For a really long time I've been meaning to do more running on trails and soft ground rather than roads. It's a lot easier and more convenient to stick to roads as there are so many routes to choose, which all start from my front door. I can't plan routes through the countryside, as most of the tracks don't appear on google maps, and with my sense of direction, there's a high risk of getting lost.
But I know that running off road would reduce the risk of impact injuries, and provide a bit of variety and a different challenge. As well as that, the views should be better.
So this afternoon, after dropping Emma at nursery, I headed for the woods! I only had to run for about a mile before I got to the path that went into the woods. The track wound gradually uphill, but it was soft and very comfortable to run on. I had a vague idea where I was going, as I cycled round here a few months ago, but after about half a mile or so, I decided to turn off the main path and into the woods on my right. It was shortly after this that I remembered that the end of a week in which it has rained everyday (for the first time since we moved here), was perhaps not the best time to start running on muddy paths. I'd had this thought earlier, but almost immediately forgotten it.
It wasn't easy to run on. In places the path was very bumpy, and there were plenty of obstacles to negotiate. Then it got very wet and slippery. I kept stopping to consider exactly where to put my feet down, and sometimes to tiptoe round big puddles.
At first I'd pause my Garmin, swear, and wonder how I could avoid getting my trainers wet and muddy, but after a while, I got more adept at traversing the boggy bits slightly faster, and with my confidence increasing bit by bit.
Then I came to a little stream, which I could only cross by balancing on a log, which someone had helpfully left there as a bridge.
After that I came to a gravel path, and decided to follow it in the vague direction of the way I thought I'd come. It went downhill for about 5 minutes, when I started to wonder whether I was going the way I thought, or should turn around and retrace my steps so far.
Thankfully after a while, I came back to the original path, and had done a loop round the woods. At this point I relaxed and enjoyed my run a lot more, as I knew exactly where I was going again! Instead of heading straight home, I took a short detour through a patch of woods which was dotted with bluebells (although you can't really see them in the picture below).
In total I ran just over 5 miles, and I'd estimate that less than a mile of that was on tarmac. I did have to leave my trainers outside the front door though, as they were so muddy, and my socks and running tights were pretty dirty too!
It was so nice to do something a bit different, and I really felt the difference on my legs. Although I think I tested out some new muscles by running on an uneven and slippery surface, my body definitely appreciated the lack of pounding, especially my poor fragile heels. I can't wait to do more off road running, but I hope we get some sunnier weather soon to dry out some of those puddles first...