The title may be copied from a well known car manufacturer’s ad; but hey why should they have all the fun. I’m just suggesting you lighten up the gloom of winter with, yes you’ve guessed it, a mini adventure.
I can hear your protests; I haven’t got the time, I’m skint, I’m not the sort of person to go running across the Sahara in blazing 40 degree heat. Hang on a minute; before you get all hot under the collar and disgruntled; I’m talking about a mini adventure.
Those of you who frequently travel all over the globe seeking out races in far flung places can stop reading now. This challenge is aimed at people with smaller aspirations. Maybe runners who pound along the same training runs each and every week, squeezing them in between family commitments, work commitments; you know what I’m getting at. I mean when was the last time you varied your route, took a new turn and did something a little different?
Mini adventures normally start with a map and I always get a buzz out of planning routes; maps are just endless sources of excitement and discovery. But sometimes the best mini adventures involve running off into the unknown.
Now of course for safety reasons I shouldn’t be suggesting this but if you take a few sensible precautions hopefully we won’t get complaints from any mountain rescue teams. If you’re running in the hills make sure you at least carry a map and compass and you have all the usual safety gear; sufficient clothing and emergency supplies. If you’re following new footpaths just to see where they end up always make sure you have the energy to retrace your steps. And if you can’t read a map and use a compass; go with someone who can.
So I had better give you an example of a mini adventure; just so that you know where I’m coming from. You have to remember this is my mini adventure; hell you guys will have to go out and find your own.
Mine took place on a wonderful sunny day last November. This was one of those days when the sun shone after weeks and weeks of rain and you just had to get out. I live in Wooler, Northumberland; possibly one of the quietest Counties in the country and blessed with gorgeous countryside. But it’s still possible to get in a rut and stick to the same old training routes. Anyway this particular day was beautiful and inspiring; it was almost Spring-like and the poor confused birds around here, after the dreadful summer we’ve had, probably thought it was.
I took the car up to Wooler Common and parked at the carpark just up from the duckponds. Wooler Common is sign posted from the High Street in Wooler, the market town just off the A697. I set out on a run I had taken many times that year following the path to Broadstruther that marks the start of the Chevy Chase race route. Cross the road from the carpark and take the southerly path to the farm on Wooler Common. Pick up the main track and follow it south-west for about half a mile until you see a small footpath leading off to you left. Take this footpath and descend to the Carey Burn.
It’s an excellent running route, a tough little pull up to the farm, fast running on the stony track with welcome pauses at the livestock gates, then a wonderful descent down a shady path to the Carey Burn. In reverse this path is the last climb on the 20 mile Chevy Chase race and a real killer. On race day little signposts are stuck at intervals up the hill with slogans to spur you on such as ‘it’s fun to have fun but you have to know how’. I am sure most of the slogans are aimed at me since I’m renowned for entering the race on very little training.
Over the little footbridge and up through the bracken on the other side; a bit of a struggle in mid summer when the path gets overgrown. But in November the bracken has died down and you can keep running up the hill. So far this is all familiar ground; hey where’s the mini adventure you shout! But on this gorgeous sunny day I notice a new path. Just as you emerge onto open moorland at the top of the hill a path breaks through the heather on the right hand side; a tantalising new path leading into the unknown. I must have run past this footpath several times before and never noticed it. It’s a grouse shooters path heading north east across the moor. Suddenly I’m feeling excited; I haven’t got a map on me so by following this path I’m heading into the complete unknown. (Please see safety advice above and don’t do as I do). I figure that if the path doesn’t end up where I think its going to I can always turn back.
The path starts off fairly runable but after a while I’m jumping over bogs adding to the fun. Nothing too bad and I still manage to keep my feet dry;
. Running on new ground I completely forget about my fitness level and happily bounce along. I can see hills all around me but I’m still not completely sure where I’m heading. There’s the upper reaches of the Carey Burn away to my right nestling amongst steep wooded hillsides and I wonder if I will end up scrambling down to the burn and taking a cold wade through the waters. But no; the path heads north-east and suddenly I can see an easy descent and a cute little footbridge comes into view. So there’s no cold dip for me this time! Over the footbridge and up the other side and I’m back on familiar ground – on the track from Commonburn House.