A Coastal trail run with the beach and sunset for company

Choosing where and when you run may come down to practicalities like the weather, friends availability or family commitments but try to make some time for a purely emotional choice, every now and then.

I’m lucky enough to only live a fifteenth minute drive from the coast and a twenty five minutes drive inland to the South Downs Way (SDW). Coastal trails may not always get the kudos their countryside cousins enjoy but todays Solent sunset was breath taking. Hampshire has so much to offer, it might be Winter but get outdoors and you’ll be rewarded.

While contemplating my latest jog I decided to consolidate Wednesdays 5K with one more before moving up to five miles. So the challenge was to maximise around 32/33 minutes as my mobility returns after a fall. The late afternoon decision was an easy one, yes, I was off to see the sunset. I parked at Hill Head then mapped an out and back 1.55 miles to make a 5K route below the Chilling cliffs.

The beach offers a softer surface, with less impact on your body, but in many ways you are working harder to achieve the same distance. The reduced stress on my ankles, knees and hips was apparent almost immediately, so I knew I’d made the right choice, but the motivation for my seaside session was emotional rather than technical.

Why is a coastal run so rewarding ? Setting off at 4pm I knew I’d be treated to both views of the Isle of Wight and the sun disappearing below the horizon. I don’t mind admitting I was feeling the same glow of warmth inside me as I was witnessing before me.

The sunset was due at 4.36 so I’d already arrived in golden hour, complete with the orange glow shimmering on the sea like a “yellow brick road” layered onto the Solent. My running shadow was still with me for the time being but the sun was sinking fast, I decided to take a quick video to try and capture the beautiful light and colours that nature was displaying. This clip is 40 seconds long and no matter how much I try to paint a picture with my words, it’s a snapshot to cherish as a memory.

There’s a rhythm to the sea as the waves ebb and flow, a rhythm that hasn’t changed for thousands of years. Perhaps this expected and predictable feature is what relaxes us and lifts our mood. I’ve read that this experience is called blue therapy. There were a number of walkers out along my route as I headed towards the Solent Breezes caravan sites and it’s safe to say we were all enjoying our free blue therapy.

In many ways your physical activity matches the waves rhythm, your breathing almost seems to match the lapping motion of the salt water, it’s like your running is connecting you to the sea. This might sound a bit pretentious but feeling part of your surroundings can be emotional and empowering. Granted the tide was out but I still felt the waters energy.

I’m sure the years of happy beach memories were being rethought somewhere in the back of my mind and who hasn’t left a trip to the coast without a smile a sense of positivity. Today wasn’t about sun tan lotion and ice cream, it was barely above freezing, but the cold heightened your senses and you appreciate the fact that you made an effort to enrich your afternoon.

My pace was relatively slow and naturally the crunching of the shingle and the sinking feeling of the sand didn’t lend itself to speed but I’m not at that point in my recovery to even worry about what my garmin says. I’ve walked numerous times through January and added various daily stretches in a bid to add flexibility and movement to resolve a fall five weeks ago.

I appreciate five weeks is no time to be injured, and I did have physio but as it was on the back of other previous niggles. I enjoyed the fruits of my efforts even more on this wintery Saturday afternoon. Ultimately I guess the work that you put into your training results in having opportunities like today.

I will definitely return, in weeks to come, to add the strength and endurance training that beach running offers but for the moment I’ve simply enjoyed the salt flavoured breeze and my mindfulness / wellbeing cup being topped up with sea water !!

Thanks for reading


Don’t take your running for granted. Make the most of it

Over the years I have to admit I’ve taken my running for granted. It’s always been there, all you need to do is lace up your trainers and off you go. Call up some friends, agree the time and place then enjoy a physical, social and sensory couple of hours. If you read no further than this opening paragraph, enjoy your running, embrace it, make the most of it but never take it for granted.

Over the last year I’ve had a string of injuries, interruptions and frustrations that have meant inconsistent training. That last sentence isn’t meant to sound like I’m looking for sympathy, naturally there are thousands of people who would love to exercise but it’s beyond them. I simply have to wait for strains to heal and try to manage my commitments better.

However, when running has been a part of your weekly life for over thirty years these inactive spells become more frustrating with each occurrence. We don’t have to run, no one is telling us to, we simply have a desire and a need to run. In many ways when you aren’t running it’s a case of changing your goals rather than giving up on them.

After falling and injuring back muscles four weeks ago I’ve progressed with physio, mobility stretching and lots of walking. With it being January I’ve also stopped drinking alcohol for a month and tried to increase my water intake, after all, if I’m missing out on burning 200/300 calories an hour, these will be positive steps while biding my time until a return to full fitness.

Clearly when you’re sidelined there’s an element of FOMO, yes, the fear of missing out but along with the running highs that our chosen hobby gives us there are so many elements that we don’t consider while we are fit and well.

Your focus and health are greatly improved when active but conversely your mind, immune system and mood can be negatively effected when you aren’t, this can then contribute to a reduction in your “get up and go”. This sluggish feeling inevitably makes us unhappy, stressed and grumpy. The next phase that follows this could well be a loss of self esteem and even confidence, both of which, could eventually trigger depression.

Our sleeping habits can be effected due to us not having used up our energy through the day. Rest is necessary for life generally as well as recovering from sporting activities. Getting into bed knowing you’ve been out that day or you have a run planned for the morning means you finish off that evening happy.

Even the very basics of running help you with your heart and lungs working hard to supply extra oxygen to your muscles. We need to try and hold onto this triple benefit if possible.

So, while we are trying to cope with a lack of serotonin and endorphins, consider ways to apply yourself rather than dwell on being disappointed, it’s better to try and channel your efforts with good habits.

In recent weeks I haven’t run so instead I’ve walked most days. You still breath in that stimulating fresh air and have a sense of achievement by getting a sweat on. Walking might be slower than running but it’s still helping your metabolism, burning calories and provides a cumulative motivation. Being determined and following it through works the same regardless of whether you are running at speed or walking steadily.

I’ve noticed that even in smaller doses the effort you put in is rewarded by rejuvenating your spirit. I’ve reached my 4 m.p.h. target and today I jogged two miles.

Twenty two minutes of jogging brought me huge satisfaction and ought to pave the way to my measured return. As an incentive I’m holding off wearing my new road shoes until I jog 5K which should be fairly soon now.

As part of my positive approach I also spectated at Stubbington 10K so that meant I felt part of our local running community. Seeing lots of familiar faces meant I left with a big smile on my face from joining in, with clapping and words of encouragement.

I’ve been watching adventure videos on youtube to inspire me and from this I intend to try and combine some camping and running in 2023. This added dimension wouldn’t necessarily have crossed my mind if I hadn’t been sidelined and looking for motivation. I particularly like Loyd Purvis with his Run 4 Adventure, Paul Coates videos (a good friend of mine) and the Film My Run channel with Steve Cousins.

For this running and outdoor footage don’t sit on the couch, exercise while you watch, so as to feel part of that running community spirit. While viewing you can stretch, bend, twist and add strength exercises like squats and knee lifts, depending on what has stopped you running.

In summary, don’t take your running for granted, in many ways running is a lifestyle that provides you with endless benefits. Once you’ve bought your kit then it’s essentially free (well almost) and remember the physical and mental activity that you engage in today will stand you in good stead for tomorrow, whether tomorrow is twenty four hours away or ten years away.

Keep it going, use it or loose it and when life gets in the way of your running, take a step back and consider your options, reassess what you can control and get back on track.

Thanks for reading, enjoy your running in 2023.


Butser Hill run : the sunshine & sunset

With this weekend being the 7th anniversary of my blog I was determined to revisit a special place in my heart, Butser Hill, situated in the beautiful Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP) and bathed in early February sunshine, it didn’t let me down. You could almost say the timing was perfect.

During the Winter months, unless you pop out for a lunchtime walk you can spend the whole working week without natural light. As I jumped into the car I was excited to be chasing the day knowing that I was making the most of my time, after all, you can’t put a price on boosting your mood !!

Maximizing the remaining light meant beating the sinking sun as it inevitably drops down below the horizon. Elevation was the answer, the higher you go the more time you have to dodge the shadows from the sunset. My destination, Butser Hill, is the highest point on the South Downs.

The location and weather would provide great photographic opportunities but far outweighing this was the inspiring and emotionally motivating experience of the scenery, fresh air, views and nature (even if it was cold) ha ha.

The base of the hill fills you with anticipation as it slowly ramps up with the well trodden path heading towards a gate which isn’t even half way up. The lower slopes were already covered in shade so I knew I needed to press on. Heading towards the gate is the steepest section, to the point that, you can’t see the gate or the rest of the hill, as the photo above shows.

Looking back towards QECP the light seemed to be getting brighter or clearer, it’s hard to explain, perhaps it was the isolated location, less light pollution as it were or maybe my senses were just that much more focused as I knew the clock was ticking towards sundown.

We often hear of Vitamin D and serotonin as being the sunshine vitamins and even though there certainly wasn’t any warmth in the sun you could feel an inner glow of warmth. This might not be the Alps but you can see Portsmouth in the distance and the Isle of Wight further beyond.

I was in my element breathing in the fresh air on my run/jog/walk and with it being 4.30pm or so I had the whole experience virtually to myself. The phrase “if you could bottle this and keep it for ever” came to mind. I carried on with a measured jog due to Butser being about a 500 feet climb and even though the path is straight, various sections of sheep poo added to a zig zag running pattern but this probably helped with the steep hill !!

I didn’t meet any sheep until further up the hill and when I did they had a certain look in their eyes, especially the fourth one back who appeared to be tapping his foot as if to say “move on there’s nothing to see here, only us sheep”. Being higher up every colour seemed to be more vibrant, the blue sky had started to tinge pink and that was offset against the green grass.

The summit of Butser flattens out and gives you a few hundred meters of grassland before reaching the all important trig point. Once at the highest point my hard work had paid off because I’d literally kept the shadows at bay by climbing the hill. The hight of the hill lends itself to the satellite communications tower which even thought not that pleasing on the eye is probably one of the reasons my smartphone got its signal.

Considering that I’d only left work a matter of hours ago the natural light, even though it was fading, is a stark contrast to the office florescent lighting, computer and phone screens that we are used to using. I thought the satellite tower almost looked like an Apollo space craft and the setting sun could have been the rocket engines firing it up towards the moon (or is that just me ?)

Leaving the trig point I ran down to the gate and back up twice which bagged me just over 1,100 feet of elevation in total. By now the temperature seemed to have dropped while the wind had picked up, however, in many ways this just makes you feel more alive !!

I think it’s important to take something away from an experiences that you have thoroughly enjoyed, to notice that all of your senses have been heightened, to appreciate how lucky you are to live in such a beautiful part of the world but also to use it as a point of reference for the future.

In many ways nothing has changed on this hill in the last twenty five years that I’ve been visiting it but at the same time the world has moved on. Taking moments to fully absorb the surroundings that you choose to visit can have a powerful effect on you. I’ve had a few niggling injuries recently but as I descended towards the car park and the new café (which was unfortunately shut as I’d been having too much fun) I resolved to keep channeling this feeling into not only my running but day to day life.

As I watched the procession of car lights on the A3 with darkness falling I realised my time was almost up. Spring isn’t too far away which means we’ll have the opportunity to delight in so many more daylight hours, make the most of it, embrace it and enjoy sharing it with others.

Before I started writing this I jotted down as many “light” analogies / sayings as I could think of and the one thing I noticed was that they were all positive. So, brighten up your day and watch your face light up when you get outdoors in the natural daylight.

Getting outdoors really does have so many benefits. Thanks for reading.


Make time, for your “Running” peace of mind

Have you enjoyed the Olympics ? I certainly have, obviously the running events have been great but it’s funny how you get sucked into watching sports you hadn’t even considered like BMX, skateboarding and gymnastics. The strength and concentration that Matt Whitlock showed in his pommel horse routine was amazing but possibly the most telling moment of the two weeks was when Simone Biles chose to withdraw from the team gymnastics due to her mental health stating her mind and body weren’t in sync.

The pressure and expectations on top athletes must be immense knowing that they’ve trained for four years, or in this Olympic case five, to compete for three places on a podium.

For us mere mortals everyday life presents it’s own challenges so it’s important that we have an outlet that benefits us both physically and mentally, which absorbs us and transports us to the point that we have a clear head with no intruding thoughts. You could call this being in the zone or even zoning out but when your mind is completely focused on your chosen activity then you will find peace of mind.

For me this activity is a run in the countryside. Speed isn’t necessary, age and experience aren’t necessary, therefore the fact that it’s achievable to so many people is what makes it special. Whether you run on your own or you share the experience with others a good run gives you a rhythm, a feeling that everything has aligned and that your whole body is in tune.

We all have barriers, distractions and even excuses that can stop us getting out and fulfilling this goal but we really must try to overcome them and not short change ourselves because we all deserve to experience peace of mind.

The pandemic has put a huge strain on all our lives, financial pressures have been tested, relationships and even our quality of life so we need some balance, we need to feel like a circular peg in a circular hole, to embrace your positivity and set the tone for the rest of your week.

A good run won’t solve all your problems but it’s a point of reference to draw on when life’s pressures mount. In a curious way physical exercise may make you ache but you feel refreshed and revitalized. The peace of mind that you can gain means you are free from worries, anxiety and stress as you literally process one stride after another. In a way this is escapism but it isn’t “running away” from any issues it’s parking them and embracing your running.

I’ve had a niggling pain in my foot for a while and after seeing Jason from Bodyfusion he has corrected the problem. However, my three mile tester run today was more about finding myself again rather than checking the niggle had gone. I didn’t take my phone with me today so the main photo represents another day when everything clicked !!

Trail Running gives me peace of mind, find your activity that fits the rhythm of your life. I’d imagine Matt Whitlock would have said his mind was completely clear of any other thoughts as he executed his routine to perfection. Simone Biles has presumably had too much pressure but at least she managed to return for one of her events.

In short the fresh air, green grass and blue sky cleared my head and all combined, even in a thirty minute spell, to take me far from the madding crowd and reflect that doing what you love is the key to loving what you do.

Thanks for reading.


A Mindful run on the South Downs

Mindfulness to me is running with focus but also relaxation. I recently wrote this as an Instagram post, now I’d like to fully explain what it means to me. Paying attention to both your surroundings and your thoughts helps you “live” in the moment. The scenery and trail make you concentrate which then fills you with positive energy.

These days I enjoy stopping for a moment to take in the beauty of nature or simply absorbing where I’m running rather than concentrating on pace.

Over the years I’ve definitely appreciated my running more because my goals have changed. A good run to me is the feeling of accomplishment when I’ve clocked up a descent amount of miles and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Reflecting on Saturdays run I can pinpoint a number of occasions when I felt 100% engaged in what I was doing. These moments of clear purpose mean that you are processing the task, how to achieve it and finding the solution by listening to both your body and your mind.

A good example of being completely immersed in what I was doing would be the climb up Beacon Hill as I left Exton. There are two routes up Beacon Hill, the first crosses the cow fields and has a number of gates and styles, the second is a winding country lane. On some days I enjoy the technical challenge of the obstacles but on other days the country lane means you aren’t distracted it’s simply you against the hill.

Naturally your stride shortens and in many ways your determination is as important as what’s in your legs. The lane has a couple of corners and the gradient varies with a couple of easier sections but ultimately you are being tested from the the time you leave the pretty village until you reach the trig point.

My metronomic stride had purpose, concentration and belief, it also meant that I was so focused I didn’t hear the cyclist behind me and when he overtook it made me jump like a startled deer when it hears a noise in the forest. Slightly embarrassing on my part and yet his fitting comment of “keep working” only underlined that I was totally aware and yet unaware, both at the same time. You could say I was in the zone.

I do believe that understanding what you are capable of as well as plotting how you’ll reach your target can be quite intense over a short period but once I reached the top of the hill I knew I’d enjoy the rest of my run after this boost in confidence and mindfulness.

Once arriving at the trig point you are rewarded with the view of the valley towards Old Winchester Hill further along the Downs but most of all you know that you’ve got there by noticing every meter of the climb, the gradient, the trees, the vineyard off to the left, the sound of your breathing and even the birds song. In a funny way you were part of the hill and it acknowledged that you’d scaled it without walking.

The next few miles were weaving countryside tracks that due to lockdown I haven’t run for a few months. I’ve run this way many a time before but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. You can’t take rural settings for granted because they are constantly changing. It would have been Winter the last time I was here and now it’s Spring, the colours have changed, the trees and bushes are slowly starting to fill out and the going underfoot has certainly improved !! These differences seem obvious but making a point of looking for them makes you appreciate that changes happen constantly.

Running through the countryside is an uncomplicated activity, you absorb what you see, you take it in and you smile.

On my return to Exton I had a small diversion in mind that I’ve been looking forward to visiting while cooped up in my living room working from home. The River Meon flows through the village of Exton with its clear water and high levels to the banks. Watching a fast flowing, crystal clear river is almost hypnotic and I have a small opening in the bushes in mind. As an added bonus the daffodils were still out so I paused my watch and I stood there for a few minutes totally transfixed.

During those minutes looking at the stones on the riverbed, the small ripples of waves on the surface and even a random tree branch that was along for the ride I thought to myself, I’m glad I popped by and I’ll come and visit again.

I really enjoy observing what I see on my travels and I believe my mindful running adds to the experience. Whether it’s a hill, the trails or a river take them home with you in your minds eye and reflect on their positive effect to your day.

Thanks for reading


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

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


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.

Landscape Living – The joys of trail running

Image (1)

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

A Life Affirming run


The definition of life affirming is, quite simply, an emotional uplifting effect. My eighteen miles on Saturday were just that. This run was my longest in four months, both in terms of distance and time and it helped me to answer some questions that have been nagging me.

“Why do I run” might sound peculiar as I’ve been running for over thirty years but perhaps its only when you are questioning yourself that you truly come up with the answer that’s in your heart of hearts.

I’m in the later stages of training for the Portsmouth Coastal marathon and with six weeks to go I needed a three hour run. That’s exactly my point, “needed”, not wanted to or was looking forward to, more that it was necessary.

However, by the time I finished I’d achieved much more than eighteen miles and three hours on my feet, I’d tapped into my self belief, self confidence and self esteem. In short I’d improved both my mental and physical health.


Our bird bath with a thin covering of ice.

As I left the house it was a cold morning and on reflection I should probably have started with gloves but in a funny way being cold heightens your senses. I’d made one concession to the cold and that was to wear my favourite Helly Hansen long sleeve base layer. This one garment says “long cold run” as soon as I put it on. It’s a comfort blanket in many ways because I know I’ll be warm and protected from the elements.

As I left the tarmac pavements at a mile and a half I was presented with an Autumnal pallet of coloured leaves laid out in front of me. Natures gold, yellow, brown, green and copper patchwork once again heightened my senses as I took it all in.

In recently weeks I’ve been working on increasing my miles and its days like this that make you appreciate why you commit yourself to marathon training, you feel alive !!

With each passing season I realise I’m closer to sixty than fifty and that maybe my most athletic years are behind me but in distance terms there’s no reason why I can’t improve. Having running as both your hobby and your passion means fitness, health and even longevity are all being given a helping hand.

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Meon Valley trail

With it being Remembrance Sunday the tree lined old railway track, that heads out of Wickham, almost looked like soldiers standing on parade either side of me. The wind picked up briefly and shook the branches. I had multi-coloured leaves falling down on me as I ran through, it was beautiful.

The smile on my face lasted for the rest of my run, through fifteen miles which had been my longest recent run and through the rain that met me in the last two miles. That rain didn’t dampen my spirits and my abiding memory from this run, along with the falling leaves, was what crossed my mind in the rain.

“You’ve still got it Rog”, was what I said to myself out loud. This may sound a little arrogant but trust me I wasn’t running fast enough to be showing off !! This wasn’t a mojo moment this was emotional. I connected with my running 🙂

I was living my running, I was uplifted and it was life affirming.

Go for a run and find your positive place !!

Thanks for reading