Tag Archives: Trail running

Trail running films – free and featuring women: Inspiration for the winter months

Films are a great source of inspiration and a good way to spend time when the weather’s bad and you just want to be cosy indoors. At this time of year many of us are resting, reflecting on our achievements over the past 12 months and planning new goals.

Dreams of the coming year can really motivate and help us see a positive way through the coldest darkest months. Here are five inspiring trail running films for your rest days that feature women and are free to watch online: Continue reading

Litton Christmas Cracker Fell Race – December 2015 (12.2k – Category B Medium)

This is only the second year of the Litton Christmas Cracker, but Tideswell Running Club has created a race with all the ingredients of a classic Continue reading

Nine Edges race, Edale Mountain Rescue – September 2015 (21 miles – Category B Long)

This is the first time I have entered this unique race, and it’s already up there as one of my favourites. With a good variety of fell, rock and trail, the route is a perfect showcase for running in the Peak District. Continue reading

OCC Ultramarathon – My First Ultra #OCC2015 #UTMB 27 July 2015

“Life is not a race. Neither is an ultramarathon, not really, even though it looks like one. There is no finish line. We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move toward that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.” Scott Jurek, Eat and Run

On July 27 2015 I ran my first ultra marathon, the OCC (Orsieres-Champex-Chamonix). At 35miles (53km) and with 3,300m of ascent it is the shortest of the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc trail races, and I’ve never experienced a race like it. Continue reading

Crib Goch scramble and run, Snowdonia, North Wales – low on time, high on adventure

This weekend I planned to go away for a couple of nights to test my new ultra light tent and get some hill training in with Bo. The weather forecast was horrendous – wet and windy everywhere, so we decided a one night trip would be wiser. Short on time, our target was Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain at 1085m.  We planned to camp in the Llanberis Pass and run to the summit via the Crib Goch ridge.

Camping in Nant Peris, looking up to the Llanberis Pass

Camping in Nant Peris, looking up to Crib Goch obscured by cloud

Arriving at lunch time we quickly put up our tents, the only ones camping in the extended garden of a farm in Nant Peris, a small village located at the bottom of the Llanberis Pass.  From there we had a view up the pass to the ridge we would soon be on. Although it wasn’t raining in the valley and there was little wind, the top of the ridge was hidden by cloud.

The steep sides of the Pass host some of the UK’s most famous rock climbing routes, and from the bus window we took the opportunity to admire the scale of the landscape. Looking up to the familiar shape of the Cromlech, there were no climbers to be seen on the open-book Cenotaph Corner, just darker grey smears of wet rock.

Jumping off the bus we began running from the Pen-y-Pass car park. The well trodden trail trends steadily upwards over a mixture of polished rocks and sandy gravel, good running although not the easiest warm up. It wasn’t long until we reached the point that our route separated from the trail, the ground quickly got steeper and soon the only option was to scramble and climb.

Leaving the tourist trail to start the scramble to Crib Goch

A clear sign that it is time to leave the tourist trail and start the scramble to Crib Goch

The Rhyolite rock is almost crystalline in appearance, formed from a series of small angular blocks that create large handholds and decent footholds. Scrambling higher we entered the clouds and I felt very aware that I was clinging to a steep surface with no ropes. My view obscured in all directions I could see nothing but rock dropping steeply away below, while more rock rose to an unknown and invisible point above. With Bo leading, the only way was up.

Climbing up through clouds to find the ridge

Srambling up through clouds to reach the ridge

Finally there was no more up, we had reached the ridge and there could be no worries about route finding. We scrambled happily along, keeping our hands high on the pointing tip of the ridge and our feet low on the blocky sides. I took a moment to enjoy the incredible position. Cloud cover was coming and going at this point, the steep drop on either side intermittently revealed, the lakes below scraps of tin foil reflecting the silver grey sky.

Beautiful texture of the rhyolite rock on the pointed ridge of Crib Goch

Beautiful texture of the rhyolite rock on the pointed ridge of Crib Goch

Bo captured mid-scramble, the knife edge ridge disappearing into cloud

Bo captured mid-scramble, the knife edge ridge disappearing into cloud

Reaching the end of the ridge we laughed as we realised that we had clocked some of the slowest kilometres ever. Pleased to run again we joined the trail that passed the marker at Crib y Ddysgl, the second highest summit, then followed the train tracks leading the way to the busy Snowdon summit and cafe.

After a quick dash to the actual summit of Snowdon we began a swift descent down the Pyg track which involved hurdling a few tourists. The terrain is perfect, stepped and rocky, not too steep, and a lovely long run down hill back to the Pen Y Pass car park.

Lovely long downhill of the Pyg track

Lovely long downhill on the Pyg track

If you are short on time but want maximum adventure, Crib Goch is one of the best days out you can have. You can find more information about the route on UK Hillwalking http://www.ukhillwalking.com/logbook/hill.php?id=2032.

#ShAFF2015 Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – Women in Adventure Panel and networking, 21 March 2015

Having previewed some of the films in the Women in Adventure category I was excited to attend the ShAFF networking event to hear the women that made and appear in the films talking about their experiences. Festival organiser Lissa Cook was keen to explain that the theme of Women in Adventure was something that ran right through the heart of the festival, not a separate or minority part of it. The panel and networking event provided a forum to discuss issues specific to women, and the aims were celebration, inspiration, sourcing, conversation, and networking.

The event started with a celebration of some of this year’s films, showing clips from the Women in Adventure category (made by or featuring women). Selected by ShAFF judge Claire-Jane Carter, they demonstrated the wider themes of the festival, some of them thoughtful, emotional, funny, or that played with the concept of gender roles and what we expect of women. Danielle Sellwood of the Women’s Sport Trust introduced the discussion, reminding us with some shocking statistics that as with many industries there is still a way to go before women have equality of opportunity and all that comes with it – professional recognition, sponsorship, funding, and equal levels of participation. This led to wider discussion in form of Q&A with the panel.

The WIA panel members, Danielle, Nikki, Jen, Mina, Brenda, Squash, and Steph

The WIA panel members, Danielle, Nikki, Jen, Mina, Brenda, Squash, and Steph

One of the critical questions addressed whether it is necessary or counterproductive to categorise ‘women’s’ films? For some the focus on gender may not feel helpful or relevant – in some cases even patronising. The panel recognised the responsibility of filmmakers to consider the way they represent individuals in the editing of their films – are negative stereotypes enforced if we see women crying or expressing strong emotions? Freelance producer and director Brenda Piekarski is aware that there is power in the choices made by filmmakers as they edit and interpret what they capture. With filmmaker Jen Randall, she discussed a ‘movement’ in film making away from action and focusing on storytelling. She described it as a search for authenticity and truthfulness, telling the story of the individual whatever that may be. The requirement for authenticity and quality was reflected in the selection process where there was no positive discrimination, every film was judged by the same demanding criteria. Having selected the films on merit though, there is a purpose in identifying levels of representation of women.

Increasing representation and inclusion isn’t just about high profile women, but as Danielle says “you can’t be what you can’t see.” We need more stories to be spread as widely as possible – and this means more sponsorship and support. Women that are making a career out of something that they love, work hard at and excel in should be recognised for it. As adventurer Squash Falconer and stunt woman Steph Carey explained, in the moment of action they are not aware of their gender, and their achievements don’t need to be increased or diminished because they happen to be female. Some women in high profile positions do feel obliged to make things better for the women that come after them, and to achieve this there are several issues to tackle. This includes raising women’s confidence and sometimes challenging the way that we perceive ourselves.

It is exposing to share, and it requires women to be brave enough to share their stories. US Ultra Runner Nikki Kimball in Finding Traction tells a deeply personal story about how running helps her survive depression. Professional climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk in Project Mina temporarily breaks down under the pressure to achieve, demonstrating that confidence can be an issue no matter what your level of ability. Women may feel that their stories aren’t interesting, aren’t worth telling, or worry about how they will be perceived, but women like Nikki and Mina are leading the way for other women. The moments of vulnerability are where we all relate and connect, through that connection comes inspiration.

The event ended with a networking session, an opportunity to put names to faces and for people within the industry to meet. In future the aim is that it will not be necessary to specifically promote women due to gender inequality, and ShAFF is working towards a ten year plan. The outdoors industry is fortunate that there are women and men with the vision and the passion to effect real change. Thank you to ShAFF for starting this conversation and for inviting us to be a part of it.

Details about the event and ShAFF in general are here : http://www.shaff.co.uk/shaff-fringe/women-in-adventure-network/

Grindleford Gallop 7 March 2015, 21 mile trail race, Peak District

This is the furthest that I have ever run, but not the furthest I hope to run! If you do want to increase your distance and try a longer race, the Gallop is a perfect choice. It’s a 21 mile trail race that starts and ends at Grindleford, passing through Eyam, Great Longstone, the Monsal Trail, Chatsworth, Baslow, and along Curbar and Froggatt Edges. On the morning of the race I was excited, after a winter of training and dreaming I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and see what the next 21 miles would bring.

Bo, Elise, Anna, relaxing at the end of the Gallop

Bo, Elise, Anna, relaxing at the end of the Gallop

I loved the atmosphere – I am more familiar with 10k races where people are concentrating, there is a sound of pounding feet and hard breathing and it’s over in a flash. This race was much different, although we were working hard everyone seemed more relaxed and I felt that we were in it together rather than competing against each other. You can enter as a runner or a walker and walkers start when they like, meaning that there are other people along the route as you run and there’s no pressure to race as hard as you can – just go at your own pace and enjoy.

As I start to run longer races, I worry that I’ll go the wrong way or get lost. It might not always be possible to recce a route in advance, but in training we covered the Gallop in four sessions. It helped to build my confidence and meant that I could really take the time to look around and enjoy being out in the Peak District. I can’t recommend the race route enough, if you don’t want to run it in one go it’s still worth breaking it up and running the different sections. There is a magic moment when you approach checkpoint three (Longstone Edge) over the crest of a hill, and a whole new side of the valley opens up in your view. My heart always melts when I run through herds of deer past Chatsworth House, and being a climber, Curbar and Froggatt edges feel like coming home. If you don’t recce in advance though, don’t worry, there will be other people around, and there are signs at vital turning points.

Since I had never run so far I didn’t feel any pressure to be fast. I wanted to find out whether I really could do it and enjoy it. I didn’t have any idea how long it would take, although I had a target time of 3 hours 30 mins in mind I just wanted to complete the distance and aim for under 4 hours. I was nervous about running too hard in case I exhausted myself and couldn’t carry on, and because of that I never ran hard enough to be uncomfortable. Time seemed to go so quickly, the six checkpoints almost flashed by, and I finished in 3:37. I’m pleased with the time, but motivated because I know there is room to go faster.

On reflection, I still have a lot to learn. I believe the distance was a little too far for me at this point and I need to keep increasing my distance slowly in training to avoid any long term injuries. I need to practice more uphill (always more uphill!), and I need to work on my confidence, both in navigation and in running a bit harder. I like to eat eat plenty while I’m running and need to find suitable non-solid food. I also need to take the recovery more seriously, respecting the impact of running long distances on my body by eating right and taking the right rest.

Although the race was over in a few hours, the whole experience was the result of months of training. Although each person runs it on their own effort, we all support each other and will each other on. At the end of the race I was so proud of us for making it, and so happy to share it with Bo (uber training partner), Elise, Steve, and Ben. All the effort was worth it, the distance really wasn’t anything to fear. I tried to imagine that I was having a little break, and then would be running another 15 miles… the thought didn’t horrify me, in fact I’m looking forward to being able to increase my distance, run further and see more…

Ben, Elise, Anna, Bo, Steve celebrating at the finish of the Gallop... the start of training for the next race...

Ben, Elise, Anna, Bo, Steve celebrating at the finish of the Gallop… the start of training for the next race…

Kinder Downfall – winter walking in the Peak District

With snow and ice still in command this weekend I gave up on the idea of a 10 mile training run and took the opportunity to visit Kinder Downfall. We started from Edale up Grindsbrook, planning to hike across Kinder, then loop back down the Pennine Way to Jacob’s Ladder back to Edale, a round trip of about 8 miles.

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Gate framing the trail up Grindsbrook

The usual trail was buried in deep snow and we reached the top via an icy gully. Not a problem with good boots, although we were concerned about the tourists in trainers who were picking their way up behind us.

View down towards Edale from the top of Grindsbrook

View down towards Edale from the top of Grindsbrook

The view across Kinder was spectacular and intimidating, completely white with no points of reference. Thick cloud was blowing through, so visibility changed from just meters to miles and back in the space of a few minutes. I was cautious about setting off into such a featureless landscape, but once we found the Pennine Way it was easy to follow…

The Pennine Way

The Pennine Way

…too easy really, and it wasn’t long before we decided to leave the trail and make our way across the totally pristine landscape and aim directly for the Downfall area. What an amazing experience, there were no footprints except rabbits, birds, and then our own. The wind blown snow has a fluid feel, forming in peaks and troughs like waves, and at times the clouds seemed to be below us so that I felt even more that I had washed up somewhere totally separate from reality.

Featureless snowy landscape on Kinder

Featureless snowy landscape on Kinder

After some time surfing and wading in the general direction of the Downfall the view suddenly changed and a rocky outcrop was visible. At 30 meters Kinder Downfall is the tallest waterfall in the Peak District, and in winter conditions it becomes a beautiful and precarious pillar of ice. Nearing the top of the Downfall I noticed strange formations of ice coating the gritstone boulders, glittering in the last of the day’s sunlight.

Ice formed around boulders at the top of Kinder Downfall

Ice formed around boulders at the top of Kinder Downfall

There was nowhere safe to stand, so unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of the frozen Kinder Downfall. Two climbers were reaching the top and reported that conditions at the the bottom were not good, although it hadn’t deterred them from their ascent. As the clouds parted again the view down to the valley was spectacular.

View over the top of the Downfall to the valley below

View over the top of the Downfall to the valley below

The sun was beginning to go down and after one last look around it was time to leave. This is the first time that I have been to Kinder Downfall and what an incredible time to visit.

Icicles forming over the roacks at the edge of the Downfall

Icicles forming over the roacks at the edge of the Downfall

It was an easy walk home from here, whipping down the Pennine Way – actually easier in snow than on a normal day as all the awkward rocky sections became soft snow to wade down. What an amazing day, I can’t wait to come back in the summer to see what it looks like when the water is flowing, the ground isn’t frozen under ice and snow, and the rock is dry enough to climb.

Anna at the trig point on Kinder, taking the Pennine Way back down to Jacob's Ladder

Anna at the trig point on Kinder, taking the Pennine Way back down to Jacob’s Ladder

#ShAFF2015 Women in Adventure Film Previews – Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2015

I have attended the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival regularly for the past few years, so I was excited to have the opportunity to preview four of the films that will be shown in the Women in Adventure category at #ShAFF2015. This year there will be double the number of films featuring female athletes and/or made by female directors and producers. This is due to a conscious effort by the organisers of the event not just to select more films made by and featuring women, but to address the reasons that there are disproportionately fewer women in front of and behind the camera. There will be competitions specifically for Women in Mountain Adventure Films, Women in Adventure Photography, and the exciting development of a ShAFF Fringe Women in Adventure Forum. The Forum has the specific aims of celebrating achievement, inspiring and encouraging more women to get involved, and to establish a network for women in adventure/outdoors sport to keep the conversation going.

The Showroom is a local independent cinema, it’s a perfect venue for ShAFF and really does help create the festival feel. It’s a great feeling to watch quality films with a crowd of people that ‘get it.’ In previous years there have been some fantastic moments, particularly the collective reaction to climbing films, often featuring familiar faces in places we know well and love. As well as celebrating the achievements of Sheffield’s outdoors community, adventure films are a source of inspiration, a way to open my eyes to sports or places that I haven’t seen before, and to possibilities and aspirations for myself. The following four films feature truly diverse women and their personal adventures. I absolutely loved watching them, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the ShAFF films.

Finding Traction – As an aspiring ultra runner, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to preview this film in which female ultra runner Nikki Kimball takes on the record for running the Long Trail through the mountains of Vermont. At 273 miles, the Long Trail is the equivalent of running more than 10 marathons back to back, and includes twice the elevation of Everest. To run this trail non stop is an extreme physical and mental challenge, it’s fascinating and sometimes painful to watch the effects of fluctuations in nutrition, hydration, and fatigue. As a successful athlete with a career spanning many years, Nikki has an insight into the ways that women and men are treated differently in sport. She is running the Long Trail to publicise a charity, Girls on the Run, and wants to inspire young women to discover that being outdoors will make them happy. You don’t have to be a runner or a woman to enjoy this film, but if you happen to be both, don’t miss it!

Megamoon – This film is made by Hannah Maia and features herself and her new husband as they cycle across the US Transcontinental Great Divide for their Megamoon. First this involves rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, then cycling from New Mexico, via desert heat, wind, and mud to Alberta, Canada. Hannah owns this film, she has shared a piece of her personal world and it is full of joy and the love of life. I particularly enjoyed the little moments captured by the camera, a wheel popping off the trailer unexpectedly, beard wiggling, and the face that happens when your tent nearly gets struck by lightning. I was so inspired by this film I was practically packing my bags to go and find my own Mega adventures before the end titles had finished.

Patience – A short film by Jen Randall about alpine climber Emily Ward and her journey to recovery from serious illness against the odds. It demonstrates the need not just for physical strength but for mental strength and the persistence to endure. Often in life, it takes a negative event to force us to find strength through adversity – but I don’t think so in Emily’s case. I’m sure she was exceptionally strong before her illness, and will continue to be in spite of it. This is a woman who has made numerous first alpine ascents in Kyrgyzstan. This film challenged me to question whether I have the strength of character needed to achieve my goals. I hope so, and if so, what am I waiting for?

Nobody’s River – In this film four girls from the USA kayak together along the longest free-flowing river in the world, first through Mongolia and then Russia. The film shares the highs and lows of the all-female expedition, the timing of this journey coinciding with an unforeseen tragic period in their lives. They encounter the beauty, naivety and spontaneous magic of Mongolia, tempered by the sometimes brutal reality reflected in the Russian experience. Feeling themselves bonding as a tribe, they are forced to take difficult decisions, having to make the right calls both as a group and individually. This is a film about friendship as much as adventure, the girls survive the physical and emotional challenges of the journey together using their unique blend of strength, capability… and just the right amount of intuition.

You can find all the details about ShAFF Women in Adventure here – http://www.shaff.co.uk/news-and-press/2014/11/05/Women_In_Adventure_Take_Centre_Stage_At_SHAFF_2015

And here is a link to the complete list of Women in Adventure films – http://www.shaff.co.uk/whats-on/women-in-adventure-films

Because #thisgirlcan ! A national campaign by Sport England, January 2015

This week Sport England launched a campaign “to celebrate active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, or how they look” www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.  It features women participating in activities like cycling, zumba, and climbing. It’s so liberating to see these real women, and I have personally been reflecting on how important it is to have female role models to encourage and inspire me.

Although I train and climb with equal numbers of men and women, I particularly value the time I spend with female friends. We are more evenly matched in terms of strength and performance, which means that we participate on an equal footing and are more likely to share common goals to work towards.

I find it empowering to take decisions and plan together, and feel especially proud of what I have achieved through team work with my female friends, whether climbing a hard route or navigating a race in the hills. Beyond training and performance, being active together creates real quality time, shared experiences, and lays the foundations for strong and supportive friendships.

In the media and coverage of the outdoors world I generally find strong women’s voices are less common. I don’t know if that is because there are proportionally fewer women participating, whether fewer women seek to publicise and share their adventures, or whether they struggle to have their voices heard in stereotypically more masculine environments. Or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

I don’t need my role models to be exceptional in terms of performance. It’s great to celebrate women that are at the top of their game and pushing the boundaries, but regardless of your level of performance I love to see the places that you are being active, and the things that you are doing, because if you can do it, so can I.

How women are presented in the media and online is important, and This Girl Can feels so right because it has a message that all women can relate to. We need to see realistic images of healthy women. We can celebrate using our female bodies without sexualising them. We do not need make up or air brushing to make us look healthy and vibrant.

Packing light and having access to minimal facilities has challenged my assumptions about the ‘essentials’ of life, including realising that in certain circumstances make up has no practical use. Pushing my physical and mental limits has taken me to a place where there is no room to think about how I look. Being active gives me a sense of wellbeing and achievement that feels so good that it pushes out the insecurities about how I might look while I’m doing it.

It can be a vulnerable feeling to share your thoughts and experiences, but I believe that we are all role models and mentors, encouraging and inspiring each other. I would like to see active women increasing our representation, and this means building confidence in our skills and abilities, finding our voices and being comfortable sharing to a wider audience. It means recognising that our opinions and experiences have value.

My small part of it is to keep sharing the joy of being active outdoors in all seasons in the best way that I can, and to keep reading and being inspired by you…