Sunday, 5 June 2011

A Run on the Wild Side

Since doing my last race in mid May, I’ve had a pretty relaxing time with barely any running and plenty of dog walking, giving the body chance to rest and recuperate a bit and the brain chance to refocus. I’ve probably averaged about 30 miles a week or less – less than half my normal weekly mileage, and it’s been great!

Last weekend it was the long bank holiday, and we headed over to Harlech in Wales for a weekend of camping. There’s nothing more relaxing than sleeping under canvas listening to the sea in the distance, the sheep on the hills and the nocturnal critters wandering around at night, and then waking up early morning to the great outdoors and breathing in the fresh air.

Due to other commitments, Andy had been unable to come, so I shared a tent with just young Wilson for a bit of doggy bonding. We had some great walks across the fields, along the beach, through the forests, and in the mountains, and I even managed a couple of lovely little off-road runs which made a change from the usual drudgery of running on the roads around Stoke.

I arrived home on Tuesday and there on the doormat was a letter off UK Athletics confirming my selection to the GB Team for the IAU World Trail Champs, along with some other familiar names that would be making up what looks like a very strong British team – Andy James, Craig Stewart, Allen Smalls, Julian Rendall, Stuart Mills, Kate Jenkins, Lucy Colquhoun, Karen Rushton, Heather Foundling-Hawker and me.

It’s been 3 years since I last represented GB, and with being more of a road runner rather than a trail runner, the reality of what we faced suddenly hit home. I’d had a browse at the dedicated event website ( and already the countries that had entered teams confirmed that this was going to be a highly competitive race – South Africa, Finland, Hungary, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, France, Italy, Argentina, Nepal, Greece, Norway and Holland.

I felt a sense of nervous anticipation and excitement and needless to say, this week, things have got back to normal with 50 miles already in the bag by Thursday.

To help prepare for the race, I figured that I needed to get out of the City and hit the trails, so on Saturday, with a 2 ½ hour run scheduled in, I headed off to the Peak District with full intentions of getting into practice for the big race.

Landing at Macclesfield Forest, I knew that this would be ideal – forest trails, bog land, moorland, rocky tracks and endless ups and down – and of course, the 1600 feet Shuttlingslow, which I was determined to run up at some point during the run. One of the races in the Staffs Moorlands Summer Series goes up here, and having walked up Shuttlingslow a number of times, I knew that it would be excellent prep for me, both mentally and physically.

Running in the forest and over the open moor was a brilliant experience, bringing a sense of freedom as I ran in the fresh air, and although the overall pace was slow, I was feeling pretty strong and felt invigorated at doing something different. I felt so good and was enjoying the run so much, I headed up to the summit of Shuttlingslow not once but twice, soaking up the feeling of isolation and being away from it all as I stood on the top and admired the views, with not a soul in sight for miles around.

Shuttlingslow from Macclesfield Forest

View from Wildboarclough side

Having been out running for over two hours and covering 16 miles with just under 5000 feet of climbs in the process, it was getting quite late and it was time to head back home. Maybe I hadn’t ran as far as I would have liked, but it was a tough and challenging run, and it gave me some confidence that with 5 more weeks of trail running practice in and around the Peaks, I will be better prepared and hopefully justify my selection to the GB team.

Next weekend I have the Baslow Bootbash – 26 miles of self-navigating trail running in the White Peak – and I have to say that I’m looking forward to it already!

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