What is it about being Outdoors ?

Inspirational presenter Julia Bradbury recently asked the question “What is it about being outdoors ?” on her Cornwall and Devon Walking program. “It makes my heart sing” was the answer and Julia acknowledged a kindred spirit. I’m keen to try and describe what it means to me, not necessarily from a running point of view but more from a life long appreciation.

On a day to day basis the tasks that we set ourselves tend to be close at hand, for example, working from home on a laptop, the washing up, DIY and even more so, with us tied to the house due to the covid lockdowns. Therefore, your gaze can range from a meter, then increase to the end of the living room and at best finish with the end of the garden. I appreciate that many people are happy pottering around their house but I crave more !!

Being at home you inevitably connect with close at hand thoughts. The triggers to these thoughts might be the unfinished washing up or the letters that arrived in the post, more often than not you are thinking about a variety of tasks. When possible, I like to escape these four walls for some outdoor enrichment, even if it’s only for an hour.

The photo above is from half way up Butser Hill looking towards Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Being outdoors gives you a different outlook, the soil that you are standing on is a path, the South Downs Way to be precise and where the carpet at home links you to the house, the trail links you to the countryside. To use another sporting analogy you could say that “time out” was being applied in the basketball sense of stopping and regrouping as well as physically having “time out” – doors.

This different outlook is both visual and phycological so it allows you to focus on what’s in front of you but instead of a few meters worth in your house it’s the flowers off to your far right, it’s half a mile to the bottom of the hill, it’s a mile to the tree line and then the sky takes you to infinity and beyond !!

Every new view that you come across can be likened to meeting a new person, you pick out their distinguishing features, the colour of their eyes, facial expressions and their demeanor, in the same way when you are outdoors you see the colour of the wild flowers, the uneven trail where the wet mud has dried in the sun and the prospect of what’s over the next hill. All your senses are activated, you’ve left your living room and instead you are in the great outdoors, where there’s so much room, to live.

This next photo is again on the South Downs Way as you climb towards Old Winchester hill, for me it shows the contrasts of a view, the dappled sunlight from the overhanging trees can be compared with the cloudless sky, your eyesight is drawn from the complicated criss-cross patterns of the shade to the never ending canvas of blue above you. These far reaching views literally widen your horizons.

The more I’ve thought about the outdoors there’s one aspect that I hadn’t initially considered, the silence. At home or in town there are constant noises but out there you can be surrounded by silence. Saying that, the outdoors is always talking to you, the sheep, the wind, and even a tractor in the distance, however, whether you are running or walking the sound of the silence can actually take some getting used to.

Silence is peaceful, it lowers your blood pressure, it relaxes you, it’s like when you’re in the company of good friends and there are moments when nobody speaks but this is a comfortable silence. I guess I’m almost processing my surroundings while at the same time I’m not thinking about anything at all, just breathing it in. People often ask me do I listen to music when I’m on a long run and I reply that there’s no need.

Listening to the outdoors is definitely part of the enjoyment, it’s almost like the more you listen the more you take in. Many outdoor spaces have remained untouched for years whether that’s a park in the middle of town or the wild countryside. The phrase silence is golden certainly applies because you are feeding off the beauty that stretches out in every direction.

One final thought, I really like the phrase that The Great Outdoors website uses, “Find it – Share it – Live it” what great advice. The To come full circle it’s no surprise that Julia Bradbury is also linked with this site.

I hope I’ve answered the original question of “what is it about being outdoors” and hopefully planted some wild flower seeds in you, the readers mind, to get you out there and (safely) enjoy the great outdoors, locally at the moment and then further afield when lockdown is lifted.

And finally it would appear that I made a decent go of answering the question 😀

Thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback Julia 😀

Thanks also to HCC and their kind comment.

That Running Connection

I recently watched the Ben Fogle series “New Lives in the Wild” which featured an Irish chap who had given up technology. One comment that he made specifically rang true with me. He suggested we need to connect more with people, to have actual conversations, eye contact and undivided attention. Television, emails, social media and most of all mobile phones are the route cause of our barriers to connecting.

This got me thinking and not for the first time running was the answer. I pondered when was the last time I had a long conversation with someone totally free from distraction, yes you guessed it, the last long run that I went on with my mate Paul. We covered all sorts of topics from catching up generally to what we had to look forward to, while remaining socially distanced which is easier in the countryside.

The photo from above was naturally taken when there were three of us (thanks Ros) but you get the general idea. Covid has restricted us to only running with one other person but that’s all you need. On our longer runs the pace lends it self to conversations and the beauty of exercise means you are focused on your breathing, the track in front of you and the company you are keeping.

We both had our phones on us but they stayed firmly in our backpacks. I genuinely believe that these one to one chats mean you aren’t just hearing what your friend is saying, you are actually listening because you are both tuned in. This type of focus ought to be easily achieved but as we know, on a day to day basis, it can get diluted.

Naturally we both have the common interest of running and everything that revolves around it, training, races etc etc and the fact that we’ve know each other a long time means we bounce of each other humour wise but it’s still refreshing to maintain a conversation for easily a couple of hours.

An alternative to the last paragraph would of course be to run with someone you don’t know that well. Your starting point would still be running and everything thing else would flow from there. I do run on my own but this blog is written from an accompanied point of view.

Having company on your run, regardless of its duration gives you a sense of support, belonging and extra purpose, while fully engaging with each other multiplies all of those original benefits.

Our only concession to technology would be taking the occasional photo but again this would be a shared decision after weighing up the options while we wind our way through the countryside.

Taking in your surroundings also gives you food for thought and new discussion topics to talk about. When you run through particularly scenic sections (hills) you don’t always have the breath to talk but again this is a meaningful silence.

Good connections can be achieved just as well on a pavement running through town or on a walk but from my point of view the aerobic activity of running has already heightened all your senses which definitely makes me want to share my thoughts more. All time away from the stress of life is quality time, adding the extra dimension of pointing things out and remarking on them while you are 100% in the moment enriches the whole experience.

At this stage it’s also worth mentioning the group dynamic for when we can go back to running with more than just one friend. The concept of undivided attention can be stretched simply by the added numbers but the extra humour, influences, energy and camaraderie all still function without the need for checking your phone or emails.

This photo is one of my favourite group training photos from a few years ago which was on a second wind running recce run. So many people to share your conversations with, a great buzz and everyone living in the moment while totally connecting with each other.

So in summary, take your mind for a run, free from all the influences and communications that can absorb us when we aren’t running. As well as the endorphins that you’d expect you’ll come away with the satisfaction of knowing you have spent some quality time connecting with your fellow runner / runners while escaping the technology trap that so often temps us not to listen properly.

Thanks for reading …. Rog

A Positive Outlook and stunning views

The definition of a positive outlook is optimism i.e. you are expecting good things to happen, you view life as a challenge and consider that you have the confidence to deal with your chosen challenge. I pondered on this and considered it in running terms because running can take you away from our current lockdown situation, which is far less positive.

On a run we know where we are heading and based on previous experiences we know we are capable of achieving it. Therefore, we are looking forwards, with a degree of inner strength, based on our past.

Secondly, I do think there’s another layer that can be added to your positive outlook and that’s the fact that you know your route will be scenic. Yes, as Phil and Kirsty would say, location, location, location. Granted in these lockdown times it’s not as easy to strike out too far but hopefully we can all find a small slice of rural release.

The beauty of running through the countryside or along the coast is that it gives you both the challenges and the scenery therefore, from start to finish you have a positive outlook and as you reflect on your day that positivity is still there, maybe just under the surface, but undeniably influencing your mood.

What’s so great about the countryside I hear you say, “do me a favor !!”, the prospect of fresh air, open spaces and stunning views fill you with excited anticipation. I’d go as far as saying you feel grateful before you even get there !! I know I’m passionate about this subject but I do hope “you”, as the reader, can either relate to this or are interested enough to read on.

The rolling hills, the patchwork fields, the peace and the unspoiled views all mean you are absorbing your surroundings by purely paying attention to them. I never take my runs for granted because they feed your soul and it’s this energy and this life affirming glow that will make you more optimistic for the future, especially as 2021 hopefully opens up.

Take my first photo as an example, it’s a Summers day on the South Downs Way that climbs out of Winchester towards Cheesefoot Head. The contrasting colours are impressive enough but couple that with the view back towards the historic town and it’s a winning combination, all you have to do is get to the top !! The blood red poppies, the different shades of green that the hedgerows, grass and plants give you, the earthy brown soil and the aqua blue sky that looked like the sea near a tropical island all shape your positive outlook.

Now, have you possibly overlooked local routes ? I know I’ve enjoyed revisiting trails closer to home and even though they might not be quite as grand I’ve enjoyed running routes that bring back memories of people and places around my neck of the woods.

This second photo is from the outskirts of Fareham, once gain the sunshine puts a smile on your face but regardless of the season there’s so much to take in and connect with. It goes without saying you’ll experience the same whether walking or cycling and after all the countryside is there for everyone to enjoy.

There’s a field of sunflowers 🌻 to the left of this trail and when they are in full bloom it’s such an uplifting sight. Even as I’m writing I can see the yellow and gold combinations with the brown seeds. This imagine is in my mind regardless of the time of year that I run past so it’s both something to look forward to and reflect on.

I’ve included this local photo because I think it’s important to reinforce positive images that are accessible and close by because this keeps your experiences in the forefront of your mind due to them being familiar. You may drive to work or shop not too far away so you are reminded of your enjoyable adventures while going about your day to day activities.

It’s almost a way of subconsciously smiling when you see the trails you ran a few days or weeks before on your more mundane travels.

Your positive outlook can also be influenced by the people you meet on the trails because, due to their “out of the way” location, everyone has made an effort to get there so consequently they are also in a good mood. The phrase “good morning” really means just that, it is good, in fact it’s bloody great and we are all sharing it. In fact the initial hello is usually followed by where have you come from and how far are you going ? Again during lockdown I appreciate this is less likely to happen, but you’d be surprised.

I know we can only run with one other person at the moment and to be honest I’ve generally run on my own of late but when the time is right exercising with other positive people means you feed off each other.

I’m not saying outdoor exercise will take away all your negative thoughts but it certainly gives us a happy place to exercise in and enjoy. All you have to do is follow the signs, after all, the word footpath will always be linked to a positive outlook in my mind.

Thanks for reading,

Roger

Self Esteem – Runnings hidden benefit

The physical benefits of exercise have long been known, some people choose to embrace them, others couldn’t think of anything worse, naturally it’s all down to personal choice but an additional benefit that might not readily come to mind is the self worth and positivity that can be gained from a pair of trainers and running, regardless of the pace or distance.

Speed isn’t a factor and all runners whether novices or experienced old hands will tell you that the physical benefits of running are only half the story, self esteem is probably the single biggest factor in my running these days. In short, the world looks a better place when I’m running.

As runners we probably take for granted the physical benefits of our hobby / passion. Cardiovascular fitness, maintaining or loosing weight, kick starting your metabolism, toned muscles, lower cholesterol, blood pressure reduction, falling asleep quicker and sleeping deeper, the list goes on and on !! In fact, I recently read a quote that said exercise can add years to your life and life to your years.

So with the physicality covered I wanted to write about why running is so important to me and maybe encourage others to try it for themselves. I stand that little bit taller when I talk about or go running.

A familiar comment that I hear is “do runners actually enjoy what they do because they always have a pained expression on their face” well I guess if it was easy then there wouldn’t be the same challenge but there’s definitely a second satisfaction to be had, long after you’ve showered and settled back into everyday life.

Having a sporty identity and been know as a runner implies to people that you are fit and healthy but one of my best kept secrets is that it positively influences the rest of the my day, week, month and year.

I’m not fast, I haven’t run a personal best for years but running gives me an inner feeling of self worth. In many ways I believe in myself, this doesn’t mean I’m overly confident it simply means I appreciate my achievements and if I hadn’t been running then I wouldn’t have set myself these goals and wouldn’t have enjoyed aspiring and ultimately reaching many of my target. Be proud of your running 😀

Having pride in your running isn’t being big headed because I can list numerous people that can run faster and further than I can but in many ways that’s the point, I am proud of what I do. Don’t compare yourself to others because what they are doing is out of your control. I do think that we can put too much pressure on ourselves, I must and I should have can be quite damaging instead I like to concentrate on what’s realistic.

Building on your previous training and races means you are learning from both your successes and mistakes. When I’m struggling I do like to draw on previous runs and say to myself, “come on Rog, you chose to do this, you’ve done it before you can do it again”.

The other great thing about self esteem is that it can have a cumulative effect and each positive run / experience builds on the last so that when you do have a bad day you have lots of good days to fall back on.

It’s probably inevitable that the one event which you consider as your best performance will give you your most self esteem. Race to the King was the one event that encapsulated everything that I’m trying to portray but running a double marathon across the South Downs Way implies the feeling is only achievable with an above average effort and this isn’t the case. Yes I completed 53 miles in twelve hours but the fact that I was on the move from 8am until 8pm isn’t necessarily the achievement it’s the fact that standing on the start line the previous seven months of training meant I believed I could run/walk eighteen miles further than I’d previously attempted.

I have other photos but I like this one because with my eyes closed it implies I was glad it was over when in actual fact it gave me the biggest buzz I’ve ever had, I was on top of the world, even if the winner had finished hours before I had I’d proved to myself that I could achieve my goal and that feeling never leaves you.

Standing on the train platform in Winchester once I’d finished, I had a massive smile on my face even though my legs ached but this inner sense of self worth and personal value is just as achievable after a run in the rain when staying indoors felt like a better bet or heading out on a chilly morning when staying in your warm bed would be most peoples choice.

I may have a preference for longer distance running but I firmly believe we all have more in us than we think and once you’ve experienced that then you realise you don’t need to be the best, just the best “you” that you can be and that’s more than enough.

The self esteem that’s gained from exercise means you believe in yourself and even though this might not solve all of your everyday problems it really does lift your spirits when you reflect on what you’ve achieved and on what you are planning to attempt because you approach your future goals with a “can do” mindset.

Exercise is known to help you process stress, anxiety and depression, the great outdoors is free to access and thankfully its benefits have been recognised even during lockdown. If you add self esteem then that’s a great place to look forwards from.

Running sets you free !!

Thanks for reading

Golden Hour sunsets give you hope

Lee puddle

Towards the end of 2020 and into 2021 I’ve been choosing to run or walk at sunset because it really inspires me. Winter is upon us but equally we’ve passed the shortest day of the year so each sunset will appear slightly later and the daylight will gradually increase. The phrase red sky at night shepherds delight has meant the promise of a better tomorrow for centuries, this has taken on a new dimension recently for me.

Exercise has always played a large part in my life but even more so in this pandemic. I haven’t blogged specifically about keeping running during the last nine months but I feel like it’s the right time to put down some words. Clearly we have a long way to go but at last there appears to be hope on the horizon.

I’m very lucky to live fifteen minutes away from both the coast and the countryside, this fact on its own has meant my exercise has remained achievable through these recent dark times. The main factor that has prompted me to write this blog has been the winter sunsets we’ve been experiencing recently. We had pretty good weather through Spring and Summer and the Autumnal colour’s were as inspirational as ever but there simply wasn’t a sense of the pandemic ending.

In photography the term “Golden Hour” describes the period shortly after sunset. Due to a few circumstances I’ve been out running later in the day and it’s these thoughts and photos that I’d like to share. While the golden, orange and red colours are best displayed at the coast, due to them reflecting off the sea, my first connection of hope and the passing of one day to the next was out in the countryside.

While out running I try to clear my head of all day to day events and simply soak up my surroundings but that hasn’t been as easy to do in these worrying times. However, I really have noticed that over the last few weeks I’ve been drawn to feeding off the energy that the golden hour gives us. I’ve reflected that my exercise is combining its health benefits along with the positive aspect of one day coming to an end and the next starting afresh.

Running alone through the fields in late November I have to say my outlook may have been glorious in terms of the countryside but what lay ahead in 2021 wasn’t looking very favorable and as it turned out it December got a whole lot worse. Generally running keeps me positive, it feeds my endorphins, it puts a smile on my face and to be honest it’s an escape from day to day pressures. However, the thought of a brighter tomorrow wasn’t at the forefront of my mind.

Running is a challenge, life is a challenge but your running is dictated by your own expectations and is largely shaped by what you’d like to achieve. The current pandemic is out of our regularly washed hands, that was until vaccines became available.

Our sunsets have been disappearing below the horizon, turning to twilight, moving on to dusk and then making way for the dark evenings ahead. Now, there’s the possibility of new beginnings and these thoughts really have developed with me since I’ve included more coastal exercise.

Running by the sea has always given me a sense of calm, the endless lapping of the waves and the timeless predictability of the rising and falling tide. The reflections of the golden hour sunset on what’s often been a glass like calm sea, of late, really adds to the experience that we are all going through. The sun disappears and reappears, it resets, it renews. The Summer sun makes us smile with it’s warmth, the Winter sun makes us smile with a warmth inside and helps us reflect that the cold days will once again become warmer.

Running has always given me satisfaction, achievements and personal worth, this recent sunset exercise has added an extra emotional layer to a pastime that has always been my passion. I’d say that if I hadn’t of laced up my trainers and got out for a run then I would have missed the beauty of nature and the self help that having time without distractions brings while you are simply putting one foot in front of the other.

Running is for today and tomorrow. Stay safe and hopefully 2021 will be the dawn of brighter days ahead.

Thanks for reading

Roger

Running Resources for everyone

Finding out more about running can seem like an uphill challenge at times. I’m keen to share a few great resources that have opened my eyes to so many possibilities.

Where to run ?

This website isn’t specifically for running but broadly speaking if you can walk it, you can run it. Tap the link http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/contentnew/walking-in-england and page down to your county, then page down again for all the routes.

Discover endless options of where to run from a mile up to marathons and beyond, there’s something for everyone.

Building up your local knowledge is a great way to broaden your horizons, literally and metaphorically. Discovering new routes keeps your running new and exciting.

Running Advice / deals

There’s a multitude of advice on the internet but one website combines great deals with great advice. The combination of running, training and trail hubs, plus lots more articles, means the Sports Shoe site is well worth a visit. I’ve bought numerous items from this site and incase you are wondering, no, I’m not sponsored by them !! https://www.sportsshoes.com/trail/trail-running/

Videos

The running channel covers a huge amount of running related topics to watch and learn from. The guys are knowledgeable and engaging. https://therunningchannel.com/

Parkruns

This 5K phenonium has become a Saturday morning ritual for many. This interactive map allows you to find which is nearest to you, when we are allowed to return, or maybe try some parkrun tourism by running one out of your local area. https://www.parkrun.org.uk/events/events/#geo=3.87/55.05/-2.95

Social Media – Running Community

I discovered ukrunchat within a day of joining twitter. Their website is full of useful information but were they excel is the interactive nature of both their weekly hour long twitter chats on Wednesday and Sunday from 8pm to 9pm. With different topics every time it’s great to share in everything the running community is talking about https://www.ukrunchat.co.uk/

So in summary, go explore, learn more and get outdoor.

Thanks for reading and stay safe – Roger

What does the “i” in irunoffroad stand for ?

When I first contemplated writing a blog the two central themes that I had in mind were to try and express the joy that I feel when running through the countryside and how best to share those experiences with like minded people from our off road running community, both locally and further afield.

Yes the “i” relates to me in that it’s my words, photos and thoughts but at the same time I’m really keen that whoever is reading recognises the “i” as being themselves because they can identify with the locations, training and enjoyment that these trail running endeavors have to offer.

Running through nature makes me happy, it’s who I am, it’s a part of me and I know this applies to thousands of others. Sharing this common bond whether when running with friends or chatting across social media means the “i” is an all inclusive term for everyone that laces up their trainers.

Naturally the “i” prefix also stands for the internet and social media. The foundation of my blog is my twitter and instagram accounts, I chose not to use my actual name for those but to keep the consistent theme of what I set out to do. These accounts both feed off and feed into my blog.

I’m proud to say that I have virtually the same amount of followers and following on both twitter and instagram because again this community based relationship is at the heart of what I want to achieve.

The most famous “i” prefix belonged to Apple , I believe Steve Jobs started out with an intention that the internet was to inform and inspire, that’s a great place for us all start.

I haven’t blogged that much through lockdown but running has remained my constant source of hope and normality. I aim to start blogging more and I thought I’d press the restart button by going back to the basics of why I started.

Hopefully the “i” in irunoffroad doesn’t just come across as me writing, it also relates to you the reader because “we” love to run off road.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Roger

Trail Running Mag – Social Media

Blogging and social media clearly go hand in hand so naturally it’s rewarding when someone who’s established in the area that you have a passion for recognises the contribution that you are making to your shared interest.

This post isn’t a display of bragging rights it’s simply to celebrate a small but very meaningful event that happened at the weekend.

What event ? Well, trail running magazine followed my irunoffroad twitter account. “Big Deal” I hear you cry ha ha, well in my little trail running world it is a big deal and the rest of this blog is me attempting to explain why.

Firstly, the trail running magazine has 57.3K followers on twitter and it only follows 2,069 people, one of whom is now me, irunoffroad.

My account has always had a similar amount of followers and following because I am a firm believer that as a running community we all feed off each other and I see no point in being elitist.

With twitter, instagram and my blog I’ve always set out to share the experiences I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy as a trail runner. What’s always rewarding is when a small amount of recognition comes your way.

The running philosophy that I adapt is quite simple, I’m out in the fresh air having a great time. Trail running gives you the freedom to explore beautiful locations that change every three months with the seasons. Natures never ending cycle of new beginnings, growth, maturity and then hibernation means there’s always something wonderful to take photos of and talk about.

I’m always keen to retweet, share and like interesting posts from other runners from up and down the country as well as far and wide around the world.

I believe we all have so much to share and if any of my content inspires others then that’s a real joy. I am inspired on a daily basis by the runners I engage with across social media.

The magazine is the only UK publication dedicated to off road running and everything that that entails. As you might have guessed I’m chuffed to have been followed by the guys. The features, photographs and regular columns of the actual mag are complemented by their great twitter content.

Enjoy your running and keep up the great work of spreading the trail running word. The social media running community is both supportive and encouraging. Lets lace up our trainers, run and then share the experience.

Thanks for reading …. Roger

Running blows away the clouds in your head

Image (20)Trail running offers you views and scenery but what it also offers you is time, time to reflect and time to look forwards. During these uncertain times your day to day space can confine you both physically and mentally so it’s important to break free !!

I was keen to write this blog to try and describe how countryside running can open your mind and clear the fog in your head.

The clouds, in many ways, represent how I was feeling as I drove out towards the South Downs National Park. I aimed to change my outlook from fuzzy to focused.

As I set off from Meonstoke village hall I had a general idea of where I was going to run but more importantly I had not time restrictions. The concept of urgency almost immediately puts you on high alert, what I wanted to achieve was completely the opposite.

When I think about urgency I also think about multi tasking (ok, I appreciate I’m a bloke but we can do it sometimes) but running gives you the simple activity of placing one foot infront of the other. So, as I joined the Meon Valley trail I could feel myself unwinding.

After a mile or so I approached the signpost that pointed me towards Old Winchester Hill. I was eagerly anticipating seeing the work that had been carried out on the lower slopes to improve the trail. I was impressed to see a smooth surface that continued probably half way up and took away the stress of the rutted previous path.

Once I’d tackled the last steep section then I was rewarded with the 360 degree views. With my day having already improved I was reminded of the phrase “see the bigger picture”. I certainly think we can get wrapped up in our thoughts and not see any further than what’s directly affecting us. The rolling fields give you a sense of perspective and the fact that you’ve reached the top adds to your self esteem.

Image (22)I chose a different route to descend down the hill and as I was drawing the parallels with life and running it struck me that we all choose different paths and it’s a case of finding the right one for you. Your surroundings can definitely effect you in a positive way.

It’s well known that physical activity improves your mood and being rewarded with endorphins shows that when your body feels better so does your mind.

Heading towards Beacon Hill I chose the trail route which has a number of styles, gates and steps. On this particular run these felt like “clutter”, almost distractions from my running flow so once I’d reached this hills trig point I came back via the quiet, straight forward, country lane alternative. Ahh ….. and relax.

I’d worked through my previous tension and cloudy head while swopping the “noise” of my thoughts for the peace of running free with a smile on my face. You could say I’d gone from overthinking to not thinking at all 🙂

Image (19)This third photo from my run shows the local vineyard. The daunting black clouds were starting to give way to the sun perring through. A clear head gives your a positive outlook with new possibilities on the horizon.

If you need to destress and would like to improve your mood, I would personally recommend a run to clear away those metaphorical clouds if you’re having an overcast kind of day.

Thanks for reading

Roger