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Mud, sweat and trees: A unique 10k run through England’s only true Mountain Forest

Whinlatter Forest is hosting a 10k running event Sunday 12 May as part of the Forestry 100 Running Series, which celebrates 100 years of forestry.

Set across 16 beautiful forest locations, the Forestry 100 Running series allows you to experience the freedom, fresh air and scenery of running in the nation’s forests. You can choose Whinlatter Forest 10km event, or, take up the Forestry 100 Challenge and run 100km of forest trails throughout the series.

No matter what your level of fitness is, you can sign up and be part of this exciting new centenary challenge.

The Whinlatter route is challenging but reaps great rewards of spectacular views of The Lake District and the surrounding mountain ranges. This route is known as one of the most challenging – and scenic – in the country.

Sonia Dryden, Forestry England, said: “It’s fantastic to engage more people in the outdoors and support running with this 10K run at Whinlatter Forest. Running is a fantastic activity to support good mental health and physical wellbeing; and Whinlatter provides great opportunities for people to explore scenic areas of the forest with spectacular views.”

All runners participating in the 10k will receive a celebratory Centenary medal at the end of the race, and enthusiastic runners can enter up to 10 different races across Forestry England sites.

Forestry Commission England asked runners to share their forest running experiences in their own words. Benefits included:

  • Stress relief and a sense of wellbeing
  • Weight loss/ keeping fit
  • Being closer to nature
  • Being able to breathe fresh air
  • Close to amenities

Milda Balse, 34 – It reminds me of my grandpa and I find peace there

I love running and have been since I can remember. My father and grandfather were professional athletes and I grew up on a running track, but the sessions I enjoyed most when I was a kid, were those in a forest. I’d hide behind a tree or a bush for ages until grandpa would notice I wasn’t there and send somebody to look for me. Then, after each session we’d have a little run around and play games of jumping, throwing, kicking or wrestling. These were my summers I will never forget.

Now, running in a forest reminds me of my grandpa and I find peace there. I run and enjoy the birds, the fresh air and the sound of wind gently stroking treetops. I am a lone runner, but I am never alone in the forest. I can run longer distances and faster. And that’s no magic. It’s because forest gives power to every step, brings us closer to who we, human beings, truly are – hunters, gatherers, warriors, runners!

Patrick Larke, 61 – Long runs on the road are boring

I have been a runner for the last 45 years but mainly on roads. As I’ve gotten older, injuries have become more frequent so I started running off-road, on softer ground to minimise this. I absolutely fell in love with running in the forest and running on the road is now a last resort. I have just finished the Yorkshire marathon and all the training was completed at High Lodge because the scenery is amazing and long runs on the roads are boring. There are marked routes, no traffic or crowded pavements, you can fill up your water bottle for free and the café is a great place to re-charge after a long run.

Laura Hutchings, 35 – The forest is my escape, no one can find me there

Running brings me lots of joy but there is something extra special about the forest. The smell of pine trees and the fallen leaves as my feet trample on them is intoxicating. Never knowing what animals are going to appear in my pathway leaves me excited for their company. Splashing through the Brookes at the bottom of the valley makes me feel playful and young again. The forest is my escape when I’m not on call. No one can find me there.

Noel Sanders, 60 – All year round forests are natural movie postcards

I like to run in the forest for many reasons. It is the freedom from traffic and its fumes, the break from the claustrophobic urban environment, undulating terrains, curving snake like tracks and paths, fluctuating vistas, diverse vegetation, the chance to chat with friends at a low volume without the background noise drowning you out, the fleeting views of promises of further landscapes through breaks in the foliage of the trees and bushes then posting a mental reminder – must explore over there next time. It’s the discovering of abandoned buildings and structures – wondering ‘what went on in that place’ then researching when I get home. There is also the variation of the types of forests from the pine to deciduous to mixed – all with their own inspiring attractions. It’s the denseness of the trees, the sudden opening into glades and the rise of the track to look beyond the tree tops over the vista of the forests down onto surrounding landscapes.

The forests are so photogenic at all times of the year and that’s why I love to run in them. All year round they are natural movie postcards, as they are never quite the same every time you visit.

I would like to add that I am now 60 years old and look forward to many more years of forest running.

Abi Harradine, 44 – I often feel like I am entering a fairy tale

My journey started by pounding concrete pavements. Soon roadsides turned into quiet lanes which in turn led to country tracks. As my distance increased, so too did my sense of adventure and a desire to take my running off-road. There’s a scene in ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ when the children take their first steps into Narnia. A magical world awaits them. A secluded canopy of trees creates mysterious paths to follow. A soft forest floor beneath their feet teases them to explore this new wonderland. Well, quite often decked out in Lycra and stepping away from the forest car park, I often feel like I too am entering a fairy tale. No two runs in the forest are ever the same. The trees are constantly changing colour. The sun will find new angles to beam through branches. Rain will make the summer-dry paths a squelch-tastic squidgy assault course and sounds of rustling animals and glorious birdsong will provide a soundtrack rendering headphones useless.

Running in the forest is a blessing. My feet are grateful for the soft landing and my heart swells with the surrounding beauty. Even though the run may leave me breathless, it’s the forest that continues to take my breath away.

Forestry 100 Running series events are organised in partnership with Nice Work.

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