Like many women of a certain age with responsibilities at home, running has become an essential part of my life – some much needed ‘me time’ and fresh air coupled with a sense of accomplishment, as well as a way to connect with others doing the same, having a laugh and generally keeping sane!
And that is really what I had been doing for the last three years reconnecting with the me that ran the London Marathon for a dare in 2005 and found that contrary to her previous belief that she had literally no sporting ability….yes she could! Not to any notable standard of course but to cross a line that she never thought she’d cross and find that running was something that she really loved, well that was the best thing she’d ever done. One foot in front of the other, as far as your mind and your body would go, breathing, thinking, dancing in the streets – true freedom!
Fast forward 10 years – London’s golden pavements have been replaced with the pot-holed roads of West Sussex, but the feeling’s still the same! Freedom, joy and sometimes just sheer elation to feel the rhythm of the road beneath my feet. But after three years of running 5ks, 10ks and even half marathons, becoming slightly obsessed with pace, times and other things that weren’t even possible to track when I had first started running, I was looking for something new. Apart from anything else, I wanted the confidence to explore the stunning countryside I had grown up in. Still feeling like a towny, I just hadn’t quite got the guts to break off down a footpath or bridleway and see where the mood took me.
And then I was lucky enough to stumble across Rachel – the local running superwoman who literally inspires awe in most of the Sunday plodders in these here parts. She told me about the Club KARIBU runs – guided trail runs in West Sussex, easy to access and all inclusive, and invited me to come along!
Needless to say I was terrified. Trail running is for super athletes – geared up to the hilt – not mere mortals like me! But I thought what the hell, she who dares probably falls on her bum, but I signed up anyway! Nonetheless it was with a great deal of trepidation that I turned up at a spot somewhere near East Dean in the same pair of shorts I’d been wearing for 13 years in a pair of comparatively low tech road shoes, to a car park full of confident, rugged, geared up, fit looking people! I had that moment of thinking, what the hell am I doing here! How wrong I was.
Firstly, the moment everyone shot off up a frighteningly steep hill, it was apparent that everyone was chatting and friendly – it was also apparent that it was perfectly acceptable to walk up the hill if you couldn’t manage it, and encourage others along the way.
There were frequent stops for the slower runners to catch up with the quicker ones – no pressure to push yourself, but a sense that everyone was part of the same challenge and group. 6k later and I had had the time of my life! I’m not saying parts of it didn’t hurt – it did, and I got to push myself, otherwise what would be the point! But the countryside we covered was amazing – like nowhere I’d ever run before! Through forests and fields and on terrain I would never have considered running on my own.
Before I knew it I had signed up to one of the KARIBU Trail Running Workshops. And that was the icing on the cake. An amazing day of being taught how to run like a child again – with freedom, and confidence and no fear at all, because that is what trail running is all about!
And who doesn’t love a good whoop through the trees – I just can’t help myself, nor can I get enough of ‘weeing’ down a hill without fear of falling flat on my face. Of course, it is entirely possible that I will do just that, but thanks to Sam’s amazing tips on technique, it is far less likely to happen, and a truly magical feeling!
Is it harder than road running? Yes, in a way it is. The terrain can be tougher, muddier and uneven – tree roots are not your friend. But the rewards are so worth it – and most importantly it really is do-able. For every grinding up hill, there’s an amazing view, a truly adrenalin pumping downhill, a feeling of being away from civilisation and amongst the fields and forests. That is a feeling money can’t buy and I want to keep it forever.
Now I try and run at least once a week with KARIBU – it means that I can see new parts of this amazing county and neighbouring counties, feel encouraged, feel like I am achieving, without worrying about times, and without worrying about anything but enjoying the moment.
They say people are either road runners or trail runners, but I can honestly say that I am bi – I still love the road, but I find I am a much stronger road runner now as a result of my trail running, and the trails give me something else. I can’t recommend hitting the trails or KARIBU highly enough!
Club KARIBU offers guided trail runs and other benefits across Sussex and Surrey.