problematic if you find yourself miles from the trailhead with minimal gear. Always let someone know where you'll be and when you plan to return!
  • One piece of gear that I highly recommend is an ultra-light wind-breaker such as the Patagonia Houdini or Mountain Hardwear Ghost Lite. These jackets pack down incredibly small (I've fit mine in the sewn pocket on a hand-bottle) and provide just enough protection to keep you moving if adverse weather rolls in.
  • I like to bring along a couple Katadyn Micropur Purification Tablets on a run. Much lighter than carrying a second bottle of water, work reasonably fast, and can help prevent running out of water (provided that you can find a stream).
  • Consider getting shoes designed specifically for trail running. In comparison to road runners / sneakers, trail running shoes generally offer more stability, more impact protection, aggressive tread, and stickier rubber. Again, breaking a toe or a slip-and-fall can be more consequential when you're running in the mountains.

The basis is indeed "find a trail and run it". Or for fell running "found a summit and run up and down it". I like to stress this first of all, because all the well-meant (and very sound!) advice often makes it sound harder than it really is.

In addition to the other great answers, which brought you a lot of very useful information, I'd like to add some more specific English aspects, because that is where your profile puts you and because you also asked about fell running.

  • Tie your shoes. And tie them well. In the UK you have a lot of mud. Sometimes liquid mud, sometimes sticky mud. You'll learn to be an expert in the different kinds of mud, but often it is hard to tell the kind before you actually step in. At one point I sank waist deep while running in the Peak District. You don't want to dig out a shoe at that point.

  • Especially in the mountains, learn to navigate. You have lots of clouds and fog and grey weather. You can get really lost in thick fog. And descending in the wrong valley can easily add a few hours to your trip.

  • Look for the grassy lines when descending. Uphill the shortest way is usually the fastest. Downhill it is usually a grassy line, even if it is a lot longer and not following any path. Descending on grass you can really forget all breaks and feel the childlike feeling of yieeehaaaa. It is an amazing feeling. If you fall you were going too fast. If you don't fall you can still go faster.

  • At first, stick to paths or close to them, also on access land. When running off-trail it is easy to misjudge the ground underfoot and to loose your bearings. Once you start to know the trails a bit and have some experience there, head for the other parts. Running in that boggy, swampy, marshy ground that the UK is so fond of, can be painfully slow.


Besides the good answers above, think about your breathing technique and step length.

First, adjust your breathing, when running uphill short distances you can increase your breathing speed (e.g. once per 2 steps instead of 3 or 4). Don't do this for too much distance. If the distance going uphill is too far:

Second, adjust your step length... you still can use the same pace, but make shorter steps, so short, you run uphill with the same amount of energy as you would go on a normal slope. In this case, don't change your breathing speed. When you are adjusted to this, you can increase your step length slightly.

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