Pennine Fell Runners - Safety




Introduction

Fell running is an extreme sport and injuries and fatalities do happen. Pennine does not take responsibility for anyone who runs with the club on organised events and it's therefore essential that each individual takes responsibility for his/her own safety. As well as the handicaps and other special events, this also applies to any Thursday night run. These are not structured training sessions, so there is no designated organiser or run leader, which means that it's possible there might not be anyone there with more hill experience than you. Therefore you should take all the standard precautions that you would on any solo training run. The decision to take part in any fell running event (FRA race, Pennine handicap, relay event etc) is the responsibility of the individual runner, and nobody else.

Kit requirements

What kit you wear and carry depends on the weather, the route, the time of year, and your personal circumstances. At a minimum, and in line with FRA best practice guidelines, you should carry full body cover (waterproof or windproof according to conditions), hat, gloves, map, compass, whistle and emergency food. Extra items could include a spare top, survival bag, torch, spare batteries, water bottle, electrolyte tablets, emergency shelter and first aid kit. You should always carry a torch on all evening runs that might see you out after dark. This is what the club advises, but the responsibility for carrying appropriate kit rests with the individual runner, and not with the club.

Hypothermia

The FRA produce a useful guide on the risks and how to minimise them (FRA Hypothermia Leaflet). It's important to remember that wind chill significantly reduces the apparent temperature. You should always have enough kit to keep you warm if you have to walk off the hill in any weather conditions

Footwear

You should wear fell running shoes which offer good grip and stability on rough uneven ground. The grips need to be made of a soft enough compound to grip on wet rock, while they need to be aggressive enough to grip on mud. The lower your feet are to the ground the more stable they are, so you will find it easier to run and have less twisted ankles and knees. While nothing is specified in FRA rules, a useful discussion appears online here courtesy of a well-known shop.

Navigation

The club offers numerous opportunities to practice basic map and compass navigation in familiar areas. Specific training sessions have also been organised when there is sufficient interest from members.
Five golden rules to prevent you getting lost are:

  • Distance - how far in total? and how far between significant points en route?

  • Direction - use compass bearings - if the path you're supposed to be on runs north/south, you shouldn't be going east or west

  • Duration - how long will it take overall? And between significant points? If what you're looking for is over a mile away you're not going to get there in less than 5 minutes

  • Description - determine in advance what you expect to see, what type of ground you will be covering, climbs and descents, significant features eg ridge, wall, and tick off these elements as you run along

  • Destination - clarify to yourself and with others where you are actually trying to reach and have in mind a feature which will tell you if you have overshot.

There has been much discussion about the use of GPS in fell running. No one is saying it should not be used in an emergency situation or if something has gone wrong and you need to get yourself safely off the hill. However, technology can fail for many reasons so it should not be your only means of navigating on the fells.

Mobile Phones

You should always carry a mobile phone, ideally fully-charged when you start and switched on so that if you take a serious tumble the emergency services have a chance at identifying your approximate location. Storing the number of a race control contact or the start/finish location in your phone before setting off could help you alert club or event colleagues in the event you need help getting off the hill, or will be late back. You can also enroll in the emergency SMS service for occasions where signal strength or rough weather conditions make emergency voice calls difficult

Training in groups

You should ideally go out on the fells in a group of four or more, so that in the event someone gets injured there is one person to stay with the casualty and two to go off and seek help (which might just involve going around the corner for mobile signal) still with the protection of each other in case of adverse conditions or a further injury.

Safety near animals

When running across agricultural land with animals, especially cattle, in fields you should take care to pass them at a distance - walk don't run - and be especially careful if they have young with them. Further details on this point are covered by the Rambler's Association walking near livestock leaflet.

Pennine Fell Runners links

Risk Assessment information
Risk assessment policy
General risk assessment

Other Links

General safety on the fells; Fell Runners Association Safety Requirements
Hypothermia; FRA leaflet
Weather Mountain Weather Information Service
Fell running shoes guide: Pete Bland web page
Emergency SMS service: Mountaineering Scotland page
Walking near livestock: Ramblers Association leaflet


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