Trail running tourism

#Run1000Miles ambassador Sue Barrett has been keeping on the move this summer

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Since falling in love with trails in hilly places following a 1300-mile journey through the Alps last year, I have been drawn to exploring more of the higher trails in the UK this year. The highest point in my New Forest playground is only about 129m above sea level, which means I need to travel elsewhere to find any altitude and far-reaching views. And I find “trail running tourism” is a great way to keep motivation going on Trail Running Magazine’s #Run1000Miles challenge.

Although I’m more than happy to get mappy with my OS subscription app and have used that to explore the coastal paths of Pembrokeshire and the South West,  I decided to sign up for a guided trail running weekend around Llanberis organised by ‘Girls on Hills’ in order to explore some more of Snowdonia. My friend Heidi came too. And wow! What a great weekend of running adventure!

This is what I really liked:

  • We had a fantastic guide - a qualified summer mountain leader with an intimate knowledge of the local area who can plan routes according to your ability, needs and aspirations. You fill in a questionnaire on signing up which asks the relevant questions and then chat through plans on first meeting. I would not have found those routes with my OS mapping because some of the trails we took are not so evident on the map. I would not have had the confidence to try out some of the more technical ridges, especially in the mist, without that initial guidance. But now I could go back to do them on my own if I wanted to. It was a perfect introduction to exploring a new, mountainous trail running area.

  • Even though routes were planned in advance for us, these were flexible and could be adapted according to needs during the day with longer or shorter options available for discussion. It all made for a very bespoke experience.

  • The routes we took followed the lesser known trails so the full wilderness, beauty and tranquility of Snowdonia could be appreciated without crowds. We focused on areas to the west of Snowdon with views over to the Menai Strait and Anglesey. We only met a few others up on the hills despite some parts of the area being busy that weekend due to a race There was sheep herding in the valleys to watch from on high, we passed the remains of copper mines and slate quarries and found bilberries.

  • I felt physically challenged yet fully supported throughout both days. It was great to try some new technical ridges and descents. We ran, hiked, power-hiked, scrambled and walked.

  • We entered the mist on day one as we climbed higher, providing a perfect opportunity to do some navigation, taking and following a compass bearing through limited visibility to lower ground.

  • I loved the chance to meet our guide, Jade Phillips, another trail runner (ultrarunner and climber) who is passionate about her local hills and keen to share her knowledge and enthusiasm. We chatted away about a range of topics, including trail shoes, socks, backpacks, emergency equipment, arm sleeves (must get some), nutrition and fuelling as well as other places to trail run in the UK and abroad. We stopped to stand and stare and marvel at the natural awesomeness of the area and Jade was always able to point out where we had come from and what we were looking at, whether it be the Moels, the Llyns or the Bwlchs. We stopped for the picnics we carried each day en route. And, although I very much enjoyed the social aspect of moving, chatting and laughing, there were also moments to be in our own quiet spaces with our own thoughts and I liked that too.

So where does trail running tourism take me next I wonder….?