Updated: Apr 18
The weekend was generously sponsored by trail running brand Salomon.
Trail running makes you feel like a kid again.
Something about racing down a wooded mountain trail, leaping over rocks and tree roots, laughing just from the sheer joy of feeling so free. It’s running in its purest form – PBs and pace don’t matter; you run trails because you love to run.
I realized that this was something I forgot, as I methodically turned out my loops around the Thames week on week. I can confidently say I love running, but running on the trails is a deeper kind of love. Thanks to Salomon for helping me rediscover it.
* * *
Several lucky City Runners and our fellow runners from the Advent Running Club were given the opportunity to head to Wales for a free trail running weekend sponsored by Salomon and hosted by the lovely folks at Run Coed Y Brenin, the UK’s first bespoke trail running centre.
The six hour coach journey from London on Friday night did nothing to dampen our spirits when we finally made it to Run Coed Y Brenin the next morning. We were staying at cute little log cabins in Trawsfynydd Holiday Village a few miles up the road from the centre, but most of us only managed about four hours of sleep the night before our first jam-packed day!
Eating breakfast at the centre came with stunning views of the gorgeous tree-lined mountains, and while we could have happily basked in the early morning sun for hours, we were all raring to set foot on the trails! There was an assortment of Salomon trail shoes to test out for the day, as well as hydration packs. I went for the Sense Ultra 5 Set, which fit even more like a second skin than the one I tested at the Box Hill workshop, and after wearing it for two days would highly recommend (I ended up buying one myself!).
We got a quick welcome chat from Matt, who let us know what we could expect from the weekend (Inspiration! Exploration! Camaraderie! Fun!) and then we were off on our first run!
Our first run was also our longest – a stunning 20K route through all sorts of varied terrain. Lizzie and I couldn’t stop exclaiming “It’s so nice!” at every twist and turn, so it soon became the unofficial motto of the trip. It was probably the most perfect day anyone could have imagined – dappled sunlight falling through the trees, a carpet of bluebells lining the forest floor, and the perfect running temperature. If we could have special ordered the day, this would have been it.
With a day and location this spectacular, there were of course multiple photo stops (how could you not, really) and even a pit stop for a quick dip in a waterfall! That whole run lasted 3.5 hours, but I don’t think any of us really noticed. It was great to get to know some of the Advent Runners and I loved seeing how encouraging everyone was to people that they’d only just met – it just reconfirmed my belief that runners are some of the most welcoming and accepting people you’ll find; it doesn’t matter how quick or slow you run, as long as you’re running!
I could have kept going all day, but as food is a necessary component of being able to run without keeling over, it was back to the centre for a quick lunch and afternoon snooze in the sun before heading out for round two of the day.
Even after running 20K in the morning, we all still managed to find enough energy for our 10K trail workshop in the afternoon. We learned the proper ways to run up and down hills, but one of the most interesting things was learning how to do the “power hike.” It’s an actual strategy used by many trail runners when the trail gets too steep to continue to run. To do a power hike, you switch to a walk and lean forward with your hands on your quads, pushing off from the ground as if your legs are pistons. This gives you the force to move your body forward quickly, while conserving more energy than if you ran that section of the trail.
Feeling slightly more knowledgeable than when we set out, we headed back for our evening programme – a delicious chili dinner, a Q&A session with ultra champion Mike Jones, and a Salomon film night. It was great to hear from Mike about his experiences and some of the challenges that come with running races up to 100 miles long, something I think that most of us will never be able to comprehend! We walked away from day one of the weekend feeling pretty knackered, but pretty darn inspired.
Day two (and sadly our final day) was upon us far too quickly. A bit sluggish from the 30K we put on our legs the day before, we were quickly back into our rhythm for our 10K shakeout run once we were back out amongst the trees. The trails we were on today were almost sort of mystical – a home I could picture for Tolkien’s elves in Lord of the Rings.
That hour passed far too quickly, and I’m sure I don’t only speak for myself when I say that I wasn’t ready to head back to London. Apart from having to leave what must certainly be one of the most gorgeous places in the UK, the prospect of sitting on a coach for six hours was also certainly not thrilling! Luckily Matt had booked us a yoga session with Polly of Mountain Yoga Breaks to make sure that we were slightly less stiff for the journey ahead of us.
And with that, what must have been one of the best weekends of my life came to a close. While I was sad to see it end and to have to say goodbye to all of the lovely people I had just met, I’m so grateful for what the weekend gave to me. Even though I was completely exhausted, I was so incredibly happy. Being out on the trails makes you forget all your worries in day-to-day life, and lets you ignore the pressure you might put on yourself to run faster or farther. If you find yourself wanting to rediscover your love for running, head for the trails. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Thank you to Max Willcocks for most of these incredible photos.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Natascha abandoned sunny California for London in October 2016 and has been a proud member of City Runners ever since. She loves a good 10K, but enjoys signing up for marathons so she can eat whatever she wants. Therefore, she is very much looking forward to running the Berlin Marathon this year (and hopefully snagging a new PB along the way!).