Starting out in hill running
If you're used to getting off the beaten track already - perhaps hiking or mountain biking for example - you will already be familiar with the required safety and navigational skills. If you don't feel confident, then team up with more experienced off road runners to start with, so you can pick up the necessary skills in safety.
As well as more skills, off road running requires more fitness to get yourself up and down hills and across the more challenging terrain. A 10K time of 40 minutes on road will not translate into anything remotely sensible off road, where you may have to contend with slippery grass, heather, mud and/or rocky paths combined with hill climbs. Remember that hot or wet weather can radically alter surfaces.
Trail running in Pembrokeshire © Sarah Stirling
Don't forget you may have to set aside time to stop, get the map out and work out where you are going, too. So on the whole, assume you will be out in the hills a lot longer than you would be on the roads.
It can be difficult to navigate in off road terrain such as hills and forests. Added to this, you may find yourself up high, exposed to the elements and wet and cold. So it is essential to learn to navigate and take the right clothing with you - on longer runs take a warm layer in case of an emergency.
If in doubt about how to get started, your best bet is to find out about a local club to go along on a few runs. You will pick up all that you never realised you would need to know in a sociable environment. All clubs worth their salt will take you under their wing and introduce you to the basics.
Helene is a highly respected, successful, world-class fell runner. She was overall winner of the 2000 Western Isles challenge, beating all the men. In one summer she completed all 3 classic British 24hr rounds (Bob Graham, Welsh Paddy Buckley and Scottish Ramsay) and in 1992 conquered the 'Dragon's Back'a 220-mile 5-day race the length of Wales.
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