Run the Wild Times

Exploring places... not running races.

2015 June Issue - No.6

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Welcome to Run the Wild's sixth newsletter! 
Summer is here! Which means many of our trips to the Alps start soon, which is very exciting! Hopefully there will be good weather to explore some mountain trails. Summer is an inspiring time to explore the outdoors, in this newsletter we look at moving from road to trail running, investigate urban trail running as well as start a new regular feature on map reading. We hope you enjoy our latest articles!

The Team @ Run the Wild

Road to trail running - the secret benefits

Simon James - Founder

(photo - West Highland Way)

Ask most people to think of a famous run and the usual response will be; The London Marathon, The Great North Run, or maybe even your local 10K. These are all urban, road based events, where large parts of the city are cordoned off. Events where runners of all abilities face down personal challenges or raise the flag for charity and in doing so complete something they may have once thought impossible.

But ask people about a famous trail run and you might get quite a different response. It can sound technical, extreme, almost fanatical; something that is only for the super elite. But it could not be further from the truth, and luckily the perception of trail running is changing, with people of all abilities discovering a new way to get fit and improve their health.


Trail Running
Look up the word ‘trail’ in a dictionary and you may read; ‘A mark or a series of signs or objects left behind by the passage of someone or something: ‘a trail of blood on the grass’” – a bit daunting. Or from Google (verb) “…walk or move slowly or wearily” yes possibly true at times! Jokes aside though, a trail is basically an unpaved footpath.

The important thing to realise is that when you step off the asphalt and onto the trail, the way you run can come alive. Maybe you are somebody who has always begrudged the monotony of running, or perhaps you are an experienced road master, either way the trails are out there and they will change the way you think about running forever.


Running improvement
Getting into trail running is easier than you may think and a countryside path, or trail around a city park is a good place to start. These changeable surfaces can build up strength and refine your technique, helping you to stay injury free for longer. When road running, the physical actions can become unchanging and repetitive, but trail running can be a stimulating, 3 dimensional experience. Watching out for the different surfaces, steep ups and downs, the scenery, the peace and quiet, all add to an experience that is both mentally and physically challenging.

A strong core, positive foot placements, a good posture and quick reactions are just a few of the things that trail running will provide. Yes, like all forms of exercise it takes practice and a steady build up, but if you get it right the health benefits of trail running are significant. Not only will you be using more muscles, but the variety of terrain will also make you stronger and improve your endurance. Your joints will also thank you too as you move away from the hard impacts of the road surface.

Even if you are a dedicated road runner, the trails can still offer a means of ramping up your training and improving your time. The benefits of trail running as an aid to your road running are widely recognised and most club runners will tell you how the cross-country season provides them with a lot of strength for the road and track season ahead.


Specialist Kit
Trail running is quite different to road running, the boundaries are gone and you’re free to explore. But as a result you do need to think about a few factors that will help your enjoyment. Those tired old road running shoes for example may not be ideal so depending on the conditions underfoot you’ll probably need some trail shoes. These can provide better heal support, strong soles and lots of grip in the slipperiest mud.

If you are getting really confident then you might want to bring a map and compass, or even a running GPS. In the darker months it’s wise to carry a head torch just in case, as street lights don’t come as standard with footpaths!

Like with all outdoor activities the further you go from home the more stuff you are likely to need. But for starters all you need is a good sturdy pair of running shoes and a willingness to explore, even if that simply means running through the park rather than around it. Once you feel the soft, bouncy ground under your feet, you will never want to jar your bones against asphalt again!


Find a trail
Many people now live in increasing congested cities and consequently have to seek out the trails. However even in the sprawling mass of London there are parks littered with trails, and don’t forget that over 80% of the UK is considered to be ‘rural’. You may be surprised at how near you are to finding some trails and even if this means jumping in the car or on the bike to get away from the choking car fumes and packed streets, then it is certainly worth your time.

The rewards are great and it’s much easier to get involved than you may have at first thought. So take a step on the wild side, you might like it!


written for Cotswold Outdoor

How to be an urban trail runner...

So perhaps it’s time to have a look at trail running to escape the crowds and get back to the true freedom running provides. But what if you are one of the many people who finds themselves in an urban jungle, can you still find trails? I take a look at my current home London...
Realistically the route options just outside London are limitless and all within just a few hours by train, plane or car; from the wild areas nearby, like the Chilterns and South Downs to the Alps just an hour flight away in France. But what about everyday routes that are close to home and still in London? Well don't give up, thanks to the Victorians and early town planners London does have many green spaces still left to explore. There are some of the more obvious ones like Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath but there are also many less well known such as Blackheath, Herne Hill and Hackney Marsh. Another favourite of mine is jogging round Kew Gardens - which also gives you a chance to brush up on your botany! There is also an excellent network of canals that link up round London, the two main ones start in Limehouse Basin, just a stones throw from Canary Wharf and the City and take you either out to Hertford or west to Paddington. Alternatively, follow the River Thames out west and routes get ever more green from Chiswick. These places exist but you have to find them, which means you'll have to do some homework, a good start is looking for the green areas on Google maps! You'll also discover there are more hills in London than you had at first realised! 

I have been an urban trail runner for many years and found that mixing up daily canal and runs around parks as well as the odd weekend in nearby AONBs (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) such as the Chilterns provide enough training so I can head over to the Alps. I'd also encourage you to sign up to your local running club who often put on extremely cheap cross-country races! 

If you have some favourite urban trails then we'd like to hear from you! Please email your photo of the trail and a small description about why you enjoy using it and we will feature it in one of our newsletters.

Summer adventures...

The season of trail running in the Alps is about to start. We have just a handful of spaces left on the planned trips. However, if you are part of a group get in touch as we can set up bespoke trips. We have limited space on the September TMB week and the Intermediate Alps weekend. Keep an eye out for 2016 dates!

Geographically Challenged?

This is a new series of articles about how to avoid getting lost and indeed what to do if you think you are! Before you yawn and turn away thinking this is going to be just another map reading article, think again! There is far more to map reading than just using a compass and a conventional map, there are also many natural navigational tools you can use along the way which can make it much more interesting.

In this series we will be sharing our practical tips of how to stay on the right path in wild areas of the UK and Europe as well as understanding how this can practically relate to trail running. We all hear far to often of people getting lost in the hills either in races or just indeed on leisurely hikes. Even a GPS has limited capacity in route finding and of course there is always user error! I suspect there are many levels of understanding of this skill, so let's start at the very beginning...

Before you even open that crisp new map and unpack your shiny new compass you need to understand what "ground" is. The best way of doing this is to find some high point in your local area, a hill, a tower block or church spire will do! Once you have gained some height, take a seat and look at what's laid out in front of you. What do you notice? What's in the foreground? Trees? Houses? Any roads? What direction do they point? Away from you, parallel? Are they lower than you? Can you see any walls or fences? What's in the middle ground, ? How does the middle ground appear, is it lighter than the foreground? Can you spot any villages? More trees and roads? Any hills or maybe pylons? What details can't you make out in the middle ground that you could in the foreground? Can you estimate the distances? And finally the background which takes you up to the horizon. Notice it's a even lighter colour than the foreground, details are much less distinct, almost blurry - can you make anything out though? Do you know what direction you are looking? Spend about 10-15 minutes doing this, ideally with a little sketch pad, sketch out the zones and if you are a bit of an artist draw in the key areas, if not just write them in. I bet you noticed many things you never had before even if you've lived there for years!

Now you've looked at the ground you might have guessed this is the very beginning of a map, both in what you've drawn and the mental image you have created. The art of the cartographer is to take this 3 dimensional world and put it into 2 dimensions with enough detail to be useful but without too much to cause confusion. If you cannot relate to the ground in front of you, you will not be able to relate the map to the ground! So this is a really important step and one that you will do repeatedly in the course of navigating, even if you spend just a few seconds in the course of a race! 

Next time... Relating the map to the ground!

Autumn this year...

Run the Welsh Coast! - Night runs and dune jumping included!

New for 2015...

Watch out for more trail running lecture evenings...

Kit Review...

Which Headtorch?

Cotswold Outdoor Article...

Ways to improve your running endurance...

So given the amount of range of headtorches I decided to write up a review of the Suprabeam headtorches I use... This is my second kit review of Suprabeam products. The V3 Pro rechargeable is the most powerful head torch that Suprabeam currently make and therefore given how impressed I was with the V3 Air I thought I'd give it a try... Read More

Increasing your running endurance can have some great additional benefits to your running and to your health. As well as giving you greater stamina, it will also increase your enjoyment, improve your technique, reduce the chances of injury and allow you to go further and faster than ever before... Read More

Gear Partners

Our trusted partners are Cotswold Outdoor, Merrell (shoes), Injinji (socks), Aarn (packs), Suprabeam (torches) and GU (nutrition). We have secured discounts with our partners so if you partake in a holiday with us you will also benefit. Kit is important and it's often a costly investment that is there to look after you.

You'll also get plenty of gear advice on any one of our trips from packs to poles. If in doubt about what to buy before a trip please get in touch. We are partners with Reebok Sports Club who are on hand to provide any gym based training tips, and also PND Consulting for all things nutritional!

Update on Benno

This is the last update from one of our UK lead runners who made an attempt to make the longest unsupported and unassisted journey across The North West Passage (NWP). He made it back - well done Benno!

It almost felt surreal waking in the tent that morning. It was our last night on the ice in our tent or at least we hoped so as we were only 10km from Pond Inlet. Going about our morning activities as we had for the previous 70 days in a now almost ritualistic and exacting manner. The only difference was there was no hurry. We lay in our sleeping bags drinking tea, despite the fact we had run out of earl grey and were now onto chai. Putting off the inevitable for once not because it was cold but more the fact that by the end of the day that would be it. This was quite a weird and in many ways a scary though as we had been consumed by this adventure from the early stages of congregating round maps in pubs and kitchen tables to where we were on the ice. Read More

The NWP sought by many of the greatest explorers for over 300 years, is one of the most famous stretch of water in the world, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The Passage was first sailed by Roald Amundsen in 1906 but the area had been almost completely mapped by many Royal Naval and Hudson Bay Company expeditions including those by Parry, Ross, Rae and Franklin. Sir John Franklin would lose his life in 1847 searching for the passage and in 2014 one of his ships was finally discovered after numerous rescue and later recovery expeditions.

The North Expedition aims to emulate these great feats and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in the Arctic by completing the first ever man-powered journey across the locked sea ice and set the record for the longest ever polar journey.


Keep in touch!

This newsletter will be a regular feature but if you'd like to keep up to date please follow us on the usual channels as well as keeping an eye on the website. We also want to hear from you about your favourite trails. We will send out any interesting exerts in the next edition!

Copyright © 2015 Run the Wild Limited, All rights reserved.

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