The North Shields Poly Fell Section
The club has always had the “odd” fell runner in it but it wasn’t until late in 2012 that Barry Young, Trevor Wakenshaw and David Johnson decided to start up a fell section and a club fell championship. The first championship was held in 2013 when Chris Rowe, who has probably done more club championship races than anyone else was the inaugural winner. There were no female qualifiers for an award until 2015 when the number of competitors inexplicably exploded and we also got a good number of ladies competing with Katherine Davis taking the first trophy.
In 2016, the section made its mark in fell running circles by competing in the national Fell Relay championships for the first time. The section now regularly picks up individual and team prizes in races in the North East of England.
Fell Racing – An overview for beginners
For the novice, especially those with no experience of walking on the moors and high fells, plucking up the courage to do a fell race can be difficult. a
The biggest fear is that of getting lost. To overcome this perhaps the best thing to do before entering a race is just to go for some walks in the mountain environment and build up a bit of confidence in that sort of environment. If possible recce the race route beforehand.
Secondly comes the fear of not being able to run up a 1000 or 2000 foot hill. Don’t fear it, just walk it! 90% of the other runners will be doing exactly the same! Just think that usually, what goes up must come down and there are few things quite as exhilarating as dashing down a hill with gravity on your side.
Once you are happy with the above and have the ability to run a bit you really have little to worry about. Hopefully such people will find the following information useful.
Races for the Novice
There are many local races that are suitable for the novice in our area and on the North Yorkshire Moors. Several of the races in the Poly Fell Championship are relatively easy. Perhaps the best thing to do if you have no mountain experience and are worried about navigation is do a race attached to a local country show. These are usually short and often well marked. In Northumberland have a look out for those at The Roman Wall show, Powburn show, Alwinton show, Glendale show, Glanton show and the Forest Burn race at the Simonside Country Fair. Also check out the Natural Ability Fell Race and the Humbleton Fell Race. If you can get around the tougher Harrier League XC courses, you will manage these.
Fell Race Grades
Fell routes are graded according to steepness ( A, B or C) and distance, S, M or L, (Short, Medium or Long).
Routes graded as “A” for example must have at least 50 metres ascent for every kilometre, a “B” will have between 25m and 50m per kilometre.
Short Races are 10km or less, Mediums are over 10km but less than 20km and Long are those over 20km
A typical A grade short route will have anything from 300m to 600m of ascent in it, whilst an A grade medium will have anything from 600m to 1500m of ascent. The race description will tell you how much.
Some race routes are partially marked with tape and this will be indicated on the race entry details on the FRA website, but don’t expect to be mollycoddled. What you will hardly ever find are any route markers on the fell or moor, markers are usually restricted to the valley bottoms where there may be running through private land. If you have any doubts about your ability to get yourself back to safety in a race you should consider picking an easier one. Having said that, in most short races you will usually find that there is a continual stream of runners to follow unless you are at the back of the field, or as is more likely as you are a Poly runner, at the front.. However it is amazing how quickly a field can spread out in any race and you can soon find yourself running by yourself particularly if visibility is poor.
In the event of any uncertainty there are two tried and tested ways to get around any fell race. Use a map and compass or alternatively follow someone and hope they know where they are going! If you don’t know the area and you have the chance, it’s always worthwhile to have a trot around the course some time before the actual race is due to take place.
A race will typically have a number of checkpoints that you must visit, but you are usually free to choose your route between them.
In any fell race, but particularly on an “A” grade race especially those in the Lakes you should be prepared to encounter some steep rocky terrain.
A Few words on Equipment
Whilst what you race in is up to your personal choice, there can be strict requirements on what you have to carry around the race with you. This can vary from nothing on a short race in good weather, to a full set of waterproof kit with fully taped seams, (jacket with attached hood and over-trousers), plus hat, gloves, map and compass and in a long race, emergency food. This is decided by the race organiser and their word is law in this respect. Fail to comply and you will be disqualified. The golden rule is to come to any race prepared to carry the kitchen sink. You can always leave the stuff in the car if it isn’t needed.
Most people carry their kit in a small bumbag which can be bought for not much more than a tenner although a few prefer to use a more expensive lightweight rucksac. Lightweight and compact jackets and over-trousers can be as expensive or as cheap as you like depending how obsessive you are about weight and space.
You should buy a basic Silva type compass and although you don’t need to become an expert navigator, please at least take the trouble to find out which end of the needle points North. Maps can usually be downloaded from the race website where required.
What you wear during a race is entirely up to you but I am sure you don’t need me to tell you that as you will be running in terrain a bit more exposed and higher up, it might be a tad cooler than on your average road race. At any time of year hypothermia may be an issue and it’s as well to acquaint yourself with the signs and treatment of this life threatening condition. http://www.fellrunner.org.uk/documents/FRA_Hypothermia.pdf
I would strongly recommend you at least get some proper, studded fell shoes as made by Inov8 or Walsh if you want to enjoy the run, unless you enjoy propelling yourself on your backside. A pair of more aggressively soled fell shoes will also pay dividends on muddier or steeper courses.
Responsibilities of a fell runner
Out on the high fells survival can be a very real issue, so go here to find out the official FRA line on a runner’s responsibility as regards equipment and conduct in a race.
If you ever retire from a race it is imperative that you tell the organiser as soon as possible. Failure to do so may initiate a full scale search by the mountain rescue will result in a ban which will not look good on your fell running CV.
It is obligatory for every fell runner to read, at least 5 times Richard Askwith’s excellent book about the sport, Feet in the Clouds.
The Fell Runners Association.
The governing body for much of the sport in England and you will find everything you need (apart from those annoying things called “ability and fitness”) on their website at
The British Open Fell Runners Association. They run short races, usually of about a couple of miles, which are often associated with agricultural shows in the Lakes, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Northumberland Fell Runners
The local purely fell running club. Good for local race maps and local race info.
Esk Valley Fell Club
A fell running club good for Race maps and race info on the North Yorkshire Moors
Scottish Hill Runners
The governing body for the sport North of the border
The Bob Graham Round
Info on the premier fell running challenge, completing 42 Lakes fells within 24 hours
A resource for race maps, mainly, but not exclusively, in Yorkshire, Lancashire and the Peak District
The Chevy Chase
A link to the most prestigious race in Northumberland
Polyfellers Hall of Fame
|Male Champion||Runner up||Female Champion||Runner up|
|2013||Chris Rowe||Barry Young||No Winner||No Winner|
|2014||Garry Robson||Will Robson||No Winner||No Winner|
|2015||Garry Robson||Chris Rowe||Katherine Davis||Rachel Inman|
|2016||Garry Robson||Jon Heaney||Katherine Davis||Rachel Inman|
|2017||Will Robson||Chris Rowe||Suzanne Lewis-Dale||Rachel Carr|
Age Category Winners
|MV40||Chris Rowe||Jon Heaney||Chris Rowe|
|FV40||No Winner||Angela Green||Katherine Davis|
|MV50||Barry Young||David Johnson||Gary Robson|
|FV50||No Winner||No Winner||Heather Gould|
|MV60||Chris Oliphant||George Adamson||David Johnson|
|FV60||No Winner||No Winner||No Winner|