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Running Int' Fells: The history of the sport of Fell Running


I am enamoured by fell running. It is a love that began four years ago when I first put on a set of fell shoes in an attempt to move on from the stagnation I felt when walking in the hills. Ever since that moment, the sport has captivated me in a way that no other has or likely ever will.


As a child I enjoyed football and, whilst an enthusiastic player, I could never understand people's obsession with watching the sport or following teams. However, during my time running on the fells, being at races and reading books and reports, I have become as obsessed as any die-hard football fan. The beauty of fell running, for me, is in both its simplicity and its options for near-endless opportunity. You lace up your shoes and run up a hill. Should you wish to, you can run up another one. And another. And so on. If you should revisit the same fell, the experience will be different. The weather, the time of day the conditions will never be the same each time you visit. It's so much more than just running up and down a fell but, at the same time all it is is just running up and down a fell. And it is not just me who feels this passion, as shown by the creation of Running Int’ Fells. 


Running Int’ Fells is an exhibition based around the sport of fell running in the Lake District, looking into its history as well as present day fell running as we know it. Based in the Armitt Gallery in Ambleside, it exhibits many aspects of running, including changes in gear and technology, people of the fells, trophies and medals and a whole host more. The gallery is home to the history of this simple sport and an inspirational place to while away a few hours as you learn more about fell running and how ingrained it is within the culture of the area. Looking through the many and varied exhibits, you get a sense of how much the sport of fell running has changed and also, how much it has stayed the same. 


I was invited to the opening of the exhibition, alongside a whole host of runners, photographers and people who had given up their time to help this exhibit come to life. The day of the launch, Valentine's day, seemed appropriate; a love of fell running on this, the most romantic of days. Two of my images were being featured; the first, taken running towards Catbells, was on a cold winter's morning. A poor forecast had deterred most people but the day was clear and bright and I had the fells mostly to myself. The second was taken not long after I had returned from six months of travelling in New Zealand. Pining to return to my fells, I ascended Grisdale Pike on the longest day, running the Coledale Horseshoe on an evening that felt like it would never end.


Arriving at the exhibit, I felt an element of imposter syndrome, here I was amongst accomplished members of the fell running world: members of the FRA and BOFRA (Fell Runners Association and British Open Fell Runners Association respectively) English and British fell running Champions and people who had done far greater things on the fells than I had. But, after mingling, these feelings faded. There was no arrogance, no one was talking of their achievements, and everyone was revelling in the joy of the exhibit and the joy of what had brought us all together: running in the fells.


I left the exhibit and did what felt most appropriate: I went for a run. In the cold and the dark, I thought of the exhibit, of all the hours that were put in, all the people who had given up time to help make it what it was. I wondered what impact it would have. It would interest current runners, but could also inspire people to take to the fells? I felt a sense of privilege for being, even a small part of what was a very special exhibit.



For a sport that involves just running up and down a hill, there's quite a lot to it.




fell runner on catbells
Image one on display: Running up Catbells

fell runner in the lake district
Image two on display: Running from Hobcarton End to Grisdale Pike


"It has been a pleasure to plan and deliver this exhibition over the last 12+ months. We've worked closely with a team of expert volunteers led by Peter Todhunter. They are not only passionate about the sport of fell running, with an in depth knowledge of the history and present day trends, but have access to a wealth of material from groups and individuals which is being used to tell stories and spotlight legendary feats and magical runners. The evening preview on 14 February was a great way to celebrate all that has been achieved with the community, friends, volunteers, and contributors that have supported us. We look forward to welcoming many visitors during 2024." 
Faye Morrissey, Manager & Curator of the Armitt



For more about the project visit: https://runningintfells.com/

To find out more about the Armitt Gallery visit: https://www.armitt.com/running-int-fells/




And if you want to read more of what I have written, you can see all my posts here:



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Feb 16
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

A magnificent achievement, fell running does exist outside of Lakeland even as far South as Shropshire , South Wales and even Essex, yes Essex their is a class BS in Epping forest.

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