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Footpath Running (Gina’s Version)

1 July 2022

I have started a new sport: “Footpath Running”. Also known as “byway bounding” or “rocking the UK rights of way”, you may even have heard of it being called “trail running” by people who want to sell you shoes? But take those images of ultra marathons and mountain ridges out of your head. That’s not what Footpath Running is about.

Footpath Running (Gina’s Version) is about following public footpath signs and seeing where they take you. It’s running along rivers, climbing over stiles, and creaking through gates. It’s skirting ponds and whacking through fields. Pacing quiet forest paths or crossing carpets of flowers. You can do it metres from your house (if you’re lucky). You can run 2 miles or 20. Gentle or hard. You don’t have to train for it, and you can walk whenever you like.

Trail running needs a re-brand

The image of trail running makes people think its not for them. It is fascinating to read about races like Western States, or the Spine Race, but sleep deprivation, vertigo, and copious vomiting are not things that inspire most people to do anything. If you live in a flat area, you would be forgiven for thinking that trail running is not even possible without mountains to run up, and freewheel down. It’s not true. There are hundreds of gentle, flat footpaths out there just waiting for you.

Footpaths for all! 

In England, rights of way are everywhere. My number one recommendation for runners here is to pay for the OS maps app. It shows you all the local footpaths wherever you are in the UK, you can plot routes on it, and when you’re out it shows you where you are so you won’t get lost. It is brilliant and I use it every week. I’m not being fussy about what counts as a footpath here, either. If it’s not a road, it’s in: boardwalks, rutted country lanes, cycle paths, farm tracks and all.

Off-road tips

If you’re nervous about venturing off the tarmac, here are some tips from a runner who’s managed to run off road for 20 years without knowing what a “technical trail” is:

  • Start in the spring or summer – the ground is dry, and by the time it gets muddy you’ll be more confident;
  • You don’t need trail shoes unless it’s muddy or you’re going up a mountain;
  • Run in the early morning – it’s less hot, you can catch the rising mist or beads of dew on the grass, all the birds are out and about, and none of the people are;
  • Wear tights or long socks if your route has lots of nettles or is very overgrown;
  • Get to know the paths near where you live and run them throughout the year – getting in tune with the seasons is the original mindfulness.

And the best thing is…

Because it’s a little bit more effort to run on a footpath than a road, and the surface could be uneven or surprising, you might have to…

Slow down and enjoy it!

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