Trail race or fell race what’s the difference?
I have been fell running for 8 years but more recently another term has been coming more on the radar trail running having completed my first two trail races I have been thinking what is the difference between the two?
Fell race require navigational skills-yes absolutely for a big category A races but many summer fell races are short, well marshalled and well suited to those who are new to navigating. Whilst trail races tend be fully marked courses ( except recently when me and the other front runners got to a road crossing and the marshals haven’t arrived yet- wished I had my map then!)
Kit -Fell races tend to have set kit requirements as prescribed by the FRA, whilst trail races vary according to the organiser. In the Howgills 13 for example I had to have a foil blanket and a fully charged mobile and small first aid kit as well as the usual body cover. I was very pleased that one of leading runners who had decided that this kit requirement didn’t apply to him was disqualified. Watch out if I see anyone not carrying kit I take great delight in informing a race official! If I have to carry maybe an extra kilo in kit why should someone else get away with not doing so? Annoying though it might be I would still stop and use my emergency kit to help any runner in distress even if they break the rules.( Two Dark Peak men gave up championship points to do just this in the Great Lakes Race a couple of years ago). Fell or trail read your race notes and follow this instructions even if you don’t agree with what’s listed its up to the race organiser- their race their rules.
Trail runners have nicer kit- not really sure why this is but trail runners often have the latest technical gear such as compression wear and tend to at least start the race with clean shoes. Many fell runners seem to delight in 1985 Borrowdale fell race t- shirts and excessively short shorts ( that’s just the men!)But you will notice none of the good ones skimp on decent fell shoes.
Terrain generally a fell race would have more rough pathless terrain a certain amount of climb per metre but be warned s climbing up the Calf and descending down Cautley Spout( Howgills 13) felt like proper fell terrain to me.Check your race note several people thought it was a bit hillier than they expected! Whilst I think some of the local fell races around Sheffield would be called trail races if they were new races starting today. So if you are new to off road running don’t be put off if it has the word fell in the title but also don’t assume it will be a doodle if it’s a trail race. Do your research -ask more experienced club mates, look at race maps or talk to the nice people in Accelerate about what to expect from a particular race
Cost – entering a trail race can cost a bit more than an average fell race but look at what you might get for your money- food, t shirts , finishers medals and other add ons.
In conclusion its all good. I enjoyed my recent win at the Howgills 13 as much as the Calver Fell Race. Trail races focus on my strengths which are runnable hills and flatter sections rather than navigation and rough descents. But the camaraderie and fierce competition of fell running makes it something I will always want to take part in.