Wild Running with Sim Benson

This September, I managed to make it to a festival in the last weekend before heading back to university. I tagged along to the Good Life Experience mainly because other friends were already going. I’d bought the ticket before even really checking it out, but when I did, I was impressed with how unique it seemed for a festival. Sure, I could listen to bands and drink warm beer in a field as all traditional festivals allow, but also on offer were carpentry workshops, pottery, archery, (big) tree climbing, abseiling, Japanese woodcraft and outdoor cooking classes. I even attended an axe skills tutorial! But what really swung this as being a choice festival was the daily ‘wild running’ group lead by Sim Benson, a choice of a 3k or 5k off road run around the truly spectacular Hawarden Estate, in Flintshire. The image above gives you a taste of how beautiful the area is!

I brought my trainers along, but as much as I liked the idea of running at a festival, I doubted that after a night of sampling craft gins and ales, I’d much like enjoy the idea of crawling out of my tent at the crack of dawn to run up hills. But I did. Twice! And it was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had at a festival. If you come across the opportunity to do this in future, grab it with both hands. Sim was the perfect run leader, enabling faster and slower runners to complete their run at a pace comfortable to them without letting anyone feel like they were on their own. Where he finds the energy to flit between the different paced runners, casually chatting whilst in complete control of his cardio-respiratory system will always be a mystery!

As at every festival I’ve ever attended, my phone died on the first night so I didn’t manage to get any shots of the Hawarden Estate as we ran through it. The grounds contain a legitimate castle and some incredible woodland. I’ve run off road before but picking our way through the beautiful terrain felt like something totally different. I’m glad I didn’t have the distraction of a camera, to be honest. I was glad to be able able to experience my surroundings in their fullest in the moment. I also got the chat with some of the other runners, and they were a lovely bunch. Each day the run would start and end near one of the festival campsites. I can’t say I didn’t feel a little smug when passing blurry-eyed festival goers just emerging from their tents at that time in the morning. They weren’t to know my head wasn’t totally free from cobwebs!

After having such a great time on the runs, I picked up Jen and Sim Benson’s book, Wild Running. It’s a compilation of 150 trail and fell running routes in the UK, graded from easy to challenging. I’m looking forward to ticking them off one by one. For the authors:

[t]he essence of wild running is in the excitement, location and pure joy of running a route, rather than the surface it is run upon. Freedom, fantastic running terrain and the exploration of new and beautiful places are all key to a perfect wild running adventure.

I recommend getting a copy if you want to spice up your running a little and need a bit of inspiration and advice about where to go. It’s packed full of pictures, tips and advice, and the routes are grouped together by region. Please do check it out.


Wild Running promo picture

Maybe you’ve come across Jen and Sim at a festival you visited, or maybe you have an off the beaten path running route you’d like to share. If so, feel free to share by leaving a comment below.

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Article by: Vee Uye

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