How to be an urban trail runner
Trail running can be a great opportunity 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 previous home and experiences in London...
WHERE TO RUN?
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 (where Run the Wild is based) 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 had 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!
THE IMPORTANCE OF GREEN SPACES
Getting into green spaces is more important than ever! Connecting with nature is something that scientists are starting to understand much more about, particularly in regards to its benefit to mental health. Individuals who are highly connected to nature report a higher psychological well-being, being happier with who they are as a person, their social well-being, emotional well-being and also life satisfaction and personal growth. Simply walking in nature for fifteen minutes (in comparison to walking in an urban environment) increases measurably our ability to concentrate, our mental and physical energy. It can even increase our intrinsic aspirations and goals, such as how we perceive personal growth, community etc and decrease extrinsic aspirations such as money, image and fame. That’s amazing!! Not only that, being the wild increases your mood and also provides a calming effect, reducing blood pressure. There’s even studies to demonstrate it can boost your immune system!
So wherever you live, go find some green space! You'll feel much better for it!