Why I chose the Trails

Day to day life has its structure, its demands and its expectations but running sets you free. Even saying “running sets you free” makes me smile, its makes me feel alive and sharing it with other like minded souls, while running through nature, completes the experience.




The reason I started writing a running blog was to try and pass on the enjoyment I feel while I’m running through the great outdoors with friends. I called my blog “irunoffroad” to simply try and capture why running isn’t my hobby, its my passion.


When runr asked for contributions to their website it was an easy decision to offer some words because I’ve always been keen to share my love of running and try to encourage others to leave the pavements, now and then, to try something different.

I spent some 20 years training for and racing largely 10K’s with occasional 10 milers and halves. I dipped my toe with a road marathon in the early nineties and a mixed terrain New Forest marathon in 2007 but it was only when I decided to give myself a bigger challenge in 2013 by entering the North Devon marathon that my perspective on running changed. The area of outstanding natural beauty tag, that is associated with this marathon, equated to 3,000+ feet of elevation (hills) and both amazing coastal and countryside views.

Driving home after completing this marathon I realised that pace, pb’s and speed weren’t the only benchmarks of a good run, rising to the challenge of a tough course was just as rewarding. The countryside has its own natural pace setters, hills (both up and down), tree roots and overhanging branches, mud and puddles. Concentrating on and navigating these natural obstacles might seem daunting but once you have your feet to eye coordination lined up then its quite exhilarating to overcome whatever the trail is throwing at you. Naturally this comes with experience and taking risks certainly isn’t part of the approach. If it’s safer to walk, I walk.


Your will power and mentality change when swopping trails for the road. Keeping to your planned pace on the road requires practice and discipline, off road its all about going with the trail and adapting to your location. Some people ask me do I use music on a 15 or 20 mile run, the answer is I’m too busy tuning into what’s around me, whether its the glorious views or the best line to run on a muddy section. Consequently I now find trail running so much more rewarding due to both the challenges and sights.

At this point I’d say out it’s safer and more enjoyable to run with others in the countryside just in case you get lost or have an “issue”, take your mobile phone too ūüôā

I agree its too simplistic to say that the road is the road but out in the country so much changes every 3 or 4 months as the seasons pass. The landscape changes from Summers lush green into the array of Autumnal colours, then Winters barren and cold months are followed by the shoots of recovery that Spring brings. Don’t get me wrong I realise not everyone wants to take a full change of kit and shoes for when their Winter mud run has finished but again its adapting to the conditions that’s really rewarding.

Trail running also gives you infinite variety with the huge number of footpaths and officially recognised paths e.g. The South Downs Way. One minute you could be running next to a river, the next scaling a hill on the way up to the trig point. Armed with your lightweight rucksack you set off on an adventures every time. Are the crops ready for harvesting, will there be ice in the puddles, take in the scent of the flowers and aren’t sheep inquisitive ūüôā



All of these factors add up to why I love to trail run and the people I run with. Naturally when you are out on a long steady run you do get to chat, take an occasional photo and discuss strategies for what lies ahead of you. A particular recent run comes to mind here when we I ran 20 miles with Paul that I run with regularly, Rod who I haven’t run with for ages and James who we ran with for the first time and wasn’t as aware of the route as we were. Everyone brought their knowledge and experiences to the morning and after a well earned cuppa we all left agreeing to do it again.


Due to trail marathons being less about the time and more about the challenge I also think the off road community is slightly more inclusive, especially once you go beyond marathons and into the world of ultras where survival becomes another feature.

In many ways my recent Race to the King run sums up why I love to run off road. A distance challenge that was far beyond my previous mileage, great company, my favourite South Downs Way and an almost out of the body feeling to be on the move for 12 hours over a double marathon. Have a read via this link to my blog,


Finally I’d like to say thanks to all the “givers” who I now call friends through running. There are far to many to mention but surfice to say some are running shop owners, some are race directors but most are my running buddies.

Where can you run, this UK listing is in alphabetical county order.


Thanks for reading my rambles and maybe see you on the trails ūüôā







In at the deep end, the road to “race fitness”


Well, it’s 3 weeks until the Purbeck marathon so it “really” is time to get¬†those distance legs working again.¬†My analogy of “the road to fitness” and more specifically marathon fitness was tested to the full with this churned up trail coupled with the gradual elevation. To be fair this logging access trail only lasted for about 350 metres but it was a great addition to our run.

With the Purbeck marathon having a similar 1,000 meters of elevation to Second Wind Runnings QE Spring marathon (25th March 2018) then 14.5 miles in todays heat was a great tester on the back of 10 miles from Tuesday and 6 from Thursday. The QE Spring marathon has two 13 mile loops so we largely followed one laps worth.


Starting at 8am due to the anticipated heat our first 2 miles included a number of twisting and turning ascents that we well remembered from the race in March, especially with us running up this twice for that marathon. The most noticeable change from March to August (apart from the heat) was how green and “lush” everywhere was. The woods branches had filled out¬†and this certainly worked in our favour with greater shade.

I haven’t seen Paul since RTTK so we had lots to catch up on as we steadily ran the trails. When I say we had lots to catch up on this actually meant going the wrong way ūüôā !!¬†However, we both agreed the extra miles would come in handy as additional training.

After about a third of our run we passed what has to be the busiest junction in the QECP¬† woods. With this signpost pointing to the South Downs Way, Hangers Way,¬†the Shipwrights Way and Staunton Way (which we’d pick up later) it¬†was an obvious photo opportunity.

DSC00596Paul has¬†carried on his relentless quest to race virtually every week so today’s run must have been quite relaxing for him and it was just the push, distance wise, that I needed so as to hit 30 miles this week. Today was also especially beneficial for me as¬†the earlier runs this week have¬†been flat ones so it certainly was a case of “in at the¬†deep end”. Not long after this signpost we came across¬†four Pompey Jogger ultra runners and after a short chat they carried on their way onto yet another trail.

Now, I’m always keen to try different products, both drinks and food wise so today was¬†the start of my Tailwind trial. I mixed 2-3 scoops in 24 oz of water twice,¬†which made up enough to fill my two 500ml soft flasks and a smaller 250ml. Todays hot weather and hills would be a good test and they passed with flying colours. I will update this in future blogs as it would be unfair to just base¬†my thoughts on one run. That said I’m excited to be using a product which so many people recommend.

I suffered with some stomach issues at the end of RTTK so I’m keen to try Tailwind ūüôā



After negotiating the short mud fest¬†which was just as entertaining as it was unexpected we pressed on down New Barn¬†Lane. To our surprise we were met by a number of cyclists on this narrow and quiet¬†country road.¬†The surprise wasn’t the number but the age !!¬†Paul and I often joke we are the Saga branch of Fareham Crusaders running club but a number of the ladies and gentlemen that were cycling uphill towards us were considerably older. Huge respect to them.

We joined the Staunton Way at about ten miles and made tracks for home. This photo gives you another example of why we run in the countryside as well as how hot it was getting !!

DSC00608I look like I’ve got makeup on but that was simply a combination of suntan lotion and sweat, however, it was the rolling fields¬†and freshly cut crops that I was trying to capture ūüôā

By the time we got back to QECP the temperature was up to 23 degrees and a well earned drink was in order. Pace wise lets just say it was “steady”, however, I was chuffed to get back to¬†a testing run and it’s a large thank you to my running buddy Paul for his company.

Goodwood 5 miler #glorious


How many races have a tree lined avenue leading to the finish, registration in the grounds of a hotel and glorious parkland to run through …. Goodwood 5 miler had this just for starters !! I think we’ll all be familiar with the motor racing and horse racing that Goodwood offers but up and till a few weeks ago I didn’t realise you could experience the glorious parkland¬†that the estate offers.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough there’s a hill involved in the 5 miles too !! We all¬†know I love a good hill so when I read that the iconic motor racing hill climb features as 1.2 miles of the course then¬†my ¬£14 entry fee for a Monday evening race was assured.

The Goodwood Health Club were organising this third¬†annual event and the race was also supporting Winston’s Wish

The¬†perfectly cut¬†lawns behind the hotel presented the evenings first surprise, an amazing marque that’s presumably used for either social gatherings or weddings.



The Salomon sponsorship was immediately noticeable¬†with the flags and very cool deckchairs.¬†After registering¬†it was also noticeable that there would be entertainment and food afterwards if you’d chosen that entry fee option (¬£27). The¬†circular marque bar was another feature¬†I¬†wouldn’t normally experience on¬†one of my¬†typical off road races.

So, “was any running happening” … I hear you say ?? ….. ¬†Yes ūüôā

I warmed up along the tree lined avenue that extended for probably the best part of half a mile and¬†it was noticeable that I hardly recognised any local club runners from the Southampton / Portsmouth area.¬†The majority of the 230 clubs runners were from Sussex and for this reason alone that’s why I’m writing this blog to encourage others¬†to run next year. The largest club participation seemed to be the Tuff Fitty Triathlon club.

The first out and back mile or so was on smooth tarmac with parkland and golf course that stretched out for miles.¬†The nature of this “out and back” also meant lots of encouragement in both directions from all the running abilities. At about 1.5 miles in¬†we passed Goodwood House and then started the hill climb. This photo was after the race as I just had to have a snap of the “Big House” !!


The old flint walls near¬†the big house followed the road up quite a reasonable incline. With the road twisting it also meant you weren’t aware just where the top of the hill was so this added to the psychological as well as physical challenge. The tree lined section opened up to present us with a view of the horse racing pavilion in the distance. Once at the top of the hill a short section of grass was then followed by re-joining the road downhill from where we’d come.

Knowing you have about a mile and three quarters left that’s downhill or flat really makes you work your lungs to the maximum and as we hit the home straight it was a case of counting down the ancient trees to the finish line.

I was pleased with 85th out of 226 on a humid evening. One final “Goodwood” touch was the golf kart at the finish which I also couldn’t resist a photo of.


Tonight was an unusual location with a completely different atmosphere to almost any other race I’ve done and I’ll certainly return next year, hopefully with others from Hampshire and my Fareham Crusaders¬†club.

Thank you Goodwood for great run.