Fell running is a traditional British sport that is less about speed and more about getting participants to become accustomed to unpredictable terrain and weather. Where trail running offers clear paths to follow, fell running often doesn’t have marked routes, but still requires runners to race between two checkpoints. For the most part, it’s the climbing that sets fell running apart from other forms of running.
With its central location in England, the Peak District offers easily accessible scenery and trails for those interested in fell running. The distances range from 5 to 30 miles, with the terrain varying from well-surfaced trails to uplands. All-day and all-night race events are popular with fell runners, and during the summer, shorter races that attract locals are prevalent.
The Peak District also has several local running clubs that field racers during events, in addition to the good number of runners who are unaffiliated. Classic races include the High Peak Marathon, an 42-mile endurance race that invites teams of four, the Marsden to Edale race, and the Edale Skyline race.
Most races that happen in the Peak District feature well-marked routes that traverse varied terrain. For the hardened fell racers in need of more trying experiences, some events have no defined paths, which means runners have to figure out their way. In such instances, it’s always advisable to study a map to get familiar with the region. Additionally, it helps to be prepared for a change in weather as the hilltops can get very windy.
Experienced trail runners such as Richard Mallett understand that to enjoy fell running, some level of practice is required in running up hills and navigating descents, which can be equally challenging.
For individuals interested in exploring the Peak District, the following areas should be considered:
- The Roaches: The full route is about nine miles (14 kilometres). Once a runner commits to it, it’s hard to change. The wind is a factor, so it’s advisable to dress appropriately.
- Lathkill Dale: This site is a designated nature reserve (courtesy of Natural England) that has fields, meadows and a limestone valley to run across, altogether providing a route that’s seven miles (11 kilometres) long.
- Grindleford Gallop – Eyam: This is the site of the Grindleford Gallop and the Eyam half marathon, both popular races, and the area has a variety of routes that runners can explore.
- Edale-Castleton-Hope: A full loop around the three towns adds up to over 20 miles (32 kilometres) of natural scenery that is pleasant to view during a run. The Edale Skyline and Red Bull Steeplechase are among the races held in this area.
Outside the Peak District, fell runners in the UK have other options to consider, including government-funded trails that are well maintained and marked clearly on maps. The 15 National Trails in England and Wales are a good example of these. While most of these trails are more than 100-miles (160 kilometres) long, runners can engage in the distance of their choice. These trails pass through towns and villages, so runners can be confident in the availability of facilities on their runs.
Two of these trails are:
- The Ridgeway National Trail: Considered one of the country’s most ancient routes, the Ridgeway has many prehistoric sites along its 87-mile (140 kilometres) route. The terrain is not too steep, while the scenery is open countryside with vast views.
- Pennine Way National Trail: This is the oldest and perhaps toughest trail in England, stretching from the Peak District to Scotland for a total distance of 268 miles (431 kilometres). It has some of the best upland scenery, navigable hills, and moorland terrain that provides a good workout.