If you’re looking for a true running adventure then try the new guided runs with ultra runner and Marathon des Sables finisher Matt Buck. His series of guided running tours take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the UK. And I should know as I joined him in early December for a 32-mile run across the beautiful North Downs.
Starting just outside Guildford City Centre (note for non-car owners – the starting point was really easy to get to from the train station), this run at a leisurely pace took us right across the North Downs, past Dorking, up to Box Hill and back to where we began. Instructed to bring what we may want to eat for the day and warm clothing, it was also good practice for anyone planning to do the Marathon des Sables. And since Matt Buck (our guide) completed MdS in 2014, the 32-miles of trails and hills was also a fantastic opportunity to pick his brains for tips on the desert run.
Top tip from Matt: do a dress rehearsal for MdS (roughly plan out a week so that you eat and drink only what you are planning to take and run up to 70 percent of the distances of the various different stages including one longer day).
I would recommend Running Adventures for runners who want to explore off-road running in a group environment. Of course, you can get together with a group of running mates and do it yourselves but the advantage of having a guide is that is takes the pressure off. In the same way that using a race as training for your main goal, you don’t have to organise the route, read a map or even try and work out where you are. If you have a track record for somehow managing to get lost during trail races, this comes as a welcome relief. You do have to pay for the privilege but with scenes like this and the knowledge that you’ve completed a 32-mile training run, it’s worth it.
Top tip from Matt: take whatever the race organisers offer you – in 2014, many competitors were caught out because they only took one bottle of water, when two bottles were offered.
Indeed, Matt started Running Adventures to cater for runners who wish to make the step up to ultra running, but maybe feel a bit nervous about taking the step up to a race (which can be an intimidating experience). He said it acts as “an in-between step.”
“Running Adventures offer guided runs (so you don’t need to worry about routes etc) as well as advice throughout the day, it’s the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people as well as getting all your running questions answered by myself. The other appeal of the runs is offering the opportunity for any ultra runner to experience new trails and basically enjoy a sociable day of running. I try and keep prices low (relative to many races) and I’ve also just introduced a night run, offering the chance for those people nervous about running in the woods alone at night, the chance to experience the thrill of doing so, in a safe environment.”
As well as offering guided running tours, Matt also trains people wanting to take on an Ultra. The next Running Adventure is on 24 January 2015 and offers a 39-mile circular route through the beautiful and varied countryside around Guildford. If you’re looking to take on an Ultra, then I’d highly recommend it.Check out Matt’s website www.runningadventures.uk for more info.