The recent City of London Mile was my first foray into running a single timed mile and I loved it. While I was there I was introduced to something else that will broaden my running horizons: #Trailburning
Given that l live in a town centre and my running focus is road races I spend most of my miles on tarmac of one sort or another. At the Ashmei Ambassador day earlier this year I went on my first proper trail run and found it both exhilarating and demanding. I vowed to do more trail running but fell back into my normal habits of pavement pounding. That was until I met Matt Allbeury of Trailburning.com at the City of London Mile.
The Trailburning site is an online portal allowing people to share trails of all varieties, creating both a resource and a community for all who want to get out on a trail.
Trailburning.com is dedicated to presenting and sharing the world’s trails as a beautiful ‘play back’ experience. We think runners need a better way to discover new trails, but also to make their own trails. We are not completely focussed on trails just for runners, Trailburning is for everyone interested in trails – hikers, mountain bikers, skiers and walkers.
The site already contains some inspirational trails from around the globe. The amazing photos urge you to get outside and go. Well, it did for me – my long run on Sunday would be an opportunity to burn my first trail.
Armed with my adidas SmartRun, my Samsung Galaxy S3 and a couple of hastily printed maps I headed out under the beautifully blue sky and down to the River Windrush to start my adventure.
I was aware of a number of footpaths, bridleways and tracks that would allow me to (almost) follow the river from the edge of my hometown of Witney towards the Cotswolds: through the pretty village of Crawley and on to the even-more-idyllic Minster Lovell before turning and heading back.
Normally I would treat the thought of stopping during a training run with disdain but I set off with a laissez faire attitude and a sense of fun not normally experienced at the start of a Sunday long run! To satisfy my growing coaching head, I considered the brief pauses for photos as a way to ensure I kept in my cardio zone – all too often I take my long runs too fast.
Before setting off I had no idea how long my intended route was and no idea how long it would take me. But I didn’t care! Looking for stunning views and interesting shots, I set off with a spring in my step on my natural surface of choice: tarmac. I had to start somewhere!
I soon found myself out of my comfort zone looking for my first “path”. A small sign saying “permissive path” and a small arrow pointed me to the corner of a redeveloped mill car park where I found a heavily overgrown and narrow gap. Slowing to a walk I started to wonder whether this was actually a good idea.
A permissive path, permitted path or concessionary path is not a public right of way. It is a path (which could be for walkers, riders, cyclists, or any combination) whose use by the public is allowed by the landowner, but over which there is no right of access.
Out the other side, and creeping deeper into the countryside I soon forgot my minor trauma and relaxed into the run, climbing to one of the geographical high points of my run before a quick descent into the village of Crawley.
If you tackle the route as a more sedate stroll then you can whet your whistle at the Lamb before climbing out of the village on the other side.
Passing happy ramblers, grazing wildlife and an abundance of wildflowers I continued on with a smile on my face. This is fantastic!
As I began my next descent, this time into Minster Lovell, I was stopped by a passing driver, enquiring on directions to the ruins for a picnic. I tucked myself to one side as she turned and headed back into the village giving me a cheery wave of thanks on the way.
At the heart of the village I turned, now heading back to Witney for the first time, and squeezed myself between the river and the cricket field boundary. I was lucky enough to have a junior cricket match to distract me, although I do hope I didn’t distract the batsmen; the stumps taken clean out with a great delivery. Howzat!
I stopped at the ruins to allow me to take some photos. The English Heritage site is a lovely place to spend a sunny afternoon but I only had time to take a few photos before tackling the most varied terrain of the route.
Within the flood plain, and after a few days of rain, I was expecting the track to be wet and boggy but it was surprisingly firm underfoot. This helped make the ascent through a couple of woods with associated tree roots and branches a little easier.
Almost as soon as I had reached the summit it was time to descend again, this time along the edge of a field. The long grass was well-walked but made my footing surprisingly uneasy.
I was now on vaguely familiar ground, having reached the Windrush again at a point where a recent club run had taken me. For the first time on the run my eyes were tracking downwards to help avoid the spattering of cow pats decorating the field before rejoining terra firma for the final section completing what had transpired to be a 10.8km loop.
On the mile jog home I reflected on what had been a thoroughly enjoyable run. Not only did I have fun exploring the local countryside but it was a great work out: I stayed in my cardio zone (well, almost) and the varying terrain had given my balance and ankle strength a good test. And now to get it uploaded on to Trailburning.com!
After a quick sign up form I was uploading the GPX file and my photos. The process is very simple and it was great to see that my phone takes pretty good images – in fact, I couldn’t upload a couple of the photos as they exceeded the 4MB file size limit.
If you like trail running then joining Trailburning.com is a no brainer. Even if you’ve never run a trail before I’d recommend getting on there and using as motivation to try something new. Don’t be put off by some of the trails in exotic far-flung places – use them as motivation to go burn your own trail, wherever that may be!
Take a look at my first trail on Trailburning.com here and let me know what you think. Be sure to follow me on the Trailburning site to keep an eye out for more of my trails – yes, I will be doing more trail running!
Here’s a selection (yes, there were more!) of my photos from the trail: