Living in concrete jungles, travelling underground and spending our days hunched over keyboards in climate-controlled offices means that humans are less connected with nature than ever before.
It’s a shame. Our bodies and minds thrive in nature. A weekend spent exploring the countryside can be exactly what the doctor ordered. Reduce stress, give yourself some headspace and create quality memories with your friends and family.
It’s time to take back your wild; to breath in the sea air on the Jurassic Coast, catch your breath at the top of Ben Nevis or hold your breath as you dive underwater in Llyn Gwynant. It’s all there and waiting for you.
Committing to a wilderness challenge is my top way to make sure I set time aside to be outdoors and active. Breca Swimrun lives and breathes this ethos so am putting myself through the Gower event this August with an old friend. We’re both out for adventure, awesome landscapes, a tough test of endurance… and hopefully headed for the finish line!
Here are six reasons, complete with challenge ideas, to get you excited about spending time in rural Britain:
There is nothing like taking a path less trodden and seeing it through to completion. Along the way you’ll see things you never imagined and put yourself to the test, particularly if you’re navigating tough conditions.
It’s not like running the Hackney Half Marathon, where you may pass a pub you’d never noticed before. I’m talking about hiking in the Scottish Highlands and stumbling across a waterfall and pool…and jumping in …prepared to run home to a warm cup of tea.
Seeing the rural sights that Britain has to offer can be a top reason to get outdoors. Choose an event or create your own route to take you past something you’ve always wanted to see, be it Beauport Beach on Jersey or Hadrian’s Wall.
Don’t judge; for me that was choosing to run The Lakelands Trail Half-Marathon two years in a row, first to explore Swallows & Amazon territory near Coniston, then the second year to cycle back to the station after the race via Beatrix Potter’s house and take the Windermere Ferry - in operation for over 500 years - across the lake.
3. Weekend break
Getting a group of friends together to take on a challenge together, car pooling and renting a cottage/ enjoying a British bnb is a great way to take a break.
I tried (and failed) to learn to surf a few winters ago so headed down to the North Devon coast with The London Surfers meetup.com group one weekend. We stayed in mobile homes, spent the days in the water covered from head to toe in neoprene, and the evenings in the pub. Even just two days in turbulent nature and we were all beaming, ready to take on the week ahead by the time the Sunday drive home came about.
My whole family are using the Breca Gower event as an excuse for a weekend break…not to support me… they will be exploring the epic beaches while I’m swimrunning the Peninsula.
Run the South West Coast Path, swim 10km down The Dart or climb the crags in Snowdonia and you’ll be reminded of our place in nature. We’re guests in these huge landscapes.
Speak to the finishers at Breca’s swimrun events and you’ll hear the humbled for yourself. The scale of the challenge seems, and is, huge but the landscapes are so much bigger – we pale in comparison. I find wildlife falls into this category too – run, walk or cycle through the New Forest and come across wild ponies grazing and galloping in their habitat, side by side with highland cattle, unfazed by passersby. The same for Egyptian Geese on the River Thames, robins in hedgerows and cows blocking your way…normally ending in some emergency escape over barbed wire fence.
Get into the wild and your sense of human spirit will increase in a heartbeat. Even on a post-Sunday lunch stroll will see you spinning a merry hello to any fellow countryside walkers. Put yourself into the wilderness on an event like The OMM or through the dark on the London2Cardiff 24 hour relay and you’ll feel the power of camaraderie.
Coming into a checkpoint having just run the ridge above the Uffington White Horse at 2am, hearing the team cheering me - and our GPS tracker – in, before handing it over to the next runner, remains one of my favourite running experiences to date.
And last but not least…
6. Sleep deep
Our weekdays are all too often spent rushing from meeting to desk, to social commitment, to exercise class, before getting into bed exhausted, and being confused that we can’t sleep. Sound familiar?
The energy in cities, for better or worse, is contagious. It’s great when you want to get something done but it can get in the way of emptying your mind and relaxing. Head to the country, out into the fresh air, with the wind blowing in your face, cover a few human powered miles, relax into the silence at night and you’ll be asleep in no time at all!
Breca Swimrun curates events in some of the most incredible wild places in Britain – choose between the coastal trails and sea swims of the Gower Peninsula and Jersey, or the vast lakes of Coniston and Buttermere and the hilly paths of the Lake District.
For more information on Breca’s races check out the homepage on www.BrecaSwimrun.com.
Annie Ross is the founder of eXerK.com, a consultancy for fitness and adventure companies. She is a fitness columnist at The Evening Standard, sharing top ideas for getting outdoors and active. Follow her movements on Instagram @eXerKyourself.