Walking around Mousehold Heath is one of my favourite weekend pastimes, but one day I decided to challenge myself and attempt to run along my favourite route.
The paths around the heath offer a variety of challenges, from fallen logs, steep banks and winding, uneven surfaces. I thought that this would be a great experience as it would force my brain to engage with what I was doing. If you tend to start switching off during a run, or find your feet dragging reluctantly behind you, going off-road is the perfect way to kick yourself back into the present.
Due to the unevenness of the surface, and the need to grip onto slopes, I wore my hiking boots for this particular trail run. They offer far more security on slippery downhill sections, and they also offer more support for the ankles, which is important if you are as inexperienced as me when running across a bumpy surface. The downside, of course, is that they are heavier than my super-light Saucony trainers, but this was a small price to pay for secure footing.
Once I had set off I quickly came to one conclusion: running off-road is HARD. You have to continually change your pace in order to adapt to different gradients and surfaces, as well as having to change direction quickly in order to zip along the best route. On the plus side, I was definitely feeling the burn. Plus, I was having a whale of a time. I leapt over fallen tree trunks (or occasionally tripped), powered up banks, and wove and ducked around trees.
The time also flew by. It can be easy to start clock-watching when you are trudging along an all too-familiar route, but running around the heath demanded all of my attention, so I wasn’t aware of how much time had passed. I also failed to miss my MP3 player banging on in the background – I had to concentrate on what I was doing and where I was going, so the absence of a thumping backing track was barely noticed at all.
So, if you feel that your weekday runs are becoming monotonous, why not seek out an off-road route that offers obstacles and challenges to revitalise your running? If you find somewhere, let me know in the comments!