After discovering trail running a few years back, it has become an excuse for an annual friends and family getaway to the Blue Mountains each year as well as the opportunity to explore many new places in preparation.
Trail running has grown in popularity in recent years and, while many sports were put on hold last year and gyms closed due to the coronavirus crisis, it was one thing that many people could still do.
When popular public walkways became no-go zones because it was hard to keep at a social distance, for many the bush provided a place to go in solitary or with one or two others and still be active.
In fact, a lot of people tried it out for the first time and became hooked. Now events are reappearing on the running calendar, many organisers are finding participants are returning with a vengeance.
Mark Roberts is the event director of Raffertys Coastal Run in Lake Macquarie and told me they were already 50 per cent sold out for the July 3 race. Not that many of the participants view trail running events as a race, which Roberts said was part of the appeal.
"We're seeing that the participants are certainly there," Roberts said. "Everyone spent last year cooped up indoors and looking forward to getting out and about and, for smaller events like us where only 1000 people can go, the appetite is really there. We're seeing an uptick in demand for our running events, our mountain-biking events and our adventure races. Across the board, the hunger is definitely there.
"One of the best things that came out the lockdown was the fact that people did have time to put into their own health, both mental and physical, and I think that's carried on. We've heard a number of stories of someone who started running or started riding during the lockdown because it was the one thing you could do and they have continued it on. In a strange way it's been a positive to come out everything.
"Trail running is not really about who beats who. It's about how you go against the course. A lot of the runners out there will have a personal best time that they're trying to do or they'll just be there trying to finish, and I think that's a really healthy attitude. Rather than I came X position out of Y number of runners, I just I did the best that I could and I managed to finish."
An appeal of trail running is you never know what you're going to get. Raffertys Coastal Run offers 12-kilometre, 22km and 36km courses. There is bushland single track, fire trail, coastal tracks, rock platforms and beach running.
"That half marathon sort of distance on the road is always relatively the same," Roberts said. "Whereas 21km on a trail could be vastly different depending on where you are and what event you're doing, so it's always the great unknown, especially if you haven't been there before.
"Everybody thinks about running and they think about running along the road, pounding the pavement with cars going past. To a lot of people that doesn't sound appealing, whereas you get out in bush where the views are nice, the trails are a bit softer under foot and it's a bit more mentally stimulating."
An event is also an excuse to get away and can provide training motivation as we head towards the winter, colder months.
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Renee Valentine is a journalist, qualified personal trainer and mother of three.