Why I Really Love To Run
I love sequels. I really love writing them. I haven’t yet found any reason to write a sequel to my book, but I definitely want to write a sequel to my last blog: Why I Love to Run. It was, well, a blog about running, why I love it and how simple it is to be precise. For this iteration however, I want to talk about on of the tools I use to get outside and make my experience much easier and far more rewarding, running facilitation, if you will. I’m mainly talking about Ordnance Survey’s mapping tool, which up until 2018 wasn’t something I was even aware of, let alone used. And that’s because I didn’t. I was quite happy going to Bing maps, selecting the region, and then changing the overlay to OS maps, which provided free mapping for the entire UK. Whilst this was a blissfully cheap way to access mapping, there are 3 downsides:
- Printing is just bad for the environment. The maps are poor quality, fragile, and even if you laminate, just not that effective. They’ll probably get wet, and then you don’t have a map.
- Accessing the maps on Bing prevents you from actually using mapping features such as plotting routes and getting a handle on how far and how high you’re going.
- The OS app, when used correctly (particularly when saving your key maps offline) is the perfect tool to finding out your actual location (so long as your phone GPS actually works.
This is one further downside which is the eventual end to the OS map availability on Bing Maps which is perhaps the final nail in the coffin for free online viewing.
So how can you facilitate your running? Running facilitation to me is all about making running easier, so you wake up, look at the bright sunshine (general drizzle if you live further north than Matlock?) put on your running shoes and go. Clearly you need to put on other clothes, maybe have a pre-run drink and a little warm-up, but you get the idea. I’m an online user. I like apps and devices that make life that little bit easier, because generally it means more time for fun and less faffing. So I use Strava and Garmin Connect, but in reality, these platforms, like TrainingPeaks, are there to track the activities you’ve already done. This is why I’ve quickly incorporated the OS mapping platform, particularly for my running needs.
For me, it’s the ability to quickly plot a route, with actually useful features such as snapping a route to a footpath/right of way (when in a National Park), and then having the option to either export this route, or simply use that most powerful of computing devices, my brain. When training, adding a bit of mental stress, such as actually remembering a route rather than just following a screen is incredibly beneficial, so I regularly create new routes, put my phone in my pocket, and then run by memory, only checking my location when at a crossroads (or when completely and utterly lost in the hill fog when high up on Pillar…).
A Surprising Feature
There is one added benefit to the OS mapping platform which I truly didn’t expect. It’s the ability to actually find out what’s on your doorstep. I’ve had easy access to Bing Maps for many years, but with a smart phone often making life much simpler, I’m now much more likely to get outside and instead of going on my usual route, taking out my phone and finding a new route right from the house. I’ve run on so many tracks recently which I’ve previously just run straight past because I didn’t know they existed, or how conveniently located they were.
A secondary feature which has some interesting applications is the ability to view your route in 3D; as I mentioned in a previous blog, this is very much a virtual agony prior to actually agonising over your route when you come to run it.
The GetOutside Mission
Part of the mission and vision of GetOutside is to make it much easier for the public to explore footpaths close to where they live, be that for running, or simply walking the dog. When you look at the availability of footpaths and bridleways, even in a city such as Birmingham, there are a surprising number which crisscross the urban landscape and provide great routes for getting outside.
I’m lucky enough to live in a relatively rural setting but only 5 miles from a city. This is great for weekend runs, but to my surprise, I have even found a running route to work which is in the centre of the city. Footpaths go almost unnoticed, especially in urban areas, but they really do provide a great method of routing through even the busiest areas.
In my previous blog, I talked about simplicity being the greatest asset to running. You simply put on your clothes and go. This is great if you know the area, but if you want to know what’s beyond your mind’s eye, utilise Ordnance Survey maps and find out what is truly on your doorstep, you may be quite surprised.
For those new to running, take a look at the maps surrounding where you live and look for the green lines which designate footpaths on a 1:25k scale map (on a 1:50k scale, the footpaths are red). Plot a route of between 4km and 8km depending on how ambitious you are, and then go for it. Take your phone, a Garmin, a print out, or even just a doodle on a piece of paper if you have none of the above, showing the important directions. If you can record your route and upload it back onto the site or a host such as Strava, you can much more easily tack your progress and then find new routes to try out next time. Don’t be stuck in a rut because the only route you know is the endless canal which forces you to spend hours of your week running along the same stretch of water. Use the tools, get excited by new routes, and then get out there and make the most of what we have here in the UK.
And just in case you’re super sceptical about finding a route because you live in a city, here are just a small sample of footpaths, highlighted purple, in the centre of deepest darkest London:
What’s your excuse?!