I first became aware of Ash’s challenge at the beginning of February when I saw his first day’s reel on Instagram. Ash had set himself the challenge to run the Fairfield Horseshoe from The Climber’s Shop in Ambleside, where he worked, every day during February. His posts indicated that he was doing it to inspire others, seemingly as he himself had been inspired to start running after meeting legendary fell runner, Wendy Dodds at a race in Kentmere.
I was intrigued and wanted to find out more. Sadly, the two occasions I tried to join Ash didn’t work out. The Fairfield Horseshoe is 11.18 miles (18km) with 1,048m of ascent and he ran it either before or after work every day which is no mean feat when you are on your feet all day anyway! He either started running at 5am, or after work at 6.30pm. During the dark winter months, that is indeed dedication. Each loop took an average of 2.5 hours.
Ash grew up in Nepal, in the shadow of Kanchenjunga and he only started running in February 2022 after he moved to the Lake District to work as a chef. He loved running so much, he gave up his 8 year career as a chef in order to devote more of his time to the fells of the Lake District and now works at The Climber’s Shop. Since February 2022 he’s participated in 10-15 races, from 5km to ultra distance.
Q1 What inspired you to start running?
The beautiful lake district landscape and fell running legend Wendy Dodds.
Q2 What do you love about living and working in the Lake District?
I love the weather. Some people think it’s raining and cloudy all the time in the Lakes but for me it’s the perfect training ground. How green and accessible everything is; I can go and do 4-5 highest summits in 1 day and come back home. I love working in the Lakes because it reminds me of home. And people are lovely, friendly and kind here.
Q3 The obvious question many of us wish to know; why run the Fairfield Horseshoe everyday through February?
I wanted to run the Fairfield Horseshoe to inspire others. It was a unique and personal challenge that I wanted to test myself with; how disciplined and committed I was and since it was the anniversary of my running, I wanted to see how far I have come and how far I can push myself.
Q4 What kept you motivated to keep going out running the same route day after day (or night after night)?
I think what kept me motivated was that my goal and challenge was bigger than myself. It was for everyone out there who struggles to be motivated. I guess this is my way of saying thank you to people who have inspired me as without those people, like Wendy Dodds, Adriana Brownlee and Nimsdai, I would not be where I am today Oh, and it was the challenging February weather as well! Every day was different. And I wanted to break that getting bored barrier – I mean how can you be bored running in the mountains?
Q5. Any moment you wish not to repeat? Bad weather or navigation errors?
That is a NO because bad weather gave me courage and sharpened my skills and the fog, mist, wind, rain and cold were my best friend and best training partners. Some days I was rewarded with cloud inversions, full sunshine, and a beautiful blanket of stars.
Q6 Any specific kit items that you were super impressed with?
I was impressed with my Scarpa Spin Infinity, the best shoes out there and my Golden Gate Kima, clothing. I really loved my Saltoro Mountain Equipment hard shell jacket. I choose a hard shell because of the brutal weather up there as I would not last long with a paclite or lighter waterproof. I learned that going light is not the best for the harsh conditions of the Lake District in February and I used Mountain Fuel nutrition while I was up there.
Q7 Did you manage to stay injury free?
I don’t know how but yes; I did I think that’s because I was only giving 99% every day, I would not give 100% because I was back out next day or next night. Being a chef for 8 years helped a lot as eating well and eating right is the key.
Q8 Any advice for those getting into mountain running?
My best advice would be just getting out there every day or 3-4 times a week. Don’t always follow Garmin or Strava and try to chase pace or time, mountain running is all about being out there and being with the elements. Use the wind, rain, cold and sun as your training partners and nothing is better than being out in the mountains.
Q9 What’s next? Any races or further challenges like the one you have just completed?
I have Lakeland 50 in July and I am joining Mountain Rescue here in Ambleside. I do have a challenge coming up; maybe Coast to Coast in the first week of April and I will continue to motivate and inspire others.
Q10 How many miles and what ascent did you tally up in total through February?
I did about 511km and 26,500 meter elevation gain and loss.
How do you keep yourself motivated? Would running in the mountains get as boring as running in other areas after a certain amount of time? Would you crave a nice flat road?
You can follow Ash here on instagram