Ultra running is a lonely sport. And the longer the race is, the less likely you are to encounter many other people. But that’s ok because that’s probably one of the aspects you like about it.
But training, day in and day out, can get monotonous. Especially when you are doing the big miles. Running by yourself can get boring, as you end up running the same routes again and again, even if you do have a training plan that you’re sticking to. Social runs have recently become more popular and joining one of these is a great way to shake up your training.
There are so many benefits to running in a group. It enables you to push yourself a little bit more than you would do alone. Humans generally love a social connection, and when you have that connection, you forget about the voice in your head that says “this hurts, I want to stop” or “if I take this track I’ll get home quicker”. As you build relationships with the people you run with, you create a community and they become your support system. This is also helpful on those long days when you’re tired or demotivated, but you know that a good run with friends will make you happy you went.
Running socially is also a chance to explore new trails. What can be better than that? Trail runners love to explore and someone suggesting a new route is always exciting. Whether it requires you to travel away from your usual running routes, or whether it’s simply a route you’ve never put together before, running new trails always makes a run more pleasurable. And the mere fact someone else has done the work for you; plotted and calculated a route, is a tiny joy to me. Boring routine is busted and that immediately has a beneficial effect on me mentally.
Social runs are a great way to meet people who have done things that you might be considering yourself. Whether you are completely new to running or you’re considering a step up in distance, the chances are someone in the group has done what you would like to do. And if there’s one thing that we all know, runners have a great community and cheerfully dish out advice on anything from training to what to wear (whether it’s asked for or not!).
And that brings me to running gear. On the social runs that I’ve been involved with, ultra running coach Samuel Hill came up with the idea to get a bunch of friends together for a run and while doing so, test some gear. He told me:
“To begin with the idea for a social trail run in the Peak District began as just a lesson in specificity for a couple of my coaching clients. They had lumpy trail races planned for their race schedules and since they both lived in suburban locations I decided that a day out together in the Peaks was what they needed!
I mentioned the idea to a couple of my running buddies and they asked if they could join…. the more the merrier I guess? So, we met at Edale and I guided them around the infamous Skyline route; 23+ miles with plenty of hands on knees power hiking! (not walking obviously).
At the end we all agreed that we should do it again and so began the thing that has now turned into Sam’s Social Trail Run, #SSTR, which we’ve now done 3 times and it has grown exponentially every time. From just a handful of my coaching clients to 23 in attendance for the last event, with 2 groups running an 11 mile and 25 mile route respectively.
The focus is on inclusiveness. We want runners who don’t normally run trails but are shall we say ‘trail curious’ to come and have a go in a safe and supportive atmosphere. We tell everyone that nobody gets left behind because they can’t if we keep stopping to take pictures of the views!
The idea to combine the social runs with product testing for trail running brands came from my involvement with Balega socks. Since I was an ambassador for them, I asked if they would like to support the venture by giving us some freebies to hand out on the day. Which they did by kindly donating 13 pairs of socks for us to divvy out to runners who turned up.
Then the idea hit me, why not give new and existing brands the chance to get their gear tested by real trail runners of all abilities on the trails. Then they can give a shout-out to the brands on social media and if they are really excited about the products they can do a full write up for magazines and websites.
I’m not sure what the future is for SSTR, but I know that it’s something that can be of value not just to brands who want some exposure, but to local runners who want some company in the hills. So I’d say it’s a win-win scenario!”
On both runs that I attended, Sam and his friend Steve handed out a whole host of goodies, from Balega socks to Mountain Fuel jellies and these are some of the comments I’ve had back on them from the runners who tried them.
Ugoku Projects Caps
The cap I got to test out was the Elevation TK. A trucker style cap that stands out with its bright orange mountain landscape design and bold labelling. Ugoku have clearly spent time checking the details of this cap and making sure style and substance are the order of the day. The attention to detail is second to none and the build quality really is top end. I especially like the strap at the back that adjusts the fit. It easily adjusts for any size head and the extra bit of the strap discreetly slides into the body of the cap to hide away and be completely seamless.
Runtrapel owner Steve explained that their goal is to create ethical and sustainable gear by using 100% recycled material. This could be problem going forward with some parts of garments such as the liner in shorts not being easily made from recycled plastic. But this hasn’t deterred Runtrapel who seem focused on delivering on their promise of sustainability.
The top performs well under test, with no chaffing or hot spots even after sweating up and down the Peaks many climbs during our 15 miles. I opted for the men’s Black Bolt but it comes in a range of colours for men and women. The cut of the top is tapered so it cuts down on extra material flapping about needlessly around the waist. Overall a great first effort from this new up and coming running brand I look forward to seeing what they come up with next!
They are honestly the best gels I have tried both taste as texture wise and also gentle on the stomach! I have already placed an order and used 3 on last weeks long run without any issues!
The lip balm is really nice and is small, so it fits in my pack. The massage cream was a nice texture and felt good rubbing it on my feet after my shower.
I tried the Guava and Raspberry one and it was delicious! Not what I was expecting at all. It’s just like those candied fruits you buy at Christmas, the ones coated in sugar! Yum. The leaf wrapping is a nice touch, although I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable just chucking it away on my run.
One of the ladies in my group also had this to say:
“I have loved exploring an area which is completely new to me and seeing the spectacular wild outdoors. I mainly run in groups and love the cameraderie, we all carry each other other along. When I started joining groups I thought it would all be “dog eat dog” but it’s not like that at all, runners are really supportive and encouraging. I try to return the favour!
I started running for my physical health but run now for how great it makes me feel, inside and out. It should be on prescription!”
There’s no doubt these types of social runs are becoming more and more popular and if you do a website or social media search near you, you’ll be likely to find one. The idea of spreading a bit of love for small and growing brands is a good one too. Social media is a powerful tool and people posting photos using various bits of gear and nutrition do have a significant impression on the viewers.
Do you have a social run near you? If not, why don’t you harness the power of social media and start one! We’d love to hear about your experiences.
If you interested in these social runs in the Peak District, or you are a brand who’d like to get involved, then get in touch with Samuel via his page on Instagram