Mountains, Tranquillity and Tea

Updated: Feb 10, 2020

We recently caught up with Keri Wallace, Co-Founder/Co-Director of Girls on Hills to find out more about their mission to get ‘unsuspecting women out running in the hills, and blow their minds’.

Girls on Hills offer guided trail, fell and skyrunning courses for women, as well as navigation and mountain safety courses. After discovering Girls on Hills at Kendal Mountain Festival in 2019 we've been following their fabulous runs and hikes in stunning parts of the UK ever since. We love what they do and we're chuffed to have this opportunity to ask them a few questions.

In this quick fire q&a (with some great photos courtesy of Girls on Hills) we cover how it all started, some top tips if you’re new to running in the mountains, how you can get involved and most importantly after a day in the hills is it tea, cake or a pint in the pub?

What’s the story behind Girls on Hills and how did it all begin?

It all began with an offhand comment, a joke really - a crazy idea that we could just set up a running company and take unsuspecting women out running in the hills, and blow their minds! I suppose we realised that what we consider to be our 'normal' running is intimidating to some people and that there isn't a lot of infrastructure/support to help women step off the trail and take their running into the mountains. It was all a bit of a 'punt' really. We literally had no idea that there was such a huge number of women seeking adventure and looking to progress their running in this way. We also massively underestimated the value of women-only courses.

Can you give us a quick flavour of who Girls on Hills are and what you do?

We are a group of women living and working in the Glencoe area of the Scottish Highlands. We all bring something different to the team. Nancy and I are the Co-Founders/Co-Directors, and are both mothers (actually Nancy has recently become a Granny!) We span different ages, occupations and specialisms with respect to our running. We offer guided trail, fell and skyrunning courses for women, as well as navigation and mountain safety courses. Most of these courses are in Scotland, but we occasionally have dates in the Lake District and North Wales.

The aim is to equip women with the skills and confidence necessary to become independent in the mountains - this is important to us! We also seek to challenge the gender gap in participation that exists in off-road running in the UK.

You talk about offering wilderness and tranquillity in equal measure. This sounds incredible. Why do you think this is important?

Spending time outdoors and in 'wild spaces' has well-documented benefits in terms of health and well-being - the full extent of which is yet to be fully understood. I honestly think that the more sanitised and regulated our day-to-day existence becomes, the more we seek out and benefit from exposure to primal concepts such as 'solitude', 'risk' and 'wilderness'. Only in a truly remote setting do you experience true independence and self-sufficiency, which is an incredibly empowering experience. This kind of escapism helps give people the 'headspace' they need to cope with the stresses and strains of daily life. Running is a great way to stay fit and healthy, so if you can do it in a tranquil and picturesque setting, then it's win-win!

What does adventure mean to you?

Anything that helps push the boundaries of your comfort zone. It might be in some way exploratory, but ultimately the outcome should be unknown, and it should be exciting - if not a little bit terrifying.

What’s your favourite area to run in? Do you have a favourite route/trail/area/race?

Hmmm obviously I’d have to say my home hills in Glencoe, though I also love the wildness and beauty of the North West Highlands. I like to mix-up my routes and certainly don't have a favourite. I do have great memories of the Jura Fell race though, having competed several times and in all kinds of weather - the quintessential Scottish Hill Race. Certainly one for the bucket-list...

You’ve got a great team of fell, trail, ultra and sky runners. Who’s the most competitive?

Hmmm that is tricky. It might be a fight-to-the-death between Keri, Raeanne and Sarah! Although you certainly wouldn't want to mess with Nancy ;-D We're not worried though, because Susan and Jade will keep-the-peace...

What advice would you give someone who is new to running and hiking in the mountains?

  • With hill running, the biggest revelation for newcomers is finding out that it's totally acceptable (in fact completely normal and recommended) to walk the uphills!

  • With trail running there is much more emphasis on the 'journey' and compared to road-running runners can be less concerned with PBs, minute-miles and splits.

  • For hiking, I’d say that the best advice is to avoid following others. Instead, learn how to self-navigate. Take-charge of your own personal safety and enjoy the freedom that this gives you in the mountains!

Aside from a good pair of shoes, what’s the most important bit of kit you take with you on the hills?

In Scotland that would be waterproofs!!! - Jacket and trousers

And finally, after a long day in the mountains what’s better…a big piece of cake or a good pint in the pub?

Probably tea (and then a good pint or three in the pub).

To find out more about Girls on Hills and how to get involved follow the links below...

A huge thank you to Keri for taking the time to answer our questions. We love Girls on Hills and we'd love to hear from you if you're planning to or have already been on one of their courses.

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