I headed out for my first run in what must be a couple of months on Sunday, and one thing that hit home fairly swiftly as I pounded the muddy tracks and paths was just how much I'd missed it. Ever since I'd ran the Great North Run last year with a few mates for the Bobby Moore Foundation, the running bug had well and truly found it's way into my system. I'd been a member of my local gym for a few years and while it has it's advantages, more varied equipment etc, it lacked a certain spark, was almost too regimented, not to mention how frustrating it was not being able to get on the equipment you wanted in busy peek times. Gyms do have their advantages though, we put a lot of gym work in before starting proper training for the Great North Run, working on core muscles strength and stamina before really racking up the miles outside. And of course, each to their own, I know a lot of people who couldn't live without the gym, but personally I feel like I've moved away from that insular environment, road running and trail running are now the go to activities!
My location of choice for a Sunday run at the moment is Stockwood Park in Luton. It's actually an enjoyable place to go for a run and if you combine the trails round the golf course, playing fields and Rugby pitches you can rack up a decent distance under your belt. Although running is a relatively solitary pastime, when you head out to the parks you feel part of this invisible running brotherhood, you look around and see people of all shapes and sizes, all ages and levels getting their jog on and often they'll be a little smile as you pass them. Also you wouldn't have thought it but you can get a mini slice of history as you run round too. Just adjacent to London Road, there's an old Pillbox that was built in 1940 following the fall of France, it was situated in a position to protect the town and airport from invasion. Unfortunately it's seen better days, inside and out but nonetheless... that's Tuesday's (sort of) History lesson.
One thing I still can't agree on with myself is to iPod or not to iPod. Usually when I'm out on the roads I'll stick some music on to drown the traffic out and make sure to be extra vigilant when crossing roads etc. But when your out in the parks or hitting the trails, away from the horns, sirens and fumes of the roads I kind of want to take in my surroundings, appreciate the chirping birds or the rustling of the trees in the wind, it's all rather bloomin' cathartic quite frankly! We didn't have any music stuffed in our ears for the Great North run either, partly because it was nice have a conflab as we ran and to allow us to shout a few words of encouragement to each other as we started to ache a tad at the end. Plus you end up talking to other runners as you go as well, not to mention hearing all the words of encouragement from the streets lined with supporters and well wishers. If your thinking about getting into longer distance running, the Great North Run is an amazing starting point, it goes down as one of the best things I've ever done, both on a personal achievement level and just as an overall event.