Category Archives: FRA-AS

The Fell Runners Association explains race categories in its Rules for competition (pdf) document, but a relevant summary can be found below.

Category A
Should average not less than 50 metres climb per kilometre.
Should not have more than 20% of the race distance on road.
Should be at least 1.5 kilometres in length.

Category S
A category “S” (short) race is 10 kilometres or less.

Steel Fell, Lake District, Monday, August 7, 2017

AS / 5km / 400m

Aaron Gourley

My legs feel like jelly…in fact they don’t feel like they’re mine anymore as I hit the road for the final chase into the finish. There’s a Keswick AC runner up ahead whom I’d eyed as a potential catch to gain a vital place in this short but incredibly tough little fell race but my legs have other ideas. My brain can’t decide what to do with them, they don’t feel real.

32 minutes earlier, I’d been on this path heading up the hill to the start of the off-road climb up Steel Fell. From the farmer’s field at West Head Farm just off the A591 beyond Thirlmere, over 70 runners gathered – Keswick, Ambleside, Helm Hill, Bowland and Kendal are some of the vests synonymous with fell running that are donning the mostly lithe, athletic and clearly fit for the fells, runners.

I stood cutting a lone figure in my purple Striders vest – the Lone Strider – tipping up for this summer fling as I happened to be on a week holiday in the area.  The fee? free for 3 miles of fell running fun.

The premise of this race is easy – wheeze your way to the top of Steel Fell, run around the summit cairn then leg it as fast as you can back down the same way. How hard could that be?

With heads down and hands on knees we make our way up the steep slope on a beautiful summer evening. Every now and again I look up to see what progress I’m making and to see if the front runners are on their way back down yet – they’re not! How far is this race again? Surely they must be heading back, I’ve been climbing for what seems like ages!

Eventually I reach the plateau where the gradient levels off. Now I can see up ahead the summit cairn and turn around point. I can also see the front runners on their way back, they’re like gazelles leaping effortlessly across the rough ground.

With the field well stretched out now, I make my way slowly to the turn around point before the fun of the downhill starts. There’s about half a mile of easy running before the gradient drops. I run to this point, take a moment to savour the view of Thirlmere and the valley stretching out in the late evening sun, then, with a sharp intake of breath, hurl myself down the slope.

I’ve eyes on a couple of people who I think I can catch. My legs are pounding and arms are held aloft to keep balance as I pass two guys taking tentative steps. Then I spy another target, which I manage to take. My legs are really taking a battering now but there’s not far to go and I’m enjoying the experience.

Then up ahead is the Keswick runner, I think I might have this place but it’s going to be a battle. Back onto the road and the battle is lost before it begins. My only hope is no-one catches me from behind as I try to maintain my form for the final stretch to the finish.

Job done but my legs have took a serious battering from this little beauty of a race.

The Natural Ability Fell Race, Allenheads, Sunday, October 16, 2016

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Steve Ellis

fell-race-oct2016At my age I should know better! Well perhaps that’s true but new challenges and experiences are always attractive. This was to be a first Fell race for both
myself and Mark (Payne). I had read that this race was suitable for inexperienced and experienced fell runners alike, requiring no special
equipment, and this had persuaded us to give it a go.

Also it was cheap (£9) and set in a beautiful part of the country, the North Pennines. Camilla was
initially to be the designated driver but had to pull out at the eleventh hour with a cold and fortunately Diane(Watson) was able to step in as we negotiated our way along the Wear valley to Allenheads.

The forecast was bleak with rain due at 11am exactly matching the race start
time! Still these things are seldom accurate and anyway with our gung-ho
attitude proudly pinned to our purple attire we arrived in good time. Parking
was easy and we picked up our numbers. The temperature had plummeted and showed
6 degrees on the cars display. We also noted how the wind had picked up and was
blowing the tree tops. Discussions now concentrated on what to wear! Mark and
Diane chose to wear tights and jackets. I had no such choice as I had only come
with shorts, a decision I came to regret and my jacket is only
shower-proof…in other words porous! Diane again came to the rescue lending me
a suitable jacket.

After a warm up run we assembled for the start at about 10;50 and right on-cue
the rain announced its arrival. Ironically the guest race starter was ex-BBC
weather lady Hannah Bayman! So at 11 exactly, we set off. The first 4k took us
along the valley tracks, lanes and bumpy fields until we reached the river
itself. So far it had been “undulating” a word often used and greatly
misunderstood by runners! In this race it had been mainly flat with a few
inclines and stiles to negotiate. However things were now to change

At about 4k we had to cross the river. It was about 8 inches deep and freezing
cold. If your feet weren’t wet so far they would be now. Then up a steep road
section which led to us crossing another road and out onto the Fells. Ohh the
glorious sight of a 1 kilometre hill now stretched out before us and into the
teeth of a gathering gale! Most runners had now slowed to a walk as they
battled against the elements and the force of gravity. I tried to jog- walk my
way to the top but it was very hard going. The heavy rain was now
machine-gunning into my face and pinging my legs.(is this putting you off I
wonder?) However the thoughts you hang on to drive you forward. For example..”
come on now, we are over half way and its only a cross-country distance and we
are nearly at the highest point!! ” etc….well…I bet you talk to yourself
too! And so I crested the hill and alighted onto another rough puddled track
and the battle with the wind really began! It felt like someone was pushing you
backwards at times as it reached 40mph. It was also at this time I noticed how
cold my legs were! I guess they were moving by default and driven by idiocy!
Still the stoic runner battled forward and soon reached the very top of the
course and began the long descent for the finish.

As I gathered pace my legs warmed up and all was well and positive. The idea of
this being a race amused me a little as thus far I had only passed people who
were walking or standing still! Just then a lady from North Shields Poly
breezed past me and soon was 50 or so metres ahead. What! I can’t have that! As
we reached the road at the bottom of the hill I tried to keep her in sight and
crossing the road we descended on to the bumpy fields and stiles again
(remember those?). I now noticed that I was gaining a little on her as she
seemed less happy on this surface. Detecting this chink I her armour I got to
within 10 metres of her as we ran down the final bit of tarmac and onto the
final field. We could now see the finish in the far corner and battle
commenced. I bound past her and finished a couple of seconds ahead. So much for
it not being a race! Just as in harrier league fixtures the race is what you
make of it.

As I finished a small reception committee greeted you with “well dones” and
pats on the back as well as a goody bag, water and a sponsors t-shirt. Amazing
for such a cheap race and even more generous when you realise the race is named
after the wonderful charity it is organised by and for. The Natural Ability
fell race supports adults with special needs in enriching their lives.
Wonderful! And the marshals. My goodness what a task on such a day! The whole
race experience was fantastic, and put my bit of whining to shame!

After trudging back to the car to change ( Mark and Diane found much more
suitable places) we reconvened in the Allenheads Hotel bar for the prizes and a
welcome sandwich soup and coffee. Perhaps none of us had troubled the prize
givers but we had won in so many other ways. I personally found the challenge
tough but it didn’t defeat me and I would certainly go back! Next time fully
equipped for all eventualities. Don’t second guess the fells and the weather!

So far this year I have been chasing the clock in my attempts to post PBs and
tick off targets and I was a little bored with it all if I am truthful. One of
the reasons I fancied this race was to get away from all that and discover new
challenges. I can honestly say I did not check my time once until well after I
had finished. In some ways it is an irrelevance as the real challenge is the
course, the elements and occasionally the chance to chase down a shirt!

The real winners anyway were the organisers and marshalls and of course the
charity. Finally, as always the company and chat on the day with fellow
Striders is always a pleasure and this was no different, so thanks to Mark and
especially Diane who drove us there and back.. my turn to drive next time…now
I wonder where that will be?

Natural Ability Fell Race, Monday, May 4, 2015

AS / 6.2m / 1148ft

Jo Porter

Finding myself unexpectedly at a bit of a loose end on Bank Holiday Monday due to it being good fishing and motorcycling weather I made a last minute decision to have a ride over to Allenheads and give this race a go. I was a little daunted by it, not being used to fell races, but had read the race information after Paul mentioned it on Wednesday at Striders and it looked okay for beginners.

Arriving at the village I saw it was pretty busy, I wondered if there would be EOD’s left. I parked in the car park they had organised and walked the very short distance to race registration. I paid my £10, took my number and a friendly marshal showed me the race route on a map. He pointed out where the hills were, in particular one steep climb just before the halfway point. I was pretty nervous by then, most of the people around me were obviously seasoned fell runners, without any fat on them, looking like they could run forever. The marshal however assured me it was do-able, fully marshalled and taped and that full waterproofs didn’t need to be carried.

It started at 11am, as advertised. I’d guess there were about 120 runners. I started almost at the back, in short sleeves having ditched my jacket behind a wall before the start as the sun had come out. It was a very slight uphill start on a stony lane, but nothing too steep. Pretty soon we were crossing a couple of fields, the going was soggy underfoot. I’d worn new road shoes as I needed the cushioning, having had a problem with my foot recently. I soon realised that sadly they wouldn’t be clean for long as I squelched across the boggy bits and slid in the odd bit of mud. It was undulating with a good mixture of surfaces, the occasional stile and a stream to cross, or fall in for some! I was enjoying it, listening to the ground nesting birds and the water rushing down the hillside after heavy rain the day before. Shortly before we crossed the main road there was a ford to get over, which meant my feet got absolutely soaked, at least it cleaned the mud off!

Then the climb started… Suffice to say it took me over 9 minutes to cover the half a mile to 3 miles, all the people around me were walking up what seemed like an endless hill. For fit people I guess it was very run able, on a good clear path through the heather, but the gradient was beyond my running capabilities. The top couldn’t come soon enough. We were then rewarded by fabulous views as we contoured along the hillside, I think the next part was overall pretty flat, passing a quarry, along a pleasant stony track, until we reached the road again. The marshals at the road crossing assured me that it was all downhill from there. They were right, it was a lovely downhill initially on grass then the final bit on the road into the village. I tried to sprint for what I thought was the finish line, and managed to catch someone up who I’d been behind for a couple of miles, but on getting there I was directed up another track to the left, where the finish flag could be seen around 50 yards away. A final push and I was finished. I felt like I’d ran far further than 5.7miles, and was glad of the water in the goody bag. I’d taken about 65 minutes, so it was far from fast. There were also a few packets of sweets, some crisps and a chocolate bar in the goody bag. Only a few finished after me, and after clapping them in I walked down into the village and had a nice lunch at a nearby café, sitting in front of a log burning stove. They’d put a barbecue on at the village pub, where they held the prize giving, it smelled lovely as I walked past to go back to the car.

Garmin shows 5.73 miles and 782 feet of ascent, a great, well organised run in lovely unspoilt countryside, definitely worth doing next year. Proceeds go to a charity which seems to do some great work with special needs children.

Broughton Woods Wobble, North York Moors, Sunday, April 12, 2015

AS / 4.5m / 1220ft

Mike Bennett

3 Esk valley usual suspects, Jan Young, Danny Lim and Mike Bennett made it to a damp windy Clay bank car park to enter on the day for this event, another in the Esk Valley series, rescheduled from Feb. Only 55 runners turning up on the day.

The course may be quite short but had all the ingredients of a testing fell race. The climb being the longest uphill section on the Cleveland hills then a mixture of heather tracks, mud, granite slab paths, and rocky descents. Scenery was great if you dared take your eyes off the track for more than a few seconds without taking a tumble. Marshalls on route at critical points, course was reasonably well marked but a couple of sections where you could miss the route. I did manage to stay on the course this week so avoiding any time penalty.

A fast downhill muddy finish, fell shoes tested to the limit.

Jan was 10th female finisher and came away with wine, I managed first in age group with Danny close behind.

Mike Jan Danny


Pos Name Club Cat Time
1 Cameron Taylor Esk Valley Fell MJ/1/50/300 39:46
9 Kay Neesam New Marske Harriers F45/1/50/350 44:51
16 Mike Bennett M60/1/50/248 50:12
18 Danny Lim M0/7/42/135 51:31
46 Jan Young F60/2/48/390 61:20

55 finishers

Dale Head, Rosthwaite, Saturday, September 20, 2014

4.5M 2215' AS

Dougie Nisbet

Join the queue.We crossed over the M6 and continued west to Keswick. It was around this point I realised that my Walshes were not sitting on the back seat but were in fact sitting next to the back door back in Durham where I’d cleverly placed them so that I couldn’t possibly forget them when we left the house. A quick detour via George Fisher was required, where I said I wanted a pair of Fell Shoes, size 43, and I needed to walk out the door in them in 10 minutes. This was becoming a habit. I tried on a nice pair of yellow La Sportiva Bushidos that felt just fine so I kept them on and made my way to the counter. “That’ll be £110 please”, she said nicely. My jaw clanged on the counter. This was about twice as much as I’ve ever paid for a running shoe. But they were a very nice yellow colour and I didn’t have any time to spare so I handed over the dosh.

The Borrowdale Show has had several years of bad luck with the weather and this entirely volunteer run event was now financially threatened. Roberta had signed us up for a couple of tickets earlier in the year via the Indiegogo website. This scheme along with some sponsorship appears to have saved the show and this year the weather was looking fantastic. As it turned out we had bags of time and I was standing staring absent mindedly at some carved sticks when the announcement came over the PA: “Would anyone wishing to enter the Fell Race please make their way to the cattle truck.”

Ah, fell racing! I’d missed this. It was good to be back! It’s not a proper race unless you’re filling in an FRA entry form in the back of a cattle truck. I found myself at the front of a queue of 1 and was given my number which was, oh excellent, 1! I’ve never been number 1 before. No pressure then. I had a look at the race details and noted it was an AS. Roberta noticing the worried frown that passed across my otherwise tranquil features asked, “What does AS mean?”. “Er, well basically, short and brutal. Usually.”. I paid some closer attention to where the race actually went and noticed that it marched right up to the top of the hill, the hill being Dale Head, then marched right down again. This wasn’t looking such a clever idea the week before the Loch Ness marathon.

Surrounded by Borrowdale vests ... no wonder I'm looking nervous.

The race briefing had an unusual twist that I hadn’t come across before. To check everyone who had registered was actually starting we all had to shout out our numbers in sequence. No. 26 having registered mere minutes earlier, must’ve decided not to bother, possibly having noted the lithe mass of sinew that was assembled for the race. I was having serious doubts myself – there were no tourists here. This was a serious bunch.

What’s to say about the race itself, apart from it was slate-shatteringly hard. It was hot and I struggled, feeling drained, weak and puzzled, much as I felt in last week’s LDMT. I should’ve been feeling fantastic as I approached the end of my marathon taper but I felt terrible. I stopped for a good drink both ways at the Dalehead Tarn beck (the ‘water stop’ in the Anniversary Waltz) and with some great encouragement from the marshalls managed to get round.

The weather was so warm that there was no need to fumble for post-race jerseys or shelter. I got a cup of tea and found a quiet patch of grass and we just sat quietly for a while soaking up the atmosphere of the show. It was a brutal little race and I should’ve treated it with far more respect than I did. I guess if you want to race well in a race that involves running up hills, then you need to train by running up hills rather than along railway lines. Clearly just buying expensive shoes and wearing the number 1 wasn’t going to cut the mustard.

Ascent of Dale Head.

Roseberry Topping Fell Race, North York Moors, Wednesday, September 10, 2014

AS / 2.3km / 217m

Jan Young

After you lot pounded thirteen miles at the GNR, I thought I’d buck the trend with 2.3k. Scoff not, that short stretch climbs 217m. Picture that angle; can someone do the maths for me?

It’s steep! But it’s a very tolerant Topping; allows you to walk up/ climb up/ cling on to it’s grassy, rocky bits. On summitting, kiss the graffiti obelisk, turn around and throw yourself into mid air, leaping athletically over the heads of still ascending runners. As your feet are now moving far too fast for your brain to consider route choices, many follow blindly and wish they’d practised 50 degree upright stance before. No injuries; oldest competitor, seventy five, in Bingley vest.

Prize giving equally entertaining and challenging; organiser Dave invited anyone not awarded prize to come forward and claim spares. Always results in embarrassing ‘scrum’. Third lady, Lucy- DCH/DFR, yes I’ve named you, dived into the fray clutching her three bottles of wine, emerging with sweets! She did share them! All part of the fun, camaraderie and challenge.

Brough Law, Sunday, March 9, 2014

AS / 5M / 1250'

Geoff Davis

A Race Too Far?

Against our better judgement we decided to break one of our long established principles and run two races in one weekend. If we’re involved in a race there’s only one way we know how to run and that’s to give it 100% from start to finish, aim to be as high up the field as you can and only drop out if someone shoots you! This puts a certain amount of strain on the body and we’ve found over the years that our bodies tend to complain if they are asked to take the strain too often – like twice in two days. But you never learn and after what we thought would be an easy x/c on Saturday we found ourselves heading off to do a shortish fell race on the Sunday! Mike Hughes joined us on the drive north to the Ingram Valley in Northumberland.

There was a record turnout of over 120 for Will Horsley’s Brough Law Fell Race – a worthy reward for all of Will’s efforts. Susan and I had run the race on a number of occasions so we knew what to expect. It starts with a very steep climb and although this is mercifully short it continues with a further long climb only slightly less steep. It only took a few paces uphill for me to realise that I should have stayed at home. My chest seemed to be saying “Oi! You had us doing this yesterday and last Saturday and the Saturday before that and the Saturday before that – enough is enough – slow down or we’re not playing ball!”

What can you do when you’re delivered such an ultimatum? I slowed down. It was galling to see others pass me who normally never do but I could do little about it on that long climb. Things picked up a bit as the climb eased off and I was able to stretch out along the lovely grassy track amid beautiful Cheviot scenery. Runners stopped passing me and I began to pick a few off. There was more ‘technical’ terrain here than at yesterday’s Wallsend x/c with some nice grassy descents – just what I like!

So, all was not lost, and although one or two rivals finished ahead of me I wasn’t too disappointed and I was sure I could shake off the three injury niggles I’d managed to aggravate! Mike wasn’t far behind me and he had enjoyed very much his first fell race in the Cheviots. Susan had a good race as well, in spite of taking a tumble coming downhill near the end and being annoyed by other runners taking short cuts when Will had warned against such tactics before the start of the race.

A good morning out, home in time to see us give the Welsh a good hiding and a relaxing evening with the injuries stretched, rolled & iced. However, no more two race weekends – until the next time!

Hillforts and Headaches, Rothbury, Wednesday, January 1, 2014

AS / 3M / 1020'

Geoff Davis

On New Year’s Day Mudwoman and I switched to fell running mode (as per the last 16 New Year’s Days!) and headed to Rothbury to run ‘Hillforts & Headaches’ (Hillforts ‘cos you run over and finish on an ancient hillfort & headaches ‘cos it’s New Year’s Day!) Anyway, the race is quite short, just three miles, but those miles are practically all up hill and quite steep, with over 1,000’ of climb, earning the race an ‘A’ classification from the FRA.

The whole thing is quite low key with a field of 73 runners assembling outside the Newcastle Arms in the centre of Rothbury for the ‘off’. The pain starts almost immediately with the first hill just across the river from the town. This goes on for about a mile and half and those suffering from ‘headaches’ soon begin to feel the pain. Phil Green (NFR & Heaton) was one of those this year but his form is such that I was still unable to catch him!

It was cold this year (I wore hat and gloves for the whole race) and the mist was down for the last 2-300′ of climb but there’s no real ‘nav’ problems in this race so everyone finished safely, all be it with lungs that were fit to burst! The race was won by ex-Strider Phil Sanderson & Mudwoman and I were pleased with our respective 2nd MV50 & 3RD WV50 places as we were rewarded with two bottles of ‘Hobgoblin’! Unlike most other races this one finishes on top of a hill 3 miles from where you started! However, the downhill trot back to the start is very pleasant and provides a great opportunity to catch up with old friends from fell running.

There’s a danger that this race could be lost if no one steps forward to take over the organisation. We both hope a saviour can be found!

Clay Bank West, North York Moors, Sunday, November 10, 2013

AS / 4.2M / 1143'

Camilla Laurén-Määttä

I don’t think there could be a better start to a Sunday morning than running a fell race on slightly frosty ground in bright November sunshine. I haven’t done more than two or three fell races and this was my first Esk Valley one, but it won’t be my last one. Admittedly most fell races will be longer and more strenuous than this one.

Experienced fell runner Jan kindly gave me a lift along with two fell running students, Peter and Lucy. Being a novice I had carefully studied the route map the day before and it seemed quite difficult to get lost as the route was just 4.2 miles long; up a hill, along the forest and back along the Cleveland Way until reaching the same hill where we started. Jan, modest as usual, explained about being near the tail-end of the field, but I knew she would run past me at some point or other. Peter and Lucy would have to wait for me quite a bit as apparently Peter tended to win the races and Lucy was also a very strong fell runner.

There wasn’t a great turnout of Striders this time, as apart from Jan and myself there was only Mike Bennett, with Danny being caught up in baby-tending duties. There was just enough time to complete the entry forms and get rid of a few layers of clothing and off we went up the hill. Now, the good thing with fell runs is that you don’t need to feel bad about walking up the steepest bits so after a while most people were having a leisurely walk. Time flew past and soon we were at the end of the forest and turned left and up the moorland.

At the top of the first hill I followed the people in front of me, who had obviously done a wrong turn – at this point Jan had caught up with me and explained that the other route was a longer one used in the Viking Chase Fell race. Now it was time to go downhill, which meant I couldn’t keep up with Jan anymore. The rocks on the path felt slippy and I had to keep to the grassy path on the side. Up we went again and then there were two options – along a steeper grassy path (which I followed) and a less steep but stonier and longer route.

I was almost a bit disappointed when it was time to descend to the starting/finish point as I felt I still had plenty of energy left in my legs. Jan had arrived just before me, having fallen over and grazed her elbow slightly, and Mike had arrived quite some time ago. Peter (winner of the race), Lucy (amongst the first ladies) and Jan (first lady in her age group I think) were awarded for their effort with well-deserved wine bottles – not a bad award for cash-strapped students. There was also a bit of time to take in the views of Roseberry Topping from the car park. At this point I should really have taken a photo, but I didn’t, so hopefully there are some nice pictures to insert here to inspire more Striders to do the Esk Valley fell races!

Yes, it's Roseberry Topping again ...
photo courtesy and © Ann Brown

Cheviot Summit Race, Sunday, April 14, 2013

AS / 3.5m / 1050'

Geoff Davis

Me, Susan and Laura travelled to the Cheviots on Sunday to run up and down Northumberland’s highest hill – The Cheviot. This was Laura’s first ‘proper’ fell race and it was held in very challenging conditions (v.wet underfoot, a very strong wind and heavy showers) and, on the advice of the mountain rescue team, the race had to be shortened as a result (from 6 to 4 miles). Laura finished 3rd woman and ran a very brave race. She was none the worse for her experience and, after the race in Wooler, she enjoyed a hot chocolate piled high with marshmallows! Susan finished 2nd woman and I scrapped a top ten place. It’s a while since a managed that – I can recommend retirement!!