Only an idiot would check if an electric fence was live by touching it…

Lessons learned: How not to run on trails

Training for my two trail Ultramarathons has begun. Kinda.

In April I will run the Coventry Way 40 mile, and in September will run the Tiree Ultra, a 35 mile lap of a small island in the Hebrides.

So, first things first, I need to learn to run distance on trails. With my partner in crime, Lisa, I am becoming immersed in all things trail and gradually running on roads less and less.

We’ve done a few recce runs of the Coventry Way now, covering 11 miles today (we aimed for 8). Every session so far has been an ‘experience’, from which we have taken a list of things we will do differently next time. I thought I would share some of this new found wisdom below…

All the gear… no idea (yet).

Trainers are important, good ones… but I’ve also invested in a running backpack, hydration bladder thingy, layered socks and am eyeing up some other bits for Christmas. Running trails regularly has seen the credit card balance increase and the running drawer/cupboard/shelf creaking at the seams, but there are some things you just must have, and decent shoes as well as a way of carrying food and water are the minimum, and make the whole thing much more enjoyable.

Forget about splits.

Suddenly seeing 14-minute miles on my Garmin is really hard to get over. But you just can’t pause your watch every time you stop to check a map or open a snack…so I’m trying to go cold turkey and start my watch once and ignore it.

You need to eat proper food.

Gels work for me, but when running for ten or so hours, they won’t be able to sustain me. So I am experimenting with small snacks such as my beloved malt loaf, sachets of nuts and berries, and making sure I have electrolyte tablet thingies in my water bottle. So far it is really working at keeping the energy levels up.

There will be wildlife.

I’m pretty scared of most animals. I freak out when I arrive at Lisa’s and her dog barks. After being chased by rams, barked at by farm guard dogs and ignored by a llama (it hurt my feelings, okay!), the only wisdom I can share on this is to keep cool and calm, respect any signs you see and, if you really don’t want to share a field with some bulls, find another route.

Finally, don’t be a dick.

Don’t check if an electric fence is working by touching it. Don’t read the map upside down. Don’t forget that it you really are lost, then using Google maps isn’t cheating. Don’t challenge an angry ram.