Why I chose the Trails
Day to day life has its structure, its demands and its expectations but running sets you free. Even saying "running sets you free" makes me smile, its makes me feel alive and sharing it with other like minded souls completes the experience, especially when you are running through nature.
The reason I started writing a running blog was to try and pass on the enjoyment I feel while I'm running through the great outdoors with friends. I called my blog "irunoffroad" to simply try and capture why running isn't my hobby, it’s my passion.
When runr asked for contributions to their website it was an easy decision to offer some words because I've always been keen to share my love of running and try to encourage others to leave the pavements, now and then, to try something different.
I spent some 20 years training for and racing largely 10K's with occasional 10 milers and halves. I dipped my toe with a road marathon in the early nineties and a mixed terrain New Forest marathon in 2007 but it was only when I decided to give myself a bigger challenge in 2013 by entering the North Devon marathon that my perspective on running changed. The area of outstanding natural beauty tag, that is associated with this marathon, equated to 3,000+ feet of elevation (hills) and both amazing coastal and countryside views.
Driving home after completing this marathon I realised that pace, pb's and speed weren't the only benchmarks of a good run, rising to the challenge of a tough course was just as rewarding. The countryside has its own natural pace setters, hills (both up and down), tree roots and overhanging branches, mud and puddles. Concentrating on and navigating these natural obstacles might seem daunting but once you have your feet to eye coordination lined up then it’s quite exhilarating to overcome whatever the trail is throwing at you. Naturally this comes with experience and taking risks certainly isn't part of the approach. If it's safer to walk, I walk.
Your will power and mentality change when swopping trails for the road. Keeping to your planned pace on the road requires practice and discipline, off road it’s all about going with the trail and adapting to your location. Some people ask me do I use music on a 15 or 20 mile run, the answer is I'm too busy tuning into what's around me, whether it’s the glorious views or the best line to run on a muddy section. Consequently I now find trail running so much more rewarding due to both the challenges and sights.
At this point I'd say it's safer and more enjoyable to run with others in the countryside and take your mobile phone too for photos as well :-)
I agree it’s too simplistic to say that the road is the road but out in the country so much changes every 3 or 4 months as the seasons pass. The landscape changes from Summer’s lush green into the array of Autumnal colours, then Winters barren and cold months are followed by the shoots of recovery that Spring brings. Don't get me wrong I realise not everyone wants to take a full change of kit and shoes for when their Winter mud run has finished but again its adapting to the conditions that's really rewarding. However, if you want running with amazing views the countryside is the place. Also the Trail Running association link here will give you lots more information http://www.tra-uk.org/
Trail running also gives you infinite variety with the huge number of footpaths and officially recognised paths e.g. The South Downs Way. One minute you could be running next to a river, the next scaling a hill on the way up to the trig point. Armed with your lightweight rucksack you set off on an adventures every time. Are the crops ready for harvesting, will there be ice in the puddles, take in the scent of the flowers and aren't sheep inquisitive :-) Maybe you’ll come across a village store or a farm selling fruit on your travels.
All of these factors add up to why I love to trail run and the people I run with. Naturally when you are out on a long steady run you do get to chat, take an occasional photo and discuss strategies for what lies ahead of you. A particular recent run comes to mind here when we I ran 20 miles with Paul that I run with regularly, Rod who I haven't run with for ages and James who we ran with for the first time and wasn't as aware of the route as we were. Everyone brought their knowledge and experiences to the morning and after a well earned cuppa we all left agreeing to do it again.
Due to trail marathons being less about the time and more about the challenge (don’t get me wrong there are fast trail runners too) I also think the off road community is slightly more inclusive, especially once you go beyond marathons and into the world of ultras where survival becomes another feature.
In many ways my recent Race to the King run sums up why I love to run off road. A distance challenge that was far beyond my previous mileage, great company, my favourite South Downs Way and an almost out of the body feeling to be on the move for 12 hours over a double marathon. Have a read via this link to my blog,
I have run various off road marathons and ultras, this listing below is of recognised routes that aren’t necessarily races but great for training. Where can you run, this UK listing is in alphabetical county order.
Thanks for reading and maybe see you on the trails :-)
Here at runr we are big advocates of trail running and getting out into the countryside. If you've not tried it, then schedule in a trail run soon. You won't regret it!
Huge thanks to Rog for sharing his passion for trail running. Rog has been shortlisted to the last 12 of the National Running Awards Best blog for the last two years so be sure to give him a follow on: