I am increasingly interested in off-road running. Having enjoyed (I’ve retrospectively decided) the Wimbledon Common half marathon, I am really keen to do more trail running. Of course, it hasn’t escaped my notice that this might involve me buying more running gear, starting with some trail shoes. I promise this isn’t my (sole) motivation.
Living in London, there are limited options for off-road running – and one near me is Mitcham Common.
It’s totally different from the other commons near me. Tooting, Streatham, Clapham and Wandsworth commons are all very well maintained with mostly grassland. They have playgrounds and paved paths and are full of families, runners and cyclists.
Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park are still the best for trail running in South West London, but they’re that bit too far away from mine, involving a lot of time running along busy roads to get there and back.
By comparison, Mitcham Common is a little rough around the edges, but it’s within two miles of my house. It is completely unpaved, and often quite overgrown. However, in spring it has some lovely wild flowers, which are so pretty.
Where I enter the common, there is no paving – just a grass path. This really works my stability muscles, and I can feel my pace slow as I have to work harder.
After about half a mile, there is some woodland, and the path becomes more solid. Once you leave the woodland though, the remainder is on a route which basically doesn’t have a path at all. This is really tough, and I really feel a spring in my step once I leave the common and get back on the pavement.
I did 7 miles @ 8:25, but my off-road miles were all closer to 8:40. A subtle, but consistent difference.
I would like to explore trail running further afield, outside London, but am unsure I have the confidence to do this alone. Could a running club be on the horizon? Watch this space.