The past couple of weeks I've been reading the latest issue of 'Like the wind' magazine, if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. There have been a couple of people writing in about trail running and I thought I would give it a go.
My only problem was, I live in Edinburgh and I wasn't very sure where I could go for some trails. I know the Pentlands are on my doorstep but I had no idea where to drive to, where to start from and I like to have a route to follow as a guide.
I put out a tweet and got a number of suggestions from fellow Edinburgh runners and I also ordered a book from Waterstones - Scottish trail running by Susie Allison. I collected the book on Saturday morning and before I knew it, I was out running the Pentlands on Sunday!
Now, before all of this kicked off, I had a horrendous run on Thursday on my way home from work and decided I needed a couple of days off. I took Friday off but then on Saturday morning a delivery arrived from Ashmei HQ so I had to go out and try my new jersey, so 1 day off was taken rather than the 3 planned.
Sunday morning I jumped in to the car and headed 30 minutes out towards Penicuik. The route was a 10 mile trail run which sounded perfect for a Sunday morning. I estimated it would take me 2 hours to cover the distance, just because it's off road and in the Pentland hills.
I arrived at Nine Mile Burn, great name for a place to start running from, and laced up my trail shoes. Read the route instructions again, which I had photographed just so I had them with me and instantly noticed something. There wasn't going to be any flat section for a while, the start was straight up the side of a hill!
Instantly breathing heavy I eased off the pace and just enjoyed running off road. Running through fields, saying good morning to the sheep and cows that were looking at me oddly, probably because I was saying good morning to them!
I had been running for what felt like a while, the rain was getting pretty heavy and cold, the wind was blowing, I checked my watch and I'd only ran for 10 minutes and hadn't covered a mile. I did however have a smile on my face. I was loving it.
I followed my instructions until I got to about 4 miles and then I got a bit confused. I wasn't sure which way to go so I decided to make up my own route, exploring some paths which took me to dead ends and other paths that gave me great views. I ended up going around the route twice which took my run up to about 8 or so miles, I think my Garmin got a bit confused at times because it said I ran a sub 4 minute mile! It wasn't about the miles or the pace though, it was just getting out and doing something different.
There was zero tarmac, some trail, some grass tracks, a couple of streams to jump, lots of stiles to go over, a wall to go through and it was a really good workout!
The full 10 mile route is much hillier than I thought it was going to be, everything sounds flat when you read it in a book and although I didn't run the full route, I did see the hills I was meant to climb! I'll go back on a nicer day and get some better photos because it was breath taking.
It was nice being off road, not worrying about pace, just exploring and getting some real fresh air. I can see why people love it.
The book has another 69 routes for me to try around Scotland so I could be busy!
On the Monday morning my legs knew I had been doing something they don't normally do. The were feeling as if I had just ran a marathon!
I reckon if I keep this up I could have a really good cross country season at the end of the year, it's brilliant strength training.
I tweeted to the author of the book (@scottrailruns) and said I had taken on the Nine Mile Burn route and maybe I should have checked with her before venturing out, but she replied saying that the full 10 mile route is probably one of the hillier in the book.
Maybe not the best trail to take on as my first then I guess!
I have started to look in to learning to read maps as well because that would have really helped on Sunday morning. There was one point where the instructions said to go up West and East Kip but I didn't know which hills I was surrounded by were the Kips. Probably not a good idea if I had got completely lost.
There were a couple of times when I just stopped running, looked around me and realised, I am the only one out here. No traffic, no hussle and bussle of the city centre, it was brilliant!
Some people I chat to on Twitter are interesting in joining me next time which will be really good. A bit of company while exploring our own doorstep!
Mandy's training is also coming along really well and it won't be long until she can come out and join me in the hill and on the trails.