-- Reece Billington
The World is a busy place. It’s a place where we’re bombarded with information and responsibilities on a daily basis, all so we can continue to contribute to the machine that we call society. We’ve got a responsibility to maintain a job to provide goods and services to others that need them, a responsibility to pay our taxes to assist those that cannot (or will not) contribute in an equal manner, and we’ve got a responsibility to follow the rules that have been set to ensure that society functions in a way that best serves the needs and wants of everyone in it.
Lucky for us though, society isn’t just a machine of obligation and responsibility. It’s a network of opportunities that we can choose to pursue when and where we wish to. Some of us might choose to ride motor bikes, or collect stamps, or breed dogs. While others might choose to happily fritter away their days watching tv, sleeping, or day dreaming about all the things they wish they could do if they weren’t so busy doing nothing.
Having recently competed in the Speights West Coaster, a 42 kilometer off road run around Auckland’s West Coast, I had plenty of time to ponder why I’d eagerly chosen to do exactly that; run a challenging and mountainous 42 kilometers around Bethells Beach and beyond. Although it was physically and mentally very challenging, it was immensely enjoyable too. There are few places that one can experience such magnificent scenery across a vast array of inland and coastal tracks. The run encompasses a couple of kilometers of beach, some fantastic single track, a lengthy and magnificently scenic coastal track, a well maintained and achievable gravel track, and a thoroughly testing and rocky river track. The views up and down the Western coastline and across the Tasman are simply breath taking.
So given how mentally and physically challenging it was, and keeping in mind that there were a few hundred others that blissfully chose to do the same thing, what’s the attraction of off road running? Why are so many people electing to hit the tracks instead of the road? I’m thinking it’s the following:
Adventure – We’re adventurous beings. We have to be. Without the sense of adventure, and the corresponding sense of curiosity, we wouldn’t innovate and progress like we do. There’s something exciting about running somewhere you haven’t been, where you don’t entirely know what to expect, where there’s a chance that you’ll stumble across something great. New Zealand fortunately has an enormous network of off road tracks. While some of them are easy and well signposted, others are a little more discreet, but that’s half the fun.
Serenity – The sense of being ‘one with nature’. It’s an early Saturday, spring morning. The forest is in full bloom. You can hear the birds chirping, and the waves breaking, and best of all, there’s no pollution, swerving cars, or cell phone reception. A truly relaxing environment that off road runners crave.
A shock to the system – Or lack of it. Off road running avoids that repetitive, monotonous road running movement. The ground is softer and more varied too. We can go out and run for three hours and our legs don’t feel like they’ve been hit with hammers. That’s great, because it means we can go out and do it again even sooner.
So those are the three things that I love about off road running. Adventure, serenity, and a lack of ‘soft foot on hard ground’ pain. Consider off road running an opportunity that is available to you free of charge, at all times, with significant benefit. To get maximum benefit, and to be as safe as possible, you’ll want to take a running mate or mates, some good quality off road shoes (like inov-8’s), sufficient hydration and food to keep you going, some warm clothing in case the weather decides to pack in, and adequate first aid supplies (just in case!). While others are collecting stamps, or breeding dogs, you might like to whack on your trail shoes and head off road, you’ll be glad you did!