Fell Running Q & A with Limitless Pursuits

I recently received a message from the team at Limitless Pursuits, a website dedicated to delivering stories of men and women from around the world who show great spirit and strength to achieve things they never thought would be possible.  Sounded good to me!  They asked if they could interview me in the form of a Q and A.  I'd never answered one myself before but once I saw the questions I was immediately intrigued and went ahead.  I've copied the conversation below with the images used on their website.  The link to the official posting is here; https://limitlesspursuits.com/land/fell-running/the-young-feller-calvin-jake-fergusons-ambition-to-take-the-fell-running-world-by-storm/

The interview took place in September 2017 and was published in October 2017.

Traversing Lords Rake, Lake District, while supporting a Bob Graham Round attempt (pic by Ross Spalding)

CALVIN JAKE FERGUSON took part in some fell running when he was just five years old, back in 1995.  He played and competed in lots of sports when he was young but decided to take up fell running as his main hobby in 2015.

The last three years have been a whirlwind for Calvin as the sport has taken hold of him, climaxing in the last nine months where he's competed all over the UK in places including the Lake District, Yorkshire, Wales and Scotland.

Here Calvin talks about how it all began and shares with us some of his fell running successes on his journey in the sport so far.  Read on to find out about his ambitions for the future and his aims to compete on fells overseas in the months and years ahead.

Calvin pictured with the 2016 David Staff Memorial race winner, Liz Batt of Dark Peak FR (photo credit: Woodentops)

"When did you start fell running and who encouraged you to give the sport a go?"

I actually first took part in some fell running when I was really young. I raced a few times between 1995 & 1998 (I was born in 1990!) and was a junior member of a running club while I also did short training runs and some road races with my Grandma & Grandad at the time too, as they were both runners. I have always been a sporty person, especially when I was a child, I tried virtually every sport, including rugby union, track & field, football & swimming.

I decided to take up fell running as my hobby in 2015, though. It came about after I suffered a serious knee injury while playing football, which was my passion for 20 years or so. I was under doctors orders not to play any contact sport while I continued my rehabilitation so I started to run short distances on a treadmill, just to be safe. I started with distances as short as half a mile, purely because my cardiovascular fitness had become so poor through inactivity (not by choice). Eventually I started running outside but struggled to even run a mile on the roads. Over time I built my fitness back up and started to enter a few local road races and trail races. My Grandad then suggested to try out a fell race or two and he took me for some recce's and my love for the sport has just continued to grow from my first fell race.

My name will appear on a few race results in 2013 and 2014 but at the time I was still playing football and didn't really take running seriously but once I joined Darwen Dashers in 2014, I started to enjoy it more than football and it grew from there. I now train 6 to 7 days a week and sometimes twice a day, while also representing Calder Valley fell runners in fell races and Darwen Dashers on the road and cross country races.

Flying down a descent on Rossendale's Foe Edge fell race (photo credit: Runningpix)

"Where did you grow up and what kind of opportunities did the area give you to run?"

I grew up in Lower Darwen in Lancashire and I still live there now. It's pretty much the ideal location for a fell runner, to be honest. Nearby we have plenty of hills and Darwen itself is very hilly. Other local spots include Pendle Hill, Rivington Pike, Winter Hill, Great Hill and the hills surrounding Rossendale & Holcombe. The Lake District is of course the home of fell running and is only 90 minutes drive from Darwen, along with the Yorkshire moors which are around 60 minutes away.

Darwen gives you every opportunity to grow as a runner, either on the roads or on the fells. There are plenty of variations even just in the types of terrain and the gradients of the hills themselves. I am really lucky to live in such a place and it makes my training really enjoyable and easy to vary.

"What have been some of your biggest fell running adventures?"

I have always been cautious of doing too much, too soon, so now I am in my 3rd season of running, I decided to step out of my comfort zone more often and take up some big adventures! My first Lake District AL race was at Borrowdale this year. An AL race is the toughest race classification (as set by the FRA - Fell Runners Association). This means that it must have an average of at least 50 metres of ascent per kilometre, should have less than 20% of the race distance on road and has to be at least 1.5 kilometres in length. The "L" means that the race is over 20 kilometres in distance, so at 17.2 miles and with just short of 7,000ft of ascent, Borrowdale is an easy qualifier in the AL fell race category and is known as one of the Lakeland Classics.

I have also supported quite a few Bob Graham round attempts this summer, which meant being out on the fells for up to 12 hours in some instances, covering 20+ miles and over 10,000ft of ascent in one session. These are by far and away my longest adventures so far and have given me some fantastic experiences and great memories to treasure. I am constantly asked when my attempt will take place, but, more on that one later.

I have also raced the UK 3 Peaks on several occasions now. Mount Snowdon and Ben Nevis, twice each and Scafell Pike is soon to be 3. These aren't the longest of races in terms of distance, usually around 9 to 10 miles, but the sheer steepness provides tests like no others.

Descending from the Lake District summit of Loughrigg on an atmospheric night during the 2016 race (photo credit: Racing Snakes)

"Where in the country and world has running taken you?"

I have as recently as yesterday come back from Fort William, Scotland, after racing Ben Nevis for the second time. I travel to the Lake District quite often and many corners of Yorkshire and Wales that I probably would never have seen if it wasn't for the sport. At some point I do plan on racing in Italy, France and Switzerland but I would like to improve my overall fitness before I tackle anything like that.

Many people ask me why I don't take a beach holiday or a couple of weeks in a sunny country every year, but, I don't feel the need to when I find myself up mountains and in stunning locations on a near weekly basis. I suppose I am easily pleased but some of the views and sights we see on the fells are pretty much unrivalled and appreciating these things in life is something I am grateful I can do.

My favourite places include the likes of Wasdale, Barley (Lancashire), Llanberis and Fort William. Funnily enough, 3 of those 4 locations are the home of the tallest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales. Maybe I just love the challenge that these mountains bring!

"How much are you currently running and where do you run most?"

My current mileage tends to vary week in, week out. This usually depends on my racing plans for the weekend, as I tend to race nearly every week. If I have a big race, in terms of either mileage, ascent or even both, I will have a week of probably around 25 miles, mainly easy efforts, just to keep myself moving in the days leading up to the race. If I have no race plans, I will aim for around 45-50 miles with 3 out of the 7 days being hard working sessions, usually a couple of hill sessions and a longer run or speed session. I also try to aim for about 6,000ft of ascent per week, but again, this varies depending on my racing. More often than not it is more than 6,000ft but some weeks I try to lower it to prevent burnout.

Things like this are all unique to each runner though. I may do more training miles than some of the elite runners but obviously I don't get the same results as they do and there might be runners who I regularly beat in races who actually do more training miles than myself. It's all relative to what you want to achieve and what areas you feel like you need to improve on.

My training runs are mainly done on the moors of Darwen, especially in the summer months. In winter, I run a lot more of my training miles on the road as I am not a huge fan of head torch running on the fells, so, working 7-4:30 doesn't allow me to get any daylight in the winter, meaning I stick to the roads of Blackburn and Darwen the majority of the time and try to run commute to and from work to get more miles in.

Driving through the bogs during the Pete Hartley Memorial Liver Hill fell race (photo credit: Runningpix)

"Tell us about your blog and what readers can expect from it?"

My blog basically started out as a kind of diary to myself. I decided then to share a post or two through my social media channels and after receiving some good feedback from followers, I thought I would start to write a bit more. Most of my posts are race reports, from my own race experience. I do try and provide some history of the race and any past experiences I may have had or information I have gathered, usually from my Grandad's and Uncle's exploits in the late 80's/early 90's.

I have also written several reviews on products that I may feel benefit people in the fell running world and I do try to keep the content relevant so followers can see where my blog actually goes. My race reports seem to be helpful as I have had a few people approach me after races etc, with good comments and great feedback, some people even say that reading my reports helped them with the race itself...way more than I anticipated when I started some short race reports a couple of years back.

One final thing to always expect is honesty, oh, and photo's, ha ha.

"Do you have any exciting running adventures lined up for the rest of the year and beyond?"

I tend to plan a lot in advance so I can work my training around my racing. Some people would probably argue that isn't the best way to go about running but I enjoy it and I am still constantly improving at the moment so I don't see a need for change just yet.

This coming weekend I am running in a pair with my friend Stuart in the legendary Lake District Mountail Trial. This is a self navigation race which requires navigational skills and you don't find out the route until you are about half a mile out on the course. This is my first LDMT and I'm really looking forward to doing something a bit different than the usual race. The week after I am racing Scafell Pike for the 3rd time and this will allow me to enter the King of the Mountains competition again, as I did last year. This provides a standings table for any runner who completed the Mount Snowdon, Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike races this season and the winner receives a trophy as a reward, although I don't expect to win this but an improvement on last seasons result is my aim.

Beyond this month, I plan to race some more of the Lakeland classic fell races. The Langdale Horseshoe is in my plans and the final race of the English Championships at Great Whernside is too. I would like to complete at Bob Graham round at some point, although the earliest I would even consider planning an attempt would be in 2019 or 2020, this is still something I am not 100% certain on doing just yet and only time will tell.

Until then, I just hope to keep on improving my race results and my overall fell running fitness levels, while of course enjoying this fantastic sport that has given me so much joy in such a short space of time!

My first Lakeland Classic; Borrowdale 2017.  Epic! (photo credit: Grand Day Out Photography)


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