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Get Kids Outdoors: First Time Fell Running

Admiring the views at Loughrigg Tarn, Cumbria
Written by Stuart Wickes

Get Kids Outdoors: First Time Fell Running

I struggle with motivation sometimes. Not my own, but the kids. As they get older it does seem to get harder to get kids outdoors. As toddlers they were portable, pliable, bribable; but I think those days are gone. It irks me most on those perfect sunny days in the school holidays when we should be outside having fun, not inside trying to move mountains. But I’ve not given up. Not yet….  which is how Hannah and I ended up fell running for the first time. 

Half term adventure time

In my head half terms should be fun, exciting, adventure filled affairs but something has changed in our house.

It’s the first Monday of half term. Outside the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the world is waiting. Inside the kids are still in bed or slumped in armchairs wearing unicorn onesies watching Netflix. It’s not the family I want us to be but I don’t seem able to break the spell. Some days getting the kids outdoors feels like trying to move mountains.

It’s always been a bit of a challenge to get the kids fired up to go out on my little adventures. But I’m sure it’s become more difficult of late. No, impossible in some cases; I have as much as given up with my eldest teen. But I’m not at that point with the youngest. Not yet.

“It’s a lovely day. Do you fancy a bit of an outing?” I ask.

The unicorn shows no obvious signs of interest.

Out walking with a Trunki

It is not unknown for a Unicorn to be spotted in the wild. It just requires some persuasion.

The tools of persuasion

I begin with bribery.

“We could take a walk and get some sweets.”


Next up a little light emotional blackmail.

“We could be unicorns together. Just you and me. Without your brothers.”

Not a twitch.

I try appealing to her interests.

“What about running? We could do some training for the Kendal Colour Dash. You want to be ready for that, don’t you?”

I think I get a moment’s eye contact. I take it as a signal.

Loughrigg Tarn, Cumbria

You don’t get many February days like this. So you just HAVE to get out.

A blink is as good as a nod

I scuttle off to my screen to do some research. I search out an article I noticed on wild running in the Lake District. It has a great first time fell running route idea. I dig out an old OS map, download the route to my phone, and gather some snacks and water into a rucksack.

I pause Netflix and present it all to the unicorn. She rubs her eyes; not overly impressed. But she has blinked. And that’s as good as a nod to me. The mountain is movable.

Fell running at Loughrigg Tarn, Cumbria

This is where we’re heading. First time fell running at Loughrigg Tarn, Cumbria.

Out at last

By early afternoon we are in Cumbria’s Langdale Valley. It’s a bright cold February day and there are lots of people out enjoying the sunshine and tearooms of Elterwater.

Our 7km run takes us away from the village along Langdale Beck and the River Brathay. It’s a very easy path for families, accessible for strollers and pushchairs. We pass Mums pushing babies, Dads herding toddlers and families with tweens but I don’t spot any teens. Now I’ve got two I think I know why.

We are the only ones running and people look at us as if we are mad. I know I am. But I think all my kids are too. When we do get them out they love being outdoors. Well, afterwards. They just don’t think they’ll enjoy it when they’re sat at home gaming or watching YouTube. I wish they could have hindsight in advance.

Fell running to Elterwater: A great way to get kids outdoors

Fell running through the woods near Elterwater. An easy way to get kids outdoors.

Running uphill?

We catch our breath by the river at Skelwith Bridge and lighten the rucksack by eating our cookies. Then we fill our lungs with Lakeland air jogging gently up to Loughrigg Tarn.

“I didn’t realise fell running was running up hills,” puffs Hannah.

Did I forget to mention that? Still she’s smiling. Loving it. We both are. Fell running is such a free and simple pleasure. And this is an awesome route, with a little of everything. Up at the tarn we run through open field, across bracken and bog, on open fell, over step and stile, past grazing sheep. After a loop of the tarn we head back down to the river, stop off at Skelwith Force falls to rehydrate before heading back to the start.

We take forever but we’re not competing. Just enjoying being outdoors, doing something together and feeling good.

Loughrigg Tarn, Cumbria

Loughrigg Tarn is the reward for the little uphill

Because it’s worth it

We return home invigorated. The boys don’t look like they’ve moved all day. If I thought it was hard getting Hannah out I can just tell it would require a Herculean effort to move them.

“How was it?” they ask.

“It was hard work but worth it,” says Hannah.

I’m inclined to agree. But perhaps for different reasons.

Try this for yourself

Fell running is not a complicated activity. If you can walk you can probably run, at least slowly. And if you can run you can fell run. We’ve a post with some tips on first time fell running coming soon. In the meantime if you want to try this route around Elterwater it’s from the book Wild Running: 150 Great Adventures on the Trails and Fells of Britain. You can find lots of route ideas on the companion Wild Running website. If you do have a go or have ideas for routes of your own, do leave a comment and let us know.


About the author

Stuart Wickes

Stuart's the adventure addict half of the team, always trying to persuade the family to get out, do more, go further. As co-founder and co-director he handles the business, creative, design, technical and publishing aspects of the project. He is our chief photographer and videographer. With training as a professional learning and development consultant. an engineer and musician, his contribution is eclectic and unpredictable!


  • I haven’t even thought of fell running (and we’re somewhat lacking in hills here) but I definitely need more inspiration for my runs than that provided by my local pavements. I’m sometimes a bit timid about running in countryside on my own, but going as a family would be great, and exploring the local countryside would offer more of a temptation for my kids than our local streets would. Wish me luck!

    • We’ve had some lovely outings running as a family. The novelty of doing it cross country has persuaded the kids out a few times! You could also try running with the kids using the Zombie running app which tells a zombie story while you run and gives you the option of being chased by zombies while running too. (Just virtual ones). It also tracks your stats which can be motivating for trying to keep up the pace or beat last weeks time.

  • Fell running as in up and down? Love it, and we have all the up we want in the small forest right behind our house. Which is why usually I don’t run there but merely jog along the street instead. It’s lame but hey, it’s level. Well, since I am fasting I have lost a few kilos, perhaps I’ll indeed give the uphill another try. It really does sound nice. And challenging the remaining kilos.

    • A little up is good for the soul as well as the size. As on a bike, so on foot, teaching the value of effort, persistence and pacing. Of course the reward of a view is always helpful and distracting at the same time. Not so much option for that in a forest perhaps, or maybe one just has to peer harder.

  • Uh oh, I had been hoping it would be easier to get my son out as he got older–not harder! :-/ He’s 3 and loves being outdoors once he gets there, but is a homebody most of the time.

  • It’s true Stuart, kids need breaks and fun between the terms/semesters for the minds to relax. No wonder the saying “work without play make jack a dull boy”. Through outdoor games a child can realize their talents fully and subject them to future career.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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