The trail running community is like no other. They are the friendliest, most caring and slightly unhinged group of people you can choose to meet. That may seem like a bit of a bizarre statement, but it is exactly what drew me to the world of trail running.
I began running 3 years ago and having completed my first ever 5km road race and then progressing to complete my first ever road marathon, I wanted to know what more I could do to push myself. The natural progression from completing a marathon would be an ultra-marathon and upon numerous google searches it seemed that the majority of ultras in the UK were trail based and were on average a lot cheaper than their road race counterparts.
I have completed a number of ultras since then (in fact, I have just completed a 90 mile, 3 day ultra run across the Ridgeway) and there are so many things about trail running, that I have learnt about and love, that I would like to share with you.
Trail runners mingle with each other no matter what level of running ability they have. I would describe myself as a intermediate trail runner, but there have been many trail runs where the eventual winners of the race / elite runners would run with me for a few miles and just talk to me. This was a strange concept because when road-running, everyone is so focused on times, PBs, average pace etc., road runners just don’t talk as much with their fellow runners.
The impact of trail running on your body isn’t as intense as road running. I feel a little bit sore after running 90 miles on the Ridgeway but I generally feel a lot worse after a road marathon. This is because the solid surface of the road is far more impactful to our joints. I also believe we have evolved in such a way, that trail running is a far more natural surface for your body to run on. For me, this meant far fewer injuries and a quicker recovery time.
With trail running, I feel that there is more emphasis on enjoying the run rather than a focus on PBs and times. Whatever the distance you are running on the trails, people hardly ask what time you finished in. Even if you are running extreme distances, people are more impressed that you managed to complete that distance rather than the time you did it in.
Another major benefit to trail running is that you get to see some of the most stunning scenery in the UK. Most of us live in or near concrete jungles and we simply do not have time in our busy lives to explore the natural beauty of the countryside around us. This is perhaps the biggest reason why I enjoy the trails. I could run over the same trails over the course of the year and every time it will look and feel different due to the weather and seasons.
My wife Hannah is originally from Devon, a beautiful part of the world. When we first met (through running!) she was living and working in Luton on a short-term contract. I explained to her that Luton (which is where I was born and live in) had some of the most stunning scenery in the UK. She thought I was mad when I said this because, honestly, Luton has an awful reputation nationally.
When I took her out running on the trails in the Chilterns, she was shocked. She could not believe that the parts we were running in were parts of Luton. Her reaction was that these parts could easily be part of the Scottish highlands or in the Welsh countryside. She instantly fell in love with the trails here. I even proposed to her at the top of Sharpenhoe Clappers on one of our trail runs! We are now married and even bought our home precisely so we live on the foot of the Chilterns, meaning a trail run is always on our doorstep (she still can’t believe that we live in Luton!).
So, if you haven’t run a trail run before or whether you are a seasoned pro, trail running is for everyone and I would urge you to sign up to a race asap!
It is inclusive and fun and its greatest asset are it’s people.
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