Cross country, hard work!

I'm a big Tarmac fan and 90 percent plus of my runs are on the road. This weekend I thought I'd try something different. I dusted off my infrequently used trail shoes and decided to do two runs at two different country parks. Both have lots of hills. Why? I was just in the mood to take it easy and see something different.

The first was a 7k run through woodland and along a winding bridal trail through grazing land. You really have to watch your step there.... The second was a 6k run around a country park. A mixed surface and no cows this time, but the hills! I was up on my toes pushing hard up each one. In both cases I found it much, much tougher than my usual road runs. I'd go as far as to say that both of these were harder than a 10k road run that I usually do on a weekend.

It made me think about what I mean by "harder". Did I spend more time recovering after the run than I usually would? No. Was in some kind of physical pain? No. I wasnt even trying to run a fast time. I'm pretty sure it was the mental effort required to concentrate for a good length of time on avoiding dips in the ground and cow deposits and finding a way to climb those hills.

....oh, and I was also chased for a while by a rather angry looking, but thankfully small dog. He didn't look tired at all. Just angry.

It was pretty tough, oddly enjoyable and I will do it again. If anyone out there does this kind of thing regularly and you have any tips, I'm listening!

15 Replies

  • Ah, the joys of being off piste.... I am lucky enough to have my regular home 5k being almost entirely off road, after my 5min warm up walk. However when I increase my run to 10k I inevitably have to do more road work and my favourite route is 60% road 40% trail, so I am pretty used to dodging the heaps, scaring the sheeps and turning my ankle on the lumps and bumps. In fact I suspect that my recent achilles problem was caused by such an ankle twist, which seemed insignificant at the keep up those attention levels.

    I think you are right, Rob, it requires more brain effort, even if it is subconscious most of the time and the difference when I hit the road is amazing. I rarely get in the "zone" while off road, everything is somehow more focussed and immediate, while the road enables an upping of pace and a certain relaxation, allowing my body to do the running for me.

    As for tips, no I am useless....apart from "Do take notice of BEWARE OF THE BULL signs" otherwise you may have some unplanned fartlekking on your say the least. Today is cycling....good exercise for my tight achilles. Have a good day.

  • And I thought running would help me take my mind OFF things! Point noted on the Bull thing.

  • Well done for getting out there and trying something different. I try to always run on tarmac. I have balance issues and worry about grass and uneven surfaces.

    Your point about trying to think about why it was harder is interesting. I remember talking to a more experienced running friend and telling her that sometimes I just feel like I can't go any further and needed to stop running and walk. She asked me why? Was I out of breath - no. Did my legs ache - no. The answer to every questions was no. Strange, isn't it. We too came to the conclusion that it was a mental rather than a physical thing, but didn't get any further like concentration, boredom etc.

  • Thank you. A similar experience to yours then. Although, I did have the dog to contend with....

  • I only get to run on roads if they link up the trails, so hardly ever, but it is lovely running on tarmac without having to watch every step and adjust balance continuously. I wouldn't swap trail running for tarmac and vehicles and exhaust fumes though.

    I am only a sample of one but do find the tarmac or prepared tracks much less effort than rough tracks/fields/cow pats, just nowhere near as much fun :)

  • Thank you - I think I echo your comments. Although I have to say, there remains nothing quite so satisfying as newly laid Tarmac stretching out on in front of me. The certainty of foot placement means I can be more confident.

  • To make Slookie's sample up to 2, I can go much quicker on tarmac, BUT I really hate it in comparison to off-road and find I can't run for as long because...

    1) my hips start complaining (never happens off road) and

    2) I am so unbearably bored after about 40 minutes that I head home and drink tea instead.

    In terms of tips, low-drop shoes with good grip make a heck of a difference - you're stable and confident then and can revel in the sheer joy of running downhill at full pelt like an 8-year-old (in fell running, aeroplane arms or similar are practically encouraged - let them do what they want to do and you'll find you balance much better). And steep hillwalking will make you better at running on them - similar muscles plus you start believing you're capable of beating the uphills a bit more!

    Have fun.

  • Thanks. The shoes I have. Brooks ASRs. That was the easy bit, since they're the off road equivalent of my ever dependable road shoes. Steep hillwalking? Sounds obvious , but I never thought of that. I'll be sure to give it a go.

  • Depends where you live, but it's lovely to get out into the hills of a weekend and spend a couple of hours outdoors. Nothing better, imho. The running benefits are kind of secondary to the general sense of wellbeing (and how good it feels to come back into the warm and get dry and cosy afterwards, preferably in a decent pub).

  • Mmmm pub... One of my favourites pubs is exactly 5k from the end of my street......

  • I do the stealth running thing uphill. It does make it easier. I love the trails and I'd much sooner run those than the roads. You do have to concentrate more though, it's true. Your foot placement is important so you have to look where you're putting your feet. Mind you, because you're concentrating the run seems to go by so much faster and before you know it you've finished

  • The stealth running thing? What's that? Sounds interesting.

  • I read about it on here actually and I do it all the time now as it's the way to get up those pesky hills

    I can't find the exact post where I read about Stealth Running but this is the gist of it. You pretend you are an ASSASSIN! (We are only playing pretend here so bear with me). You have to be silent so as to sneak up on your victim, so you are going to run on your toes with as light, quick steps as you can muster. Try it next time you go out. Find a slope and try running on your forefeet, very lightly. You could pretend to be Pierce Brosnan or Clint Eastwood. Whoever floats your boat

    Have fun

  • I think I'm more Jack Black..... But thank you!

  • I think I'm more Jack Black..... But thank you!

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