Creating a Logo … first impressions

With Spring upon us I’ve decided now is the right time to freshen up my social media profile by adding a logo that I can use across all of my platforms for the foreseeable future.

I wanted to design a logo that would capture what I love about trail running, so, it needed to draw on the countryside, be distinctive and leave a recognizable image in the same way that a photograph does but instead of one location it would sum up any trail running adventure.

A great first impression creates a connection which, in turn, helps you “spread the word”, especially as a blogger.

My logo thought process was to imagine I’d never heard or seen of irunoffroad, therefore what would catch my eye when scrolling through social media. I started with a blank sheet and various images in my head.

I’ve portrayed the changing seasons with the different coloured leaves and the chunky natural green font is meant to be both earthy and suggest the calming mindfulness that you absorb while running outside. Locating the text below the trees broadens out the logo and in many ways makes it part of the landscape.

My aim was that the lettering is actually the path / trail / route to the joy you will experience. I wanted to get across the life affirming aspects that trail running give you. When you write in capitals it’s as if you are shouting and even though I would normally use lower case I feel like a logo should shout out at you !!

Finally, I wanted to portray roaming the trails with the freedom that only wide open spaces can give you. In many ways if you look at the trees long enough you can almost see then swaying in the breeze. Hopefully this image transports you out into the countryside while encouraging you to read further.



How to W.I.N. without coming 1st

The acronym W.I.N. stands for “What’s Important Now” and was originally coined by Lou Holtz an American football coach who related it to his players and their choices throughout the day. In a nutshell the concept is to focus 100% on what needs doing right now and not be distracted by other tasks. Naturally this philosophy can be applied to any walk of life but I’ve been exploring it more in terms of my running.

Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the International Olympic Committee, once famously said it wasn’t the winning that was important it was the taking part. Might I suggest that a series of small timely wins can contribute to a better performance. This process won’t necessarily place you first on a podium but it will mean you’ll have made decisions which have had a direct impact on your run.

Live in the moment, decide in the moment and choose your winning strategy. I’m a happy plodder when it comes to running but with this mindset I now have a much clearer vision of where and how my plodding will take me. I’ve tried to outline my thought process below which hopefully will give you food for thought.

At the beginning of the year, due to an injury, I used this process to work my way up from walking slowly through jogging and onto running. The WIN decisions being walk a mile, walk it in a certain time, walk further, walk quicker etc etc

How often have you found yourself in one place physically and another place mentally or emotionally. All your day to day decisions have outcomes and consequences so priorities need setting, running can have the same pattern and this will ensure that all of your thoughts and actions are aligned.

Some “What’s Important Now” decisions start before you’ve even left the house like your kit choices on clothing and trainers, as well as the route you’ll be running, these create a clear image in your mind of what’s ahead.

Long distance running is physically, emotionally and mentally challenging, especially off road when decisions about the terrain, conditions underfoot and the best pacing option need combining with your usual hydration and nutrition choices.

So, regular and timely “WIN” decisions really can contribute to both a better experience and result.

Naturally you will be confronted with both easy and hard choices like shall I run this hill or walk it but making the decision immediately gives you a strategy. These choices can be on assessing what will benefit you now or in the long term so again referring to the hill it might be worth walking now to save energy for later.

Since I came across this “What’s Important Now” approach I’ve found I feel more confident and in control because I’m shaping the rest of my run rather than being on autopilot, as it were. This reassessing process has also added to my motivation and positivity because I’m happy I’m on the right track.

Questions like which line to run through a wet or uneven section ? Shall I try to maintain my pace, slow down or speed up depending on the trail, have I drunk enough, do I need a gel, the list can be endless and this “WIN” approach won’t necessarily give you all of the answers but it will make you asses your decisions in a calmer way i.e. you are taking a moment to pause and contemplate what’s best right now. You are applying a mindful mindset.

Finally, once you’ve finished your run you can start to contemplate what’s next in you training, a recovery run maybe, this way you are planning ahead to “What’s Important Next”.

Thanks for reading and maybe try this decision making tool on your next run.


The AR 545 Food Bank run (from a brewery !!)

Question ? : How can your running community best help the less fortunate people in your local areas ?

The answer that’s sweeping the country in 2023 is a food bank run. As it stands over 350 running clubs will participate during February in a planned and coordinated response that has at it’s heart Fareham RC in Hampshire. I joined the Absolute Running 545 group from nearby Gosport the night after FRC ran theirs and it’s safe to say the initiative was a great success with our two clubs and many more posting their events on the shared facebook page. Below is a selection of the donations from the AR 545 group.

In 2018 Fareham ran their first food bank run and then in 2022 they took it to another level with the original driving force Sarah D and other club members joining forces along with Runr, our local fitness and lifestyle brand, to create an unstoppable force for good by enrolling running clubs up and down the country to join in.

Due to the current cost of living crisis well over two million food parcels a year are delivered throughout the UK, with every item being donated.

The post Christmas month of February was highlighted as both a low point in donations and a highpoint in demand, the 350 clubs that have got involved which could easily mean over 10,000 runners will contribute. Put another way, that’s the running community exercising on various chilly evenings but being warmed through and through in the knowledge that they were making a difference.

The thinking behind a food bank run is simple and effective. Running clubs contact their local food bank, organise a date, identify which supplies the bank requires, plan a route and deliver it. Naturally when your local bank isn’t that local then transporting the donations might be required rather than taking them in person.

The AR 545 version of these acts of kindness involved the Gosport Basics food bank, donations loaded into Nick (the 545 main man) Carters “run bus” and a run out and back to Alver Lake from a brewery. That’s right I said a brewery and more specifically the Fallen Acorn Brewery Co. that hosts the 5.45 pm Wednesday social runs.

Now, I know what you’re thinking what could be better than being involved in a great cause and running from a brewery (with access to the bar on our return) surely the only missing element would be food, well, they had that covered too. The food offering invite had been given to Pertersfield’s Earth to Oven guys who were on hand with their mobile catering unit.

The night began with me chatting to Nick and dropping off my bag of donations, soon after I saw Rob Piggott, one of our local race organisers at Believe and Achieve who’d joined as a new member that day. I’d say there were forty to fifty runners assembled for the 5.44 pm photo. The social nature of the run means everyone finds their own pace which makes the session all inclusive.

I chattered with Dayle Morgan and Rob P amongst others as we set off in the fading light and then I settled into a steady pace with Leanna for the remainder of the 5K. As we approach the end of February it’s encouraging to see the evenings gradually becoming lighter. I have to admit I wasn’t 100% sure where we ran but Alver Lake came and went along with the cycle path and Gosport KFC !! The chat centered around what a great idea the Food Bank donations were, as well as the usual running topics.

Upon our return the Earth to Oven guys were already serving the quicker runners with their locally sourced seasonal street food. I queued up for my food outside and a cider inside then joined everyone in the brewery. Nick commented that the Food Bank was “over the moon” with the donations and then with two of the club members having imminent birthdays a round of “Happy Birthday” rang out amongst the huge vats of beer.

I chatted with Nick and Kim then joined Dayle on his pub bench, yes, pub benches inside the brewery !! After chatting with Rachel, Jim and Steph there was just time for a quick chat with Claire T-G (one of the birthday girls) as she offered around cup cakes and told us she’d be running in Malta that weekend as part of her celebrations.

So, an eventful evening with food bank offerings at the heart of it. I’m not saying that bags of food will solve everyone’s problems but it’s a great place to start. Well done again Sarah D from Fareham RC, the the volunteers that run the food banks, Runr, and the 545 runners, we have all played a part in making a difference.

To sum up my 545 visit I’d quote the ever inspiring Heather Small …

“What have you done today to make you feel proud”

P.S. It was great to see the BBC giving coverage to the food bank movement too. Follow the food bank link to read more.

Thanks for reading


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


2023 Dry January – 31 days alcohol free

January is the prefect time to give your health a well earned boost, the Christmas excess has passed and quite frankly I’ve been snacking between meals too. Enough is enough !!

31 alcohol free days will give your body time to reset and more importantly kick start a weight loss plan as we head towards Spring and Summer. Added bonuses like increased concentration, saving some money and a sense of achievement will all fuel the motivation.

Combining drinking more water will also add to the benefits, so all in all, that ought to mean more energy and better sleep too. Naturally at the end of your working week the prospect of a few drinks to unwind will be tempting but in previous years I’ve managed to go into March before my first pint.

If water sounds boring then there’s always squash and while I’m looking for healthy gains then green tea will reduce the caffeine too.

One final benefit is that alcohol can be an irritant to your stomach so there ought to be a reduction in symptoms of reflux where the stomach acid burns your throat.

Don’t get me wrong I’m no saint but all of these positive impacts can then be combined with your five a day fruit and veg for a fantastic January detox. I have to say I’d be happy not to see any chocolate or sweet deserts for some time !!

Good luck to anyone else joining in, the results will be worth it. I’ll keep a weekly update of my progress.

Thanks for reading


A great advice video for older runners, as well as my thoughts too

The phrase “age is just a number” may well mean you don’t approach your training any differently from a psychological point of view but as we age the physical side inevitably catches up. So, maybe the answer is coupling this “glass half full” mindset with the right physical regime to then let us enjoy our running for as long as possible.

I have been guilty of some bad habits in recent years and as we look towards 2023 I thought I’d share my thoughts, especially after watching this excellent video from James Dunne, that really hit home this point now that I’ve reached 60.

I’ve attached the video from James and in many ways you could stop reading now. Why read on ? Well I’ve been running for over thirty years so if nothing else I have some experience to draw on, even if I haven’t got the expertise like James.

Naturally I’ve asked for his permission to include the video in my blog. This five minute production offers you a lesson in good habits that are worth their weight in gold. You might already incorporate his advice in your training but I know I took away changes for mine that will stand me in good stead.

For as long as I can remember my non running friends have pointed out that it’s quicker to catch the bus than run ten miles, that I’ll end up with bad knees or even that once you reach a certain age there’s no need to exercise. We take this kind of banter on the chin because running and exercise are lifestyle choices that undoubtedly make a difference to both our physical and mental health.

In short, we know that our future health has had its foundations laid and that the years of building blocks we’ve built up through exercise will pay dividends.

A recent men’s health forum MOT suggested the following figures. Eat your 5 a day of fruit and veg, be active 150 minutes a week, drink 14 or less units of alcohol a week and work on having a 36 inch or less waist line. Currently I tick all of these boxes but as we age it does become more challenging. Apologies for not having a similar ladies chart but you get the general idea.

What keeps us striving to improve or maintain our form over the years ? Naturally every race is a competition but ultimately you are always running against yourself. The general public has had Mr Motivator or Joe Wicks to keep them energised, in running it tends to be our fellow runners, being involved with the wider running community and personal goals.

In recent years I have definitely developed an old mans shuffle, sprinting is out due to blood pressure so consistency needs to be my watch word. The shuffle is partly due to the long distance trail running that I prefer as opposed to speedy 10K’s.

Do I factor in enough strength work ? No. Historically I’ve always had power in my legs and my quads go all the way back to living at the top of a hill in Devon which meant repeated elevation until I bought a moped at sixteen but now, more than ever, the strength work that I haven’t been paying attention to is finding me out injuries wise.

Secondly, once an injury has been resolved I’m guilty of trying to catch up too soon and guess what happens, without the necessary recovery and strength I get caught out again. This loop of frustration needs breaking.

With 2023 on the horizon my goals are clear, “use it or loose it”, strength, recovery and consistency plus some cross training for good measure. Watch the video, maybe twice and draw the inspiration that I have had to set the road / trails ahead of you for years to come. Make the most of your running, after all if you look after your legs, your legs will look after you.

Thanks for reading


Running and that “Field” Good Factor

A favourite phrase of mine is “your health is your wealth” and having running as my main pastime, outside of work and family means I’ve stayed fairly healthy. Reaching my 60th birthday was initially a bit daunting but I have a lot to be thankful for, not least of which is being able to exercise in stunning locations which massively contribute to my overall wellbeing and physical condition.

June the 13th to the 19th is World Men’s Health week were men are encouraged to focus on their health, be aware of problems they could have developed and do something about it. One way to achieve this is exercising outdoors.

I think it’s really important to appreciate the beauty that’s around us. This blog has three photos from my recent May / June running, I hope to express the feelings that you can experience while taking in the countryside. Outdoor exercise really does give you a “Field” good factor 🙂

The first photo was taken at about 6.30pm after a long day wrestling with spreadsheets. Working in an office inevitably means sitting down for long periods and being surrounded by four walls. On arriving at the car park I had this particular field in mind as by the nature of the seasons I knew it would be a sea of yellow. I might have only been on the outskirts of town but I had been transported into a calm and tranquil place both visually and in my mind. All my spreadsheet thoughts had disappeared.

Spring is so uplifting, April’s bluebells have been and gone but the wild flowers come in waves, all you need to know is where to find them. Closer to hand the flowers are spread out but as you take in the brightly coloured meadow it reminded me of a painting where dots and splashes of sunshine yellow paint had been applied. Buttercups radiate happiness and optimism which, when combined with lush green grass and a clear blue sky, makes for a perfect palette of colours.

I’m not 100% sure which wild flowers these are in my second photo but this mauve cluster of plants really caught my eye while running through the South Downs national park. The trees dark green leaves blended and yet contrasted with the lighter green grass and the pale purple flowers. I say pale purple but in the bright midday sunshine you could pick out greys, blue and even violet shades.

While running through a national park you’d be expecting areas of outstanding natural beauty but in some ways pockets of vibrant joy can catch your eye just as easily. With the sun being directly overhead I guess you take in the sights around you to there fullest extent, sunrise and sunset naturally get all the attention but I feel the light is at its best under the noon sun.

What you can’t see and hear from this photo are the various insects flying, buzzing and generally interacting with both the flowers and me, ha ha. The heat, along with the view made me ponder that I could have been in The Alps rather than a few miles from Petersfield !!

My final field photo is a rising path between the crops which later in the Summer will be a field of gold. This man made track divides your view between the cultivated grain and the cotton wool clouds. Were as buttercups and other wild flowers don’t have a purpose this crop has been managed and will eventually be reaped and sold so there’s a structure to it, a reason and a goal, as opposed to the first two photos were nature has randomly sprinkled the flowers for pollinators and insects as food and shelter.

Inevitably I ran slower up the hill and this allowed me to take in the swishing and swaying almost as if I was running through a green sea. The tide wasn’t so much coming in or going out but making small circles. Not the crop circles that appear on the end of the evening news but circles that you could have made by dipping your hand in the sea.

The benefits of nature are well known and when you couple this with exercise then it’s a recipe for good healthy living. As Louis Armstrong famously sang ….

“I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them blossom for me and you, and I think to myself what a wonderful world”

Make the most of your time and health, hopefully it will repay you in the long run

Thanks for reading


Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (The Atlantic “sea”quel)

As with all great sequels you wonder whether they’ll match up to the original. My first experience of the Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (WDp from now on) was September 2021, so, seven months later here I was eagerly awaiting my second experience of this breath taking course.

Breath taking in terms of the location and views, breath taking in terms of the sapping sandy beach and sand dunes !! Once parked I strolled along the Marine Drive headland looking down at the never ending waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean currents. Yes the weather was overcast but the setting was undeniably stunning.

Woolacombe is a glorious, award winning beach, however, it is also quite exposed, so the flapping National Trust flag was definitely a indication of the onshore breeze . Would the wind be in our favor, of course not, ha ha !! I’d anticipated a challenging 5K and the elements, as well as the course, were living up to the billing.

As I approached a cluster of volunteers they were discussing last weeks large Easter Bank Holiday turnout, I myself, was on a family visit so I could also class my attendance as parkrun tourism. Once I’d chatted and thanked the guys they mentioned there were two runners from my local area and sure enough I bumped into a couple, one with a Stubbington Green top and one a Hedge End runners top, small world.

While warming up along the first section of the course I was reminded of a question from twitter that I’d been asked, “with this being badged as a beach run, would a barefoot runner manage”. Well the headland road is made of pretty rough tarmac and there’s a number of loose stones so unless you have leather feet then perhaps not.

On listening to the course briefing I spotted Simon Oliver who was the organizer of the AONB North Devon marathon when I ran it in 2013. I introduced myself and as we chatted I glanced down at the time 8.55, all ready for the “off” and then I mouthed under my breath, “shit, barcode !!” So, I legged it in a very unprofessional way back to the car, rescued my parkrun barcode from the glove compartment and returned slightly red faced but luckily just in time for our final instructions and the 9am start.

The first significant change of direction at WDp is a sharp diagonal right hand turn that drops quite quickly down into the sand dunes. Inevitably, our well spread out initial numbers, would need to channel onto this path which would fit three abreast, with a push. The excitement and impending need for positioning got the better of me and I started of far too quickly !!

We’ve all done it but by now you’d think experience would play a part in a more measured strategy, nope, I over cooked it. You live and learn ha ha !! . As I caught my breath the solid path then gave way to a left hand turn with undulating sand as we worked our way down towards the beach. It’s worth noting there’s quite a steep final ten meters or so of shifting loose sand that brings you onto the more compact beach sand.

As this photo suggests the field was already well strung out after the first mile and while this would have been impressive on any day the fact that the wind was most definitely against us meant the guys ahead really were performing well. I came into this run with limited expectations so I wasn’t going to fret about the distance between me and the leaders, I figured I had the advantage of more time to enjoy it !!

We’d be advised that there might been horse riders on the beach, and to take care, but I didn’t spot any, only the white crests of the the waves which as I child I remember us calling sea horses.

Following Issac Newtons laws of gravity I figured that whenever you go downhill inevitably you’ll need to go back up again and there, looming in the distance, was the famous dune of doom. In a weird way I was a little disappointed there wasn’t someone capturing our tortured faces on film, a bit like those flattering theme park rides photos you get just before your stomach rises towards your throat.

I commented to the chap next to me how the sand dune felt like a sadistic game show, what was it ? Takeshis Castle ? The lung bursting and calf screaming was, however, only momentarily painful as we made our way across the dunes, parallel with the beach and back towards that steep downhill path which again thanks to Issac was now our final uphill slog.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love pushing myself and questioning my ability, by definition a challenge accepted is a challenge to embrace. I reverted to “walking with purpose” which can be quite effective. After thanking the marshal at the top of the hill, honest, I did thanks him, it was the final rough tarmac leg before accepting and handing in my token.

My final photo is of the Porthole cafe that has seating inside and out as well as toilets on the right hand side of the building which means parkrunners can use “all” of the facilities. A large queue formed quite quickly for the refreshments which is always a good indication.

So, in summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my second experience of the North Devon coastline “rollercoaster” also know as Woolacombe Dunes parkrun. If you are in the area it’s a bucket list box ticked. Thankyou to everyone that made the run possible. I will no doubt return for my hattrick of parkruns here at these three and a bit miles of sandy smiles.

Thanks for reading ….. Roger

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.


Spring 2021 : A time for optimism

Saturday March the 20th officially marks the beginning of Spring 2021. I chose to get out on the Friday so as to experience our local countryside on a slightly quieter day and to enjoy the forecast sunshine. I’m always heartened with the evenings gradually getting lighter but I feel the whole country is waiting to embrace Spring. This year, more than any other year, there’s hope, anticipation and optimism in the air.

Setting off from Wickham along the Meon Valley trail (MVT) I had an hour and a half to play with and my main goal was to soak up all of my surroundings. Apart from the birdsong I first noticed the sound of the River Meon. This clear and fast flowing chalk bed river has worked its way from a spring in the Meon Valley and will eventually flow out into the Solent at Hill Head.

For centuries Wickham has been a fording point to cross the river and the small waterfalls near the bridge had bubbling water with the force of the current pushing it downstream. In many ways the last year can be compared with the river, our progress has been halted, diverted, been put back on track and then diverted again. Hopefully with the covid vaccine being rolled out we can now flow in the right direction !!

Once heading out along the MVT the conditions underfoot were pretty good with only occasional mud. The tree line route is still quite bear as it’s too early in the season but the sense of more to come was definitely in the air. I was in no rush and quite open to trying a few new twists and turns in the woods ahead. All outdoor exercise starts with excited anticipation but even more so after the last year that we’ve all endured.

The MVT was previously a railway line and the arch of the bridge in my first photo made me stop and take a snap. The arch almost acted like a picture frame for the view ahead. At this point I was near the Forestry England maintained Upperford Copse which then leads onto West Walk and 100 Acres, it was time to explore !!

The densely packed trees seemed curiously spaced out with so few leaves but with a variety of species planted in the area I was soon running through a lush green canopy over the trails. This might sound silly be being out on a Friday almost seemed to fit in with Spring officially starting on the Saturday. The prospect of what lays ahead for your weekend being a similar thought for the rest of Spring, exciting times.

Entering the West Walk car park there were quite a few cars with people taking lockdown exercise. If the last year can give one legacy I do hope it means people carry on enjoying the fresh air and sights of the countryside. Even with a minimal car parking charge the benefits of getting outdoors will hopefully have been embedded in the nations minds and legs.

I chose to bypass the family friendly compacted paths and head out into the forest for some muddy adventure. The blue skies and towering trees give off such an energy which we sorely need to charge our weary lockdown batteries. Knowing the next six months will bring better weather for Mother Nature to weave her magic really adds a spring to your stride.

The noise of branches rustling to my right makes me wonder if I’d be lucky enough to see a deer but instead it was two squirrels chasing each other from branch to branch. I really do wonder what the animals have made of fewer human beings in their natural habitat ? Fewer people will have meant less car pollution, litter and disturbance. After all nature has carried on over the last fours seasons even if we’ve been on hold.

I do enjoy a muddy hill as the elevation makes you work for your miles. Once rounding the trail towards the mobile café and toilets it was time to turn and head back. I do think it’s important to take what you have seen, heard and smelt on your travels and use it as motivation in your day to day life. The peace and beauty of these surroundings can remain in your thoughts for when life’s pressures mount up.

Heading out of the woods the sun has become stronger, the shadows were lengthening and you simply can’t help but simile. Spring is a time of new beginnings and goodness knows we could all do with a rosier future. If covid has done one thing it’s made me not take anything for granted.

I’m already thinking about March 29th and being able to go further afield for my green fix. The Hampshire countryside has so much to offer and even though I’ve been happy to settle for what’s on my doorstep for much of this year I’m truly excited that April’s bluebells aren’t too far away and then we’ll be treated to the explosion of colour that Spring delivers as well as the optimism we all crave and deserve.

Thanks for reading and remember the outdoors is waiting for you.