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Are you enjoying this: Why we go fell running

“Are you enjoying this?“ shouts Ross, the wind whipping at the words, as we crouch next to each other. To our backs, the flank of Great Bourne rises, a grassy monolith and an indomitable obstacle in the foul weather we have found ourselves in. We have been making slow progress up the fell, the aforementioned winds combined with the stiffness in my legs from the previous days excursions on the Coledale Horseshoe working in tandem to rob me of the strength to move up the fell at much more than a fast walk. My hood plasters itself to to the side of my head, as a relentless barrage of rain provides us with fresh reasons not to be out on the hill. Truly, it was a valid question: “Am I enjoying this?”

What am I doing here?, I think to myself, acutely aware that a different series of decisions would mean I would be sat in the safety and comfort of a temperature regulated house. It wasn’t purely to gain or maintain fitness, although an admittedly desirable side effect. A low level run would have provided a similarly rewarding challenge, with the reduced wind speeds allowing for a longer excursion at a faster pace. Similarly, it wasn’t to test myself or accustom myself to poor conditions or a sadistic desire to pit myself against the elements. I was up here entirely out of my own choice as, at the time, there wasn’t anywhere else I could think of I would rather be.

“Don’t you ever feel, you know, like you shouldn’t be up there, like it isn’t safe?” asks a colleague the next day after I tell them about the trip. Indeed, there have been times in my earlier trips out into the fells where, through naivety and inexperience, have been out in conditions unsuited to my skill levels. This, however, was not one of those times. The weather, while challenging, was not so challenging that there was a significant increase in danger for two experienced fell runners. Mindful route choices were made and plans were adjusted to avoid first the higher, more exposed, slopes of Red Pike and then again in abandoning the summit of Great Bourne, as wind speeds increased. If the conditions had of been worse, then the logical, and safe answer would have been to abandon the run. On this occasion, the weather was safe for us to go onto the fells, but unpleasant enough to test our desire to be there.

There was always the option to stay at home and, once we had got to the carpark and saw the sheets of rain, to abandon the run for home comforts. That would be the more comfortable option for sure, but the admission that, due to a desire for comfort, we had abandoned the fells for the day would have set an unsavoury precedent. Should I call off our run on this day, what would stop me calling off all runs when the weather is inclement? While long days spent in wall to wall sunshine make up many of my best memories on the hills, shorter days in the wind and the rain rank in the memories alongside them. A sort of comradery of runner against the elements emerges, where you expect nothing of yourself other than to endure and thrive in these testing conditions, and the knowledge that, on other hills, likeminded people are doing just the same. The memories of the exhilaration and the child like joy of being out in the weather is hard to summon when sat in a warm car, willing yourself to go out, but soon after you have taken those first tentative steps, the joy emerges. Had I chosen in the past to call off an excursion into the wind and rain out of of a desire to remain comfortable, I would not find myself crouched next to Ross, rain running down my face and filled with a giddy sense of childlike glee.

So, it is without reverence, or hint of a lie my answer came easily.

“Yeah, I’m enjoying myself”

fell runner in shorts
The weather was like this, but alot worse

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