A bit like opting for the dish on the menu that’s tempted you, but you were reluctant to try, maybe mixing up your running options will pay surprising dividends.
Whether you try your hand at trail running, give the track a whirl; mixing the surfaces you run on, the pace you run at and the distances you prefer pays incredible dividends. It can make you stronger, faster, happier, and just generally be motivating – always handy at this time of year.
BBC commentator and more importantly in this instance - a lover of track and trail Steve Cram explains:
“We all run for different reasons, but often the pursuit of yet another personal best or the quest to complete the latest challenge we set ourselves can get in the way of actually taking the time to slow down and enjoy the fact that running in our great outdoors is an uplifting episode in itself."
Try a Trail
Trails are a great way to explore our environment and allow us to be a little more in tune with putting one foot in front of the other, slowly or quickly, and re-charge the motivation battery which can at times appear to be leaking power. You just need to seek them out. They are often closer than you think.
Steve Cram continues:
“Trails don’t need to be of the epic variety. Sometimes just the chance to divert off onto a path for a kilometre or two can re-invigorate a run or allow you to lift your head and look around."
"A towpath, disused railway line or even the worn grass path around the circumference of your local park. They all count, no-one is judging. Give your legs a break, metaphorically please, and leave the hard cold surfaces for another day.”
With that in mind, Forestry England (one of RunTogether’s partners) has created some amazing trails for runners to enjoy. Running in the forest will calm you down, clear your thoughts and give you time to think. Better, there are clearly defined seasons to experience from the spring budding to autumn leaves crunching underfoot. Plus, trails are also a little more forgiving on your body than on the roads, too.
“Trail running means you haven’t got the impact; the routes are undulating, and it constantly changes the pace and the stresses on your legs. I regularly see deer and birds of prey and came face to face with an otter just a few months ago. My secret is a simple love of running.”
says Nigel Gates, a runner well into his 60s now, but still clocking inside 19min for 5k! At this point you probably want to hear of his secret: well, it’s simple - a bit like mixing and matching surfaces and speed.
“It’s just opening your mind up. Enjoyment comes first.”
Get on Track
Admittedly the track presents a different image - namely of speed and world records - and for that reason it can be a little off-putting for some. But fear not, it will help. You don’t need a stopwatch or even need to worry about distance you’re going to run, trying the track is all about working in your form.
Of course, it’s helpful to have someone watch you, but the basics are simple. Nice and upright, look directly in front. Don’t lean back, lift your knees a little more and hey presto you’re away. Yes, that’s simplifying it - a lot - but a session on the track is all about feeling loose and relaxed. Speed isn’t important at all. So, if you don’t feel the urge to bash out another run on the road, opt instead for 20 minutes of form on the track. Perfect.
On the road
Perhaps you want a change of pace but need some motivation?
Maybe consider joining an England Athletics affiliated club if you haven’t already - membership offers many benefits (including cheaper entry fees for races) and there are many that specialise in road running. They can also then support you on a journey to competing or running longer distances which might have been out of your comfort zone. And competing can come in many guises - from a local mass participation 5k or 10k to a bucket list marathon at home or even abroad. Or perhaps you aspire to being part of a demanding championship race experience? England Athletics now manage licensing for road and multi-terrain races so it's easy to find one that suits you and you can be assured that it is organised to specific standards. Plus, being a registered athlete at an affiliated club offers many other benefits apart from cheaper entry fees for races.
We like to run with friends. England Athletics’ running tracker reveals 43% of potential runners ‘do not have anyone to go with’ while 50% of those who run alone would like to run with other people and 40% of those who run informally with other people would like to join a group.
Joining an England Athletics affiliated club or a RunTogether recreational running group is a good way to get in touch with like-minded people who can share their knowledge, experience and favourite routes, and the opportunity to experience running in different guises. Different RunTogether group types and groups within clubs can suit everyone's running ability or experience.
If you’re in the mood for trying something a little different, why not give Plogging a go? It is either a group run (or you can go on your own of course) picking rubbish from those areas and communities that line your routes and give us so much on a day-to-day basis. In the summer, for instance, more than 60 runners got together in Hackney and on one day in June collected 50 rubbish bags (1,407 individual items).
Or then there’s Jeffing. This works to the same principle in that it’s a mix and of running and walking. In fact, it’s an idea that’s been around for 40 years or so now and has proved very successful for some runners. You can combine short efforts with planned walks. So, you might run five minutes then follow that with 20 minutes alternating one minute of jogging/running with two minutes of walking; then ending with a five-minute walk to cool down. Change it and adapt it for you own needs, but never forget – plan those walks in, don’t run till you can’t anymore. That’s the key point in all of this! Get it right and it actually boosts performance. In fact, Jeff (hence ‘Jeffing’) Galloway invented it in the 1970s and hundreds have used it successfully to run their best marathons.