"Going Wild!" Why getting off the tarmac & exploring the great outdoors can improve your running & much more, by our running Coach, Dave Taylor.
You can’t beat the great outdoors. It’s just…great!
A run in the woods, hills, moors and fields ticks all the boxes and is a refreshing alternative to all that pavement pounding.
If you are used to training on the roads then the first thing you notice when you leave them is that it’s harder work. That’s because your feet are going through lots of extra motions to compensate for the uneven surface. Also, your running rhythm is being constantly broken.
The good news is that this will make you a better runner. Your legs will also thank you for treating them to softer surfaces with less impact.
Depending on where you live, you might have to hop in the car to find the wilderness but for many of you, there could be a whole variety of places to explore right outside your front door. During lockdown, when I couldn’t visit all my favourite spots for a bit of off-road training, I discovered a myriad of tracks around the local fields I never knew existed! I could run for miles along a network of public footpaths, whilst admiring the crops the local farmers were cultivating. It’s been great watching them grow over the months, from tiny seedings poking through the cracked earth, to whole fields of majestic corn blowing in the breeze. The feeling of freedom in the great outdoors is overwhelming and is magnified knowing you are only a few miles from home. So why not grab a local map and see what you can find on your doorstep?
If you are lucky enough to live near an area with hills or mountains aplenty, don’t shy away from exploring them. Tackling hills is a fantastic combination of cardio, strength and stamina workouts and is significantly more technical due to the challenges of the terrain. Shorten your stride and try not to hunch forward – a straight back is better and helps you get air into your lungs. If the gradient is slightly too challenging for you, don’t be afraid to power walk up it – it’s more efficient and can often be faster than tippy-toeing up, gritting your teeth and muttering “I’m a runner so I’ve got to run up this!”. And in contrast to strict hill sessions on the road it is acceptable to stop at the top of any climb to admire the view. In fact, it’s mandatory to enjoy the views! The fact that it helps you to recover from oxygen debt is a bonus!
On the downward bits try to keep relaxed and not lean back. Short strides will help you to respond to the terrain under your feet and it’s vital you concentrate on where you are going to be putting your feet two strides ahead. Keep your radar tuned for those pesky rocks and roots waiting to trip you up. Downhill running is an acquired technique of being light on your feet and being responsive to what you encounter.
I relish the challenges the countryside throws at me as I pass through it whether it be the light footwork needed for tracks through the woods or pacing it right up hills or finding the most efficient route up a gravel slope. This variety makes it magical.
What you are wearing on your feet can make quite a difference but when you start exploring off road running there is nothing wrong with road shoes if it is dry. Trail shoes do make all the difference especially in muddy conditions though. I go for a trail shoe with an “aggressive” sole to give me the best possible traction. So, if you find you like off-roading it gives you the perfect opportunity to treat yourself to some new shoes!
My favourite off road run is on the Sandstone Trail which luckily is only 10 miles from Chester. I do a seven miles figure of eight route which gives me four challenging climbs and one particular descent which I have to admit I find a bit scary. (I’m sure I never used to be so risk-averse!)
So, my advice to you is to say a temporary goodbye to pace management and structure. Get out there and explore what you can do with our marvellous countryside. It adds a whole new dimension to your running and your legs will be stronger for it.
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The route is renowned for being fast and largely flat – more than 70% of our runners achieve PBs!
Marius Ionescu in 2014
Julie Briscoe in 2013
2019 Marathon Results
|1st||Tom Charles (Trafford AC)||2:29:29|
|2nd||Tristan Windley (Keswick AC)||2:29:36|
|1st||Abbey van Dijk||3:01:51|
|2nd||Johanna Sutcliffe (Halifax Harriers & AC)||3:04:59|
|3rd||Camilla Hermsen (Harpenden Arrows)||3:05:11|
As with all such events, our events would not be possible without the help of a huge team of volunteers.Find out more.