My husband and I enjoy running (or at least I enjoy it once I’ve finished), and have started trail running as opposed to always bashing out the miles on the pavement.
I also go with my friend, Anneke, and have been much inspired by another friend, Cath, who now lives in Australia.
Cath’s trails are stunning and they probably both do, and don’t, surpass those in the UK.
I guess what she sees in mountains and waterfalls (if only), we see in quintessential British views of fields and forests that stretch for days.
Either way, it’s got me thinking about why on earth, literally, adults run?
There are the givens (keep fit), the obvious (that’s the mental health benefits), and the challenge.
But I think there’s also the complete childishness of it.
When we were kids, nobody thought anything of just getting up and running around.
You run around the playground, you run away from your friends, or you run after them, you run in PE, you run to get somewhere.
As an adult, you need more willpower (weighing more than a seven-year-old is an automatic disability when propelling your body).
But perhaps that’s because we are doing it for adult reasons, rather than pure and natural enjoyment.
We run with pressure on ourselves to compete, or for negative splits, or to be faster, or as a penance for that extra doughnut.
But when you strip all that away, which you do as soon as you hit the trails (where overgrown or boggy areas immediately put paid to any world records and where you want to stop to admire the view as opposed to crucifying yourself if you so much as pause), you lose those pressures.
You crash through puddles, you get scratched and muddy, but you also get that feeling of blissful exhaustion that you used to get when you were eight years old and you’d indulged in a great day’s worth of pure play.
You sleep better, eat better and your blood pressure’s better.
It’s like being a kid all over again.
I PRESUME THEY SIMPLY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE INCONVENIENCE
Much as most of us feel fortunate to live close to rural areas, some people appear keener to escape to the less-populated local villages and farms in order to dump their rubbish, rather than take it to the tip or pay their dues.
My running buddy, Anneke, has actually been blocked into her property by fly-tippers who have thoughtlessly dumped entire truckloads of trash at the entrance to her lane. Her children have had to miss school until it’s cleared and it has caused huge inconvenience.
Presumably the people dumping their rubbish simply don’t care about the inconvenience, and obviously believe it to be perfectly okay to fly-tip industrial waste on our areas of natural beauty. Inconsiderate and rude, at best.
ONLY A SHORT DRIVE AWAY FROM NATURAL BEAUTY AND WILDLIFE
Recent trail running adventures have made me think just how well-placed Portsmouth is.
Much as parts of the actual city are disappointingly run-down, we are only a drive away from areas of outstanding natural beauty and wildlife.
Twenty minutes over the hill and you can be stood in the middle of a forest, watching deer leap only yards in front if you.
Slightly farther afield and you’ll find tiny villages you’ve never heard of with public footpaths on which you may see only four other people over the course of several hours.
We are in the midst of urban life, but in less than an hour we can escape it to the extent that we are miles from anywhere.
A good balance perhaps.