Interview With Matthew Dickinson

Matthew Dickinson, 26 is a former British orienteer and avid fell runner hailing from Sheffield, now living in the beautiful Christchurch, New Zealand –right next to the Southern Alps. A former member of the GO Outdoors web team, GO Activities were privileged enough to witness Matthew’s racing first hand- as well as his appetite for carbs and his constantly in motion feet and weekends of constant activity! A great advocate for GO Actvities and a previous runner for Great Britain, we grabbed him in his down time to talk about fell running and why being active is so great for the mind!

Hi Matt. Thanks for talking to us- can you describe what sort of things (in racing) that you’ve done?

Back in the UK I was member of Derwent Valley Orienteers and Dark Peak Fell Running Club.  While in Sheffield I ran for Great Britain in the Junior World Orienteering Championships and spent a lot of time in Sweden training and competing with an Orienteering and Ski Club in Västerås, just north of Stockholm.

I was ranked British number 1 Orienteer in 2005 and enjoyed success in many of the classic Fell Races in the Peak District from then until 2010 when I made the move to the other side of the world.

Now in New Zealand I’ve entered many trail, fell and orienteering races and am just gearing up to run the Kepler Challenge; a 60km mountain trail race deep in Fiordland in the South of New Zealand.

Why do you enjoy off road running so much?

I love racing in the fells and on the trails.  It’s so unattached to anything you do in the cities and towns, it’s basically like being free.  Nothing is better than racing through a deep peat bog, with the sun shining on your back, being chased down by a hungry pack of runners… where else can you get that kind of action?

With the Peak District merely minutes from Sheffield, it was the ideal place to go for an evening, a weekend, even a lunchtime run.  That and the whole host of climbs, walks and other outdoor activities – it pretty much is one of the best places to be in the UK, while having the city right next door for the other side of life (the working, shopping and eating part!)

When did you start?

I started orienteering when I was ‘knee high to a grasshopper’, probably about the age of 3 and got hooked instantly.  I only started fell running when I got into University in Sheffield, but already had 15 years of orienteering behind me with plenty of navigation skills under my belt.

What are your achievements?

My greatest achievements have been in orienteering, and my greatest achievement was back in 2005 as just a junior.  I was totally the underdog, actually probably the outsider to do anything in the selection races that season.  However, on the last selection race weekend I went for it.  Totally in the zone I managed to get 2 podium positions and bag a place to the Junior World Championships in 2005 where I represented Great Britain for the first time.  It was totally amazing, such a great feeling to have run for your country.

GO Activities offers a way to book days or weeks away learning things like orienteering, bushcraft skills, to ghyll scrambling, pot holing, trekking, or even bungee jumping- what other activities do you enjoy?

I really enjoy getting out on my mountain bike, and skiing is a lot of fun as well. Duathlons, kayaking, climbing- I really do anything that challenges me and gets me outside.

Where do you enjoy running?

Currently I’m living in Christchurch, New Zealand.  Here they’ve got volcanoes, mountains, rivers and trails that go on for miles and miles… it’s just to hard to resist.  Back in the Peak District, my usual jaunts were around the Burbage Valley, Stanage Edge, Win Hill and along the Mam Tor Ridge towards Kinder Peak.

What do you wear? Especially shoes?

Shoes are vital for any running, my favourites are Inov-8 X-Talon 212’s for racing as they are the only shoes that give amazing grip but have a minimal midsole which give you a heightened sense of what the ground is doing beneath you!  For training I like to run in Adidas Kanadias, they are well cushioned for trails and have some top notch grip too.

As for clothing, if it’s turning cold, I usually throw on a Helly Hansen Stripe Crew -really good at wicking sweat from the skin and warm enough for icy winds.  If it starts to rain, I usually throw on a lightweight waterproof like The North Face Diad Jacket or Haglofs Oz Pullover.  Shorts are simply the cheapest I can find, usually with an inner short (as its way more comfortable that way!)

Any advice for beginners?

The best way to get into it is to do it.  Find a local race and go for it – everyone in the fell running community is friendly and happy to help.  Get dirty and have a great time.

How do you start out without hurting yourself?

If you’re training for a race, don’t just jump into doing lots of distance on the fell or trails – even if you’re used to running on the roads, the fells are uneven and tough on ankles.  Slowly creep up the distance once you’ve got used to running off road, and buy some shoes with some good grip so you don’t slip too often!  Nothing worse than a face full of mud!

Is it harder than road running?

It’s totally different from road running, not necessarily harder.  It’ll use a lot of muscles you didn’t think you had to keep balanced on uneven surfaces.  But remember to stretch after the race to ensure you don’t stiffen up…  There’s also a lot more climbing involved in fell races and orienteering races than road races, be prepared to climb up mountains, hills and even cross rivers if you have to!

What are your favourite fell running routes in the UK?’ ‘

For Fell Running: Stanage Struggle is a classic Peak District Fell Race, usually held in September.
For Orienteering: The Jan Kjellstrom Festival, or Scottish 6 Days are the biggest and use the best areas that the UK can offer.

Do you recommend joining a running club?

To start with, I’d go along to a local event.  Try it and if you like it, join.  I can be cheaper for future events and there are some really friendly people around that you can join for runs near you!

Have you ever tried fell running? What were your thoughts? Comment below!

To find a local fell race in the peaks, try here

 You can read more about the Scottish 6 days here