I adore trail running. I love the step back from pace watching, the undulating terrain, the fresh air and the freedom. Living in central-ish London it can be difficult to get much trail running in, so when Human Race offered me the chance to run in the wilderness as part of their off-road trail running series I was really excited! The off-road series kicked off this weekend with WildMan and to mark the start Human Race organised a trail running master class with the British Army Triathlon team. I won’t lie, I was a bit apprehensive beforehand (I am no way near fit enough to keep up with the army…!) but was just excited to be getting out there!
I dragged Dayve along with me for his first ever 10k – he managed 7k with ease at the Osterley Park Night Run a few weeks back and is always saying how much trail running appeals to him, so it was great that he was up for giving 10k a go. We met the other guys taking part in the masterclass bright and early at 8am (including the lovely Jen from Eclectic Cake and Emma from Lunges and Lycra) before heading in to the trails! WildMan takes place on the army training ground at Ash Vale (we parked next to the sub-machine gun range) so the terrain is unforgiving and vast.
While we were running around we were given tips to improve our trail running, which we put in to practise as we made our way around the course. As I am kind I will share these pearls of wisdom with you.
- Don’t tread where you can’t see the ground. I know it’s obvious, but often trails can be covered with leaves and twigs, so make sure you can see firm ground and take that path. It might slow you down slightly, but a couple of seconds are worth it to keep your knees and ankles intact.
Loosen your upper body and hold your arms out wider than you would if you were road running. This will give you balance and agility across varied terrain.
Hills: Ascending. Work your way slowly up the ascents with small steps on the balls of your feet, leaning in to the incline, lifting your knees and pumping your arms. Tuck your elbows in closer and pump your arms hard to propel yourself up the hill. If you’re flagging, zig zag up the hill rather than running directly up. Accelerate over the peak and let yourself free fall down the descent…
Hills: Descending. Essentially, throw yourself down the descents. Take long strides and let gravity do the rest! In reality this is pretty scary and I was always at the back of the group when we descended the hills! One for me to practise I think.
If you’re struggling, use your arms. It’s nigh on impossible to move your legs slowly while pumping your arms quickly, and vice versa, so instead of concentrating on your legs focus on moving your arms to get yourself moving again.
I really enjoyed the WildMan course – it was really challenging but I don’t think I was quite fit enough to do it justice, so I am really looking forward to tackling IceMan and MudMan next year when my recovery has progressed and hopefully I can put these tips in to action and improve my time! An added bonus is that the off-road series is supporting Scotty’s Little Soldiers, a charity supporting children who have lost a parent serving in the British Armed Forces, so you can have fun in the mud and raise money for an excellent course.
All Human Race off-road series events can be entered either as a duathlon (MTB + trail running = most fun duathlon ever?) or a trail running event (at either 10km or 15km distances), and you can run with your dog too! It would be great to get a group of us going and running in the mud together, so let me know if you fancy signing up too!
Thanks so much to Human Race for inviting me to take part in the off-road series and putting on the masterclass with the army triathlon team – they have kindly provided me entry for free but all opinions are my own!