Running in the woods

Running in the woods

I don’t have the stats on this but I reckon January is one of the more popular months for running.

I rarely see other runners when I’m out but 1st January tends to mark a change. Whether it’s starting as you mean to go on, or blowing away the cobwebs after the excesses of the festive period, lots of people reach for their trainers come January.

It tends not to last though. As the months go by, numbers dwindle as people slip back into old routines and wait for January to come round again.

This surge in new year joggers was evident on a recent holiday to Center Parcs. The perfect opportunity for some running in the woods. Rack up a few kilometres before spending the rest of the day sliding down waterslides and eating pancakes.

Turns out I wasn’t the only one with this idea. I counted 10 runners in the space of a few minutes on Saturday morning. It was positively heaving on the roads around the site.

But I had another route in mind. To turn off the perimeter roads and into the woods. There’s a lovely nature trail along the edge of the village and no-one seems to know it’s there. Despite the number of joggers starting as they mean to go on, the off-road parts were deserted.

Leaving the crowds behind, I headed for the forest. I splashed through puddles and listened to bird song. Rabbits darted across the track as the early morning sun’s rays burst through the trees. The scent of the pine forest wafted into my nostrils. Mud splashed up my legs. My mind slowed. My pace quickened.

Running in the woods, yes. But really just enjoying being a part of the forest.

Since discovering trail running, I’ve managed to keep up the habit. That’s not been the case when I’ve tried to get out on the roads in the past.

It got me thinking – maybe that’s why I never see other runners when I’m out. I’m always seeking out tracks, bridleways, nature trails and canal paths, while everyone else is looking for asphalt. I believe so many people lose interest in running simply because they are doing the wrong sort of running!

So why do so many people stick to the blacktop? Perhaps they feel the smoother surface of the roads is easier to run on. Or that they won’t get lost. Or that heading off the beaten track is more dangerous.

But you don’t have to head to the wild parts of Scotland to go trail running. The local woods are the perfect place to start. Start slowly to build up your confidence and fitness. Stick to a defined route, like a local nature trail or a short way-marked walk, and it’s difficult to get lost. Enjoy being surrounded by nature and just think of it as a more active walk – one where you skip over tree roots and stay light on your feet. It’s much kinder on your joints than running on the road. Plus the habit is more likely to stick.

Heading out on the Sunday, it was noticeably quieter. In fact I didn’t see another runner in the village at all. It’s much harder to motivate yourself when pounding the streets is all you have to look forward to. But I’d been running in the woods, and was ready for more!

So if your enthusiasm is already starting to wane this January, head for the trees and maybe you’ll keep the habit going for a little while longer.

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