5 Things You Only Know If You’re… A Mountain Runner

Mere mortals don’t run up hills.
Mountain running is all about heading up and down the steepest hills around. Since there isn’t an actual mountain near Sheffield, I look for routes with the maximum amount of ascent. I don’t leap up the hills like a mountain goat – no one does. Mountain ‘running’ involves a lot of speed hiking; stopping to look at the view, taking photos and eating are all great opportunities to sneak in a bit of a rest.

Food is your friend.
Mountain routes are often long and strenuous. To keep moving I need to fuel my body and that means a lot of snacks! At 30 miles or more with at least 2000 meters of climbing, ‘ultra’ races are also known as long-distance eating competitions. I’ve been known to eat burritos, sushi, cake and crisps on my routes.

The hills are alive.
Solitude is part of the appeal, and on a quiet run there’s a good chance of seeing rare and beautiful wildlife. In the Peak District I know where to find mountain hares, mighty stags, adders, lizards, kingfishers, owls and kestrels. Some of them even live with the boundaries of Sheffield!

“Solitude is part of the appeal, and on a quiet run there’s a good chance of seeing rare and beautiful wildlife.”

Your kit can save your life.
Whether I’m running for a few hours or a few days, the ultimate goal is to be self-sufficient in the mountains. That does mean carrying a fair bit of kit, including map and compass, warm layers, headtorch and waterproofs. The weather can be totally different in a valley compared to the top of the mountain, and help could be several hours away. It’s taken a few cold and wet experiences to learn what gear will keep me comfortable and safe in wind, rain, snow and ice.

Your head needs to be as strong as your legs.
When I take on a long-distance run, I know there are going to be highs and lows along the way – and at some point it’s going to get painful. A certain level of fitness helps, but determination, positivity and a sense of humour are more likely to get you to the finish line than a few extra squats in the gym. Pushing on and overcoming challenges has given me confidence. I know that in tough times I can always dig a bit deeper, and this has carried over into other areas of my life.

Anna Paxton is an ultrarunner from Sheffield, now living in the Peak District and currently training for the Spine Sprint – a 48-mile winter race along the first section of the Pennine Way. Anna is also co-director for Sheffield Adventure Film Festival (SHAFF), producer at Salt Street Productions and guide book author for Vertebrate Publishing.


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