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West Sussex Trail Running with KARIBU

When I took up running four years ago, I’d never heard of trail running. But living in the country as I do, running off-road is almost a default setting … we don’t have many pavements in my corner of Sussex. I’ve since come to realise, that even as amateurs, we all have our own particular niche in the running world. Some go fast, some want to run in groups, some stick to fair weather, others like to go long.

It took lockdown for me to realise that it’s trail running that is my niche and ignites me. With everything shut, and travel not allowed, I found I could find the adventure I craved by taking to the trails, preferably a new route that I’d never tried before and which meant battling the elements, soaking up nature, and challenging myself. Which is why I was so excited to discover that Salomon ambassador and passionate trail runner (as well as world record-holding kite surfer) Sam Lutman-Pauc lives on our patch!

Sussex Trail Running
Photo credit to Run with KARIBU

Trail running and KARIBU

Already the driving force behind Chichester based SupBikeRun (an alternative triathlon of paddleboarding, mountain biking and trail running – I mean honestly, what’s not to love?), three years ago, Sam launched the free trail running club, Run with KARIBU, with the core objective of getting more people to run off-road and explore the beauty and abundance of trails on their doorstep. This really resonates with me as I’m a big believer there is much beauty and adventure to enjoy right on our own doorsteps if we just venture off-piste once in a while.

KARIBU offers a number of different guided trail run options, nearly all of which are within a 10-12 km radius of Chichester and which cover the South Downs. As a member of KARIBU, you can join nine guided trail runs across Sussex every month which are normally 6, 8, or 9 km and take in the likes of Levin Down near Singleton or Linch Down near Midhurst. Better still, in non Covid times, each run starts and finishes with a pub – oh, I can’t wait to get back to normality!

For a small fee there are all sorts of extra runs you can join too and tempted and teased by the lure of night runs, 16 km early rises, and even team trails (with prizes!), I wanted to find out more. So I asked Sam what it is that makes trail running both exhilarating and good for you at the same time and whether it’s the sort of thing that as (dare I say) a middle-aged woman I should really be thinking of majoring in.

Sussex Trail Running
Photo credit to Run with KARIBU

Strength, wellbeing and nature

Sam explained why trail running is such a positive and healthy experience.

“Trail running is really accessible for everyone and is a fantastic work out for body, mind, and soul. You don’t need to worry about being too slow, just choose a run that matches your ability (distance and average speeds are published on the website) and you’ll be fine. We’re a supportive and friendly bunch who look out for each other and we will never leave you behind or make you feel bad.

The diverse geography that trail runners cover is excellent for building stamina and endurance (and that includes the mud) and because your feet work so hard, on constantly changing ground, you build muscles and strength which in turn can alleviate some of the issues road runners have. Running off-road relieves stress and apart from the obvious release of endorphins, being out in nature leaves you with an enhanced sense of wellbeing. But trail running also involves skill, as you concentrate on navigating new terrain and finding your way and this, in turn, leaves you with a great sense of personal achievement.

But on top of all that, trail running is about having adventures and discovering unusual routes, that don’t usually get much footfall. Beautiful places that you’ve never been to before. We get really off the beaten track and we cover hugely diverse and interesting terrain even on the shorter routes.”

Sussex Trail Running
Photo credit to Run with KARIBU

As luck would have it

My neighbour happens to be a runner too and he had already been out running with KARIBU before lockdown hit. He describes a great route, a fabulous bunch of people, and a really positive running experience. In fact, we were both all set to join them again when we went back into lockdown and had to set aside our plans.

Get your trainers on, there’s good news!

Sam has been working hard behind the scenes throughout the winter, and during lockdown, he launched a number of Treasure Trail runs that can be done solo without a guide. He describes how he felt the need to do something to help people stay active and take care of their mental and physical health and the Treasure Trails have been so popular (and yes there are prizes) they’ll continue even after lockdown restrictions ease.

In other news, KARIBU guided trails can start again on 10th April and Sam will be kicking off with a selection of 6, 8, and 9 km trails including some of the Treasure Trail favourites. The runs are held on a Saturday or Sunday morning, so they don’t eat into your day! And you can sign up for workshops and extras too in order to build on your strengths and skills.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I am in serious need of adventure, so my running shoes at the ready, I’m definitely taking to the trails.

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