Here are a few observations and tips to help you to get the most out of your experience in running in the Dartmoor Fell Series.
Dartmoor is one of the United Kingdom’s last wildernesses, and although not overly high in altitude, its exposure to the weather systems particularly from the south west, the lack of shelter and general remoteness can catch out the most experienced of runner. The weather can change in a matter of minutes and the coupled with the rough ground, injuries do happen. With this is mind, here are a few tips:
- Embrace the fact that you may get wet and you may get muddy; especially your feet and lower legs.
- Don’t wear your favourite road shoes, trail or ideally a more aggressive style of fell shoe will make you run much more pleasurable.
- Don’t expect to run these routes in your road 10k time. The amount of climb (often over 1000ft per race)
- Bring some warm dry clothes, incl. socks and shoes, to change into after you have finished racing.
Above all, run with a smile on your face. Running through mud and puddles is fun. Embrace your inner child and just laugh your way around!
All our races are run under the Fell Running Associations Rules – please read them carefully.
Please note that most our races are under the category of Medium race, so we require that runners are prepared to run with the ‘FRA Mandatory Minimum Kit’.
Race organisers on the day may relax these rules in line with the weather conditions but it is essential that all have the kit required with them just in case. Why? More on this later.
NO MANDATORY KIT: NO RUN.
FRA Requirements for Runners 2022 (the “Runners’ Rules”)
The following Runners’ Rules apply to runners in FRA-registered races and events and you will be expected to have read them, and to agree to comply with the requirements, as a condition of entry.
These rules should be read in conjunction with the FRA Rules for Competition.
1. Know what you are in for – you must be confident you are capable of completing any race you enter.
Races are categorised as A (hardest) to C (milder) on the basis of the amount of climb, and long (L), medium (M) or short (S) on the basis of distance. Races may also be designated ‘experience required’ (ER), ‘navigational skills required’ (NS) or ‘local knowledge an advantage’ (LK). Mountain navigation races are categorised as O (orienteering) or MM (mountain marathon).
All FRA races strictly prohibit the use of electronic devices using aids such as GPS for navigation. You may not use any such device to delineate or follow a route (including the use of arrows or audio signals to warn of being “off track”), to display current position on a map, to display or follow a compass bearing or to reposition yourself or otherwise navigate in any way. You may carry such a device for use in an emergency situation, but if used – even momentarily for repositioning – then you must retire from the race and declare yourself non-competitive to the race organiser. Full details are given in the FRA Rules for Competition, which apply to all FRA races.
Most serious incidents (and almost all fatalities) in races have occurred when runners have left the route, so having good navigation skills is essential. Fell runners are expected to be able to find their way round the course, whatever the weather. Most race routes are not flagged except at critical points such as the start and finish and part of the challenge of fell racing is to find the optimum route between the compulsory checkpoints. If you have any questions about a race route you should consult the Race Organiser for further information. The best way to be confident and safe is to learn good navigation skills, to recce the course and to pre-plan escape routes.
2. Comply with the Race Rules.
Enter the race by completing the race entry form. Do not run without having done this. Race Organisers may introduce special requirements to suit their particular race (for example additional or prohibited equipment, time limits, previous experience criteria) and these must be obeyed.
3. Use appropriate kit for the course and conditions.
‘FRA Mandatory Minimum Kit’ is the mandatory minimum kit for all AL, AM and BL races, and Race Organisers may require it to be carried at other categories of event. They can also require you to carry more kit than this. In any case, you may decide it is prudent to carry more kit than the mandatory minimum. ‘FRA Mandatory Minimum Kit’ comprises:
waterproof whole body cover (with taped seams and integrated attached hood), hat, gloves, map of the route, compass (see Note 3), whistle and emergency food.
Table 1 shows kit requirements for different categories of races. See also Note 2 regarding GPS.
The Race Organiser may check your kit at any time and will disqualify you if you fail to comply with the requirements. Runners often question whether this level of kit is necessary – it may not be needed when you are running strongly or in good weather, but it could be a life-saver if you have
to slow down or stop because of injury or tiredness, or if you need to help another runner in difficulty.
4. Race Numbers: wear your race number on your chest and show it to marshals.
The race number is essential, to check that runners don’t skip a checkpoint and to keep track of runners who are lagging behind or have dropped out of the event. Make sure you clearly show your number to marshals at checkpoints, even if it’s covered up by a jacket. Wear your number on your chest and don’t fold or cut it down as this makes it more difficult for marshals to read and also conceals the sponsor’s name. Only shout out your number if you are asked to do so.
5. Retirement: when you have registered for a race, you must inform the Race Organiser if you don’t start or don’t complete the race, for any reason.
After you have registered with the race organisation (normally this means completing an entry form and collecting your number before the start) you are officially ‘in the race’. If you don’t start or if you drop out for any reason at any time you must report to the Race Organiser at the finish. It is not sufficient to announce your retirement to a marshal on the course or to another runner. Keeping track of every runner is one of the primary responsibilities of the Race Organiser and you in turn have a responsibility to help with this. Look out at the start for any specific retirement procedures introduced by the Race Organiser.
6. Juniors: a parent or legal guardian must consent to junior runners’ race entries and agree to the conditions of entry.
Juniors are those aged under 18 on the day of the race. Consent by parent or legal guardian can be given by a signature on the event entry form, or by bringing a completed and signed parental consent form to the event.
The distances for Junior fell races are limited according to the age of the runner (as given in the FRA Requirements and Rules for Race Organisers). Race Organisers will endeavour to match the difficulty of the course with what can reasonably be expected from fell runners of the relevant age. However, runners and their parents/guardians must accept the risks inherent in fell running and be responsible for determining whether the junior has the skills, fitness and equipment to participate.
Junior runners should bring a waterproof top and leggings to all races and should remember that when participating in a Senior race they may have to carry the full kit, as for the Senior runners.
7. Personal conduct: behave respectfully to other competitors, race officials and members of the public sharing the same area of countryside.
Fell runners should adhere to the Countryside Code, for example by shutting gates and not climbing walls or fences, which can damage them and may be grounds for disqualification. Respect private property and other users of the fells. If you see another runner in difficulty, you should, of course, offer assistance.
8. Disciplinary action: the Race Organiser can exclude you and the FRA can ban you if you do not observe race requirements and these “Runners’ Rules”.
The FRA may take disciplinary action such as disqualification and/or banning a competitor from future races, and your club may also impose sanctions if your actions reflect badly on them. “Absolute no-nos” are retiring from a race without reporting to the Race Organiser at the finish (the “golden rule”), running in someone else’s number or no number, using someone’s else’s FRA membership card or number, cheating on the kit requirements or using GPS (or equivalent) for navigation or fixing position. Please ‘do your bit’ to make our sport safe and enjoyable for all.
9. Hypothermia: you must be aware of the dangers of hypothermia, its symptoms, its treatment and how to avoid it.
Hypothermia is dangerous and has been the cause of several deaths in fell running. If injury or exhaustion causes you to stop or slow down, body heat will be lost quickly. Of course, cold, wet or windy weather make this worse. The onset of hypothermia can be very rapid unless sufficient clothing is worn. You should learn how to recognise hypothermia in yourself and in others and know what to do, both for yourself and for someone else.
You should read the hypothermia section on the FRA website (or one of the many other sources of information) to become familiar with the dangers, symptoms and treatment of hypothermia.
Weather conditions can change quickly on Dartmoor. Please be prepared to run with FRA Mandatory Minimum Kit. Due to the terrain covered, fell or trail running shoes are strongly advised. Road shoes are unsuitable and can cause injury.
As noted previously, we request that runners be prepared to run with FRA Mandatory Minimum Kit. This includes:
- Waterproof whole body cover (with taped seams and integrated attached hood)
- Emergency food
This is seen as the minimum, but on the day the race organiser may relax these rules.
Please note that for safety reasons, the organisers reserve the right to refuse entry to anyone who is not adequately equipped.
Similarly, if visibility is poor on the day, an alternative route may be prepared (marked and marshalled) for safety reasons.
Our main provider of fell running equipment is Run Venture.
Run Venture is the specialist running shop in this part of the world. We highly recommend using them to source your shoes and other essential equipment.
There are shops in Tavistock, Honiton, Launceston and Helston.
Run Venture’s own Colin Kirk-Potter has carried out a series of kit reviews and advice videos, a few are available below, but view them all at the Run Venture youtube channel.