Spice up your running style with a National Trust Night Run

In Events, Outdoor, Running

Many of us will be well into making those positive changes we promised ourselves in January – with running always a favourite. However, the nature of the exercise can often seem a bit solitary and lacking in variety. But, fear not, for luckily we have just the thing to solve both those problems – National Trust Night Runs.

Longshaw (Peaks) Photo by Kevin DunningtonLongshaw Peaks, Photo by Kevin Dunnington ©National Trust Images

Taking place at National Trust locations all over the country, these night-time trail runs cater for all ages and abilities and are split between two difficulty levels. The first is the ‘Adventurer’ - which at between six and nine kilometres is for the more experienced runner. The second – the ‘Explorer’ – is better for those wanting to take it a little easier at a slightly more modest, but still challenging, one to three kilometres.

These events are not about the time in which you finish, but the enjoyment of mass-participation in physical activity while out in the great British outdoors. So much so that keen runners are advised that they will need to bring their own stopwatch if they want to record their time. The races have proved popular, with an average of around 400 participants – although the best attended run saw an impressive 859 people turn up.

You can either run alone (£14 for the Adventurer/£7 for the Explorer), or as a group of four or more – with a £1 discount (per person) on offer. The entry fees do, however, go to an important cause – the conservation and care of National Trust locations around the UK.

Nostell Night Run, Photo by Chris Lacey ©National Trust ImagesNostell Night Run, Photo by Chris Lacey ©National Trust Images

Melissa Handford, active outdoors programme manager for the National Trust, explains why the organisation started the events: “We were trying to look at ways of providing new and different experiences to our visitors and seeing the place at night time, experiencing what is usually out of bounds.

“It’s allowing them to explore the places at dusk/dark, explore nature and feel it around them as well. It’s about attracting a different audience and seeing the place in a different light – literally!”

But why would I want to venture out on a cold night to run with strangers? Glad you asked…

Swap cityscape for breath-taking scenery

National Trust locations are some of the most beautiful places in the country and what better scenery to run in than breath-taking countryside surrounded by abundant wildlife and serenity?

Far away from the people and city lights, each location offers a different escape: from the unblemished estates of Tudor manor houses and the wilderness of beautiful forests, to farms filled with animals and the Great Langdale campsite in the Lake District. These runs don’t just give you the exercise you need, but also allow you time to appreciate some new scenery.

By gailhampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K (Blickling Estate. nr Norwich) [CC BY 2.0]Blickling Estate, near Norwich, photo by gailhampshire  [CC BY 2.0]

Don’t do it alone – run with friends

Let’s face it, it’s infinitely easier to keep up a good habit, and be motivated for it, if you do it with a friend or a group – and science proves it. A study carried out by Nature in 2016 examining 1.1 million people across five years found that exercise is ‘socially contagious’. Meaning that if you can find ways to exercise with friends you are more likely to stick at it, and more importantly, want to do it.

Another study carried out by the Obesity Research Journal in 2016 found that if overweight individuals wanting to lose weight, spent time with those who were fitter and had those habits already, then they ended up making positive changes and losing weight, too. Not to mention it’s fun! The emphasis of these runs is not the time in which you finish, but the pleasure you get along the way – and what better way to enjoy it than with a group of friends, or family?

Melissa explains: “It’s really family friendly, it’s not a race, we don’t do timing but there’s a timing clock for people if they’re interested. It’s about going out and having a go and we are really open to people walking as well, or walking and jogging.

“We want to be really accessible for newbies to running or just have a family experience to see the property or the countryside in a different light but in a safe environment.”

Perhaps the most important detail, Melissa says is that “the café is always open - so you can have a nice bowl of soup or coffee after your run, or whatever takes your fancy!”

Feel happier –  get those endorphins in

Simply doing the exercise will make you feel happier – and our old friend science proves that, too. Research carried out in Germany in 2008 and published in the Journal of Cerebral Cortex showed that running releases endorphins in the brain – the naturally occurring chemical that makes us to feel happy.

runner on wet road at duskFor an added endorphin boost, National Trust Night Runs often include some surprises, as Melissa explains: “There is usually face painting, fire juggling and different bits and bobs that take place to try and provide some additional entertainment other than just a run, so it’s a really fun evening for everyone.”

From personal experience...

Julie Carroll, from Worksop, Nottinghamshire, completed two National Trust Night Runs with her 11-year-old son, both at Clumber Park. She says: “We’ve been running for a couple of years now but it’s always been during the day, so we thought of doing a night run and seeing what that’s like and it was just loads of fun.

Speaking of the atmosphere at the races, she continues: “Everybody was really excited and wearing fluorescent laces with face paints. With the head torches as well when you looked back on people who started the run it was just dots in the night and it was so pretty - the atmosphere was just really electric.”

Where are they happening?

There are four Night Runs left in this year’s series – each of them with their own special appeal:

Speke Hall Garden & Estate, Liverpool: Sunday 24 February 2018

Set in the countryside of Liverpool is this gorgeous Tudor mansion dating back to 1530. As well as the beautiful old building, this vast area contains pristine grounds, woodlands and even the Mersey estuary – perfect for birdwatching, plane spotting and more.

Speke Hall from the front, By Rodhullandemu (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0Speke Hall from the front, By Rodhullandemu (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Running through such a lovely area could be the perfect way to start your Night Run endeavours – and you can find all of the information about the race here.

Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire: Saturday 10 March 2018

This is a truly special location and the largest country house in all of Cambridgeshire. Dating back to 1640, it is steeped in history. The grounds of the estate even contain a farm and other beautiful gardens.

If that sounds like the place you’d like to give a Night Run a try – you can find all of the event information here.

Great Langdale, Cumbria: Saturday 10 March 2018

Located in the world-renowned Lake District, the Langdale campsite is set in some pretty awe-inspiring landscape. Here you will be running through pristine countryside and woodland not far from England’s highest point – Scafell Pike (978 metres).

You can find more information about this Night Run here.

Blickling Estate, Norwich: Saturday 24 March: 2018

Blickling Estate’s enormous original building was constructed in 1616 and is in itself a remarkable sight. As with all the other locations – it is surrounded by extensive countryside, woodland and closely situated to a beautiful lake.

If you live in the area and like the sound of the venue – you can read more about it and the event here.

All that’s left is to ensure you bring the right kit. A headtorch is the most essential item you will need, as well as some sturdy trainers (some of the trails can be a little rough) and, the correct clothing. You will want a layer to go over your running shirt, but keep it lightweight, since your body will soon warm up after beginning the course.

As you’ll be running in dark, you’ll want to stand out, and you can do that perfectly with Proviz’s REFLECT360 Running Jacket. Running leggings are also a great way of keeping warm for winter runs (like these Pixelite Performance Running Tights with reflective panels) – match that with some running gloves like these Pixelite Performance Running Gloves and you’re good to go.

The benefits of running itself are exponential – so why not add some fun, stunning scenery and quality time with family or friends into the mix by doing a Night Run this year. Whatever your ability, be it your 100th race, or the first time lacing up some trainers, you are sure to enjoy the experience in some of the most beautiful parts of the country.