With the clocks going back, the weather turning wintry positive thoughts about off-road running can be a bit of a struggle. With my second career well underway (I am a Personal Trainer, although I don not like the term and will never, ever have a T-Shirt with PERSONAL TRAINER on the back!), I often deal with clients that want to get fit and are at best only comfortable with a gym environment.
Now any runner (well any that I know!) do not "do" treadmills, unless as an absolute last resort, work schedules, injuries and weather not withstanding (well I hope not the latter!). So how do I tempt these non-runners away from the treadmill?? Well my response is get all spiritual... I say "every run is a journey!" even the same morning run can be different. From our interactions with other passers-by, generally people will say hello/morning, exchange the odd joke, usually "rather you than me mate", they may convey a "why are we out in this weather" knowing smile. Then there is what we see, any runner should be able to entertain/bore (dependent on audience!) you with the flora and fauna encountered on runs and they are often improved by tales of runs in foreign lands and the size of the snake increases dependant on how many times you tell it! So this is how I pull non-runner away from the treadmill often noting during a session "look at that view, you don't get that on treadmill!" and "did you see that Pheasant/ Fox/ King Cobra?"
So to explain my Journey I am going to take you through my favourite off-road run and see if I can work out why I like it! I lived just off the A4 on the Maidenhead/Slough border for the second half of my career. I would head down the A4 on the road, not an auspicious start but I knew where the 1 mile marker was, so let's say I am setting my tempo and checking my pace. After 10 minutes I leave the road and hit the paths running next to water. To get spiritual once more, I really enjoy running next to water, I find it very calming. I would always try and search out a river or lake when I was racing or training abroad. My favourite was Monte Carlo, always a jog along the promenade and then soak my legs in the sea, one the night before, same again morning of the race and one in the morning after the race. As a footnote; my two fastest 1500m times were run at Monte Carlo. After 5 more minutes I arrive on the Thames tow path, between Maidenhead and Eton it is mostly dirt/mud paths relatively well drained so they never got to proper muddy quagmire status (the real enemy of the winter off-road run). More water, nice views occasional boat or rower to race. 10 minutes of running nirvana then I turn for home through a narrow field of sheep with a nice path in the middle usually scattering the sheep as I approach (respect at last!). Back onto the roads and past my favourite pub "The Pineapple" with 1000 varieties of sandwiches (they even won an award!) over the M4 and then on to the Finish.
Now I can imagine most readers saying that my run is pretty poor as their run goes through the "Hanging Gardens of Babylon" and along the "Great Wall of China" but the point is that our favourite run often defines us and we will undertake 30 minutes of running boredom to get to 10 minutes of "that view" or to run along "that stretch." So the next time you head out for that off-road run remember to enjoy the Journey!
Image credit: A Hermida