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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.