Run the Wild Times

Exploring places... not running races.

2017 Winter Issue - No.12

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Welcome to Run the Wild's Winter newsletter! 

We all know how tough it can be to find motivation at this time of the year but we hope this newsletter will help inspire you to get out on the trails so you are fit and ready for springtime! This edition's headline photo comes from the wilds of the Scottish Cairngorms, looking over towards Loch A'an in -15 degrees C windchill. A true winter experience! To make the most of your time outdoors at this time of year don't get caught out by weather or short days and always tell someone your route - keep safe out there!

This issue is jam packed with articles: trail running with your pet pooch; a guide to buying a head torch; we answer questions about what to expect from an Introduction to the Alps trip; inspiration and benefits of trail running - a Run the Wild Times' reader's write up; details of The 2017 Trail Running Festival!  We hope you enjoy our latest articles and look forward to seeing you on one of our running adventures!

The Team @ Run the Wild

Running with your pooch - canicross

Karin Voller

It would be difficult to be a trail runner in the UK or Europe without coming across a plethora of people out enjoying the countryside with their dogs! For many runners, there is a big appeal to have a companion out with you on the trails, that won’t complain about the weather, that won’t mind if you get lost, and that will lift your spirits when you are having a low moment up a particularly cruel hill. Some of us have taken this to another level, and taken up the sport of canicross.

Fundamentally it is just running with your dog, but with the addition of some speciality gear linking you together, it becomes a team sport. Starting out from sled dog racers who wanted to keep both their dogs, and themselves, fit in the summer months when there wasn’t enough snow cover to be out on the sleds, dog sports now encompass canicross (running), bikejoring (cycling), skijoring (skiing), scooter joring (on an adapted scooter) and dryland mushing (on a rig with wheels) in addition to the traditional sled.

Although originally used to exercise sled dogs in off season, today’s canicrossers have an assortment of motivations. Some have less social dogs that can’t be off lead in public areas as they don’t interact well with dogs or people. Canicross is great as it gives the dogs an alternative focus, and also being attached at all times, is under far more control. It also allows the dog to get physically tired, which is a lot harder when walking a high energy dog on a lead. Some dogs have very high prey drive/poor recall, so again it’s a great and safe way to exercise them. Many dogs also just love running, and who better to run with than their best friend. For the runner it can make you feel safer than being out on your own, it combines your own exercise with needing to take the dog for a walk, it can be highly social, and has the potential to lead to some cracking PBs (see note below on “cheating”)!

3 pieces of kit are required for canicross: a waist belt for the human, a harness for the dog, and a bungee line linking the two. The waist belt is vital for strong pulling dogs, pulling from a lower centre of gravity, and more centrally, than holding a lead ever could, and far more comfortable. Waist belts often have leg straps to hold them down onto the hips stopping them ride up and pulling on the lower back. The dog harness comes in many different forms, but essentially allow the dog to have free movement of legs, unrestricted breathing, and to pull with a natural running style that suits the dog. All dogs are different shapes and sizes and move differently, and it is well worth trying a few before buying. The bungee line is an elasticated lead usually with a clip that attaches to the dogs harness, and a handle loop that can be attached to a quick release snap, or carabiner, or directly to the belt. This bungee reduces the impact of tugging that a rigid lead would have with each stride. Multiple lengths are available. 

You can canicross with all dogs, just exercise some common sense with short faced dogs who may have difficulties breathing, very heavy dogs, who may need a more gentle start to exercising, and dogs known to have joint and back problems. It can actually help dogs with forms of dysplasia by building up supporting muscles, but is always worth checking with the vet prior to starting an exercise regime. Dogs must be fully matured, at least 1year old, and older still for larger dogs that develop slower. I have seen Chihuahuas and Dachshunds, through to Great Danes canicrossing. If you turn up to a canicross event in the UK, breeds such as the German Short Haired Pointer, Hungarian Vizslas, and Huskies, seem to be the most prevalent. Abroad, we have seen specific breeds created and developed to be speed and endurance racers. The Eurohound is a cross between a pointer and husky breed, with the husky endurance benefiting from the pointer speed. A further popular cross for short races is the Greyster, crossing a greyhound with a Pointer. These are big and typically very fast dogs over short distance races. Many canicross races are around 5k, with European Champions covering this ground in around 12 ½ minutes, similar to the dogless world record for the same distance held by Bekele.

With the increased popularity in Parkruns, the weekly timed 5k runs held around the country, which promote an inclusivity for all, whether old or young, fast or slow, with a buggy, or with a dog, this is a run that is aimed to motivate people to run against themselves over a comparable distance each week and see their own development. There has been some backlash against those wishing to run with their dogs, some of which may be fair. There will always be those people in life (some dog owners among them), who prioritise themselves over any others, and in a parkrun with some narrow channels people must squeeze through, I fully appreciate a suddenly veering dog on a long lead, or out of control, can be disruptive. I hope, and do believe, these are in the minority, and many parkrunners with dogs try and be considerate keeping their dog out the way during briefings, giving other runners space and warnings of their approach, and keeping the dog on a short specially designed parkrun bungee to minimise the chance of a trip hazard. A second wave of backlash comes in a form I have a lot less time for…complaints of “cheating”. Although not a parkrunner myself, I have run a number of races with my dogs which allow both dogless and canicross runners, and would be a rich person if I got a £1 for each time a remark was made that I was “cheating”. The majority are said in a jovial tone, and these I will happily respond to with some equally lightweight response, depending on my exhaustion at the point in the race. For those that are aimed in a more mean spirited fashion, I would like to answer more fully – though I rarely get the chance to at the time as I am speeding away in the distance at a pace meaning they wouldn’t catch any of what I said!

First, those of us that run with dogs are rarely categorised with non-dog runners. Although on the same starting line, and a chip timing taken, you will find our overall times are not considered towards the overall rankings. Similarly, some events separately categorise canicross runners in their own grouping, as they also split by sex, and by age. Secondly, whilst it may well look like cheating as I’m being pulled along by my 40kg lean muscle machine of a dog, with VO2 max potentially up to 240ml/kg/min (I could not be described in similarly admirable words), my dog does not differentiate between which is the way I would like him to go, and which way he would like to go. We follow his route almost completely. This includes to sniff a particularly interesting tree, to follow the sighting of a squirrel, to have a drink at a nice deep muddy puddle (particularly ones that are longer than my bungee line will allow me to follow from the safety of drier land). I follow my dog as he says hello to every passing dog on the path, as he cuts under low hanging branches, and to that perfect spot where he decides nature is calling, also allowing me to then have a rather whiffy handwarmer until the next bin! As with children, my dog particularly loves running as fast as he can downhills and is far less interested in sprinting up. That 40kg pull on the flat turns into an absolutely lethal downwards trajectory on a slope, and I have ended up finishing most trail races with completely muddy, and often bleeding, knees. It’s not always advantageous having the dog pulling you!!

Thirdly, the reason the majority of us compete with our dogs is not to be able to beat our dogless peers, but purely to get out into the countryside with our best mates, doing something they love. Dogs have a fascinating competitive spirit, and even though I am sure my dog has no concept of what a race is, he clearly fully understands wanting to catch the person/dog/squirrel in front of us. My dog will howl at the start when he sees others go off ahead (the majority of pure canicross races have staggered starts), he pulls with everything he can despite the dead weight hanging on to him (me), and he gallops along with ears flapping at a pace dictated by him. It is a joy to watch him in his element, and I will happily take any amount of snide comments aimed at us, that I know he has no understanding of, to see him this happy.

So for those of you that would like to consider giving it a go,

  1. Get your dog checked by a vet. They will be able to assess any stiffness in joints, aswell as advise if you have breed traits that would make canicross unsuitable. I chose to have hip x-rays done as my dogs breed can be prone to hip dysplasia.

  2. Get along to a local club. They will likely have a large club kit bag, with an assortment of things for you to try with your dog. Secondly they will be able to give you advice on getting started, and give you a suitable group to go out with. Thirdly you will find nearly all dogs pull better when they are in a pack of other runners. That desire to chase down the dog in front is very strong. My own club, Ashridge Canicrossers have been absolutely fantastic, and we have new members that come along to our Saturday morning runs nearly every week. A quick search of canicross on facebook should give a number of club options.

  3. In terms of getting kit, there are a number of different retailers. I can recommend K9 Trail Time and Runners Retreat as good starting points. Try on as much kit as you can before you buy. It is not cheap, but good quality kit lasts a long time if you look after it. I certainly cycle through trainers quicker than my dogs cycle through any of their kit.

  4. Be sensible with the weather. With dogs far less able to moderate their own temperature than humans, a long run on a bright summers day is probably a bad idea. High temperatures and humidity mean you shouldn’t consider taking your dog out for a run. Focus on your own training at these times, and save the canicrossing for cooler weather, or very early mornings and evenings. Generally dogs are less averse to the rain than us humans, so don’t let that put you off. Bring some water for your dog aswell as yourself (my dog has learnt to drink from my hydration pack if I squirt the water out), and look for signs your dog may be overheating, with heavy panting, laboured breathing, and a lack of a desire to run.

I hope to see you and your dogs out there on the trails!

Written by Karin Voller, Trail and Canicross Runner, Head of Logistics

Keep warm this winter...!

Available to purchase: high quality hoodies (Superdry feel) for £39.95 (+P&P) with our logo and motif "Exploring places... not running races", for sale on our website. Click here for more info


Looking to buy a new head torch?

A headtorch is an essential bit of kit for many outdoor activities. It not only helps you see where you are going but also helps other people see you. As a mountaineer and trail runner it’s something I’ve found to be of an everyday necessity all year round. It’s performance is of paramount importance to me, whether it be running rough mountain trails at night or climbing through an icefall, in can be the difference between making it and not. Weight, durability, brightness, ease of use, cost, comfort and stability are all key factors when deciding which head torch to buy.

So, what is the best headtorch for you? Let’s look at 6 key features to look out for...

Written by Simon James, Run the Wild Founder - for Cotswold Outdoor

Weekend: Introduction to the Alps

What is a trail running weekend all about? Here is a quick look at our most popular weekend away in the Alps.

The Introductory weekend was set up for those who haven't run trails in the Alps before, maybe haven't run many trails in the past or just want to go somewhere different. It's not about ability, you might've never run a marathon before or you could be a sub 3hr veteran. Running in the Alps is a totally different experience to anywhere else, and this weekend is perfect for getting that first taste. For a start there will always be some hiking uphill and since what goes up must come down - some descent.  So we never run for the full time we are out, it's just not possible! The good news is there are lots of different trails to suit all abilities and if you don't like the hills much, there are ski lifts we can take, to get the group straight up to our favourite balcony paths. You will always have a qualified Lead Runner, this is someone who is an International Mountain Leader (required by law), an experienced and passionate trail runner as well as someone who knows the local paths well. They will be on hand to guide you through the maze of paths as well as offer tips on techniques as well as impart information about the flora and fauna and even point out which mountain peaks are on the horizon. It's not just a trail run it's also a holiday. We take a bit more time making sure everyone takes in some of the amazing views of Mt Blanc and the surrounding area taking home some great photos alongside a memorable experience. At the end of the day if you are willing to challenge yourself a little bit and want to have some fun, then this is for you!

This depends on the ability of the group but it's predominantly based around the time you will be out for. We start around 9am each morning and finish around 2pm. That includes a break at our luxury picnic or packed lunch as well as maybe stopping in a mountain buvette for an alpine coffee. Generally speaking, given the mix of walking and running it adds up to around 12 miles.

Everyone worries, but you shouldn't! We match the ability of everyone who signs up and the group runs as a team. Exploring places... not running races is our motto! We emphasise the essence of team on all Run the Wild trips, starting on the Friday night with dinner at a great restaurant in the centre of Chamonix, where you will meet with fellow trail runners and the rest of the RtW Team. 

Chamonix is a must for all trail runners, it's the host town for the UTMB and a mecca for every extreme sports enthusiast from base jumper to ice climber. The heart of the alpinism since the late 1800s it never fails to deliver and no wonder it continues to inspire every sportsperson to push their limit. It's one of those places where you can walk down through the main centre and see pro-climbers having just ascended a massive face, next to the average tourist out to get a quick snap of the summit of Mt Blanc. All are welcome. We select only 4* spa accommodation in walking distance of the centre of Chamonix so you can unwind in the swimming pool or book a post run massage in the spa.

Not much on the day of your run but we do ask that you prepare for every weather (see our kit list). Your guide will tell you what to bring out on the day depending on the forecast, running light is part of the joy of an arranged trail running holiday! Trail shoes are essential (please see our guide to choosing kit) and if you have signed up for the trip you can take advantage of the great discounts we have with Runners Need and Cotswold Outdoor.

We recommend that you keep up your training before you arrive in Chamonix so you can make the most of your holiday. Don't over do it especially 3 weeks before the trip to avoid a last minute injury.


YES! You will learn so much about yourself, the mountains, the weather, which French cheeses you like, what flowers grow in the Alpine meadows and of course which local French wines taste best! That's before we even start talking about running! Most importantly you will learn how to have a lot of fun out on the trails! See you there ;-)

WHERE DO I SIGN UP? Click on the button below!


Guest Feature: What are the benefits of trail running?

by Jane Grates

A physiotherapist I know named Emma is a marathon runner. She’s quite remarkable and has run in many 50 km (31.06 miles) races. She’s incredibly fit and is always in search of the next challenge and adventure. When she mentioned trail running, I was intrigued. Her running partner with whom she trains, accompanied her on a challenging trail run in Sydney’s Blue Mountains, Australia's foremost 100km trail running event. I am always fascinated listening to Emma’s stories of endurance, commitment, sheer athleticism and the joy she experiences while running and is what inspired me to understand more about trail running.

I wondered what was so enticing about trail running, as opposed to other forms of running. It makes sense that for a runner, neighborhood routes can become tired and for an enthusiastic runner, it’s important to maintain variety. Similarly, even the less experienced runner can reach the point in which running on a treadmill just becomes boring. Leaving the road or gym and heading to the trails is a fabulous change in pace, environment and affords a new and exciting challenge.  In fact, many trail running enthusiasts purport that “Trail running……is our gym”. 
It was interesting to learn that compared with running on the pavement, trail running burns 10 percent more calories, while also developing greater balance and agility. Trail running involves the whole body with movements which are varied and fast and can include twisting and turning, constantly altering direction, dodging tree branches, climbing, descending, an ever changing pace and diverse footsteps; from taking big steps lunging forward, to taking small rapid steps. I believe it is far more ambitious than many other forms of running, as it demands a lot more from the runner’s body. It utilises an increased number of muscles, including core muscles, as well as greater effort. Runners are provided with a far more challenging workout! 

Interestingly, the long term stresses placed on the body are actually less than those experienced by runners who elect to run on the road. Traditional runners uphold a constant pace and are engaged in repetitive motions. Many areas in the body are affected by performing the same motion with every step, like the hips, knees, ankles and foot arches. This repetition leads to erosion of both muscles and joints.
When running trails, the angles at which your feet connect with the ground are always altering, so the impact is expanded and shared between joints. Additionally, running on grass and soil is much softer than concrete. The increased cushioning that this softer surface provides, results in less exertion on joints. Many professional non-trail runners are now integrating trail running into their training regimens, in order to prevent injuries caused by overuse.

I have found gym training and resistance training extremely useful for trail running. Exercises should be focused on those that strengthen core muscles and larger muscles, like hamstrings and quads. For greater power and strength when running uphill, weight training and cycling are ideal. Developing glute and quad strength will strengthen ligaments and muscles around the knees. To prepare for trails with lots of steps, step-ups with weights is advised. Knee raises and squats are terrific for general strengthening and also help leg control for arduous landings.

Trail running is a sport open to all who want to get outdoors. The feeling of well being and accomplishment alongside the health benefits makes it definitely worth giving it a go. Many people have commented on the amazing spiritual and emotional benefits derived from trails. Trishul Cherns, the ultra-marathoner shared his thoughts about running and spirituality with The New Yorker. He stated that “the world’s best multi-day runners have a strong spiritual side. And, for me, it’s a spiritual journey…. It becomes an extended form of meditation.” Indeed with the focus required to sustain concentration on the ground in front of you, all other thoughts do disappear and life becomes very simple and pure.

Professional and passionate trail runners are highly disciplined people and subscribe to the notion that “You can run further than you think, so work on your thinking”. It’s this mindset that enables them to strive for excellence and attain their goals. It’s also a useful lesson for everyone of us, as it’s merely one’s mind preventing or enabling a different perspective.

Trail running is a terrific activity that one can share with a loved one and can be enjoyed by any person of any age. It’s a reminder of the power of positive thought and connecting with nature that makes this activity so rewarding.

Written by Jane Grates Run the Wild Times Reader, Trail and Ultramarathon Runner, owner of


Trail Running Festival this August!

Love Trails Festival presents...Save the date! Aug 18th-19th-20th. 2017. 

This is big guys. 
That's right. Love Trails Festival is on and we couldn't be more excited to share this with you. Join us for a weekend of trail running, new friendships, camping, community, live music, DJs, inspirational speakers, film screenings, in-depth running workshops and GOOD VIBES! Set on a picturesque farm at Corfe Castle on the Purbeck Jurassic Coast in Dorset. 

Love Trails Festival is the annual meeting place for runners, running crews and fitness tribes from across the UK. It's a 3-day celebration of running culture, lifestyle, and community. Runners of all abilities are welcome. There will be running. There will be partying. There will be foam rollers!

Get ready to sign-up, tickets will be available from the beginning of February here...

Alps Trips

Intro to trail running, based in Chamonix

Run further in 2017!

Run the TMB this July 2017

"A perfect introduction to running in the Alps that left us all wanting to come back for more" Annie

"Best running experience ever with a passionate team looking after you." Scott

Gear Partners

Our trusted partners are Cotswold Outdoor, Runners Need, 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 Neil Bryant for specific trail running coaching, and also PND Consulting for all things nutritional!

What makes us different?

When you join a Run the Wild trip you are looked after from beginning to end, you become part of Run the Wild. Your qualified guide is a member of the Run the Wild team and is supported throughout the trip by a Run the Wild logistic team including refreshments stops of local produce. We include dinner on the first night in all our adventures. There are no hidden charges. We are passionate about you having a running adventure of a lifetime, making friends and hitting the trails. Find out more here.

"Exploring places... not running races."


Keep in touch!

This newsletter is 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. If you'd like to submit an article for the newsletter please email us.

Copyright © 2017 Run the Wild Limited, All rights reserved.

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