Running wild

PUBLISHED: 01:56 17 July 2012 | UPDATED: 21:37 20 February 2013

Running wild

Running wild

Not one to run like the wind, David Falk, Discover Suffolk Project Manager, Suffolk County Council heads out to Hadleigh for gentle jog in the country

Not one to run like the wind, David Falk, Discover Suffolk Project Manager, Suffolk County Council heads out to Hadleigh for gentle jog in the country

There are many ways to enjoy the countryside whether you go walking, cycling or horse riding. Heading out for a simple wander, bird watching or just walking the dog are all gentle ways to exercise the mind.

However, in this Olympic year, many thoughts seem to be focused on more energetic forms of exercise. And with this thought I find myself heading out one evening to exercise more than just my mind.

Im no athlete, nowhere near, but the desire to run as I did as a teenager still burns and although my mid-40 year old body may hesitate at times, my young mind insists on pulling on the running kit and lacing up the running shoes and heading out for a jog.

A little misty-eyed and somewhat heavy-headed after a long day in the office, an evening jog in the countryside is a tried and tested way to unwind and blow away any cobwebs. Avoiding the hard knee-pounding and car-dodging of pavement or road running, I head to the nearby Hadleigh Railway Walk, as off-road and tranquil a running track as you will ever find.

The Walk is just over 2 miles, and where once scheduled trains carried passengers between Colchester and Hadleigh, today the line offers an off-road course for joggers and runners on their own personal training schedule.

I park up near the former Raydon Station. It is a light, cool and slightly drizzled evening. The sound of barking dogs fills the air; a kennels is located adjacent to the car park and its occupants make their presence very well known.

There is ample space to stretch and limber up and with stopwatch set, I head off. The route is almost dead straight on a very slight decline, almost indiscernible, but making the journey slightly easier. The path starts wet; there have been heavy rains recently and the land is soaked. I splash along trying to dodge puddles. I pass under an old railway bridge and soon find myself between badger sets large sandy excavations abutting the path, creating an assault course of obstacles to negotiate.

I run under a canopy of trees and although I am running on an even keel, the land soon seems to rise magically to offer views on to the surrounding countryside. It is the land around that has fallen away and I am offered a canopy view on to neighbouring fields.

A signpost tells me I am one mile into my run. This is the halfway point. A bench has been positioned close by. It offers an inviting distraction and as I pass I can see it is dedicated to someone who loved the woods. This is a special place for many and on a sunny weekend day can be a hive of activity; locals taking a relaxed stroll, dog walkers on their daily ritual, cyclists thrilling at speed, young children learning to ride their first bike, even the odd horse rider. On this evening though I meet no-one and re-focus on the path ahead and on reaching the end.

Visiting the woods in this way is a very different experience compared with walking. There is less time to take in your surroundings and less opportunity to see wildlife. There is no chance to take pictures, or to simply stop and wait for nature to come to you. No, this is countryside at peace birds scare more immediately, squirrels scurry quickly and trees pass by rapidly.

Instead, running offers an opportunity to train alongside nature. Concentrating on each step, the soft earth acts as a cushion, easing the journey on this slightly accelerated experience.

And as so often happens when I run, my mind begins to wander. It begins to clear the days concerns, and begins to consider other, perhaps more important, things in life. Running is a very therapeutic activity and running in the woods a very stimulating experience: the feel of the air and the sound of the wildlife; a late evening song of a blackbird, darting shapes of great tits, a stationary robin.

As I close in on the end I start to wonder what it must be like for Olympians as they close in on their medals; the crescendo of the crowds, the mounting excitement of the tape. As I bound past a sculptural waymarker and rapidly descend and rise along the final stretch into Hadleigh I see crowd, cheering as I near a finish line. Could this be a personal best, or has my mind wandered a little too far this time? Or am I hallucinating? No, there is a crowd. A real crowd. A crowd of adults and children. I come to a halt, slightly amazed at the sight of 40 children and parents of the Hadleigh Sea Scout Cub Pack getting ready to head off towards Raydon on an inaugural cycle ride along the Railway Walk.

This really is the perfect location for off-road exercise!

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