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Thread: Another southern newbie

  1. #1
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    Another southern newbie

    Hi, can anyone recommend a good race for a newbie who's based just south of London (Reading)?

    I've seen Box Hill and wanted to give that a go but it's well and truly sold out.
    I believe there are a few on the Isle of Wight as well but wasn't sure what a good option for someone with limited navigation ability and almost no time on 'serious' hills?

    I want to get onto some of the tougher races in time but the lack of navigation experience & not much time on the fells make it hard to know where to start.

    Appreciate there are a load of similar questions on here but being the wrong side of London I'm going to end up with a serious drive to get anywhere and wanted some advice where to start.

    Thanks everyone.

  2. #2
    Master Travs's Avatar
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    I can't offer any advice on Box Hill or the IOW races, but a club mate of mine speaks highly of the Fell races down in the vicinity of Sidmouth, Exe To Axe, etc.

    You'll find plenty of "beginner friendly" races in the Peak District and the Shropshire Hills, as well as plenty of tough races in those areas to challenge the toughest runners. I suppose they are the nearest Fell running heartlands to you.

    As to what sort of race you want to start with, it really depends what sort of distance you think you can manage, or more precisely, how long you think you can keep going for. Even a 5 mile race is likely to take you in the region of an hour if you're new to the terrain and there's enough climb involved.

  3. #3
    Senior Member PeteS's Avatar
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    Yes a serious drive to anywhere of note for fell running but living not far from Birmingham, I'm also used to a long commute to the fells! I guess that of the main areas for races, South Wales might be easiest to get to for you but Shropshire is also not too bad. When I first started racing, I'd always try and make a long weekend of it. That way you can recce the route beforehand or recce other races while you are there.

  4. #4
    I live in Hungerford so not so far away and started at this game only about 4 years ago. There are loads of good multi-terrain races locally which although they don't have the navigation element, the ones in winter can still be reasonably tough - look up the Rough n Tumble (Milton Lilbourne in Jan), Pewsey Terminator in March and Cleevewold 14 in March - all 10-14 miles and c.1,500-2,000 ft of climbing.

    After that, have a look at the races in South Wales eg Llanbedr-Bleanafon, and also those in Shropshire, like the Long Mynd Valleys; many these are not particularly hard on the nav front, but they can still be seriously hard (despite having completed about 15 Lakeland AL races since, the Long Mynd is still the only race where I've genuinely wondered if I was capable of finishing). After that, just get yourself up to the Peaks or the Lakes.

    Aside from that, it's worth playing around with a map & compass even on mild terrain, just to get used to it - it's not so hard; in fact the hardest part of navigation is actually having the discipline to stop and look at the map, rather than relentlessly following others for fear of losing touch or losing places....

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dave_Mole's Avatar
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    Llanbedr-Bleanafon and the Long Mynd Valleys are NOT beginner friendly races!!
    South Wales would be an obvious choice for access from the M4, have a look at the South Wales Winter Series races:
    http://www.wfra.me.uk/SW_Winter_Series_2017_2018_V1.pdf
    dates for those next year have now been agreed.
    ....it's all downhill from here.

  6. #6
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    Back in 1961 a member of Reading Athletic Club decided that he wanted to have a go at fell-running, so he went to the Ben Nevis Race with a few of his clubmates. He won it! His name was Mike Davies, and he later went on to be one of the founders of the Fell Runners' Association. But I wouldn't recommend Ben Nevis as a first fell race!

    The Surrey Hills Races in June are quite close to you, but are not suitable for someone with "limited navigation ability" (as evidenced by your describing Reading as "south of London" ). But for real fell races, I would agree with those who have suggested the shorter races in South Wales and Shropshire as good for beginners. The hills are mostly grassy rather than rocky, although they are rather steep in places.

    Like Pete S, I would recommend making a weekend of it when travelling to races: enjoy the journey, enjoy exploring an area that is new to you. I have never lived particularly close to the fells (I was in Bracknell for a while), so I often did that.
    In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by anthonykay View Post
    Back in 1961 a member of Reading Athletic Club decided that he wanted to have a go at fell-running, so he went to the Ben Nevis Race with a few of his clubmates. He won it! His name was Mike Davies, and he later went on to be one of the founders of the Fell Runners' Association.
    FRA Member #7

    In fact, as I am sure you know, Mike won it twice more and came second 5 times and in The Ben Race history he is described (with Eddie Campbell) as "arguably the race's greatest ever runner and certainly the most consistent".

    "Arguably"? Well "arguably" Americans didn't land on the moon and I don't think Bill Smith thought that - Peter Hall won the next 4 races - but Bill does credit Mike's win in 1961 to his being the first to go up the scree rather than the usual route up the path and so bringing a fresh approach to the race.
    Last edited by Graham Breeze; 19-12-2017 at 09:07 AM.
    "...as dry as the Atacama desert".

  8. #8
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    Thanks everyone, really appreciate the advice and I'll certainly check out the South Wales & Shropshire races as it sounds like they're essentially my 'local' ones.

    @anthonykay - Sadly you hit the nail on the head navigation-wise with my comments about Reading being south of London. My excuse is I'm from Devon (although I spent a fair bit of time in Hungerford in the early 90's @Edsned) so I get confused anywhere north of Exmouth!

    Thanks again all and hopefully I'll spot some of you from my view on the floor crawling up a fell near you soon!

  9. #9
    Master Wheeze's Avatar
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    Well admitted Ole...I was going to pull your leg about Reading location, but Anthony beat me to it!
    You'd be made more than welcome at any of the South Wales races, nearly all of which are suitable for a beginner. You have also had some good suggestions for more local events but no one has mentioned the Chilterns yet. There are some good races there or just good training...I cut my teeth in those hills.
    Anyway, hope to see you at a South Wales event soon. Top tip, at peak times use the old severn bridge...queues for the toll MUCH shorter!
    I am Kuno....

  10. #10
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    Legend, cheers Wheeze!

    I'm going to get on the race calendar and start planning my year ASAP!
    Probably going to have a bit of fun with the map & compass over Christmas as well, see if I can get myself and the dog lost a few times!

    Any recommendations for which South Wales races are easy/hard/bit different?

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