Follow your own personal compass in 2022

As trail runners we are familiar with navigating our way through the countryside but sometimes it’s also worth considering which direction do we want to be going in. Where are you now and where do you want to be ?

Life sometimes throws us off track and just like being out on the trails a wrong turn isn’t always your fault, it can just be a chain of events. Getting back on track suggests something negative has happened but it’s important to turn this into a positive by reassessing your personal compass.

Whether you’ve had niggling injuries (like me), a loss of motivation or your circumstances have got on top of you it’s easy to become discouraged. These frustrations can be channeled, you can get back on an even keel. I’ve tried to consider what works for me, what makes me happy, what’s good for me and the answer is consistent running.

What do you learn from getting lost ? I’m not myself when my running isn’t going well, I’m sure we can all relate to this. However, rather than dwelling on it, the best course of action is to plan ahead. I recently read “if you aim at nothing, you hit nothing” and that spurred me on to consider what could I do to stop the downward spiral of annoyance due to silly injuries.

I came across the concept of “getting back to your center” hence the compass analogy. Running is my center, it’s who I am, it’s my mindfulness, wellbeing, fitness, health (mentally and physically), it’s my friends, it’s fresh air and without it a small part of me becomes lost.

Once you are aware you’ve become unhappy then you can accept it and move on. There probably isn’t a quick fix, maybe you need to press the reset button. When you aren’t running you feel like you are missing out, you are falling behind, your senses aren’t being stimulated, you are “off center”. I’ve had four visits to the physio in recent months to sort out two minor issues, I didn’t want sympathy, I just wanted to get going again !!

Paying attention to an causes means stripping everything back to basics. Correcting any issues now, will hopefully be the springboard for going forwards. I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and I need to develop and maintain better habits.

Everyone’s personal compass is specific to them, for me, I’ve come to the conclusion I need to be more flexible, warm up for longer and take any opportunity to stretch and limber up, whether it’s waiting for the kettle to boil or taking five minutes away from my computer, it’s surprising how rotating your neck, making circular movements with your arms outstretched or simple knee lifts can loosen you up. What might you change in 2022 ?

Another aspect of long distance running that I hadn’t considered is walking. This might sound obvious initially but a short lunch time walk or an early evening walk with the family means you are being active, almost without realising it. I’ve then taken it a step further by wearing kit and setting myself the target of walking four miles in under an hour (4 mph). Your heart rate is raised and your muscles are being exercised, just with less impact.

I know weights related strength and conditioning would help but I have to be realistic, gym’s aren’t my thing, getting outdoors is what does it for me. I’m finding my patio warm up / flexibility before walks or running is becoming enjoyable rather than a chore, because I know making these changes will benefit my run. This weeks 15 miles of walking and running has been the best for a few months !!

The final piece in this jigsaw was when I watched Allie Baileys video on Instagram were she talked about her twenty-twenty-you approach for 2022. It initially revolves around intensions and affirmations rather than New Years Resolutions which tend to be black and white i.e. “Dry January” or “I will loose 6 pounds”, her idea of intentions fits in perfectly with my “finding your center or direction” because these are more positive and achievable, rather than setting yourself up for failure with a numeric target i.e. weight, units of alcohol or mileage.

I intend to correct 2021’s stop / start year by walking, exercising and generally trying to head in the right direction on a number of levels to support my running. Captain Jack Sparrow’s compass didn’t appear to show the correct North, South, East or West, it showed him the horizon and the direction he needed to reach his goals.

Where will your inner compass take you in 2022 ?

I’m no pirate but I do intend to be a “Jolly Roger” in 2022.

Armed with their compass and sense of direction, why are trail runners good at navigation …. they just “Arrr”, Happy New Year

Thanks for reading.

Rog

Trail Running – “A sense of place”

Writing a trail running blog naturally includes descriptions of where I’ve been, so in many ways, I’m trying to create an image in the readers mind of them running beside me and “virtually” experiencing what I’ve seen and felt first hand.

I recently asked a fellow writer for some feedback on my blog, the remainder of this post will be to explore their comment of “You have a real knack of creating a sense of place”. That short phrase pretty much sums up trail running for me, it’s all about “where” you run.

Trail running by definition is off road and away from the urban developments, it congers up images such as the photo above and the central theme is your location. Running under a blue sky, surrounded by nature gives me a real sense of identity. There’s definitely a combination of belonging when you are physically there and a feeling of longing, when you aren’t.

The special bond that can be formed with the countryside means you can experience its positive impact from a far as well as when you are there. This sense of belonging can be quite powerful and I believe it’s what draws us back time and time again.

Life is ultimately about creating memories and I have so many experiences from running which I can both enjoy as well as revisit. Whether it’s a memorable race or a great training run with friends those thoughts stay with you and even if you return to the same location on your own you can’t help but smile as you watch yourself through your mind’s eye.

The phrase “happy place” often comes up when I’m talking about trail running and this feeling can be invoked in many ways. The simple act of putting out your training shoes, your back pack and the rest of your kit gives you a buzz of anticipation the night before a run. In may ways my back pack, compression socks and a bright race t shirt are a uniform, to be worn, that I associate with where I’m going and what I’ll be doing.

The beauty of great trail locations is also the fact that many of them are linked. Hampshire has a never ending source of trails, footpaths, bye ways, river banks and seashores to explore as these would all have been the means of travel for people over the centuries.

No matter what the season there’s woods, fields, streams, wide open spaces and narrow pathways, hedgerows with birds song and hills with fantastic views. The sights and sounds of our rural lands are what make it a special place.

The South Downs Way is a particularly good example with it stretching one hundred miles from Winchester to Eastbourne and crossing a number of counties. The history, the views and the scope for travelling to different sections means this National Trail is the jewel in my location crown of places to run.

The countryside earns it’s place in my affections due to it’s scenery, its distinctive challenges and a unique bond that’s emotional and a pleasure to experience. Probably the greatest advantage of the countryside is that there is always more to explore. Trail running is more than just running off road it’s a passion and a way of life for me and many other people.

If you already trail run then you’ll know what I mean, if you don’t then maybe try it but be warned you’ll soon be hooked !!

Thanks for reading

Roger

Run to the beat of your own drum

Running in its purest sense is a repetitive action that propels you forwards. The constant tapping of your feet on the ground creates a rhythm, a beat if you like and the tap, tap tap of your trainers can become hypnotic, however, in a curious way, even though you are moving, everything around you is largely standing still.

As a runner how do we know what speed we are travelling at ? We check our garmin or other such time pieces. How often do we need to check our garmin ? Will it have changed significantly a hundred meters further along our route, probably not. What if we didn’t look at our watches but went on feel occasionally to measure our efforts ?

As I ran down Old Winchester hill last weekend I paused my watch, took in the views, snapped the photo above and set off again. Some time later I realised I hadn’t started my watch, initially I was a bit peeved, there may have even been a swear word but it dawned on me that I’d hardly looked at it from the start of my run anyway so why was it such a big deal.

Pace is very subjective, your pace and someone else’s pace are only comparable when you are both running the same terrain. All sorts of factors come into play, the wind, your route, how you slept etc and none of these are reflected on your garmin. A good example of this is your personal best, the clue is in the question, it’s “your” best so don’t compare it to other peoples.

Now, are you ready for this, for the remainder of my exercise I switched off my watch. Switched off his watch !! I can hear the gasps, the cries of dismay, the “did he really say that” comments. Just take a minute to digest this and I will explain.

Firstly it felt liberating, like I’d taken off my shirt when arriving at the beach, secondly I felt empowered, I could do exactly what I wanted and it wouldn’t reflect on a Strava post. It was almost like having the TV remote control in my hand, I could pause, fast forward or even rewind if I wanted to. How would I cope ??

The South Downs are a very special place and I’ve really missed running here, without any time expectations I pondered what actually dictates the pace you run at, other than your watch. I discovered that looking at the bigger picture can be quite enlightening.

Hills, they certainly slow you down but at the same time they are building up your strength, willpower and resilience. Generally speaking whatever you run up you will run back down so that’s a real benefit, coupled with that glow of satisfaction once you’ve scaled your chosen hill.

The wind is another resistance factor that you have to endure but it makes your cheeks tingle and reaffirms that you are outdoors, you are alive and you won’t give in. Naturally you’d hope that on your return leg the wind will be behind you but curiously this rarely seems to be the case, ha ha !!

The temperature can be a blessing or a burden but ultimately with the correct kit and hydration it ought to be manageable. Your watch won’t tell you that you haven’t been drinking enough until it’s too late.

The terrain, are you running on soft mud or baked Summer soil that’s had ruts moulded into it. Have you run this way before ? Do you know what’s around the next corner ? Is there livestock that you need to look out for or maybe a family walking there inquisitive dog ?

What dictates our pace and how we measure it can only recorded with elapsed time on your watch so take a break. Maybe just press start and finish without considering the seconds, minutes and hours in-between.
Try it as an experiment and consider which factors are shaping your run, this way you will absorb why, where and how your run went therefore allowing you to consider which elements you can work on instead of purely “clocking” it.

There’s no such thing as a bad run and because no two runs are the same you can take something positive from every outing. Just because you aren’t running at your desired pace this doesn’t mean you aren’t having a good run.

Running doesn’t need to be mechanical (for most of us) it’s emotional, ever changing and you are always learning so it’s worth fully experiencing every step. Your timings are a good indicator but from now on I’m going to embrace my whole run and how it unfolded rather than just what the Strava upload tells me. Naturally these are just my observations but I’m glad I forgot to start my watch because it’s given me a new perspective.

In summary, don’t be a slave to your watch, take as much out of your running experience as possible by noting what effects you. Be the boss, set your own rhythm according to your surroundings, try listening to your running drum beat.

Thanks for reading

Roger

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.

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

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

 

 

 

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

59.59 and beyond : Running for more than an hour

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I’ve set my garmin watch so that after 59 minutes and 59 seconds all is see are the hours and minutes. It’s curious that once I can’t see the seconds then I know I’m on a descent lengths run but more importantly I’ve transitioned into “time on my feet” which is necessary for both building strength and confidence.

A large part of running for me is to escape the pressures and expectations of life. Lets face it, they aren’t going away and naturally they are important but its great to put them on the back burner for a while. Not seeing the seconds flashing past has a calming effect !!

Stress in its many forms can be positive but time out is very important in getting that life balance which so many of us seek.

This Saturdays plan was for twenty miles and to be home by twelve noon. The twenty miles were in preparation for the Portsmouth Coastal marathon, twelve noon was quite simply for lunch with my family. It’s also worth saying here that its worth letting people know where you are running just in case a planned run doesn’t go to plan.

I kept my route simple, ten miles out and ten miles back with a mix of terrain both underfoot and in terms of elevation. The 600 feet elevation was an attempt to add an extra degree of effort which will help when running the flat marathon. The route was simply to enjoy the autumn colours.

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Autumn Leaves Trail running

The rain that greeted me for the first hour meant I could trial wearing a few layers as well as a jacket and cap. This might sound like overkill but it’s always good to assess how you feel with various combinations of kit and then you know what suits you on certain days. After all you need to know what’s comfortable if you are out for a while. Vaseline can also be helpful on friction points like toes and underarms 🙂

When I’m running for longer time periods I break it down into either time slots or landmarks that I’m aiming to reach, this way it all seems more achievable. Even the out and back approach means that would probably be an hour and three quarters out and the same back, which immediately sounds less than three and a half hours straight !!

Running for longer periods certainly helps me with my mental resilience, it’s laying down an experience that can be called upon in future weeks. I’ve also made a point of running a similar route but adding on additional miles form previous weeks i.e. 7 out and 7 back, then 9 and 9 and now 10 and 10.

As each hour ticks by I also find a growing level of self belief which in turn boosts your anticipation for the remainder of your run. Naturally this needs an even pace and in many cases a slower pace if you are extending the time you’ve been out previously.

Distance running is as much about mental belief as it is about pure pace.

Naturally where you are running ought to be inspiring because if you are committing yourself to a few hours then you want all of your senses to be rewarded.

I notice I smile more on longer runs because by definition there’s more to take in. This run brought me into contact with the beautiful autumn scenery as well as horse riders, mountain bikers, walkers and the occasional squirrel.

Having enough resources in terms of food and drink is important and I always include a “get out of jail card” such as a garage or local shop that I can pop into in the later stages of my run if required. This is were a good running vest comes into its own. I drink squash and combine it with SIS gels (orange) and SIS Go energy bars (banana fudge).

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Running vest

The waistcoat nature of a running vest means numerous pockets and easy access to your drinks. The majority of the time there’s no need to stop which is invaluable as I find continuous motion is much better than stops and starts. That said there’s always time for a photo of where I’ve been and not just the washing line which my vest was hanging on 🙂

People often say to me what do you think about, well, the very nature of being on the move means your surroundings are constantly changing so I alternated between quiet country lanes, muddy tracks, uphill, downhill, wet and dry weather conditions and then an occasional horse, along with like minded people who I see getting outdoors. All of which are thought provoking.

Distance running for a certain amount of time can almost become hypnotic especially on solo runs but I’m a strong believer that what you miss out on, conversation wise, you benefit with inner satisfaction when completing a long run on your own steam. That said having company does make the miles pass quicker.

Naturally everyone needs to build up their miles and even an extra mile a week with occasional shorter runs, to ease back, can help. Do what suits you.

One other factor when considering being out for a while is the mud that had collected on my trainers and the back of my legs which is always amusing to whoever might see me on the final tarmac mile and a half of my runs.

So in summary, a long run will help you sleep at night due to the efforts but you’ll also retire knowing that your mood has been lifted, your abilities improved, your confidence boosted and the knowledge that you can be proud of what you’ve achieved.

This achievement is time orientated but not necessarily the pace you ran at, its the time you were out for.

Thanks for reading

Roger

Running Butser Hill – the beauty & the beast

Image-7I’ve been drawn to Butser Hill for over a quarter of a century. This iconic hill was the location of my first race when I moved to Hampshire and I never tire of return visits. Situated not far from Petersfield it towers above the A3 and offers any elevation hungry runners, walkers or riders the opportunity to test themselves.

Why ? I hear you say …. well, apart from the personal satisfaction, the views are amazing !! Portsmouth Spinnaker tower and the Isle of Wight to name two.

I arrived early enough to have the whole hill to myself. The shadows that darkened its lower slope would soon disappear as the morning sun rose and a steady trickle of “outdoors types” appeared from Queen Elizabeth Country Park on the other side of the A3.

Image-6 Butser can be climbed from a few different angles but I stuck with the main path that then forks off to the right on its way towards the trig point at the top.

Sheep and cows both graze on different slopes and at different times of the year so the grass is short wherever they have been. Naturally, our four legged friends can leave behind clues that they’ve been there, so bear this in mind.

Its worth saying that the visitors centre is currently being modernised so temporary structures are in place.

In order to gauge the height of the hill this next photo shows the view looking back from the fence line and gate that crosses between the wooded areas.

Image-9The hill gradually ramps up and then there’s the steepest section of 150 metres or so. The fact that you can only see the heads of the two walkers gives you an indication of the gradient. It’s here that your breathing and fortitude are tested, “keep on going” !!

Once through the gate its onwards and upwards for a gradual climb towards the satellite mast and then the terrain flattens once you reach the summit and the trig point.

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Image-10Statistically the elevation is around 500 feet from the car park to the trig and 400 from the lower slopes of my first photo. This is enough to earn it the “beast” status I refer to in my title. Distance wise thats about a mile and a quarter and a mile.

I could let you into a secret that there’s actually a car park just the other side of the satellite mast as well as a café but you’d be missing out on the challenge of getting there !!

My personal aim for the day was four ascents. Hill 1, ran all the way, Hill 2, ran most of the way, Hill 3, combined walking and running, Hill 4, probably a 50/50 run/walk.

Yes your calves and thighs are tested to the full on the way up and there’s an inevitable jarring of your quads as you make the descent but you really can’t replicate this kind of hill training. Strength and confidence are gained in equal measures.

On one of the descents I had to negotiate “Hill Security” ….. I asked kindly if they’d “move” over. With this area being part of the South Downs National Park all the livestock are used to visitors but these cows are big old units so I showed them lots of respect.

Image-11The countryside is such an asset and it’s often closer to us than we think. My focus today was strength work running up and down this hill but in the process you are treading a path that’s been used for hundreds of years along the South Downs Way and effectively going back in time because it would have looked exactly the same, apart from the main road !!

In summary, a beautiful location that’s well worth a drive out to.

Thanks for reading, Roger