Juggling roles as a full-time school teacher, photographer, and avid trail runner, Rich is a familiar face on school grounds from 9-5, Monday to Friday. Yet, when evenings and weekends roll around, he ventures onto unfamiliar trails, fuelled by a passion for trail running that blossomed during lockdown.
What inspired you to take up trail running, and how did your passion for it develop during the lockdown?
Making that transition from one sport to another has been pretty seamless, and that time felt right and during lockdown, when we were so restricted, my journey of movement started. This movement was encouraged by a call I received from a friend living in South Africa whom i'd connected with a school trip there just a few months prior to lockdown starting. A primary school we (students and staff from my school) worked at, called for help. As a collective group of staff, the students who went on that trip and their families decided to 'Move in May' for the families and children and cover the distance by 'moving' from our school to theirs, which was just over 7000 miles. We completed this and raised a sufficient amount of money for the families and the early treading on trails began...
Balancing work, running, and personal life can be demanding. What strategies do you use to maintain a healthy work-life-running equilibrium?
Working in education is stressful and demanding, it's taxing on your mental and physical state, however working as a PE teacher is extremely rewarding at the same time. Running is the release, running provides the freedom and creates clarity, it's the easier part of the day. I always remind myself of the 8-8-8 rule, (sleep, work, free time) which equates to the three segments of time we are given per day. In reality, we have 8 hours of free time to use it wisely and balance out.
Can you share a memorable experience from one of your trail running adventures? Any particular trail or event that left a lasting impression?
I have been lucky enough to run and explore trails all over the UK and parts of Europe but one particular run that has left a lasting memory on me wasn't a mountain race, or trailing in the Alps, or high on the Madeira Lavada trails it was actually a very foggy, cold winters day on my home trails in the Peak District. My friend and I decided to run Edale Skyline and the fog was dull, however, an hour in and after climbing up we someone how just literally popped out of the clouds into what felt like another world. We were presented with the most beautiful cloud inversion. The clouds were like we could run on top of them, we were in another world yet so close to home. The sun was weirdly intense and hot, for January. The memories ever lasting. We ended up being out for so long and detoured, I ended up bonking so hard on the way back...
Tackling ultras requires mental and physical endurance. How do you prepare yourself both mentally and physically for such challenging races?
A reminder that this is a choice, and this choice is because of the love and affinity you have with running and the feeling it creates. A reminder that the hardest part is done, the training blocks, the night runs, the routines of preparation and finally the lacing up and standing on the start line. A reminder that we do this because we love the sense of adventure and risk involved, there is an unknown but an unknown that is the addiction for the addict. A reminder of the thrill of the connection you have with nature and the people alike. The reminder no one has expectations of you other than yourself.
Trail running often involves being surrounded by nature. How has this connection with the outdoors impacted your mental and emotional well-being?
Huge. The reason I am not an asphalt beater. A nature geek at heart and lover of the 'wild' life you end up immersed in is simply more than enough for me to know why.
What advice do you have for individuals who are considering taking up trail running, especially those who might be beginners or facing challenges similar to what you initially encountered?
Choose lower and easy trails that you are familiar with first. Take in the surroundings and try and go with a friend. Prepare for the worst and have emergency kit and fuel on you, just in case. It's better to have this and not use it than not have it all and be stuck in a storm, lost and without fuel. if alone, Inform someone where you are heading and when you are expected back. Lastly, do it for the sense of adventure it provides. Challenges and goals will then start to formulate your training plans.
Thanks for reading. You can follow Rich's journey on Instagram here.
See you out there! Sam.