By Simon James from Run the Wild 

If you are reading this article, the chances are I don't need to wax lyrical about the joys of putting on a pair of trainers on a summer's evening and getting outdoors to enjoy the best of British weather, whether that's racing through rolling green countryside or sprinting past the crowds that are gathering outside the pub on the Thames. 


However, in just a few weeks, you’ll only see the seven measly hours of daylight at the weekend, or while popping out to get a sandwich at lunch. Or perhaps for the countryfiles, where winter running means being knee deep in muddy trails, you’ll be trying to spot tree roots, horse manure, or quagmire (all nicely blended to the same shade of brown) and then spending the subsequent hour cleaning the trail you left through the house on the way from front door to shower. A lack of street-lit runs will mean it’s either once round the block, a lonely head torch run through the Blair Witch inspired woods, or turning your running hobby into a weekend only activity. Either way, winter means it’s tough to get outside and get motivated for even the most dedicated of runners.


For some people, the "congratulations, you have a place" magazine from the Virgin Money London Marathon, which dropped onto your doorstep just as the clocks changed, is enough to start putting some serious training in. But for others, training for training’s sake at this time of year takes an extra human effort. I am most certainly one of these, despite having notched up numerous (and respectable, even if not impressive) marathon times, as well as a number of ultras. Below are a few suggestions, but there really is only one motivator behind them all... Give your running meaning.


So...what do I mean by that? 


1. Multitasking

This can take various forms. A common one is combining your running with your commuting. Although not feasible for everyone (certainly in the bigger cities, where transport is pretty grim in winter), crowding onto over-packed trains dressed for minus 15 degrees, while the air temperature is nearer 40 degrees), where the roads are well lit, providing mile after mile of runnable surfaces, it’s a great way of doing something you have to do, while getting some much needed training in too. 


A comfortable running pack, head torch and reflective gear are a must, but these are useful to have in any discerning runner's wardrobe anyway. If we take London, it's only 7.5 miles on the main road from Clapham to Canary Wharf. It takes time to cross roads, and dodge drunken Christmas party goers, but the river provides a great natural constant footpath. Start out with the aim of running just to a nearby tube stop, and before long you will be finding the ease and satisfaction of running outweighs the 2 minutes of discomfort as you walk out of the warm office into the cold, and your two feet have become your main form of transport.


2. Multitasking Take 2

Another great idea is combining your running with that "to do" list. Perhaps you need to go to the bank to pay a cheque in, pop to the post office or even go to order the Christmas Turkey. Or perhaps this year, some of your Christmas cards can be hand-delivered, saving you money at the same time as getting you fit. It’s pretty satisfying to get these fairly mundane tasks done, while also ticking off a few miles.


3. Find a Friend

A sure-fire way of getting yourself out in even the worse of the weather is having agreed to run with someone. Joining a local running club works just as well, as long as you establish the routine of going each week and building up a friendship group. It not only gets you out there, but makes the experience more enjoyable also. Alternatively, you could take your pooch out running with you. It’s a great way to get them out and about, bond with your dog, and get you fit. Unless there is a huge mismatch between your dog’s ability to cover ground and your own (nobody is suggesting Mo Farah should be out running with a Dachshund), most dogs love the excitement of running with their owner. Nowadays, with the ever-growing popularity of sports like Canicross, there are plenty of harnesses available, and bungee leads, to make the run smoother for you both.

4. Increase the Pressure

This one doesn't work for everyone, but does for many - sign up to a few events over the winter season. Mix up the distances, and style of event, to keep yourself interested and vary the training. If you typically do marathons, why not try a 5k? If you normally run 10k races, try one of the increasingly popular obstacle course-style events. A fun one this time of year is also the numerous "Santa Dash" style race, which is held across the company and usually held for charity. Or maybe even try one of the Run the Wild events like The Brewery Trail Run! Knowing you have a near term deadline is sometimes enough to focus the mind.


5. Reward Yourself

Let’s face it, it’s the time of the year for excesses. Whether that’s too much food or drink, or late nights, it all takes its toll on the body. There are just shy of 700 calories in a 13% bottle of wine. for many of us, that equates to over an hour of running. By setting yourself goals (I don't suggest you make this alcohol-based), you might feel a little less guilty about treating yourself this season. Maybe say if you manage 12 runs in December, you will book an hour’s massage at a local spa, or buy yourself that *insert coveted item here* that you wanted. Everything is worth more if you have worked hard for it, and it’s great psychology for even hardy runners.

And as a final tip… Remember the real challenge is taking that very first step. Once you are out, it’s never quite as cold, never quite as wet, and never quite as painful as you thought it might be...


Simon James is the founder of Run the Wild - the UK’s first premier, dedicated trail running holiday adventure company. Operating in the UK and the Alps, they deliver holidays that combine the sense of 'team' from mountaineering, with the thrill of trail running in wild places. Simon is a keen trail runner and marathon runner with a PB of 2hrs 37mins. He is a qualified Leader in Running Fitness as well as International Mountain Leader and offers treks in the Alps.

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