With the summer solstice just around the corner and the warm weather set to stay for a while, it's a great time to get some miles in, maximise your training benefits, and unwind after a long day at work by taking advantage of the late-night sunsets. Here are five tips to help you make the most of summer's opportunities.
1. Join a running club
It is undoubtedly a wonderful thing that running continues to grow as a sport at such a fast rate – and with inclusivity at the top of the agenda for many running clubs, there's never been a better time to sign up. Whether you're young or old, at the front or the back of the field, training for your first 5km or your hundredth marathon, the right club for you is out there! If you're unsure what to expect, you can be certain that most clubs will allow you to come along on one or two runs before committing to membership, and you'll quickly make new friends and get an idea of what sort of sessions are on offer. Try an internet search for "running clubs in your town" to see your options or alternatively take a look at the UK Athletics website.
A running club track session at Barn Elms, London
2. Take your dog/family
If family commitments stop you from running, try finding a way to include them in your evening outings! There are plenty of great running buggies on the market, older kids love to cycle or scoot along next to a running parent, and more robust dogs benefit greatly from both the exercise and extra bonding that jogging with an owner brings. If planned so that everyone is happy and nobody is considered selfish (not always straightforward, I know), then this can be an opportunity for couples or families to grow stronger through a shared cause; for children to be introduced to the wonders of exercise in a fun and safe way, and even for exhausted partners to get some time to themselves after a hard day's parenting.
3. Run to an end point for socialising
In a similar vein to running with your family, if you're keen on spending your evenings at your local pub or with friends, why not think about planning a run that finishes there? Backpack technology has come on by leaps and bounds in the past decade, and with the warmer weather there isn't a need to take too much with you. Unless it's really hot, once you have cooled down, had a little wash in a basin and maybe applied some deodorant, you'll be set for a comfortable evening if you take along some light, loose, breathable clothing (eg linen). And don't be worried about what your friends might think - if they really are your friends then they'll understand and won't mind, even if they do lightly poke fun at you. And sooner or later they may even be persuaded to join you!
Enjoying a G&T post-run
4. Plan a micro-adventure out of town
If you are lucky enough to have a locker at your place of work (or a kind-hearted colleague who may take your bag home with them for the night), then the world of the micro-adventure awaits. Picture this: You leave the office in your running kit with just a small bag containing a change of clothes. You take the train out of town to somewhere new - maybe the seaside, or the mountains - and run all evening. You either carry a lightweight tent with you if you've got one and some food & water for self-sufficiency, or perhaps pre-book a B&B. Then after a relaxed evening exploring on foot, you settle into a nice pub for some food and a hard-earned drink. The next morning you take the commuter train back into town and return to the office happy, refreshed, and with a new story to tell. Sounds great? Thought so, and if you work in the capital why not check out my previous articles London's Hidden Runs, 6 of the Best County Peaks or take a look at my own website, The Footpath Less Travelled for ideas.
5. Plan ahead
Although summer evenings are light and often warm, don't forget to plan ahead if there's a chance you will stay out until dark. A small investment in a head torch and some reflective clothing will give you (and those close to you) peace of mind. If you're out on the trails but get lost or hurt and it gets dark, you'll be very thankful if you've got a small bag with at least some money, a phone, a torch, food and water, a lightweight jacket and an emergency blanket. Let someone know what time you think you'll be back and be sure to take a way of getting in touch with them in case your plans change!