Let Tom help you to
the Finish Line
Tom Skelton is a
performance coach. He has a background in
competitive running and a wealth of
Starting in April, Tom
is going to be there to support you
step-by-step through your training
and providing Run-Fit sessions.
Teaming up with
other runners is the best way to dip your
toe in if you're completely new to off-road
running. The Fell Running Association
website has links to clubs across the
country ' contact a local group for a
network of people ready to take you under
their wing and offer advice.
Next, prepare to
leave all expectations behind, as it will
take time to adjust to running over rough
grass, rocky paths, up sheer hillside tracks
and over streams, boulders and stiles.
Certainly do not expect your road times to
translate off-road. You may even find
yourself walking in places as you get used
to the new terrain. Try not to get too
frustrated. Stick with it and you will
quickly notice improvements.
Much as you will need
to practise powering up the hills,
negotiating the descents can be equally
difficult to master. Coming down steep
slopes can be unnerving, especially if the
ground feels unstable underfoot. Make sure
you watch where you place your feet and try
leaning into the descent this might go
against your natural reflexes, but will
actually reduce the strain placed on your
muscles. Strengthening your ankles and
quadriceps through cross-training (cycling
or hill-walking for example) and
leg-specific exercises can also help reduce
your risk of injury and soreness.
Remember: if in
doubt, contact the organiser beforehand.
A good pair of
shoes will be your most important piece of
kit - everyday road shoes simply won't cut
it on the rough terrain and sheer slopes,
especially in wet conditions. Look for
models that sport a lower heel (reducing the
risk of turning an ankle), have large studs
on the sole (adding grip) and a snug-fitting
Start building a
solid training base and take the first steps
towards achieving your run goals.
As the run
approaches, so does the start of your
training plan. It can be more than a little
daunting to imagine yourself at the Finish
Line of the run.
Before you begin
your training, we recommend you pay your
doctor a visit for a once over.
Everyone has days
when they just don't feel like getting out
to run ' days when the sofa, or the pub,
seem like a much more tempting option. But
if you're preparing for a run then you need
to find ways to stay motivated to ensure
your training stays on track. The next time
you struggle to get out of the door, follow
our top motivation tips'
Set a goal: Having a
target in mind for each run, even if it is
just to complete the whole thing without
walking, will deliver a sense of
accomplishment. Whether it's running a bit
further or faster than last time, or just
reaching a certain point, hitting a goal on
every run will help to stay motivated as you
work towards a bigger goal.
Run with friends:
You can't underestimate the social side of
running; it is one of the most common
reasons people start and carry on doing it.
Finding a local running club or gathering
some friends or colleagues to run with you
can make every session both easier and more
Keep track of your
progress: Completing a training log, or
using an online service to keep a record of
your runs, can really help to motivate you
to continue. By looking back at previous
entries, you'll remind yourself how far you
have come, which is sure to encourage you to
keep challenging yourself to give your best.
Remember the health
benefits: Don't forget that running is good
for you. Whether you're looking to lose
weight or improve your fitness, running
gives back what you put into it. It's also a
great stress buster thanks to the feel-good
endorphins produced during exercise.
Don't take the 'all
or nothing' approach: If you're short on
time or really not feeling up to a long
session, just go for a shorter run for
however long you feel you can spare.
Have something to
look forward to: A treat of some kind at the
end of your run is a great way to keep
yourself focused and ensure you give your
best until the end. It could be a good meal,
sitting down to watch your favourite TV show
or finishing your run somewhere with a great
Before the race:
Make sure your race number is visible at all
times. Try to avoid folding or covering your
race number - it needs to be seen by the
It is planned that
there will be a place where you can leave
your belongings and pick them up at the end
of the race. Make sure you follow the
instructions carefully and write your name
and race number clearly on your bag. Don't
give your bag to anyone other than friends,
family or the baggage staff.
Try not to bring any
valuables with you to the event. If anything
goes missing or you see anything suspicious,
make sure you report it to the nearest race
marshal or Police officer.
Listen out for
announcements in case any race details
change, for example if the start time is
delayed. In a large crowd it's the only way
the race organisers will be able to
communicate with you and you don't want to
miss anything important.
Plan your visits to
the toilet carefully as there are likely to
be queues near the start of the race.
Be aware of other
people around you as you warm up for the
race. If possible, pick an area away from
the crowd to stretch.
During the race:
Do not let friends who are not taking part in
the race run or cycle alongside you. It can
cause problems for the other runners and you
may be accused of having a pacer which is
banned at most races.
If you are running in
a group, be aware of people behind you who
may need to get past. Try to run in single
file rather than across the width of the
road. If you are overtaking someone else,
make sure you leave plenty of room before
you move across in front of them.
Try to avoid
stopping suddenly during the race. For
example if you need to tie your laces, move
towards the side of the road and find a safe
place to stop first.
Be aware of other
people at drinks stations, and take your
turn if there is a crowd. Avoid running out
in front of others to take your drink, and
only take as much as you need.
Use the bins
provided for empty water bottles. Other
runners might trip over them if they are are left
on the floor.
Listen carefully to
any instructions you are given by the race
Make sure you know
where your finish line is.
After the race: When
you cross the finish line, you will be
directed to an area where the marshals will
record your results, and remove any tags or
chips. Although you will probably be keen to
move on and get a drink, remember to wait
Remember to take all
your belongings and litter home with you.
You need a different
set of skills to run off-road.
varying terrain is completely different from
road-running. With the constantly changing
terrain, direction and elevation, you use
more muscles and change speed more often
than on a standard tarmac run, so you need
to know how to handle all the different
How to Run uphill:
Lean forward slightly into the gradient with
your whole body ' make sure you don't bend
at your waist.
Reduce your stride
length and take smaller, more frequent
steps, making sure you get up on your toes.
Pump your arms to
propel you uphill. Keep them bent at 90
degrees at the elbow.
How to run downhill:
Don't lean back and land heavily on your
heels to put the brakes on as this puts a
lot of strain on your hamstrings.
On gentle slopes,
lengthen your stride ' don't fight gravity.
If the slope is of a
medium gradient, lean forward slightly, keep
your knees soft, land on your heels and roll
through to your toes. Also, keep your arms
out wide to stabilise yourself.
If you're tackling a
really steep slope, run down in a wide
zigzag to lessen the gradient. If you start
to lose control then jump straight up in the
air to halt your momentum. Sounds like a
recipe for face-planting, but it slams your
When to walk uphill:
Don't let your ego stop you walking '
sometimes it's actually quicker to walk up a
steep slope than to attempt to run up it.
Walking also means you'll conserve energy.
Take big exaggerated
Keep your hands on
your thighs, just above your knees, and use
them to push off on each step. This
generates momentum and saves energy going
When to slide
downhill: Identify descents that can't be
run ' they might be on snow, on slippery,
mushy, leafy ground for example.
Crouch slightly and
lean back so your bottom is touching the
ground, and then start to half slide, half
run. Let your heels skid along the floor and
occasionally pedal your feet and run a few
steps to increase speed.
Don't head straight
down. Traverse in zigzags, as if you were
Keep your hands on
the ground slightly behind you to act as
How to keep your
footing: Spot hidden obstacles and uneven
ground early by keeping your eyes focused
four or five metres in front of you.
Look for footprints,
tracks or flattened patches of ground where
other runners have been before and follow
If there are no
tracks you can follow, always look for the
largest and most solid object to land on.