#THISISMYADVENTURE - Calvin Ferguson, Three Years On

The #thisismyadventure series is back!

A little over three years ago, Calvin was our very first TIMA blogger and had been fell running for just over six months. Three years down the line, we caught up with Cal for a Q&A session to find out how he’s been getting on.

It's just over three years since your first post on AA. Back then you'd only been running for a little over six months and had competed in 44 races. First of all, looking back, what impact do feel fell running has had on your life?

It's been a massive influence on my life since I took it up what I call "properly".  I obviously stopped playing football as I felt the game was changing and I wasn't enjoying it any more.  I'm too energetic to just sit around and I was enjoying running a few times a week with the odd race here and there so I thought; let's get in to this, I've plenty of time to get what I'd class as half decent at it.  My fitness has hugely improved.  The social side of fell running is amazing; there are so many genuinely nice people in the sport and they’re pretty much all in it for the same reasons - it makes it very special!  You could be racing in the middle of the pack but sharing a drink with the race winner afterwards - something you don't really find in many, if any, other sports.

Credit:  Stephen Wilson

The first time we spoke to you, you mentioned the term 'runnable' races - would you now class every race as ‘runnable’? And have you noticed yourself moving ‘up the pack’, as it were?

I find more races 'runnable' than I used to, but, there are some races that are probably impossible to ever class in the category, even if you are at an elite level of fitness.  Some of the races in the Lakes and Sedbergh area in particular are absolutely brutal, with constant climbs and descents that just batter your legs beyond belief.  The endurance required to run some of these is phenomenal; I can find myself running the full climbs for the first two or three hills and then beyond that it becomes more of a grind and you just have to concentrate and put one foot in front of the other, without psyching yourself out.  In terms of my race finishing positions, I've definitely improved those.  I'm still mid-pack in quite a few races but lately I have found myself further up the field in more races than ever before.

You recently achieved a forth place finish in an event - great effort! Is this your best result to date?

In terms of an actual finishing position, the 4th place at the recent Lake District Mountain Trial, is a joint best.  I actually finished 4th pair in the same event last year, but, with a different partner.  Last year I ran with Stu Russell and this year, Helen Buchan.  I have had quite a few races where I have actually felt like I achieved a seriously surprising result/time that I didn't even comprehend pre-race.  The Yorkshire Three Peaks this year I expected around 4 hours 45 and finished in 4 hours 14.  I also took 10 minutes off my Ben Nevis PB just the other week; reaching the summit in 1:30 and finishing in 2:23.  These are always the best results...it's when you get an unexpected slower time that you need to start worrying!

I presume that you still race in some of your first 44 races? How have your times changed over the last few years?

I like to do quite a lot of the same races, if I enjoy them.  I'm very much a creature of habit so when I like a race it's probably pencilled in for the year after within 10 minutes of me getting home, ha ha.  I like to try and do the 3 peak races (Snowdon, Ben Nevis & Scafell) - I just think it's a nice trio of races to have done in a season and I love each one of them in their own right as they are all very, very different.  There are many local races I like to support, often for charitable causes and there are races that have a kind of sentimental value to me in relation to my Grandad having significant or milestone results there in the past.

Has you training regimen or diet changed at all?

My training hasn't actually changed that much to be honest.  I do less road miles than I used to but then in winter they creep back in again due to the light (I'm not a fan of running with a head torch!).  I still average around 40 miles a week - this isn't enough for me yet but I will increase it in good time.  This will also vary depending on what race(s) I have coming up - I have a belief that I run better when I've ran the day before a race so I always go out for an easy run after work the night before, no matter how long or short that race may be.  In terms of my diet, that has changed and I now eat less carbs, although that's mainly in relation to my Diabetes diagnosis in April 2017.  I feel a lot lighter and less bloated with minimal carbs while also feeling more energetic and agile...a strange combination I guess but it works for me at the moment.

Now with three years experience under your belt; what advice would you give to anyone thinking about competing?

Fell running is a very welcoming sport and the runners involved are very inviting.  I would recommend joining the FRA and using their website (http://www.fellrunner.org.uk/index.php).  When you join you receive their magazine once every 3 months or so and you receive the fixtures booklet which is the fell runners bible, as such!  One skill I would advise learning after a short while, or even from the off, is map reading/navigating.  Once you start getting into the sport more and enjoying yourself, you'll want to go further afield and start exploring on your own/with a friend, maybe outside of the race environment if you're not super competitive like me.  This is a vital skill and one of the main aspects of fell running is being able to look after yourself on the hills and fells - it’s very important! I would also suggest starting small with your races - don't go straight in for a Borrowdale or Tour of Pendle type race, even if you have experience on the roads/at marathon distance.  Fell running is a completely different ball game and you will learn more efficiently by building up from small races to medium and longs.

What can we expect to see from you moving forward?

Moving forward I want to continue to improve, as I seem to have done year on year since I began.  I'm aiming to take in some of the bigger races such as Wasdale and the Old County Tops in the next few years, I feel like I need to step it up a gear in terms of my longer races and this should go hand in hand with improving my fitness before and after the races themselves - as well as giving me more experience in situations that I have rarely ventured in to before.  I'm also planning on getting up to the Lakes a lot more often.

You can follow Cal’s progress on his Instagram.

Credit:  Stephen Wilson
Laurie Crayston