How we arrived here?
The catharsis came in 2008 but it had its origins in 2001.
As a newspaper scribe working in Basingstoke in 2001, Wild Running founder Ceri Rees, was flicking through a copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged in Waterstones, reading about one’s man’s elemental passion for water, when the coin first dropped.
As a junior, he’d been a promising endurance athlete, winning the English Schools Cross country Senior Boy’s title, as well as the National Youths Cross Country Title and been a member of the British Endurance Squad. When he was 18, he had won a sports grant to stay and learn from the godfather of endurance running Kipchoge Keino, at his orphanage in Eldoret. Disillusion with injuries had forced him to quit competitive running at 21 and he returned to another of his passions-rugby union. He had represented Northern RFC, Basingstoke RFC and Paris Vincennes First Team at wing and full back.
Several years later, he went on to become the Bournemouth Daily Echo’s outdoors correspondent, where he befriended and also started training with a Zimbabwean asylum seeker Williard Chinhanhu, a 62 minute half marathon runner. He bought a bike and for a brief period took up triathlon, until he realised he swam like a beach ball with a brick inside.
It took an 800km walk across Spain in 2008, the Camino Santiago, which offered glimpses of changing landscapes (yes he went boho for a while!) for him to finally quit his job as a newspaper journalist. It flashed up the need to do something he loved doing. So in 2012, he set up his own business called Wild Running and was given an Unltd social entrepreneurs award.
The aim was simple: to take unemployed people out running on Dartmoor once a week. They provided the transport and picked people up on route. He knew first hand about the benefits of off road running for boosting resilience and well being, as well as improving your running longevity. Ceri had little cartilage left in his knees (a legacy of his years playing rugby) and found road running a challenge. He did not need to gather any scientific evidence to know about these benefits, as he’d already spent a lifetime acquiring the experience.
Having mainly lived and worked in large towns and cities: Newcastle, Madrid, Paris, Buenos Aires, Cuzco, he found that there was always one thing that connected them all on a visceral level…Running through nature.
In January 2013, Ceri decided to branch out, by organising night races alongside a member of his running group and as it turned out, his second cousin twice removed. Their Wild Night Run Series supports several local charities. The Haldon Tight trail run and Dark Dart Dash proved popular additions to the night run series.
Wild Running now organises the Something Wild Festival and a 5k swim and aquathon in the River Dart, as well as the Paradise and Back trail run in Bristol’s Leigh Woods, the forerunner for the Back to Black trail race.
Wild Running also hopes to stage our first ultra run in 2018.
Run, Sail, Swim: We’re Not Just Another Trail Running Company
In 2017, we aim to be the only adventure company in the UK to offer a sail-run guided trip (staying on board a Tall Ship). This will involve the chance to run across some of the wildest, most isolated Hebridean islands (in June) as well as tackling the UK’s highest peaks on our Three Peaks run-sail trip (in September).
Bespoke Camps/Runs with expert guides
Wild Running offers inspiring bespoke guided trail running tours with a difference across the UK. Many of our clients are repeat visitors, who may not need a guide but who recognise the added value our guides can give. We pride ourselves on using the best guides across the UK, who are not only top level runners themselves, but also knowledgeable and personable people. They will try to understand what makes you tick. So you’ll come away with much more than just another experience. In 2017 & 18 we will be expanding our bespoke trail running camps and guided runs for all levels of ability, to include the Two Moors Way (covering Two National Parks in a week) and the Dartmoor Crossing.
Some of the places you will go with us include: North West Scotland, the Hebrides, Dartmoor and Exmoor, the Lake District.
Support the future
Wild Running aims to build on last year’s Junior Wild Running Camps on Dartmoor with bespoke and prearranged junior camps .
We plan to work with schools, to provide a running legacy as a fun activity.
“The message we give to young athletes at our Wild Running Junior Camps, is to take their time and to enjoy competing in a playful way. Sport should not just be a means to an end but an end in itself,” says Ceri.
We recognise that many of our runners may be new to self navigation events and want to become more confident runners who can dispense with a guide.So we are also offering NNAS navigation courses (for runners or walkers).
With our navigation courses on Dartmoor, you can tool yourself up to go self nav off piste.
We’re in the business of motivation
We will shortly be offering corporate motivation weekends with renowned speakers at Bovey Castle Hotel on Dartmoor.
The spirit of community and camaraderie of the group night runs, has cemented many friendships, since they began. Wild Running Camps aims to replicate the camaraderie of the Thursday night runs. Both the Beginner’s Fell Camps in the Lake District and Natural Running Camp on Dartmoor, involve sharing communal meals in a lamp lit camping barn, while our bespoke Scotland Camps and Classic Highlands Tour can involve sharing a cottage or a hotel and listening to talks about the local geology and even whisky tasting, upon request. The chance to run on a guided route over a munro is central but by no means the only part of the experience. This year, our guides learnt a lot about hygge when a large Danish group signed up for our Scotland camp. They were excellent company. Without the group, we are just loan wolfs bound for extinction.
The end goal is not to chip away at your 10k time but to enjoy the process of running and hopefully to avoid injuries, in as much as this is possible.
“Wild Running mixes trail running, which follows well marked footpaths and bridleways, with fell running, which prefers to go off piste. It satisfies our curiosity for landscapes and reminds us of the impermanence of physical and mental discomfort through running. The aim is to engage in the kind of activities that adult life frowns upon.”
He adds: “Some clients have suffered from depression, post-traumatic stress, or a potentially life threatening condition such as diabetes. We have also had mental health referrals, from enlightened practitioners who recognise that that there is something therapeutic about spending time outdoors. Since running wires your serotonin tap to your musculature, in ways we are just beginning to understand, it has a positive cognitive function.
“This doesn’t have to involve trekking through isolated wilderness, harsh mountainous terrain or attending boot camps aimed at pushing people to their physical limits in order to reveal something of their inner emotional resources aka Bear Grylls. But it can if you want it to.”
Increasingly we have come to define ourselves by what we do in our spare time. The quest for going in search of wild places in people’s leisure time, whether running, climbing, kayaking or adventure racing, shows there is a fundamental yearning to reconnect with nature.
In its essence, wild running can addresses the very basic need for humans to inhabit and know their landscape, therefore offering potential benefits to all ages and walks of life.
The spirit of community
Ceri says: “Unlike most training camps, which frankly seem to me quite dull, ours encourages an outward looking mind set, useful when you are staying in such close proximity! While quite rustic, there are also plenty of creature comforts.
“When Wild Running began, hardly anyone was doing this as a business in the south west. Now there are several trail running companies operating here. I’d like to think we were the trailblazers. My company has grown to become something much more inclusive and regular Thursday night attendees are mostly dynamic professionals who want to lose the shackles of their day jobs and home commitments. Many of them are NHS workers new to the area, who want to explore. The end goal is not to chip away at your 10k time but to enjoy the process of running and hopefully to avoid injuries, in as much as this is possible.”
Wild Running has also attracted channel swimmers, brickies,GPs,business leaders, mechanics, teachers and even a Duchess.