Wild Running with the YHA
YHAs are ideal bases for runners, climbers, walkers, mountain bikers and families... Read on to…
Sim and I love running together. We’ve entered some incredible races, from ultramarathon classics to epic self-invented challenges; we relish discovering the wild, beautiful and often surprising places running takes us. Running has even shaped our careers and we have both worked extensively inthe outdoor and fintness industries. My research has always focused on the sport, first looking at the biomechanics of running, and then at the characteristics and motivations of distance runners. Today, with the added challenges of a young family, we still train and race regularly, and together whenever possible.
Most of our running adventures have been around Britain, exploring its incredible diversity on foot. Our search for routes for our book saw us revisiting favourite places to run and discovering new ones. With its dramatic coastlines, leafy woodlands, moorland expanses and rugged mountains, Britain provides a huge and varied playground for runners to explore. The country is criss-crossed by an extensive network of close to 150,000 miles of public rights of way, allowing access to many magnificent and inspiring places.
I view a new route like a new acquaintance; exciting and unknown, perhaps dependable but perhaps fickle and one that, if followed blindly, might lead me astray. A well-known path on the other hand is like a trusted friend; honest and familiar, offering sound guidance, and always there to turn to in troubled times. My regular routes are my comfort – never dull, for they change daily with the seasons and the weather; these are the places where I can connect completely with myself and my running, where I have my most lucid moments of thought and work through life’s equations with clarity and objectivity. The known and the unknown complement each other perfectly, creating balance and variety, comfort and adventure in equal measure.
A run round Britain
We have been on many trips around Britain where we have run as a way to explore new places, challenge our physical limits and have enjoyable adventures, but have found there are few guides aimed specifically at runners. Walking guides gave us route directions; mountain bike guides focused on the terrain and the great ascents and descents. We wanted something somewhere between the two: using pure human power to access and discover incredible and beautiful places while making sure the terrain encountered made for exciting, varied and enjoyable running. Our aim in writing the book was to take runners on a journey around Britain. We’ve included routes that are deliberately diverse in their length, terrain and navigability, showcasing the variety of running on offer and providing runs to suit and challenge as many people as possible.
Many of our runs combine several different types of terrain, as we felt it was important to prioritise the experience of running the route rather than to be restrictive about what lay underfoot. As a result there are some that include gentle running on quiet country lanes, fun muddy wading through boggy ground and scrambling over boulders and scree slopes alongside the more usual trails and paths. We strongly believe this adds to the variety and interest of the runs themselves.
Starting in the South West, we take to the spectacular Coast Path, winding its way around the edge of the peninsula. The wild expanses of Bodmin, Exmoor and Dartmoor follow. The South and East section heads out across the rolling South Downs to the towering white cliffs at Beachy Head. East Anglia has wonderful beach running and access to the classic long-distance trails of the Peddars Way and Icknield Way, the latter stretching across the country to the Chilterns, a wonderful hilly escape from nearby London.
Central England is home to the Peak District, from the limestone trails of the White Peak to testing sections of the Pennine Way across the rugged and remote Dark Peak. Venturing into the North, the majestic Lake District offers the chance to scale some high-level traverses or relax on a gentler lakeside excursion. The moors and fells of Yorkshire offer wilderness and fascinating geological features, providing challenging and exciting running. Wales has a great variety, from the rolling, grassy hills of the south, along its rugged Coast Path to the towering mountains of Snowdonia in the north. Scotland takes altitude to a new level with challenging ascents, tours of the dramatic coastline and an escape to the remote and wind-swept Scottish islands.
Wherever you chose to go, the important thing is to enjoy it! Get out and try running in its most unadulterated form, experiencing fully our natural environment: on foot, as one with the landscape and the elements, using only the power of the body. This is where some of the most pleasurable, fulfilling and exhilarating experiences happen, and where running becomes truly wild.