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

 

 

 

Green Exercise – a run in the countryside

Image (13)Now, I’ve only recently come across the phrase “Green Exercise” but it completely sums up my whole running experience. A perfect run for me includes scenery to look at, birds to listen to, the occasional style to climb over and a never ending trail to follow.

After parking in an industrial estate my surroundings had truly changed from grey to lush green and coupled with the late afternoon sunshine I was looking forward to connecting with nature. I run all year round but the warmth of the sun on your bones and the added Vitamin D boost are a welcome treat after the Winter months.

There’s no doubt that this form of green therapy will give you a physical buzz as well as clear your head at the same time.

As I approached Nine Elms Lane it was so quiet I could hear the Wallington River flowing by, just the other side of the trees. Next I ran uphill and branched off onto Whitedell Lane with the intention of following the footpaths that have the river on one side and the crops on the other.

As the first photo of my blog shows there was also a wind blowing but it added a different dimension to the crops that I was passing ….. movement !!

Ahh, the wind blowing through your lockdown hair …. ha ha.

Image (15)I’ve often thought that when these crops sway in the wind they look like a green sea. You could almost say instead of a landscape it’s a seascape. I couldn’t resist stopping and watching the ebb and flow effect that the crops were mimicking from the sea. I almost found myself swaying just as if I’d been on a boat or a ferry.

Climbing a style took me into the cow fields that follow the river. I noted the electric fence wire that keeps the cows out of danger, as this wasn’t a sensation I was keen to experience !! Navigating the old cow pats is always a challenge to apply concentration on.

Footpaths have been used by people for hundreds of years and I feel privileged to follow in their steps. I thought to myself I’m taking in the blue sky and green fields just as they would have.

I had looked at my Ordnance Survey map before coming out so I had a birds eye view of the fields that I would run through. My next focus was to find a bridge over the river. It’s great exploring areas you haven’t run before because it adds an element of the unknown as well as the surprises that can be around the next corner.

Once over the wooden bridge my senses were taking in the smells, sights and sounds. Further ahead of me I could see a collection of farmhouses. Once there I ran a short section of road before coming across this posh signpost.

Image (14)This signpost pointed me in a Westerly direction which would eventually lead towards Forest Lane and Wickham Common. With the evening sun now lower in the sky I gradually left the farmhouses behind me and that’s when it dawned on me how few distractions I had.

With every stride I was quite simply looking ahead, to the left and to the right just absorbing my surroundings. It’s difficult to describe how physical activity can be relaxing but when you’ve taken away, traffic, people and buildings and replaced them with woods and a trail to follow, you really are living in the moment.

Mindfulness is often described as taking the time to notice how you feel in a given moment. I’d describe my Green Exercise as mindful movement along a centuries old path with woods in the distance and nature surrounding me on all sides.

I’d also recommend green exercise because you never really get into a constant rhythm like you would with miles on a flat road. The ever changing landscape gives an all round workout.

The lack of noise really is noticeable and a welcome change. You can feel your stress levels drop  as you wind your way through the rural Summer meadows.

 

Image (12)Running on your own might not be as social as running with others but I find you take in so much more. Connecting with nature is something I’d recommend to anyone, you’ll never get bored of taking in what’s on every horizon. I’d hardly looked at my gps watch because pace simply wasn’t why I was out this evening, it was purely for the joy of it.

I decided to save running further for another day so I turned around and retraced my steps. By the time I reached the bridge I’d crossed earlier I was slightly concerned with the sign that I saw but luckily there weren’t even cows in the field never mind a bull ha ha !!!

Image (16)As I headed back towards civilisation I had a smile on my face and I knew these miles would contribute to both my physical health and mental wealth. Oh, and of course it cost me nothing !! There are no membership fees for running off road 🙂

Exploring the countryside might not be everyone’s idea of fun but I find it so rewarding.

Thanks for reading, stay active and stay safe.

Two 6 mile runs over the weekend : My running lockdown thoughts

Image (9)Coping with lockdown has meant a whole new approach to life. I’ve been lucky enough to work from home and while the whole food buying situation appears to have calmed down, keeping active has been my salvation 🙂

While being vigelent regarding mine and my familys health there’s one aspect of this situation which has become even more important than normal. I often quote “running sets you free” and now, even more so, this is a vital aspect of keeping me sane.

Being fit and healthy has such a positive effect on both my mental and physical wellbeing. Maintaining that smile on your face and giving you an extra boost to take on whatever is around the corner are so important.

It’s noticeable just how many people have embrassed fitness and exercise in this lockdown. Not only are we seeing all the gym guys getting out to run and cycle rather then using treadmills and static bikes but it’s great to see “Jo Public” seems to be embracing it too

Long may it remain that the “new to fitness people” keep their exercise up when this current situation is over.

Both of my runs this weekend have been heading out towards Wallington, a quieter suburb of Fareham, so this blog combines both of my runs and thoughts.

I haven’t run two days consecutively for a while so I made full use of ultra marathon star Tom Evans recently released “Pre Run Activation” video, just follow this underlined link Pre Run Activation

On Saturday I was keen to try and follow the River Wallington that ultimately flows out into the still waters of Fareham creek and then the Solent, pictured below.

Image (7)Within a mile of my run starting I was passing through Bath Lane recreation ground with it’s freshly cut grass and the cricket square marked out. The Spring sunshine was on my back and even though the prospect of cricket might be some time off it was good to see the groundsmen are still thinking positively 🙂

Safety wise I’d taken my running bum bag so I was armed with handgel, wipes and kitchen roll for any gate opening or whatever might need any attention. Everyone I met was keen to keep their distance and we all exchanged greetings while enjoying our “outside” allowance.

Heading through the outskirts of town the roads were still eerily quiet as I ran over the main road bridge. It was almost if England were in the football world cup final and everyone was at home watching it, except me !!

Image (6)Almost immediately after this bridge is the contrasting Wallington river bridge that’s been there for centuries. With a large Sanisburys near by, crossing the old bridge almost takes you back in time with small cottages and narrow roads.

The cyclist is Dave Whitting (Gosport Road runners) that I know and I bumped into him on Sunday. This keeps up an almost unblemished record of me seeing someone I know from our local running community every time I go out.

Image (8)On the Saturday I followed the river via a wooden bridge that took me out into an unexpected area of parkland. This hidden gem then lead onto an unexpected motorway underpass that I didn’t know existed and was only a matter of a few hundred metres from the underpass that I’ve run through with our Fareham Crusaders running club.

Passing through a few fields and another foot bridge over the river this right of way then joined a county lane and I had my bearings back. Approaching the aptly named Nine Elms lane I ran through a farmyard with the river still in sight and I was out into the countryside after only 2.5 miles.

On both Saturday and Sunday I’d noticed a track heading up the hill that would run parallel to the Nine Elms lane. I can’t resist a hill but I saved it for Sunday morning as I wanted to follow the river. Unfortunately some fifty or so cows meant my river exploring can to an abrupt end.

Saturdays run was a lunchtime attempt to avoid too many other walkers, cyclists and runners and Sundays early outing also achieved my goal but to be fair with this area being a little off track then it meant for a pleasant and relaxing run.

Pictured at the beginning on my blog, Sundays hill was only 400 metres or so but quite a challenge as with the travel restrictions I haven’t been able to get to my beloved South Downs Way. I have now come to the conclusion that my hill legs aren’t what they were ha ha !! But that’s something to work on 🙂

On my return I bumped into Ray Gunner from Stubbington Green runners which was a pleasant surprise because I haven’t seen him in ages.

I ran through the second motorway subway which has graffiti from end to end. I laughed to myself when it crossed my mind they could be compared with an ancient cave dwelling and the drawings on the walls done by cavemen etc. The colours combine to create an explosion of paint.

Image (10)The heat on both days has meant sun cream lotion with temperatures of 24 and 22 degrees and not a cloud in sight !! As I ran back towards town I stopped at one more bridge and I have to say the water looked very inviting. Naturally I wouldn’t have dreamed about jumping in but I was quite jealous of the ducks.

Image (11)All in all my two six mile runs gave me time to switch off, time to listen to the birds and time to soak up the green fields and the blue sky. Even with the lockdown restrictions you can still explore your local area. I have kept my outings down to an hour but there’s more on your doorstep than you think !!

Getting outdoors releases you from the four walls that we are currently confined to. Keep your head up, stay safe, look after each other and if at all possible go for a walk, run or cycle.

Roger

 

Running helps you to Stay Positive

Image[1]In these uncertain times it would be easy to let everything overwhelm you. Our normal routines are being challenged and the unfamiliar is now becoming the norm rather than the exception. We all need something to cling onto that keeps us sane. Running is my sanity.

I’ve been running for over thirty years so if there’s one activity that can normalise these abnormal times then lacing up my trainers will keep me grounded. I’ve read of so many people in our running community making similar statements. Running isn’t just a form of exercise it’s a way of life that you come to rely on.

My last few runs have either been three or five milers. It’s really noticeable how many people are out and about walking, running and cycling. Now, that’s admirable but at the same time I seem to be crossing the road or even running in the middle of the road but it’s all worth it.

In an ideal world I’d be driving out into the countryside but again running from home is a small price to pay.

Mapping out your route so that you have a plan and a purpose seems to be the key. I’ve chosen the riverbank and the rapeseed fields which are luckily fairly close by.

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Another noticeable impact of the additional people out exercising is the extra “hellos” “well done” and “mornings” that you receive and offer out 🙂 This community feeling of we’re all in it together will again help us to cope.

I’ve seen numerous people that I know when I’ve been out on my runs and this really does add to the sense of normality. The races may well be a long way off but when we spend all day indoors its great to get that fresh air in your lungs.

So, in summary, stay safe, look after each other and keep running. One further impact of the current situation is really silly but I could defiantly do with a haircut ha ha !!

Image[3]On a slightly different note I was contacted by Winchester Radio to see if I’d like to talk for five minutes about the positive impact of running on your mental and physical health, especially in the trying times.

Finally, no blog post would be complete without a shout out to the NHS. On my morning run I saw two nurses getting into their car. My immediate thought was to shout out “well done” and even though they looked a little embarrassed I felt it was the right thing to do.

Stay safe, keep on clapping the NHS on Thursdays at 8pm and keep on running !!

Cheers Roger

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

The Parkrun Spirit, #HNY2020

Image-28It’s January 1st 2020 and it’s 9 a.m. , why is that time significant …… because it’s parkrun o’clock. Fareham parkrun is about a miles jog away from me so it was the perfect choice for a New Years day run.

I talked to at least twenty people most of who I knew but also a few that I didn’t because it was that kind of a day. Like minded people gathered together with their hopes, targets and expectations for 2020 all ahead of them and with running being the common denominator.

Up and down the country thousands of runners would have been looking forward to running into 2020 with a double parkrun (10.30 a.m. being the second option) however, I had to be back on “Dad’s taxi duties”. I wanted to blog about my morning run because I left with a real glow of running community spirit.

Now, I must stress that I don’t actually run many of these 5K events that have revolutionised running over the last decade but in many ways this allows me to make fresh observations.

From the minute I arrived there was a buzz, positivity filled the air, smiling faces, laughter and enthusiasm could be seen in abundance, it was almost as if this was an awards ceremony or maybe a wedding !! The impression I was left with was that this was the start of a decade and that people were enjoying the moment but looking ahead to future possibilities. All 480 of them !!

New Years Day is naturally a day for looking forwards, for hope and new beginnings but couple that with healthy exercise and a commitment that had made everyone consider their previous nights celebrations, just so that they could attend a run at nine a.m. the following morning, then you have a truly special occasion.

At this point I think its really important to say that the parkrun movement wouldn’t work without the constant offers from all the volunteers and today was no exception, again, up and down the country. Hats off to all the volunteers.

If you could bottle and sell this atmosphere you’d be a rich man, in no time at all 🙂

You may have noticed that I’ve used a generic parkrun photo and that’s because I didn’t take any photos and that’s because I didn’t use my phone. This fact was the other overriding impression I was left with, people were actively talking to each other, engaging, discussing and most of all enthusing 🙂

The run itself is an out and back route which perfectly lends itself to yet more positivity with name checking, high fives and banter being exchanged.

On this occasion I won’t be quoting who I talked to, times or positions because the occasion was what I wanted to write about. I know the other fifty one parkruns a year are positive but I just felt that todays date had extra meaning.

The couple near to me on the start line summed the morning up, “who’d have thought we’d have been doing this a decade ago !! “, yes, I suspect thousands of people would have either said this or contemplated it today.

On a personal note I’d like to say thanks to Francis who approached me and said, “you don’t know me but I enjoy reading your blog” that was very kind and I really appreciated it. Thanks to everyone that reads my blogs 🙂

Happy New Year #2020 the running community is in good hands with the phenomena that is parkrun .

HNY Rog