One idea was to run the Shipwrights Way, a 50 mile set of trails from the oak forest of Alice Holt to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which commemorates the journey the wood from the forest took to be made into ships. I was aiming to split the run over a couple of weekends and enjoy the run through the Hampshire countryside.
But while I am pretty confident running on the roads, I find trails a little worrying, as what the map says and what the trail does don't alway match, and when running you are moving that little bit faster so getting lost can happen that bit quicker. To try and help boost my confidence I wanted to go on a navigation course to help me have the best experience possible, and hopefully not get lost.
Of course Covid was the first issue, but then I also hurt my foot in March which meant a break and some rehab before I could even consider running so far again. Frustrating!
Anway, this weekend I finally got to go on my navigation course. I'd decided if I was going to do a navigation course I should at least get a certificate for my effort and had signed up for the NNSA Bronze Navigator Award with Pied A Terre Adventures, based on the South Downs.
I turned up on the Saturday morning with the specified map and a pack full of spare clothes, first aid kit and lunch, but unsure what to really expect.
What I found was our leader Rich, and two other ladies eager to learn how to get the most from our maps.
It was a pleasant start as we sat on some picnic benches in the sun to go over the basics of map reading before going into the woods to start putting things in to practice.
While we did cover some stuff I already knew, we covered so much more that I didn't. By the end of day one I had a really good set of 'tools' to use on my walks and runs to help give me confidence that I was in the right place and about to take the right track.
Rich showed us how to really read the map, so it wasn't just some paths and roads, but all the other features along the route that you can tick off as you go and confirm you are on the right path. He also showed us how to pace and time our walks so you have a good idea when you are about to get to key points on the trail.
I positively floated home with a head stuffed full of great information.
Day two was a very different day. Standing on top of the Downs with a cold wind blowing and spotting with rain, I was glad of my gloves and waterproofs. It was also a doing day as Rich set us locations to navigate to and we walked in the pouring rain around a pretty beech forest.
It didn't rain all day and I easily hit 10,000 steps. Although I was tired, it was great to cement some of my learnings from the day before. And it was a great feeling when Rich told me I'd passed with flying colours.
I've grown up looking at maps, but what I really loved about this course was that Rich gave me access to parts of the map that I've never used. There is so much more information there that I've never seen before and now I know how to use it. It's a very powerful feeling.
Everything we did over the two days was aimed at walkers, so I now just need to work out how to convert that so I can use it for running - I hope my timings will be quicker. I'm really looking forward to using my new knowledge going forward for runs and walks, although I'm not sure what Milo will think if we have to keep stopping to look at maps on our walks.
With a bit of practice I hope to run the Shipwrights Way next year now.
I'm also now pondering the Silver Award. I like the idea of learning how to use a compass to navigate without trails...