Learning the Hard Way

Project Trail's Abbey conquers her first trail run

Project Trail: Learning the hard way

The incredible view from Cooper’s Hill

I completed my first ever trail run this month. I thought I had it nailed. Stephanie, Anne-Marie and I had stayed at Clare’s for the weekend and had been given some great advice about nutrition leading up to the race and the best things to eat during the race. I’d had a good night’s sleep, eaten my overnight oats and had my coffee – I’d also climbed Snowdon a few weeks before so I thought I was pretty prepared for the hills!

When we made our way to the start line, I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be that many people taking part. I was also told there would be no marshals on the course and no mile markers – just little yellow arrows to look out for! I’ve gotten used to running with my mum, having a couple of hundred runners with me at parkruns and having marshals cheering me on at every corner, so at this point I began to feel extremely anxious!

As we set off, I quickly found myself running alone in the woods. It unnerved me a little and I started to panic that I would get lost. The hills were really steep and very muddy and so I found myself picking my way across the path instead of running for fear of falling flat on my face! I ended up walking for most of my first hour. The uphill stretches were too much for me and, when I reached the top of one of them, I couldn’t breathe. I started shaking and hyperventilating and tried to call my mum. I had no signal and I had no idea how far I’d gone. I was quite scared actually – alone in the woods!

It wasn’t long before a couple of runners came past me from the race that started before ours. There was a hill up in front and I watched as the runner slowed down and WALKED up the hill. Who knew! Runners are allowed to walk! I gasped as another runner came past and also walked up the hill in front of me. This made me feel slightly better and I continued to walk through the woods, following the yellow signs, until I reached a field full of cows. The view was stunning as I was quite high up. I managed to phone my mum at this point and she gave me some words of encouragement before I started to run down the hill towards the reservoir.

Project Trail: Learning the hard way 2

The gorgeous reservoir on the race route

I met a couple of other runners at the checkpoint just before the reservoir (which I originally missed and carried on trotting down this country lane!) and managed to run with them until we reached Coopers Hill. I had a handful of Jelly Babies at the next checkpoint and suddenly had a burst of energy. I legged it to the finish line – flying down the steep hills and negotiating the technical terrain towards the end of the race. I’d done it!

Project Trail: Learning the hard way 3

They did it! Abbey (far right) and the ladies after the race

It was definitely a challenging race and I was given some great advice afterwards by Anne-Marie: always have a plan B and a plan C. I had one plan the whole way round which was to complete the race in two hours. I was really disappointed when I knew part way round that this wouldn’t be achievable. For my half-marathon I need to have a goal time in mind – another time which I would be OK with if things don’t go quite to plan, and if all else fails my plan C is to walk round and enjoy the views.

My first trail run was definitely an experience that I won’t forget and it has made me feel more confident for future trail runs as I now know what to expect. I just need to work on my leg strength now to get me over the hills!


Abbey Payne

Written by Abbey Payne | 3 articles | View profile

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