Training. 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 knowledge. Starting in April, Tom is going to be there to support you step-by-step through your training and providing Run-Fit sessions. Contact Tom click here

Getting Started

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.

Technique

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.

Shoes

A good pair of running 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 upper.

Training Advice

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 Start Training

Before you begin your training, we recommend you pay your doctor a visit for a once over.

Top Motivation Tips

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 enjoyable.

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 view.

Race Etiquette

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 race marshals.

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 marshals.

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 your turn.

Remember to take all your belongings and litter home with you.

Off-road Running Skills

You need a different set of skills to run off-road.

Running across 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 scenarios.

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 brakes on.

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 strides.

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 uphill.

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 skiing.

Keep your hands on the ground slightly behind you to act as rudders.

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 those.

If there are no tracks you can follow, always look for the largest and most solid object to land on.