FEATURE – Off road running in Edinburgh

By Alan Donald

You may be looking for new ways to freshen up your fitness levels, whether you are new to running or a seasoned road runner. I’m a running coach with a triathlon coaching qualification and trail running or hill running is a fantastic way to improve your fitness levels & provide a new aspect to running.

People living in Edinburgh are incredibly lucky, we have the Pentlands right on the southern edge of town, within easy access and also a fantastic number of trails within easy reach of the city centre. Edinburgh was recently given the status of second best city for running in the UK by Runners’ World and there cannot be many other places which have so many great off road opportunities within the city itself. Just think of Arthur’s Seat, Corstorphine Hill, the Union Canal, Colinton Dell to name a few.

There are many advantages to off road running beyond the chance to see some great views as you exercise. You get the chance to freshen up your routes and you will find that a 5k off road probably seems to take less time than your usual route on the road because you have to focus much more on what you are doing.

Wonderful views from Craiglockhart Hill

You will also find it more tiring whether you are running on grass or on trails alongside a river or in the hills. If you are used to running on roads, then you will find that the softer ground absorbs your stride more. This is much better for your joints, but it does mean that you have to put a little more effort into your running. Similarly, if you are on an uneven trail, you might find that your weight is thrown off sideways just as you are looking to drive forward. Although this is unsettling at first, it gives you a great workout in that your muscles are being used in slightly different ways.

A good pair of off road shoes is an absolute necessity too enjoy off road running. They are essential for the extra grip that they provide on muddy trails and you would be surprised what a difference these can make. There is nothing more dispiriting that trying to run uphill in a pair of road shoes, only to find your feet slipping backwards. Good road shoes are probably even more important for descending, preventing you from landing flat on your back as you try to come downhill.

You can get a pair of off road shoes from one of Edinburgh’s running shops, such as Run4it or Run and Become. It is worth taking professional advice because you get different shoes for different types of terrain. These shoes also tend to be tougher, with less sideways foot movement allowed.

If you are in the hills, the weather can change quite quickly, so it is worth having a jacket which can easily be stowed away.
Although it is much better to run during the day, some of you may not have that luxury, so you can still enjoy offroading with a head torch. If you become a bit more adventurous and head into the hills, it is probably worth getting a bumbag or back pack which will hold a map, whistle, phone, nutrition and drink.

There is no question that offroading is becoming more popular, with a wider choice of races for people, from the hugely expensive but slightly artificial Tough Mudder, to local races put on by running clubs that are great value for money, such as the Braid Hills cross country race.

With the arrival of crisp winter days in Edinburgh, there really is no better time to get out and try off road running!

Alan Donald

Alan is a fitness coach in Edinburgh and provides a variety of services to help you get fit and stay in shape. More details on his website.

You can read more on Alan’s blog and like his page on Facebook.

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