Tag : running

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To Run and Fly

Since finding my love for flight, I’ve explored as many facets of this incredible mode of transport from the perspective of paragliding as possible. Free flight, paramotoring, speed flying, speed riding, and mini-wing mountain descents. I love all forms of this sport but this year, I came back to the reason I started flying in the first place; to walk up a mountain and fly back down. No worrying about catching thermals, turbulent air, noise pollution from a motor or finding a football field-sized landing spot to swoop down on an 8m speed wing.

In short, I wanted to do a project that captured my love of flight at its simplest, but instead of walking I would be running, and instead of taking on UK hills I would tackle the Alps. Both of these decisions would turn a very simple idea into one of the most challenging projects I’ve done to date.

The Route

The idea for this project was to take in as much of the Alps as possible, moving slowly through the countries and along the main valleys in the long alpine chain. This meant that the project would start in Slovenia, a country I had previously not visited, let alone flown in, and meander its way through Austria, Italy, back into Austria, through the bulk of Switzerland, finishing above the beautiful lake of Annecy in France.

Fortunately for me, my partner decided this would be a great year to cycle the length of the Alps while recording the conditions of the major glaciers along the route. Whilst this was a noble undertaking, it provided a continual reminder of how climate change is drastically altering some of the most beautiful places on earth. This was no more apparent than when we arrived at the Marmolada glacier which hours earlier had partially collapsed killing 11 people and injuring a further 8 just meters from our intended route. Despite this somewhat sobering goal, for me at least it meant the bulk of the route was premade for me, I simply had to find 15 suitable sites from which to run and  fly.

Though the main route of travel was set, I would keep the actual day routes for the run and fly completely flexible, instead identifying around 30 potential mountains to run up. By doing this, I could decide which run I would be doing each day based on the conditions I saw. Whilst this was certainly the best way to conduct the project, it meant every day there were decisions to be made about which mountain would be climbed, what to take with me (or more realistically what could I leave behind) and what the intended flight plan would be. This certainly wasn’t a relaxing holiday, but more a project of repeated stress, exertion, success and attempted relaxation which recurred on a daily basis.

Run and Fly Equipment

To take on a project such as this meant finding the right equipment for the task. This is no easy feat and like all good gear decisions it required a healthy dose of agonising over technical specifications.

Starting at the feet, I used the Inov-8 Parkclaw 260 Knit shoe. As much as I loathe Inov-8’s desire to keep whitewashing ultrarunning, I do have particularly wide feet so needs must. As a medium term review for these shoes, I wouldn’t recommend them based upon the sole disintegrating after only 8 moderate trail runs.

There isn’t much to say about the clothing system as it proved to be so hot that I only ever flew in shorts and a t-shirt, so my handmade flight wind trousers sadly never made an appearance…

For the backpack I used the Ultimate Direction SCRAM bag. Whilst it’s another bag to add to an ever-growing collection it’s by far the most versatile bag I own. I’ve run with it fully loaded, climbed with it, flown thousands of vertical meters with it, and throughout it has been like a silent partner going everywhere with me and carrying everything I needed for the entire trip. I can’t recommend this bag highly enough if you combine the fast and light approach with multiple sports.

The last piece of running gear were the Sungod Ultras. I’m an ambassador for Sungod so these arrived free for my project, but I think after using and abusing them over thousands of km’s and across an entire continental mountain chain I can give a little feedback. The benefits of the Ultras are how light they are. They feel weightless on the face and the coverage while running in the sun is superb. The customisable nose pieces were incredibly useful, as is the ability to change lenses on the fly. The compromise comes with durability vs. weight – for pure running these are absolutely fine, but when being stuffed in rucksacks and enduring the harsh treatment that comes with hike and fly, I worry that they are very light. The upside is that the glasses come with a lifetime guarantee, so I guess my concerns are taken care of.

The flying equipment was where I felt I made real compromises. I knew I needed a wing that was light enough to run with, performant enough to cope with true alpine conditions, and rugged enough to cope with that same harsh hike and fly treatment I put the Ultras through. Until this year though that wing simply didn’t exist. I knew I needed a single skin paraglider as it just wouldn’t be possible to run with the bulk of a traditional double skin even in the smallest sizes. But the only options were the Dudek Run and Fly at one end of the spectrum, and a host of other gliders such as the AD UFO and Niviuk Skin 3P at the other.

The Dudek wing is light, absolutely perfect for running with, but it lacks almost all the other characteristics I needed. It lacks the long term durability for sure, but crucially it’s slow and in a headwind it lacks the penetration needed to make safe landing options. At the other end of the spectrum, those wings are higher performing but they achieve that with much higher bulk and weight which would make running a mostly miserable experience.

I was edging toward the Skyman Running Edmund because it almost hit all the targets, but then Skyman told me about a new wing they were working on; the Skyman Speed. This is the most innovative single skin I’ve seen to date. It’s a 2-liner so it’s good through the air, it’s stable, it’s very fast for a single skin (hence the name), and whilst being very light it’s made of cloth just heavy enough to stand up to rough treatment at unknown launches.

Having used this wing intensively for a couple of months I’d rank it as one of the most fun wings I’ve flown, almost the easiest to launch (let down by longer lines that are tricky to manage on a small rocky take-off), and by far the best wing I could have hoped to have for this trip. I wouldn’t run and fly with anything else currently available.

The harness I chose was the AirDesign Le Slip – by far the lightest harness I’ve flown (even lighter than my previous Skyman String), and easily the most packable – it folds completely flat so is perfect for fitting in a small bag. It great too, even for longer flights.

The last mention is for the Skywalk Tapa X-Alps reserve. Despite the slight weight increase and added bulk, I never considered running this project without a reserve. Perhaps if I was racing where every gram and second counted then I might consider not taking one, but for this trip as soon as I heard that the Tapa was being released as one of the lightest reserves the decision to carry one became a no brainer.

What is Run and Fly

Before talking about how to train for this project, I first need to describe what it actually is. I’ve given the basic premise above; to run up hill with a wing and then fly back down. But what about when you can’t run up a hill? Many of the hills on this project are very steep, they’re the sort of hills that are often quicker to walk than run. The vertical KM in Chamonix was one of my targets for this project, and as runs go, it’s very steep (there are sections of 45% and steeper), but for this project it was nowhere near the steepest slope I intended to ‘run’ up. So my question in designing this project was to define what counts.
Without going into any more depth than necessary, I determined that run and fly is running on downhill, flat and slightly uphill sections, and then ‘power walking’ any hills that were too steep to run, i.e. if you can’t run them, then walk as fast as you can. The differentiating point with run and fly and hike and fly is that with hiking there is an emphasis on walking for the full distance. With run and fly the emphasis is on moving as fast as possible which is usually running, but clearly it’s not possible to run up every gradient. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going around 1.5x faster than the hiking signs are estimating, you can count your effort firmly in the run and fly category!


In order to train for the Alps run and fly, I was limited to the UK thanks to the good folk who thought voting to restrict their own freedom of movement was an anti-immigration brainwave.

This didn’t prove too troublesome, particularly for the running training. The UK has plenty of steep hills which would give ample practice for what I intended to do in the Alps. These hills also provided some truly horrific weather which I thought would set me up well for any adverse conditions I might face on the continent.

My training therefore featured a variety of distance runs at home on flatter terrain which I complemented in the hills with as much elevation gain as I could. Typically this meant running up to 2 hours on moderate ground, and up to 3 or 4 hours in the mountains. Other than adding lots of stretching and some climbing strength work, I did very little else to prepare for the running.

I did experiment with nutrition on the runs, but invariably my runs in the Alps would be short enough to mostly forgo eating any food on the way up, instead saving as much pack space as I could for water.

As for flight training there’s far too much to cover here, but specifically for this project, I did plenty of flights on the new wing, a crucial step before taking it somewhere big like the Alps. I also trialled a few different tactics, mostly focussed on packing the wing for the running bag and being efficient on launch. I considered leaving the wing attached to the harness after each flight, but eventually realised it was faster to detach the harness and focus on folding the wing and risers consistently.

So by the time I left the UK, I was about as prepared as it was possible to be for a relatively large step into the unknown. I’d be flying in a country I’d previously not visited and taking on so many variables that it was impossible to train for every scenario that might occur. Therefore, with everything considered, I was ready.

Run and Fly the Alps

Instead of talking too much about each individual day, I will instead give a brief overview of what the project achieved, and then take a more analytical approach about the successes and challenges of the trip as I feel this is the most benefit I can provide anyone wanting to do a similar voyage; a reward for reading so far!

Mountains Flown


Goli VHR South ridge launch, 1787m (RandF)
Goli VHR West face launch, 1787m (RandF)

kanzelhöhe, Annenheim, 1524m (R)
Wallackhaus, Grossglockner, 2300m (RandF)
Hochstein, Lienz, 2057m (R)
Gschwandtkopf, Seefeld, 1495m (R)

Monte Faloria, Cortina, 2123m (RandF)
Flatschspitz – Cima Vallaccia, 2566m (RandF)

La Palette, Les Diablerets, 2170m (RandF)
Les Ruinettes, verbier, 2300m (R)

l’Index (via ferrata), Chamonix, 2400m (RandF)
Planpraz (vertical kilometre), Chamonix, 2000m (RandF)
Aiguille de Varan, Passy, 2544m (RandF)
Mont Chéry, Les Gets, 1826m (RandF)
Montmin, Annecy, 1280m (RandF)

Total Stats:

Vertical meters run up: 14,705m
Miles run: 67.2
Vertical meters paraglided down: 10,105m
Vertical meters run down: 3,746m


What went well

Whilst training for this project, I was less apprehensive than usual and instead quite excited about the prospect to fly in some amazing places. My excitement turned out to be more than justified by the incredible positions I found myself either running or flying in. Having never flown in or even been to Slovenia before, I had no gauge on what the country, terrain or people would be like, other than the various Google searches I made before I arrived. The flights I made from Goli VHR were some of my favourites. It was relatively isolated, quiet and in some ways the perfect run and fly. The run up was 700m vertical, and it happened to be at the perfect angle where running and power walking was possible, but not too steep that progress was hard fought. As the run concluded, the path brought you out onto the summit ridge which immediately gave superb views across Slovenia and southern Austria. I initially thought it wouldn’t be possible to fly from the summit given how narrow the ridge was, but with some creativity, I laid the wing over a clump of nettles and then launched along the summit ridge until the ground dropped away underneath me. Beyond Slovenia, there were Austrian and Swiss meadows, gigantic rock formations of the Dolomites, and breath-taking glaciers hanging below 4,000m peaks as we travelled into France. Despite having spent long periods of time living in the Alps I was certainly taken aback by the sheer scale and contrast of the mountainous areas which doesn’t really come across from maps alone.

I have some pride in completing this project because it turned out to be far harder than I anticipated. The weather played a huge role in the difficulty of the challenge and despite starting the runs between 6 and 7am each morning, it was difficult not to succumb to heat stroke. Combining this heat and the sheer remoteness of many of the initial mountains, the difficulty becomes a huge collection of challenges that need to be rationalised and solved in order to successfully complete each day.

The route we took through the Alps was a mostly obvious one. It could be far better given more time, but with the objective of crossing the Alps in a reasonable number of days, our route gave us the best of both worlds – speed across the mountains whilst still providing magnificent vistas that were good reminders of why we love this place.

Perhaps the biggest surprises of the project was that it was successful! On the surface the task sounds easy, but back-to-back days of big climbing over multiple new locations that have only been scouted on Google Maps and Komoot made the challenge seem harder each successive day. There doesn’t seem to be too many people doing actual run and flys, i.e. running vs hiking. So by completing this project, I hope this helps run and fly to become a little more popular, not just using single skins in the big mountains, but for the everyday run up and save the legs on the way down; the reason so many people started paragliding.

My final point in this section is a combination of success and challenge that is certainly a point of learning. As I previously mentioned, I was attempting this project in conjunction with my partner who was challenging herself with an attempt to cycle between 6 of the main glaciers of the Alps and record the conditions when she got there. The combination of both our separate projects at the same time is certainly unique, but it did offer difficulties and also wonderful motivation when the going was quite tough. A short summary of the difficulties would include the fact that two very tired people will struggle to find water, do the shopping, find suitable parking areas and generally recover compared with one very tired person and one well rested one. It’s very difficult to know how you will react when you’re a week into an exhausting project and the conditions are much more challenging than you could have prepared for. If you add into the mix that our accommodation was a very small van (small for one person, laughably so for two), you can begin to appreciate that we did well to survive the experience.
In contrast to this aspect, whilst I wouldn’t recommend that couples rush headlong into separate challenges whilst living in extremely close quarters, there are definite advantages to this approach. On a practical level, we could both attempt our objectives in a short time scale, and it’s more carbon intensive to make the same journey twice. But on a more emotional level, there is a definite motivational advantage to be gained when you are following your partners extremely difficult journey whilst attempting one of your own. It gives you a purpose to reach the end goal for the day (not least because there’s only one van between you, and it’s probably a long way away from the cyclist!), and it also lifts you when you have set backs. It’s proved so worthwhile to be able to ask how the other person was coping in the heat under different circumstances, and to be able to rationalise what the best strategies were for coping with the heat.
In short, certainly a relationship testing situation, but one that can really forge you together when the going gets tough.

What was difficult/challenges

I think this section will be the most informative for those interested in starting out or considering run and fly objectives.

The Running
It sounds obvious to point out, but one of the largest challenges was the continual running! Almost every run featured around 1,000m of elevation gain. This is relatively significant for a single run but doing this on consecutive days is tough. Add in the weight of the kit (which despite being ultralight for paragliding still weighs around 5kgs) and the project becomes a war of attrition.

The Weather
Part of the reason the runs were so difficult is that I generally chose the steepest most direct lines. I chose July and August for this project and although I expected heat, I didn’t anticipate the 40oC temperatures that came over multiple heatwaves. This heat was almost unbearable to run in by 9am even in the higher mountains. So this meant starting early and going as quickly as possible to beat the heat. It’s difficult to describe how debilitating the heat has been but even when finishing by 10am, heatstroke was hard to avoid.

The Treeline
Climbing above the treeline was something I didn’t particularly consider given that trees don’t feature much on UK mountains. In many areas of the Alps however, trees dominate the hills to the point where it’s just not possible to launch in many places. Even if there is a clearing on Google Maps, the trees below the clearing may still be too tall making launch impractical. What this translated to is always running above the treeline. I did this on every mountain and it just added to the effort because even if I felt like the sun was too strong or I didn’t have the energy to continue running uphill, there was rarely any opportunity to just fly back to the valley until that line had been crossed.

New Sites
On almost every day, the site was new. This added so many challenges to mentally process while scoping out possible flying areas and during the runs. It didn’t help that I was doing the project solo, where every decision was made and ultimately owned by me.

A typical run would include observations of the windspeed and wind direction, scoping out the landing field before running and then finding emergency landing sites mid run in case the valley winds picked up too much while I was flying and I was forced to land mid slope (this happened once, it was very scary, I’m glad I scoped out 3 alternative landing sites!). Even before running I needed to know how much food and water to take, whether there was likely to be any water enroute and often how far the run back to the van would be once I’d flown. Once at the launch spot, making a personal assessment (you’ve just spent the past 2 hours running 1,500m vertical so you might be tired!) and then a complete weather assessment. How thermic does it look and feel, what are the clouds doing, is the wind in the valley and on the summit blowing the same way, can I comfortably clear the launch area, and most importantly, can I make the intended landing? This last one was a headache on multiple flights, it involves calculating the direct glide slope from the launch to landing and ensuring the wing can fly at least that glide ratio; then factoring in the conditions – a headwind will cause penetration issues and my glide ratio will drop. The launch itself needs to be considered; does it go? It’s very different looking at Google Street View at valley level vs. standing on the edge of a cliff with the wing fluttering behind you in the morning breeze. Finally, it’s the morning so are clouds going to be an issue; what happens if the landing site clouds over beneath you while you’re in the air? And have you seen the power lines? Power lines are easy to see on the ground, but somewhere between difficult and impossible once flying; flight instructors often say it’s worth taking almost any course of action to avoid hitting power lines even crashing into difficult terrain, so it’s worth making sure you know exactly where they are before launching out into the abyss!
This list is not exhaustive but gives a good idea what the thought processes are. In short, once you’ve spent 2 hours running up hill and you stand on the narrow summit edge, you need to be clear about what happens next and make the right choices.

Wind speed
Wind is one of the biggest enemies of single skin wings. They can easily soak up strong thermals but with an increasing valley wind (a common occurrence in narrow alpine valleys) single skins can get stuck (pinned) or in the worst case pushed back. Even the Skyman Speed with its trim speed of around 45km/h is no match for big alpine winds and getting caught out is a scary prospect. This made weather forecasting a big headache as there are very few reliable options that forecast wind speed across the whole Alps and at all elevations. Mountain Forecast gave a general overview, but certainly wasn’t reliable as a standalone report.
This was most notable while flying from Flatschspitz – Cima Vallaccia in Italy. After one of the biggest runs of the project, I felt relatively light but certainly strengthening winds on the summit. I launched quickly into messy air and gradually worked down to the treeline. Once over the narrow valley that funnels wind between Austria and Italy, the wind speed dramatically increased and I became effectively pinned. The forecasted windspeed was 5kph, but this certainly wasn’t the case in reality. After a rapid identification of hazards, I realised that going further into the valley between high tension power lines wasn’t a wise move, so instead I lined up a tiny patch of grass surrounded by trees on the hillside below me. I was almost stationary in the air, the slightest touch of brakes sent me backwards at a considerable ground speed. Trying not to panic, I hovered over the landing field and used a combination of brakes and hands up to do a vertical landing. I lined up the field perfectly however once under tree height the dreaded rotor than was now piling over the trees in front of me gave me an instantaneous tail wind and I rushed toward the ground. The wing handled this beautifully and I skidded to a halt just before the bordering trees. I was unscathed but came away with a big lesson – winds in narrow valleys are unpredictable and despite the forecast, the largest margin of error is needed, particularly with a single skin.

The Journey Across Europe
During this project, the run and fly accounted for less than half the time each day. Starting by 7am, I’d finish by 10am with a further 12 hours to use before sleeping. We tried to spend this time wisely, by finding water, restocking food, making our way to the next site and generally recovering. In some respects this was the hardest part of the project, not least because of the heat. Despite the great weather for (very) early morning flying, I would struggle to recommend anyone does a lengthy run and fly project in July when late August/early September can offer the same settled conditions at a fraction of the temperature. When getting back to the van at 10am, the temperature inside (even with window covers) was over 30oC. By 12pm, the temperature would be closer to 40oC and would stay that way until late into the evening. Sleeping at over 28oC for weeks at a time after high output exercise during the day is no way to recover. This heat induced fatigue meant that even after finishing what should have been the hardest part of the day, in reality there was no rest. This was compounded by the difficulty of finding water in some places. In France it is particularly easy to refill the van water supply, but in some parts of Austria and Italy, we found it very difficult to either find or trust water sources. Occasionally we resorted to buying bottled water which whilst annoying and doing nothing to minimise our impact, provided a great distraction between still and sparkling water. In eastern Austria particularly, it was often impossible to buy still water with the choice instead being the various ‘grades’ of sparking water available – another terrible recovery technique.
Sticking with the van for the final point, parking was an inevitable cause of stress. In some areas parking was easy and it was possible to park directly at the start of our intended routes. But as we travelled west, especially once we reached Switzerland, parking became more and more scarce and less and less tolerated. It seems in Switzerland there is a very strong anti vanlife sentiment to the point where drivers will actively inconvenience themselves and other drivers just to ‘beep’ at vans stopped in parking areas. This made finding suitable flying sites in Switzerland very difficult and was certainly a factor in choosing more Austrian and French mountains from which to fly.
The reason for mentioning these van related issues is that this project is primarily a ‘transiting through’ project. It’s not based in one place and relies upon easy travel between sites. After a hard run and fly, the last thing you want is to be struggling with water or parking, jeopardising your recovery and starting the next day with more exhaustion than necessary. Due to this, the planning of the project (which was relatively meticulous) can only go so far, and a recce of the entire route would probably make the entire project 10x easier than an ‘on sight’ attempt.

Whilst one of the more fun challenges I’ve set myself, this one really pushed me in so many ways, right from the drive to get to Slovenia and the very first launch along a narrow alpine ridge.

During this project, I changed to some small degree what I thought run and fly was. I started with the assumption that any uphill movement would be through running, however the run and fly ethos is also about moving quickly with superlight equipment. What this means is that you no longer need to choose manageable paths, you can combine many elements such as running, scrambling, via ferrata etc, and move uphill on routes that aren’t quite runnable, but are certainly much faster than walking. I also changed my views on whether I felt I had achieved a run and fly if I wasn’t able to fly back down. I flew from the majority of mountains, but there were a number where the weather conditions just weren’t safe and I was left with the only viable option – to run back down. I realised that this is where run and fly excels. On one hand, you have a paraglider that isn’t quite as good at handling strong winds or thermals, but instead you have such light equipment, running back down with it is almost as enjoyable as the flight. So instead of worrying about the flight back down when you’re spending lots of effort running up hill in very marginal conditions, I think run and fly is about the intention to go as fast as possible and to get back down via the best way possible; it doesn’t quite matter how you move, just make it quick and fun.

I’m excited to see where else I can take the run and fly principle. In the future, I’ll be aiming for similar projects, but maybe also incorporating a little less running and more climbing; with the single skin wing technology improving every year, I think we’re certainly at a point where paragliding and alpinism mesh together really well. The obvious issue for that is the same challenge that was ever-present on this journey, the heat. The summer of 2022 has been steady stream of stark warnings, from the collapse of the Marmolada glacier to the continual rockfall that is occurring at ever higher elevations across the Alps. Travelling across the Alps has been a stark reminder about what is happening, and to some extent, highlighting the hopelessness of the situation. Without trying to end on a bleak note, it’s hard not to be upset and angered by the change in the alpine environment. It is upsetting to know what most major glaciers in the Alps will be effectively gone by 2050; by 2100 the Alps will be entirely changed and traditional Alpinism won’t really exist. It’s angering to know that nothing can really be done to slow down this extreme change in climate, and what little can be done is being overwhelmingly ignored by governments.

So for future projects, everything needs to be on the table. Flexibility will continue to be more and more important in the mountains and while run and fly/climb and fly/hike and fly and vol biv are perfect combinations for changeable situations, it is important to remember that this is because of the demands of climate change just as much as it is about an enjoyable choice.

If nothing else, thank you for following me on this small journey. I hope you have enjoyed the updates which have perhaps piqued your interest in run and fly, and ultimately I hope this helps to bring this niche a little closer to those with a desire to travel fast and fly high.

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Speed Flying Through The Storm

The end of winter 2017-18 presented the perfect opportunity to fly some incredibly marginal and storm conditions with the 11m speed wing. On the world’s highest mountains, the conditions for flying are rarely perfect, so in training for the Riding Giants expedition we took to the stormy skies via the path rarely travelled. I say rarely travelled as I doubt anyone has ascended Watson’s Dodd in quite the same way. Gearing up in moderate snow conditions, we started the Lake District run up to Stybarrow Dodd via Sticks Pass, however the weather was quickly deteriorating. With only thin slivers of sunshine, the snow really started coming down, and turned into a full whiteout by the time we reached the sheepfold. Dressed in thin running clothes, shorts and compression socks was possibly not the most appropriate choice of clothing, but running up the steep hill in shelter from the wind with a speed wing and harness on the back still pained the lungs and we were well warm by the time the weather truly descended.

We quickly realised the weather wouldn’t hold out for long, if at all, so we took a detour straight for Watson’s Dodd. We crossed Stanah Gill just above the sheepfold and started plodding up the increasingly deep snow pack. Out of the wind shadow of Stybarrow’s western flank, the breeze picked up until at around 700m, onward progress became futile. The higher we went, the windier it became, and with every step upwards the visibility reduced a few hundred metres. So there we stood, at 700m, standing in shin deep snow, in running shoes, compression socks and shorts. One sweaty base layer, an ultra thin running jacket and my winter saviour, a Rab Generator jacket. I was cosy on the top, but becoming positively chilly on the legs, particularly the exposed knee caps which were receiving the full brunt of the wind when trying to peer through the horizontal snow towards Thirlmere. Every so often I could see Thirlmere through the gloom and swirling snow as the wind periodically dropped, but after no more than a minute, it was back to storm conditions. Flying would be relatively treacherous, but we’d been standing on the hill for over 10 minutes, and the thought of descending by foot was becoming decidedly less appetising. So the head calculations commence; can I fly away safely? Can I see the landing zone? What is the cloud base? Is it too turbulent?

It took long enough to come to the realisation that I could probably fly, so long as I was prepared for a bumpy ride. The main difficulty would probably be the launch, which is always tough in strong winds, particularly on the more gentle slopes. I took out the wing, anchored it with snow, but almost immediately, a squall came through. The wing was almost blown away, but I quickly dived on the trailing edge and regretted undoing my neatly folded wing which I had packed only an hour before. Another 10 minutes was spent agonising over the decision to fly, but the squall soon blew out, and we were back to light snow, and a (very hazy) view all the way down to Thirlmere and the landing zone.

It was on.

I clipped in, checked the lines, brought the wing up, turned, and started running as fast through the snowy heather as I could. The take-off was fast, I must have launched in a lull, but then all of a sudden I was rising on a pillow of air, soaring, which is always unnerving under 11m of cloth and a few strands of Dyneema. As soon as that gust had come, it was racing up the hill behind me, and I quickly sank back into the channel leading to a particularly spiky barbed wire fence. With the feet brushing along the top of the snow, I just scraped over the edge and into the river gully. This is where the flight got truly rough and active piloting was required all the way to stop the fast surging and easing the fast collisions with the intense gusts. As I descended though, the visibility improved and the landing was clear. I just had to get above the road to St John’s in the Vale, then I could put in some turns and get down to the landing field.

With the feet skimming the grass, I was truly happy to be down. I love the flying, but turbulence, particularly with a speed wing is rarely a pleasant experience. In the UK we rarely get the type of thermals which halt late afternoon Alpine flying, but we sure make up for it with days of endless gusts. No laminar breeze, no smooth airflow from the sea, just pure tempestuous gusts formed over the wild North Atlantic and raging Irish Sea. It was a horrible flight, particularly in the latter stages where this unstable air mass throws the wing up and down like an overzealous puppet master, the pilot continuously fighting to remain in control. But flights like this, whilst not good for the stomach, are good experience, they help you to understand the limits of the wing, or at least of the pilot, and to fine tune the active inputs needed for good flying.

With summer finally poking its head round the corner, I’m now more ready than ever for some smooth flying under blue skies and over green fields with the occasional flock of sheep or marmot..

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Why I Really Love To Run

I love sequels. I really love writing them. I haven’t yet found any reason to write a sequel to my book, but I definitely want to write a sequel to my last blog: Why I Love to Run. It was, well, a blog about running, why I love it and how simple it is to be precise. For this iteration however, I want to talk about on of the tools I use to get outside and make my experience much easier and far more rewarding, running facilitation, if you will. I’m mainly talking about Ordnance Survey’s mapping tool, which up until 2018 wasn’t something I was even aware of, let alone used. And that’s because I didn’t. I was quite happy going to Bing maps, selecting the region, and then changing the overlay to OS maps, which provided free mapping for the entire UK. Whilst this was a blissfully cheap way to access mapping, there are 3 downsides:

  1. Printing is just bad for the environment. The maps are poor quality, fragile, and even if you laminate, just not that effective. They’ll probably get wet, and then you don’t have a map.
  2. Accessing the maps on Bing prevents you from actually using mapping features such as plotting routes and getting a handle on how far and how high you’re going.
  3. The OS app, when used correctly (particularly when saving your key maps offline) is the perfect tool to finding out your actual location (so long as your phone GPS actually works.

This is one further downside which is the eventual end to the OS map availability on Bing Maps which is perhaps the final nail in the coffin for free online viewing.


Running Facilitation

So how can you facilitate your running? Running facilitation to me is all about making running easier, so you wake up, look at the bright sunshine (general drizzle if you live further north than Matlock?) put on your running shoes and go. Clearly you need to put on other clothes, maybe have a pre-run drink and a little warm-up, but you get the idea. I’m an online user. I like apps and devices that make life that little bit easier, because generally it means more time for fun and less faffing. So I use Strava and Garmin Connect, but in reality, these platforms, like TrainingPeaks, are there to track the activities you’ve already done. This is why I’ve quickly incorporated the OS mapping platform, particularly for my running needs.

For me, it’s the ability to quickly plot a route, with actually useful features such as snapping a route to a footpath/right of way (when in a National Park), and then having the option to either export this route, or simply use that most powerful of computing devices, my brain. When training, adding a bit of mental stress, such as actually remembering a route rather than just following a screen is incredibly beneficial, so I regularly create new routes, put my phone in my pocket, and then run by memory, only checking my location when at a crossroads (or when completely and utterly lost in the hill fog when high up on Pillar…).


A Surprising Feature

There is one added benefit to the OS mapping platform which I truly didn’t expect. It’s the ability to actually find out what’s on your doorstep. I’ve had easy access to Bing Maps for many years, but with a smart phone often making life much simpler, I’m now much more likely to get outside and instead of going on my usual route, taking out my phone and finding a new route right from the house. I’ve run on so many tracks recently which I’ve previously just run straight past because I didn’t know they existed, or how conveniently located they were.

A secondary feature which has some interesting applications is the ability to view your route in 3D; as I mentioned in a previous blog, this is very much a virtual agony prior to actually agonising over your route when you come to run it.


The GetOutside Mission

Part of the mission and vision of GetOutside is to make it much easier for the public to explore footpaths close to where they live, be that for running, or simply walking the dog. When you look at the availability of footpaths and bridleways, even in a city such as Birmingham, there are a surprising number which crisscross the urban landscape and provide great routes for getting outside.

I’m lucky enough to live in a relatively rural setting but only 5 miles from a city. This is great for weekend runs, but to my surprise, I have even found a running route to work which is in the centre of the city. Footpaths go almost unnoticed, especially in urban areas, but they really do provide a great method of routing through even the busiest areas.

In my previous blog, I talked about simplicity being the greatest asset to running. You simply put on your clothes and go. This is great if you know the area, but if you want to know what’s beyond your mind’s eye, utilise Ordnance Survey maps and find out what is truly on your doorstep, you may be quite surprised.



For those new to running, take a look at the maps surrounding where you live and look for the green lines which designate footpaths on a 1:25k scale map (on a 1:50k scale, the footpaths are red). Plot a route of between 4km and 8km depending on how ambitious you are, and then go for it. Take your phone, a Garmin, a print out, or even just a doodle on a piece of paper if you have none of the above, showing the important directions. If you can record your route and upload it back onto the site or a host such as Strava, you can much more easily tack your progress and then find new routes to try out next time. Don’t be stuck in a rut because the only route you know is the endless canal which forces you to spend hours of your week running along the same stretch of water. Use the tools, get excited by new routes, and then get out there and make the most of what we have here in the UK.

And just in case you’re super sceptical about finding a route because you live in a city, here are just a small sample of footpaths, highlighted purple, in the centre of deepest darkest London:

OS Map Running London

What’s your excuse?!

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Why I Love to Run

If you had asked me a two years ago whether I liked to run, I would have probably remarked that running is the activity you only do when you’re being chased. I did adventure running for two years in the build up to climbing Everest in 2012, but I still retain the ‘being chased’ quip. Perhaps this is some overly complex Orwellian metaphor about me wanting to run away from something in my past… I digress.

The point is, up until 2017, running wasn’t something I did. Running has always previously been something I would do in desperation, either to get fit for a big mountain, or to pass a fitness test, but running has never previously been something I did purely for the love; for ‘that’ enjoyment feeling all actual runners seem to get.

But I wasn’t unfit. Far from it, I used to relish in getting up at ungodly hours on a Saturday and Sunday to sit on a hard saddle for 100 miles with the local chain gang or middle-aged-men-in-lycra-gang. I raced for road racing teams in Scotland, and generally had a pretty enjoyable time of trying to keep pace with the back of the peloton, occasionally daring to venture to the front just to see what all the fuss was about before quickly deciding it didn’t seem like the place for me.

In all my years of keeping road cycling as my main training tool, I racked up countless miles. Well, actually according to Strava, it’s not quite as countless as I’d like it to be, but still, I was putting in the miles, 200 each week on a good summer, perhaps 250 if I was feeling overly strong. Not bad considering I used to work for 5 days out of 7 with a driving commute. But over all those miles, I started to feel weak. I started to feel like something was missing from my physicality, that I wasn’t quite as strong as I had once been. Perhaps pro road cyclists also get this feeling, but whilst my legs were strong with an FTP of around 5W/KG, I started to feel like a strong breeze could blow me over at any minute. And indeed they often did whilst topping out from winter climbs onto the Cairngorm plateau.

So I gradually petered down my cycling, and in the winter, started to get some running miles back under my belt. I gradually built up the miles and started to relish running up my local hill, just to get out there, simply to complete another run. I guess that’s how my buzz for cycling started. Strava made getting out fun, you could record your rides and like no social platform before it, actually track your progress against friends, locals, unknowns, and importantly yourself. This is the buzz I seemed to find again on taking up running, as an actual runner. I started to eagerly upload my route, not because I wanted to be the leader of any segments, but just to see where I had been on an actual map with distances put into grid-like perspective; a very simple pleasure.

As I got stronger, I started to run further, explore my area, and eventually started to do some more mountain runs, just like I had done before Everest, but this time with an even bigger and much longer lasting purpose than a single event. I was doing this for enjoyment. So why do I love to run? I only realised why I now love running so much quite recently. The past year has been an exploration for me; other runners will have their own reasons, but as I have become busier, with more goals and life targets, and the ceiling for what I feel like I can achieve continually moving higher as I achieve my goals, I realise the reason I love to run is for the opposite of all those things. It’s for the simplicity.

Even before going out on a bike ride, you need all your equipment, you probably need some nutrition to fuel your ride, particularly as rides over the winter months need to last upwards of 3 hours. If you didn’t do it the night before, you probably have a bit of maintenance to do, tyre pressures, oiling the chain, tightening the QR’s if you’ve driven out to a ride in the car. You then need to think about clothing; sure you’ll be exercising, but at the end of the day you’re sitting down so keeping warm is quite a priority, especially when the gritters start coming out and the horizontal rain turns positively slushy. You’re now ready, you get on your bike which surely totals over £5,000 when you’ve factored in frame, wheels and a power meter which no budding cyclist worth their road salt is found without. You’ve also got those bib shorts which somehow cost £120 on Wiggle, and that jersey that you magically picked up for £60 in a sale. Four hours later, you’ve burned the morning away and you’re now ready for a well-earned shower to thaw out those toes.

But running? I take out my £120 Inov8 shoes which I picked up on SportsPursuit for £60. I put on my clothes, perhaps £200 total when the compression socks, sunglasses and cheap Garmin are counted. I then stare around the room. Surely I need something else, I feel naked without a helmet, or some other form of protection. But no, there really is nothing else I need. I walk out the door, turn my watch on and start walking. I’m warm now, I start to run. I don’t need any nutrition, I only need to run for an hour, I run fast, I get warm, it’s mid-winter but I’m only running in a thin base layer and shorts. I’m home now, showered and stretched. It’s only two hours since I woke up and regardless of whether I intend to spend the next 12 hours jumping off mountains, making calls or laying prone on the sofa, I’m now ready for my day.

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But don’t get me wrong, I still love the bike…