THE MERRELL BLOG: WHAT'S NOW. WHAT'S NEXT. LET'S GET OUTSIDE.
My Local Training Ground - Woodland Trails
Jake Thompsett about his favourite local training ground - Wales
I’m lucky enough to have some pretty fantastic training areas situated no further than an hour from my house, from winding forest trails, to large open mountains, it’s got it all. A big part of my training involves variety, I get bored very easily and struggle to stick to a regimented program therefore spicing it up all the time keeps me interested and motivated. Sometimes the thought of getting blasted in the mountains by Wales’ finest wet and windy weather, whilst wearing shorts and a lightweight waterproof, makes me feel just a little bit reluctant to head out! So call me soft but once in a while I like to head up to the local woodland and hit the forest trails.
Being Wales’ largest ancient woodland means that not only is Wentwood a stunning venue to chuck your trail shoes on and blow away the cobwebs, it also provides plenty to go at! With miles of snaking trails around old oaks, the fresh smell of pine resin in your lungs, and even the odd sighting of a deer grazing (if you’re light footed), Wentwood truly is an outdoor lover and trail runners heaven!
Don’t think that it’s only for the casual walker though, there’s some good quality training to be had there! Although only a short ascent, Gray Hill (the county top of Newport) provides an extremely steep climb on loose, muddy ground. As the lugs of your shoes dig in and the lactic acid floods your legs you feel like your quadriceps have been set on fire as you start desperately sucking in oxygen. All that short period of pain is worth it though when you top out and (in clear weather) can see as far as the Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains to the North West, and across the Bristol Channel to the south.
My yellow Labrador Lincoln always joins me for a woodland run and seeing the excitement in his eyes when I put my ascend gloves on and grab his lead definitely inspires me. The pace that he runs at, constantly sprinting ahead, then sprinting back again kind of makes me feel like I’m not working hard enough, I try and keep up, but that just means he runs faster, it’s almost as if he loves toying with me!
There’s something special about being in the woods, especially when you’re running, I think for me it’s the sense of freedom and almost childish feeling I get as they played such a big part in my childhood! The woods play a huge part in our history too, they were our survival, and I think that is still engrained in us, however deep that may be.
Fancy a bit of woodland trail running? Well Wentwood isn’t the only forest you can go exploring, the Woodland Trust has over 1000 woodlands all over the British Isles, check out their website to find your nearest one: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/
So what are you waiting for? Find your nearest woodland, lace up your Merrell shoes and go explore!
Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains
The woodland trails make me feel free, but the mountains invigorate me! Never once have I regretted a day out in the hills, especially when I was running. No matter how hard a training day in the hills was, even if it was a complete “sufferfest” I always feel better for it, my most memorable training days in the mountains are the ones which were the toughest, or even the ones where I had an epic!
The sheer awesomeness of the Brecon Beacons... Corn Du, Pen y Fan (Powys county top), Cribyn and Fan y Big (left to right)
Situated only 45 minutes north of Cardiff, the Brecon Beacons offer any keen hill walker or runner the chance for some lung busting and leg burning days out, you can experience the Welsh weather at it’s worst, or it’s finest and on a clear day, Pen y Fan (the highest mountain in South Wales) may treat you to stunning 360 degree views of as far as the sea beyond the Mumbles, Exmoor, and the Cambrian Mountains in Mid Wales.
Being up high and looking down at everyday life in the surrounding towns makes you feel like you’ve left everything negative behind, it’s just you and the elements and that is natures therapy! Anyway, how can you get stressed out about work when you’re too busy desperatly trying to get some oxygen into your lungs on a big ascent!?
Although he wasn’t a mountain man, Bruce Lee said a great quote that I always think about when I’m in the hills:
“To refuse to be cast down, that is the lesson. Walk on and see a new view. Walk on and see birds fly. Walk on and leave behind all things that dam up the inlet of experience”
Fan Foel (Carmarthenshire county top) and Picws Du on a stunning winter day
The Brecon Beacons National Park is fantastic for training too, it provides long ridges, steep ascents and open fells making it the perfect choice for any trail or fell runner, don’t think that it’s only good for a “little jolly” though, they are regularly used by our Armed Forces for training and in 2013 played host to the notoriously challenging Original Mountain Marathon, which I had the pleasure of competing in. This year the Brecon Beacons will be like a second home to me as I prep for 2014’s endurance adventures, and I couldn’t be more excited about it! So enough writing and sat in front of the laptop, it’s time to hit the hills!