Zak Hanna’s latest Fast10 blog could strike home in difficult times. Focusing on the simplicity of a run in the great outdoors might be more important than ever.

It was Confucius who said ‘Life is simple, but we insist on making it complicated”, and in reality the same applies to running, at all levels from grassroots right up to elite level.

These days runners have so much access to gadgets, equipment and clothing that is designed to do all sorts for your running.

A simple sport that orginally required a pair of shoes, shorts and a t-shirt in order to take part.

Sometimes in the midst of all the training, looking at your watch to keep check of your pace or heart rate, counting the miles and making sure you get enough kudos on Strava-the reason why we started running is soon forgot about; but when is going for a run just as it says on the tin?

The standard week

During the week I run my usual plan of double days from Monday to Saturday, with sessions on a Tuesday evening and Saturday morning tied in with the traditional Sunday long run.

In amongst all this I’m in work from 8:30 to 5:30 from Monday to Thursday. And then comes Friday…

It’s Friday, the end of the working week. Once the clock hits 4pm I’m away like a shot, into the car and homeward bound. Picture Homer Simpson or Fred Flintstone leaving their work; you’ll get the picture.

I get home, already in my running gear after changing at work and I out on a rather dirty looking pair of Salomon S/Lab Speed 2 fell shoes.

Man’s best friend

Probably the most important thing I bring on this run isn’t my watch to record my run; but my dog Corragh, my 15 month old Collie/Whippet cross who religiously joins me on my morning runs before work, and also on the long run.

We both set off in the direction of Slieve Croob, sitting high behind my house with the summit in full view. Always a welcome site. Corragh is as per usual excited and bouncing about in front of me before she settles down and tucks in beside me heading uphill, and after a mile we hit the car park, and Corragh already knows that this is going to be fun.

From my house to the summit via the service road is 2.5 miles, with just over 1200ft of ascent thrown in too. We reach the summit in just under 20 minutes, thanks to a strong tailwind coming from Lough Neagh.

With the skies clearn, we are treated to a 360 degree view of Northern Ireland. In one direction you see the Mournes, then North Down (or the Gold Coast as the locals over there like to call it), then onto the capital city Belfast; with the famous Harland and Wolff cranes easy to spot. You then look towards the north and west, with the Sperrins, Glenshane Pass and Lough Neagh all in clear view. You then come back round to South Down where Slieve Gullion peaks out before coming back to meet the Mournes, where they sweep down to the sea.

You’ve got to stop and enjoy the summit

I don’t think I’ve ever summited and not stopped to look around the view. Standing on top and looking over God’s Own Country (and no, it’s not Yorkshire) is something that needs to be done-to quote Ferris from Ferris Buellar’s Day Off “Life moves pretty fast, if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it”.

The descent back down to home is fast, often includes being kneedeep in bogs, quite rocky and usually into a headwind-but it is always good fun. I take one last look at the Mournes and let Corragh take the lead as we head down onto the service road before we take a left and follow a narrow path that I have managed to create through the number of times I have ran this path.

We run across a short plateau before the real descent starts, down a rockt drop off and then onto a steep and wet section of grass. Corragh is having a blast, bouncing about like a Jack in the Box with the excitement of being free run about and chase me for sport all that is going through her head.

Does everyone love bog-running?

We hit the bogs and with the recent rainfall it is worse than usual, and we both are soon seeing the effects of it as Corragh is now black and brown instead of her usual black and white. Does she care? Not one bit. I end up with muck up over my knees, but that’s part and parcel of fell running and one I enjoy.

We continue the descent and we are both loving life as we pick up speed for the final drop before the car park; I pick up too much speed on the saturated ground and end up on my back sliding into a mini lake which has risen up from the rainfall. Partially winded I’m soon greeted by Corragh wondering what I’m at as she lies on all fours waiting for the signal to run on.

As we approach home I notice Corragh looking up at me as we run; and it looks as if she’s smiling because of the fun she had whilst on the mountain. Watching her run in front of me with no worries, not checking a watch or worrying about how many miles she has covered is a reminder of what we as humans need to do more often.

Dogs can teach us a lot

Dogs are great teachers and I personally have noticed this since I got Corragh as a pup back in January 2019. They are a simple and intelligent animal with so much to offer us as running partners.

Standing on top of Slieve Croob at 534m high, disconnected from the negativity of the world below with my dog on a Friday evening after another week in the rat race is a fantastic feeling and now that the evenings are getting longer it will be done more often.

Remember why you run; ditch the Strava obesssion, don’t put on your hear rate monitor, ditch the wireless headphones, go and play in the muck on the trails or mountains, go running in the rain-the simplest things often give us the greatest pleasures.

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