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The benefits of running in woodland

Beki Cadd By Beki Cadd

Help celebrate 100 years of forestry, like OS GetOutside Champion, Beki Cadd, with a unique 10k run through the forests of England. Join in with the Forestry 100 series and discover more about the benefits of woodland trail running.

I don’t get to run through the woods as much as I’d like. When I get back from work in the evening and am looking to squeeze in a few quick miles before cooking dinner, a fast loop around the local roads where I live is all that seems feasible.

Beki and the scenery

However, when given the opportunity to venture off-road and enjoy the magic of running new woodland trails at the Wendover Woods Forestry 10k, it reminded me why I should make the time.

There’s something special about following a path that winds through the trees, never knowing quite what’s round the corner and experiencing the freedom of escaping from everyday life.

The Wendover Woods Forestry 10k was a pretty challenging, hilly course with stunning scenery and steep climbs that quite literally took your breath away, but I loved it!

It was a hot weekend - the day before temperatures had climbed to the mid-thirties, but the dappled shade under the trees in Wendover Woods provided a cool canopy for the 200-odd runners who set off from the start line.

As an asthmatic, I gave myself permission to walk the steeper climbs, snapping a few photos at the top whilst admiring the views and catching my breath.

But that’s the beauty of trail running - usually the paths are quieter and you can run at your own pace, without feeling the pressure that sometimes comes with pounding the pavements in full view of pedestrians and passing cars.

Taking to the trails also provides the room to breathe, away from traffic fumes and urban pollution.

Runners in the woods

3 reasons why exercising in nature so great

Runners at the 10K

1. Improves physical fitness

Running on mixed terrain like in forests is gentler on your body in terms of impact (if not in gradient) and also works different muscles as you navigate the uneven surface.

My ankles in particular were surprisingly achey the day after the Wendover Woods Forestry 10k! And whilst I’m not great at hills, tackling a more challenging route than my usual pavement loop was a great way to test my endurance and fitness.

Plus, what goes up must come down, so there were some equally testing downhill sections requiring focus and concentration to avoid tripping over tree-roots, stones or just my own feet.

2. Gives your mental health a boost

Numerous studies have shown that being outside in nature is great for your mental health.

Being outside boosts your mood and self-esteem.

Combine that with the physiological effects of exercise, such as the release of endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, and it’s no wonder that running through the forest makes you feel good.

Running through the woods
Beki with her medal

3. Restores your sense of fun

Nothing beats the thrill of exercising outdoors. I felt a flurry of excitement at heading to a new location to take part in the Wendover Woods Forestry 10k.

Running up and down the same streets day after day can get dull. It gave me the chance to experience that sense of discovery.

I felt like I was going on a woodland adventure!

With trail running, you experience different sights, smells and terrain with every mile, and even on the same trails things will look different depending on the season, time of day or weather conditions.

You get the chance to unleash your inner child, get splattered in mud, leap over puddles, dodge logs and bound downhill as fast as your legs will carry you.

Wendover Woods have just marked out some new running trails for visitors of 1km, 3km and 5km so I’m definitely going to go back and see what’s new next time, and what fun I can have running through the forest!

Forestry Commission 100th anniversary...

The Forestry Commission is holding 16 running events this year to celebrate their 100th anniversary, hoping to introduce more people to the freedom, fresh air and scenery of running on forest trails.

Find out more.

The medal

Published 08/07/2019

Beki Cadd By Beki Cadd


With a degree in geoscience and a healthy obsession with rocks, she loves getting outside and getting sweaty and muddy.