Monday, 18 April 2011

Trailblaze - South Downs Way - The Enjoyment and Satisfaction from Running


Two weeks ago I mentioned how I ran 25 kilometres with Andy McMenemy as part of his Challenge66.  Well he is still progressing his way through his target of 66 ultra runs, although his blog reports that he is really struggling with injuries, so he is now having to walk the 50kms each day.  Hopefully his injuries will improve to enable him to continue with this demanding challenge.

When I joined him at Hove Park, although it was an enjoyable and interesting experience, running multiple laps around a one mile tarmacked circuit was probably the least likely choice of a run route that I would choose!  Tonight's post is about nearly the exact opposite; running a point to point route, along one of England's classic long distance trails.

This Friday, Good Friday 22nd April, sees the launch of a new concept known as Trailblaze.  Trailblaze involves signing up on the Trailblaze website (and paying a fee - £70 for a one year membership) and then running along one of the nine trails which have had installed permanent orienteering control boxes that record your run time, using the dibber that Endurancelife (the people behind the project) send you in the post.  Upon completing your run, (no matter how far you get along the trail, as there are typically around ten checkpoints along each trail), you send the dibber back, and then your run times go live up on the website.

When I first heard of the concept, I thought it was an excellent idea.  So I contacted Endurancelife and they sent me a dibber earlier this month to allow me to 'test out' the South Downs Way trail, prior to the official launch this Friday.  Some of you may be thinking, why pay £70 when you can run along the trail any time you want, totally free!  Yes, this is true; however, you could probably say the same about races. Why pay an entry fee to run a race.  It is because, as with running a race, running a Trailblaze adds that something extra to make your run that little bit more enjoyable.  The day after I ran my Trailblaze run along 40 kilometres of the South Downs Way I wrote a brief report which I have pasted below, which I think illustrates the 'added extra' that the Trailblaze concept generates.

Yesterday morning, on a warm summer's day, even though it was only April, just before 7am I dibbed my dibber at the finger post in Eastbourne at the start of the South Downs Way and started running along the Trailblaze trail. My initial intention was to run to the Devils’ Dyke checkpoint at 56km, however, although I was only cruising along at training pace, by the time I had reached checkpoint 4, Southease, at 29km, I was feeling a little tired. With it being only a little over three weeks to the Highland Fling 53 mile race, one of my priority races of the year, I decided that a 40+ mile run today (Running to Devils Dyke then along to Brighton train station) wasn’t really the best preparation, so I decided at that point to just run to the next checkpoint, CP5 at Housedean Farm at 40km, (and then run around 3 miles to Lewes train station, to get me back to Eastbourne).
Although I have run along this portion of the South Downs Way a number of times, the use of a dibber to check in at each of the checkpoints added that ‘little bit extra’ to the run. Finding the control, (which wasn’t at all hard due to having clear details of their location), and dibbing my dibber and hearing the beep as my dibber is recorded, to my surprise gave me a sense of increased satisfaction. Just as the Trailblaze slogan reads, “How far can you go?” There was the feeling of “right, now lets get to the next checkpoint”. Not in a race sense though, where at times you may be working so hard that you can miss the amazing scenery around you, but in an accomplishing/achieving sense. Although you are aware that your run times are being recorded, the quickness of the times isn’t the priority. That is for later, to compare with friends and others. No, the joy of the Trailblaze run is, being in the present moment, experiencing the amazing surroundings as you run along one of England’s scenic and challenging long distance walk ways. But with the added bonus, as I found, experiencing an increased sense of achievement, not just when I completed my run, but also as I discovered, an added boost of satisfaction as I dibbed the dibber at each checkpoint as I finished each section of the trail. As I mentioned above, my pace wasn’t very quick, however, I am already looking forward to seeing my times listed on the website, and already I can feel the need to run the Trailblaze trail again, to both go that bit further, (well there are actually quite a few more bits before reaching Winchester!), and to perhaps run that little bit faster.
So in comparison to running multiple laps around Hove Park for Challenge66, the Trailbaze run was definitely more me!  One of the benefits of Trailblaze is that I wouldn’t typically run along lengthy sections of the South Downs Way as part of my training, but with the added incentives of the checkpoints, I am probably now more likely to. With the South Downs Way being such an amazing trail, increasing the frequency of my runs along this challenging and scenic path I'm sure is going to add to the enjoyment I get from my running.  But an added bonus of having a Trailblaze annual membership, is that when I am away around the country, and if I am near a Trailblaze trail, then I am probably more likely to do a lengthy run along some of the other Long Distance Footpaths.  Whereas before, I typically had the sense of needing to run the full trail, (still the overall aim).  With there being checkpoints along the route, running less than the full trail distance is now recorded on the website, which I think will encourage me to run part of the trail even if I don't have the time to run the whole way.

Here is a shot of me dibbing my dibber at the start of the South Downs Way. (Actually a 'posed' photo taken on a different day, as I ran the Trailblaze run on my own and at 7am in the morning there was no one about to take a photo!)  My Trailblaze times will be live on the Trailblaze website for the South Downs Way Trail following the official launch this Friday.

Time to sign off with a thought; "Running is much more than the racing, the performance.  Solitary runs, being within the moment, running peacefully and freely over the trails, amongst the surrounding landscape, is a different dimension, that equally provides great levels of enjoyment, satisfaction."  Stuart Mills, 2011.

May your running be enjoyable and satisfying,


PS  Unfortunately I didn't get to hear Bruce Fordyce talk last week although I have just discovered that he was interviewed on Marathon Talk recently, so I will have to download the interview to my ipod.

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