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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Helen Mort, Lake District Trail Running

Friday, 5 August 2016

Splendid isolation: a morning run by Cummock Water. © Jan Bella

For this blog, we caught up with award-winning poet and runner, Helen Mort. Helen's latest book, Lake District Trail Running, is a comprehensive guide to off-road running in the Lake District National Park, which is home to some of the finest running trails in the UK. 

1. Was it your move to the Lake District in 2010 that inspired you to take up trail running?

I actually started trail running when I was quite young. I used to compete on the track, but my dad introduced me to fell races when I was fifteen after we ran the Great Longstone race together. I was hooked and for years I’d compete in local fell runs on a Wednesday night (often winning strange prizes, everything from a pair of socks to a set of casserole dishes!). When I moved to the Lake District though, I started trail running in earnest. There were so many routes from my front door in Grasmere and I enjoyed discovering them slowly, working out how the paths could be linked.

2. You mention in the introduction to Lake District Trail Running that you love road running too, but, following your year of in living in the Lake District, would you say you still prefer road running to fell running?

Even though I often race on tarmac and some of my proudest running achievements have been road marathons like London, there’s nothing that can match a trail run or a fell run on a clear day, especially the thrill of seeing a particular view for the first time. I’d give up all my road running medals for a single morning in December 2014 when I ran the Fairfield Horseshoe in crisp snow and complete solitude.

Helen Mort descending Loughrigg. © Jan Bella 

3. Do you need to be an experienced off-road runner to read your guidebook or would you say it’s also suited to somebody new to the Lakeland fells?

The guidebook is aimed at everyone and is suitable for complete newcomers to the world of trail running. Some of the routes (especially the lakeside runs like Buttermere and Loweswater) are pretty flat and very straightforward to navigate, so anyone with a pair of trail shoes can have a go. I hope people who are new to the trails won’t be daunted by hills either – I’ve included some shorter runs (such as Alcock Tarn in Grasmere) to help build up your fitness. And it’s OK to walk parts of them too, a great way to train.

4. Were there any particular challenges you encountered while running in the Lake District?

Lake District running is full of challenges, especially if you like to take your dog out running with you … mine once bolted off the side of Silver Howe and ended up (sensibly) in the pub in Elterwater! Aside from that, a lot of the main obstacles are weather-related: slippery stones, poor visibility and soaking shoes. And as we all know, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothes!

A view worth stopping for: Cummock Water on an August day. © Jan Bella

5. Do you have a favourite Lakeland trail?

My favourite route in the book is the run around Loweswater. Running it in August 2015 on an unfeasibly sunny morning will always be one of my happiest memories. 

Click HERE for more about Helen's latest book, Lake District Trail Running.

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