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Carry on Trail Running

Running during the crisis

The world has gone crazy! Everyone is feeling the strain, the anxiety over vulnerable relatives and people in their community, loss of earnings, health, the list goes on. Maybe you feel as I do, as some walk-on extra in some cheap apocalyptic film, with no famous actors! However, one thing that you may have also noticed in this new reality of ours, or even spotted in yourself, the urge to go for a run! What is this new phenomenon, should we be worried about this new urge?!

As current UK Government guidelines stipulate (and this may change so make sure you are up to date), the general public are allowed to go out for exercise once a day, either on their own or with members of their own household. Wow! That’s amazing, a government stipulating that exercise is a necessary part of staying healthy, both physically and mentally. It’s like Boris himself came along to one of my talks at Love Trails Festival! Maybe, maybe not. Combined with many more people working from home now, the usual health and leisure facilities such as gyms, swimming pools and leisure centres being closed and the beautiful weather, it seems many more people have taken to the trails than ever before. Running is also such a great way of getting bang for your buck vs other sports! If you can only get out once a day, it’s the perfect way to maximise calorie burn, feel good factor, minimal kit and it’s as simple as falling from one foot to the other, it doesn’t get simpler than that!

So here are a few tips for everyone who finds themselves running in the global lockdown. Whether you are a veteran runner (pre-corona) or a new runner, finding yourself with the weird sensation of putting on some running shoes, having dug them out of some far corner of a dusty box in the loft. Times have changed, cross-country is no longer a sport of punishment for school kids, in fact we call it trail running, and you know what? It’s awesome! It has an incredibly supportive community, is cool (check out those Kilian Jornet films) and could lead to something really good coming out of this rotten reality we find ourselves in. Welcome!

Trail Running is for ALL!

We at Run the Wild pride ourselves on making our beautiful surroundings more accessible to ALL, we also believe that running is for ALL, no matter your shape, aspirations, background or age. For those that are regular trail runners, we need to welcome the newbies with open arms (but from a distance). They have heard the siren-call, listened to the preacher and are ready for a trail baptism. We all have equal rights to our local countryside, and while it may be frustrating to see trails that were once the sole domain of a few hardy, mud splattered trail veterans, now hosting sparkling new trainers (or those dusty pumps from the loft), there are things we can all do to make this transition as smooth as possible and also welcoming to those nervous newbies.

Here are some ground rules for running during lockdown:

1 – The countryside is for everyone. Everyone deserves the mental and physical health benefits the great outdoors can offer, so be kind to each other.

2 – Adhere to Government Guidelines:

Do not drive unnecessary distances to get to the trails.

Do not run in groups; solo, or same household members only.

Stay local.

Stay at least 2m away from anyone else (running too close unless in a race is considered bad form anyway).

Whilst sticking to the letter of the advice suggests 1 form of exercise a day, the spirit of the advice does not mean running a 50 miler. Exercise common sense and caution and be grateful we still have the freedom we do, and pushing yourself could lead yourself to be susceptible to injury or illness. Don’t forget not to increase your volume or intensity more than 10% per week (especially if you are new to running).

3 – Avoid towpaths, as often times its very challenging to ensure 2m between people when passing (unless you are including a swim during your run). Also, these paths are the back gardens for the residents of boats moored along the canal.

4 – Try and exercise at times where it is less likely there are many people out on the trails. We are fortunate to have fantastic weather and increasingly longer hours of daylight just now. Appreciating the sunrise or the sunset at these stressful times can be a wonderful moment of calm, so try and avoid peak times in the middle of the day and at the end of the school/working day.

5 – You can’t catch Covid-19 from smiling or waving at another runner from a distance. A bit of friendliness goes a long way.

6 – Have a look at a map. Either the paper kind (yes, they do exist), or a map app such as ViewRanger, is fantastic. Often free, they allow you to map out a route. Take special note of open access areas. The benefit of exercising in these areas is that you are not obliged to stick to a set footpath, but are allowed to range freely, this gives you a better chance of social distancing. However, stick to paths where possible to avoid damage to plants and habitats

7 – Take a hand sanitiser with you, and exercise caution when touching gates. Gates on bridleways often have long handles to allow for use by horse riders and cyclists, so can often be opened using the back of your arms. If you do touch a gate, use hand sanitiser both before and after.

8 – No snot rockets! For those that don’t know what a snot rocket is, it’s the rapid expulsion of snot build up by covering one nostril, and blasting snot out of the other. It is rarely the time and the place for this, but right now its even more of a no-no! Spitting is right out as well!

9 – Join Strava or equivalent. Strava can be a great motivator. If you are finding solo running doesn’t inspire you, or doesn’t challenge you, take a look at what segments are on your route, and see if you can run those bits as fast as you can. It’s a great way to push yourself. Also, its very useful to be able to take inspiration for routes from other local runners as you can download a GPX file of their route.

10 – Respect the countryside code! Its Spring Time, which is a fantastic time to be out running. It also means there are lots of new born lambs around, and ground nesting birds, such as sky larks, are starting to lay eggs. If you run with your dog, fab, but keep your dog on a lead at all times when there may be sheep. Shut all gates even if this is done by some contortionist method using your feet. Do not run across open areas of grassland where birds may be nesting. You can usually see and hear skylarks, so avoid these areas. Do not litter, that’s an obvious one surely, but this includes those people who answer the call of nature, and leave a nasty surprise just off the trail. If you need to go, dig a hole, which you cover back over, and don’t leave toilet paper fluttering in the breeze, pack it out with you. Dogs have an uncanny taste for human waste! You may come across requests from landowners to avoid certain public rights of way and although under the law they are not enforceable (not in England currently although there are special emergency laws in Wales which means they can be), it's best to respect them where possible. At the end of the day, the countryside code is all about looking after and respecting the land, wildlife, landowners and other users. 

11 – Wear the right equipment. We are very fortunate that many online shops remain open, and even local shops are now offering delivery on some items. Get proper, well fitting shoes, sweat wicking layers, and wear enough to ensure you are comfortable while running.

12 – Now is not the time to try out that sketchy path. Do not put yourself in any position which heightens the chance of needing to be rescued. We can all do our bit at helping the emergency services focus on those who cannot help their situation.  Always tell someone where you plan to go running, so that should you need any assistance, you can easily be found.

13 – Look online for ideas of a workout session. Just because we can only exercise once a day, doesn’t mean we can’t improve our fitness. Consider varied workouts such as VO2 Max, Interval, or Fartlek training sessions. There are plenty of online resources to keep us all interested.

14 – If you usually workout more than current guidelines allow, do strength and conditioning work at home. Whether it be Joe Wicks family PE sessions, or one of the many other online resources (Run the Wild has put out a few ideas on Facebook!), there is plenty you can do with little or no specialist equipment required. What a fab time to improve strength, which in turn helps running form.

So keep calm and carry on trail running! Run safe, be welcoming to all runners, stay positive and motivated! We have some great on-line resources for those new to trail running, or just email us a question! Together, we can get through this and come out the other side, fitter, stronger and more connected with the natural world we live in.