Forest Runner series returns

Bedgebury National Pinetum

by Trail Running staff |

Forest Runner will be returning to the country’s forests again this autumn. This will be the second year that Forestry England will be inviting runners to take part in a series of running events that offer the chance to enjoy the freedom, fresh air and scenery of our fabulous woodlands.

Set across 12 beautiful forest locations from Hamsterley Forest in County Durham to Haldon Forest Park in Devon, and everywhere in between, participants will be able to enjoy a variety of races that cater to all abilities. There will be 5k events for those just starting out, and for the seasoned runners a more challenging 10k race. Everybody who crosses the finish line will receive a fantastic goody bag, with some great prizes
to be won from the official race sponsors, Merrell.

Steve Cram, Olympian, 1983 world champion and director of Events of the North, delivery partners for Forest Runner, says: “You would struggle to find a more uplifting experience than running through our nation’s stunning forests. This running series opens up England’s forests to runners of all abilities, offering superb running routes over your preferred distance, at your pace, and in venues that will invigorate you mentally and physically.”

Forest Runner series 2022-23

Westonbirt Forest Runner, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire, Sep 11 (2022)

Cannock Chase Forest Runner, near Rugeley, Staffordshire, Sep 18 (2022)

Bedgebury Forest Runner, near Tunbridge Wells, Kent, Sep 25 (2022)

Salcey Forest Runner, near Northampton, Northamptonshire, Oct 9 (2022)

Sherwood Pines Forest Runner, near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, Oct 16 (2022)

Hamsterley Forest Runner, near Bishop Auckland, Durham, Oct 23 (2022)

High Lodge Forest Runner, near Brandon, Suffolk, Oct 30 (2022)

Haldon Forest Park Forest Runner, near Exeter, Devon, Nov 6 (2022)

Forest of Dean, Forest Runner, near Coleford, Gloucestershire, Nov 20 (2022)

Delamere Forest Runner, near Chester, Cheshire, March 5 (2023)

Dalby Forest Runner, near Pickering, West Yorkshire, March 12 (2023)

Alice Holt Forest Runner, near Farnham, Surrey, March 19 (2023)

Escape to the forest

If there’s one element that should be core to trail running it has to be running in the forest, with its promises of adventure, total body fitness, better mental health and – of course – amazing wildlife.

It’s what makes Forestry England’s huge portfolio of venues so welcoming and so perfect. “Forests are amazing for so many reasons,” says Ellen Devine, Wellbeing Projects Manager for Forestry England. “I much prefer running in forests because they provide constant gentle sensory stimulation,” she continues, highlighting the ever-changing canopy around you, the smells, the noises and even the fluctuating temperatures as you go from shade to sunlight and back to shade.

“Forests can be flat like Thetford forest or much hillier like Whinlatter forest,” she says, explaining that if you ever need a legitimate reason to stop and take in the sights, Forestry England can mostly definitely oblige.

It can even regulate the weather as forests can be cool in the summer and sheltered in the winter. It’s why runners in the know love the waymarked trails so much. “Research has also demonstrated that feeling a sense of awe is actually really good for your wellbeing,” says Ellen. A run in the forest can help because no trail is the same, and around every corner there’s something to take your breath away.

Escape in the forests. Run without headphones and listen to the trees creaking in the wind, or birds singing. It’s softly stimulating, unlike the harsh neon-lit world we live in. When you’re in the forest it’s gentle and nothing is too overwhelming.

“As a trail runner in the forest you can say ‘this is time for me’,” continues Ellen. “And again, research is on hand to help! It says forests can actually lower stress.”

It’s easy to see why a simple half-hour off-road can help in so many ways, but it’s always good to reward yourself, which is where Forestry England is only too happy to help. There are plenty of superb cafés at a host of locations to make sure there’s an all-important coffee or tea after your run. “And people tend to be more sociable in natural environments so it’s a win-win,” laughs Ellen.

Pic: Bedgebury National Pinetum, venue for the Sep 25 race (Tom Bailey)

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