Written by Mark Enser - http://herbifit.com
I run through the mud, low branches whipping at my legs and others aimed at my head. I dodge through the trees as my eyes scan ahead hoping to find a break in the vegetation that will let me find a path or at least an opening that will let me get my barings. It wasn’t suppose to to be like this. I had set out for a short run along a track through the forest, somewhere I have run dozens of times before but this time I spotted something new. A small trail leaving the main path and waking off through the forest. How could I resist. Now I am lost. The trail must have stopped being a trail a few meters in and turned into nothing more than deceptively straight gaps between the trees. My legs are starting to tire and I wish I had brought more to drink. So, why do I do these crazy things? Why not stick to the safe and easy roads and parks? A million reasons but here are my top five.
1. Peace. Few places are as peaceful as the top of the South Downs or deep in a wood at dawn or dusk. Few people want to use these magical places and there is enough space to lose yourself. After sitting in a car on a long commute and being surrounded by people all day the last thing I need is to dodge the traffic and crowds on my runs.
2. Fitness. Trails make you strong. Paths are constantly undulating (by which I mean endless hills, and oddly more ups than down) and hill work builds good form and . Hill work gives you speed when, or if, you get back to the roads.
3. Injury. Running on the roads usually means hitting the same part of your foot at the same force time after time. On the trails you are forced to change your gait and cadence with every step and avoid the worst of those repetative injuries.
4. Wildlife. Last time I went trail running I saw.a pair of buzzards circling over a valley sending rabbits in all directions. I saw a fox out hunting and pheasants bursting through the undergrowth. These things break up a run. They give you a reason to pause and take in your surrounding. Last time I ran on the roads I saw a rat. Eating sick.
5. Freedom. When I run on the roads I feel constrained. I follow lines, wait for traffic and stick to a route. When I run on the trails I have an adventure. I find new paths and streams to follow. I discover new routes between sleepy villages and new views around every turn. I feel free.
Eventually I come out of the trees and on to a path I recognise. I can see the sea off in the distance and know that direction will bring me home to a hot tea and a rock bun (trail runners fuel of choice). I head off down the path but then I see a trail through the trees. At least, I think its a trail…