Landscape Living – The joys of trail running

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I started writing this blog at the beginning of January, I’ve picked it up and put it down a couple of times but I’m here to finish it because it now holds extra significance to me. I read once that blogging in its purest form is an expression of you personal experience.

Before starting this blog I took some time to try and come up with a short phrase that would sum up how I felt at the end of a three hour trail run through the South Downs National Park with my good friend Jamie.

I wanted to combine the mindfulness of living in the moment with the beauty of the natural surroundings that we were running through. The result of my thought process was ….. Landscape Living.

This joy of countryside views was also a large part of my childhood what with my parents buying a house on top of a hill that had panoramic views across the valley, with the river at ground level and the coastal hills in the distance.

With my father passing away three weeks ago I know he felt exactly the same as I do. His chair in our living room wasn’t positioned for the television but for the views out of the window. Whenever we get out of this current situation I look forward to returning for a run on the South Downs to soak up the views and to reconnect with my Landscape Living.

I haven’t changed my initial blog below because it sums up a happier time from our run in January. This blog is meant as a celebration of trail running and the countryside views that my Dad and I love.

My Strava route below shows that we ran East out to Harting Down and up Beacon Hill, we then retraced our steps and I added Butser Hill before Jamie carried onto Wickham and I returned to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP).

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The great outdoors will always guarantee you fresh air and then there’s the added bonus of your surroundings constantly changing as the seasons come and go every three months.

Winter offers you a chill in the air and mud under your feet so, immediately, your approach will differ knowing that extra layers are required and that these are probably the most unpredictable conditions to run in.

A change of mind set is needed to deal with these ever changing conditions, under foot, and it can be intimidating for people new to trail running so I’d definitely recommend that if you fall into this category run with other more experienced friends who will guide you through the art of mastering your environment.

Now, my previous paragraph might sound a litter patronising but I can assure you it is meant with the greatest of respect. Uneven ground, trails with a camber, wet trails, muddy trails, leaf covered trails etc etc all require you to anticipate which line to take but at the same time means all your senses are heightened and the sense of achievement is greater.

I’m often asked do I listen to music when you run, well, quite frankly there’s too much to concentrate on with agility, flexibility, coordination and balance all being required and that’s what makes trail running challenging and absorbing. You’ll get a full body work out, yes you might walk now and then but you’ll work various muscle groups as well as well as add to your endurance.

Heading East out of QECP we chose what I think is the original South Downd Way (SDW) route as opposed to the tarmac road. We passed the meeting point for QECP’s parkrun and took an immediately steep left turn. This hill immediately dictated a shorter stride and a measured effort.

I always liken hill running to how you’d drive it in the car. I think it was fair to say we were initially in second gear and by half way up it had dropped into first !! The woods that we ran through were very much in a Winter state i.e. very few leaves but naturally this allows you to see so much further.

Once out of the woods we carried along the narrow tracks that wind their way towards the National Trusts Harting Down. The hedgerows and fields have birds overhead and on occasions sheep and cattle in the distance.

The trees sway with the wind and the ever changing undulations of the land mean your view alters every mile. The truly exceptional point of our run was Harting Down. You can literally see for miles. The patchwork colours of the fields, some ploughed and some grassed over mean your eyes are drawn to a number of different locations.

No cars, very few houses, just nature. These views haven’t changed for years and that’s why we return as often as we can. The trig point at the top of Beacon Hill requires quite a sustained effort to reach but it’s “so” worth the climb.  Image (2)

As we retraced the miles back towards Butser I decided to bag one more trig point before leaving Jamie to carry on for yet more miles. Now, I’ve run up Butser Hill (the highest point on the South Downs) many a time but it always remind me on the first time I discovered it some thirty years ago.

Why is it special, because it reminds me of Devon and home. If one photo sums up my love for Lanscape Living, its this final one from the trig. Memories of Race to the King when this hill was at 30 miles of the 53 food back too. With Portsmouth in the distance you appreciate you’re only thirteen miles from civilisation but at the same time you feel the more peaceful setting is recharging your batteries as it were !!

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Hills are a metaphor for life, they take time and effort to scale but your efforts are rewarded with the view. Generally speaking in life you appreciate something more if you’ve had to work for it 🙂

I hope to return to this Landscape Living in the weeks to come and I will always cherish the views from my parents balcony.

Love you Dad

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