After the shock of running the hills of Loch Ness marathon for which I was totally under prepared, I have decided to embrace the hills around me in Wiltshire.
First stop some trail shoes, sadly they only had my size in electric blue and orange ! Nevermind they wouldn’t stay clean for long and be mud coloured soon.
I asked my friend Pat who has been running the trails around Calne for years and is a real mountain goat to take me off-road and show me some loops. Our first outing was 6.5 miles and was full of lung busting hills of which I was defeated and reduced to walking twice, at least Pat walked one but I’m not sure if that was to make me feel better or if she was just having a rest day ?!
It wasn’t just a physical test it was mental as well I spent 99% of the run looking down at the ground approx a meter in front of me. I tried to follow in Pats grippy shoe prints and keep my balance whilst avoiding stinging nettle.
There was low cloud which partly reduced visibility but to be honest I didn’t really look up and around me apart from at a gate opening and on top of the Cherhill monument. This first run was about experience, adapting and surviving.
My next off-road adventure was with my dog Megan, I havent been able to run with her for 18 months as she was poisoned. Excitement at seeing her harness took over and it was 10 minutes before it was on her the right way.
Just a short 3 mile run along footpaths and bridle paths. A few tangles along the way as I had a new lead so we both had to get back into practise. She remembered the commands – RUN, STEADY, STAY ( for when cars passed). I kept to the grass so as not to scuff Megan’s paws. But Megan loved it and it was so nice to have her back as a running partner who doesn’t care about the weather, getting muddy or wet and is ready to go at any time without any notice.
Then it was back out with Pat, we made this route up as we went along and did over 7.5 miles. It was prefect trail running weather, cool, blue skies and soft to muddy underfoot. This time I took more of my surroundings in from the beautiful autumn leaf colours – auburn, ginger, ruby, golden, apple green and chocolate. I also noticed that the ground underfoot changed from fine sandy soil, to thick ploughed clay, slippy chalk, rubble tracks, cinder paths, leafy carpets and my favourite soft springy grass plains.
We saw the gallops at Beckhampton with rows of pounding horses, ran along the top of the Cherhill White chalk horse, around the monument, through forests and pheasant filled lanes. From the top we could see for miles across the rolling rural landscape of Wiltshire. This time we were splattered and splashed with mud and i loved it.
Next long run out with Megan and she had some canine company as Star and Helen joined us. In 6.5 miles we only got all tangled up once where we had to harnesses and leads to get us out of our doggy bondage around a telegraph pole. Again we stayed to grassy trails of briddlepaths and footpaths. Its been 2 years since I have been on many of these routes that we had to change and adapt as we went. With 2 dogs we avoided the fields full of sheep and cows. The dogs flushed a pheasant and Star decided to take up chase with Helen following her in hot pursuit. The call of treats worked and both dogs back in harness we carried on.
Megan is so excited that she’s like a rocket in the first mile, then does calm down and trots along leading t he way for me. unfortunately she loves mud and takes me the most direct route even if through a gateway of cow shit and slurry. Megan took the lead in showing Star the ropes – drinking from troughs, getting through styles, weaving in kissing gates and how to wrap your owner around a tree !
Luckily it started to rain as we headed home so washed most of the muck and mud off the dogs.
My shoes are well and truly christened with mud and have performed brilliantly in the mix of terrain thrown at them. I’m looking forward to my next trail run with friends or dogs and between now and marathon training I can see these being my main type of runs. I have entered Avebury 8 race in a couple of week, my first trail race so looking forward to that one. There are also two races in the new year at 9 and 10 miles that I’m considering.
Trail running is tough but so rewarding. Endurance, core strength, balance, speed, stamina and a mud pack for the facepack ! A sense of humour and direction help but not necessary. Trail shoes a must. Dogs a perfect companion. I’m looking forward to many more muddy miles this winter.