Trail Running magazine has enlisted expert navigation course providers NAV4 Adventure to explain how to get from pavement to paths wherever you're based for our 2017 #Run1000Miles challenge. 

Compass not required, an Ordnance Survey map is useful though

Compass not required, an Ordnance Survey map is useful though

Off-road running is more accessible than you might think. You don’t have to be based in the Lake District or Snowdonia, even if you wish you were. Finding your own local trails gives a huge variety to your running, plus it’s so much better for your body than repetitive pavement plodding. Finding trails is easy – simply look for footpath signs. Every county is obliged to signpost their footpaths, bridleways and other byways. Some local authorities are better than others, but there are a huge number of urban and semi-urban trails and cycleways you can follow. Then, get a map. Every trail runner should buy an Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 (OS 1:25k) scale map of their home area. Don’t be scared; at first it might appear to be a mass of squiggly lines, but all you need do is follow the green dots, dashes and other byways labelled in the legend as ‘rights of way’. So many people think that they ‘just can’t navigate’ but our experience at NAV4 Adventure is that once you’ve broken through that fear barrier, you’ll quickly discover it isn’t rocket science. You will unlock a world of local trails that you didn’t know existed, just waiting to be run as part of your #Run1000Miles challenge. Sign up now here!


Unlike the photo above, you don't need a compass to explore trails near your home. Take your local OS map or an A4 print-out of your area and off you go. A sense of scale, distance and time is more fundamental for beginner map users. If you are going far take a spare layer, and always a windproof at least. A sense of direction and some local knowledge will no doubt be helpful, but… go explore! Don’t be afraid to stop and look at the map. Remember, just turn around and retrace your steps if you feel misplaced (lost!).


OS maps are invaluable and are packed with information and unmatched detail

OS maps are invaluable and are packed with information and unmatched detail

You are looking for the green dots and dashes of the footpaths and bridleways, as well as ‘white lanes’ and disused railway paths that are often cycle trails and Sustrans routes.


Get a local OS 1:25k scale map – this shows every road, lane, track, river, stream or field. They are much more detailed than Google maps. Understanding scale is most important; each grid square is 1km wide and long.


When you are out running, open your eyes and look for the footpath signs. Take your map with you, or a section of it, and explore. You can always turn back if you need to.


Don’t be intimidated; keep exploring. This can also mean learning some more basic navigation skills. Committing to learning a new skill takes some guts. Go on a ‘navigation for runners’ course; invest in some quality tuition to unlock more routes in your local area and beyond. Look for a course with an emphasis on good teaching of navigation rather than, say, just general ‘running navigation skills’. A quality tutor is a must.


Join a club – a real club or maybe online. A club is a great place to share trail routes. The older serving club members will know their local area very well, so ask for their advice.


Other route-sharing apps include Map My Run and Strava, but don’t get too sucked into just following the online crowds. Buy a map of your local area and start your own exploration. Be careful using maps on your phone. Tech can be a little untrustworthy in the woods and fields, and touchscreens and finger tips don’t like wet and cold.

use Trail Running mag's ROUTES 

Look at the ten routes on p91 in every issue of Trail Running magazine. We’ve teamed up with Ordnance Survey (OS) to bring Trail Running subscribers free access to all routes from every issue from now on. You can browse the archive (starting from 2017 issues), print maps and create your own routes.