Enjoy the trails, whatever your pace

#Run1000Miles ambassador Jess Guth relates why off-road adventures have transformed her attitude towards running

Jess Guth had previously tried running but the trails and #Run1000Miles campaign have enabled her to enjoy the activity fully

Jess Guth had previously tried running but the trails and #Run1000Miles campaign have enabled her to enjoy the activity fully

I’m not a runner, although people keep telling me otherwise. This makes me incredibly proud to be a #Run1000Miles ambassador. In this post I want to share with you briefly my running journey and some of the great benefits of trail running and its community.

I just turned 40 and I still very much feel like the fat kid picked last in PE lessons. Throughout university I started a “Couch to 5km” programme several times and never made it more than half way through. In 2012 a very close friend died suddenly and to honour her memory and raise money for the British Heart Foundation I, together with my girlfriend Kath, combined our friend’s passion for sport and running and Disney and completed the Walt Disney World Half-marathon in Florida in January 2013. I hated the training, I hated race day. I didn’t run again for two years.

Then, in early 2015 I found myself at my heaviest ever, unfit, miserable and wanting to change something. I asked Kath to help me try running again. The beginning was awful. Then I discovered run/walk/run and a method of training that worked. I started enjoying having run (even if not the actual running!).

Kath and I have just returned from completing our second Dopey Challenge. The Challenge involved running a 5km, 10km, half-marathon and full marathon on four consecutive days. That’s 48.6 miles over the four days - something that in my mind always seems impossible.

Now, what have all these road races got to do with trail running, you might ask? Well, in my case, everything. At the beginning my running was confined to road and canal towpath. My running was ruled by road running standards of pace and getting from A to B as quickly as possible. I didn’t really enjoy it much.

In 2017 Kath discovered Trail Running magazine and the #Run1000Miles challenge and joined. I laughed. “That’s not for me,” I thought. “That’s for proper runners.”

From there I soaked up the inspiration and encouragement. I stepped into unknown terrain a bit more. I embraced the puddles and mud, first on the flat, then on some more challenging terrain.

I started to understand why people love running. Trail running changed all of my running. Running is no longer about pace. It’s about being out breathing, being in the moment and enjoying the movement – whether that’s at eight-minute-mile pace or 20-minute-mile pace.

Trail running has made me physically stronger and fitter, but the biggest benefit from trail running has been mental and emotional. I now genuinely enjoy running more often than not. I have broken the link between good running and pace. I have learned to embrace my own #MyRunMyRules hashtag and do my own thing. I run because I want to, not because I feel like I should, to lose weight or whatever the latest health craze is. From the kid who’d do anything to get out of PE and the adult who wouldn’t quicken her step for a bus, this is huge.

I also run because it makes me happy. Road running didn’t. It made me a bit fitter and it probably helped with mental health but it didn’t genuinely make me happy. I learned to be a happy plodder on the trails. I, with Kath’s help particularly on marathon day, smashed the Dopey Challenge because I am physically so much stronger but mostly because trail running taught me that #MyRunMyRules is okay and it taught me that I want to run and can be happy doing it.

So without the trail running community, the inspiration and encouragement to try new things, new distances, new terrain, new types of runs and races I doubt I would still be running, never mind enjoying it. I ran 500 miles in 2017, a bit over 800 in 2018 so maybe 2019 will be the year I make the 1000. Whatever the total ends up being, I am doing it my way and I will be smiling doing it.

Please come and join me for the ride – whatever your shape, size, pace or experience, I promise you the challenge is a fantastic way to (re-)discover the joy of running.