Only in its fourth year having debuted in 2016, Love Trails is fast becoming the Glastonbury of the running scene. With its combination of music, trail running, seminars, food and camping, could this be the start of a new movement in running? Andy Waters, along with some other members of the yellow family, went along to find out...
As much as we all love the rigs, the carries, the mud, the racing and of course the fun times, OCR boils down to 70% of a course being running. Thanks to the rural locations of races, running tends to be on the trails and, let's face it, road running just doesn’t cut it. So we all head out on the trails whenever we’re not racing or having fun the mud. Not only because it's
more enjoyable but it's great for strengthening those little stabilising muscles that don’t get the same work out on the roads.
This brings me to an amazing weekend I had with friends this summer. The weekend in question was Love Trails Festival. Held on The Gower peninsula, South Wales. The Gower is known as one of the best trail running locations in the UK. And believe me when I say it definitely lived up to the hype!
The Peninsula itself was the first area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain and covers 72.5mi squared. The highest point Rhossili Bay at 633ft shows off some of the best sunrises and sunsets you'll see in the UK. The weather definitely helped, as it was a roasting weekend and in true British tradition there were plenty of bright red lobsters wandering around in the evenings after a full day's running and exploring.
We all went in to the weekend not really sure what to expect. Yes, we watched the promo videos from previous years and yes, we all got excited but there was a lot of uncertainty at what to expect.
Was it going to be at Dirty Weekend levels of partying? Was everyone going to be a serious runner? What was the festival village going to be like? What were the food options? Will there be drinking water available? What if everyone's a super fit ultra runner...(We’re not!)?
All those worries were needless; there was a huge range of running abilities and fitness levels. From people that just wanted to chill out over the weekend, to people that wanted to head out on ultras, to people wanting the get tips from the pros, to people who wanted to beast themselves, to people who were there to enjoy a few drinks with friends and enjoy the trails a little worse for wear the next day.
The fully loaded schedule enabled all those festival goers to have completely unique experiences, as it had been broken down into sections which included guided trail runs, extra adventures, just show up workouts / movement, just show up runs and extra workshops. This meant there was not only trail running but running workshops, nutrition workshops, navigation workshops, talks from people such as Ross Edgley, Runstrong's Gary House, Danny Bent, Dirty Vegan, the list goes on. All the marquees were full from sunrise to sunset. If you wanted to get the blood flowing there were early morning HiiT sessions, or how about an hour of cheerleading? If fancied slowing it down a bit there were some yoga and pilates classes. Perhaps you just wanted to relive your childhood and hit the slip ‘n’ slide with Project Awesome? There was even stuff for the kids with a kids' craft workshop.
Once the sun set is when the party really kicked off, with live music and DJ’s banging out the tunes till midnight. If that wasn't your bag then how about music round a campfire or maybe just chilling out with friends, putting the world to rights? Whatever took your fancy it was here waiting for you.
Included in your ticket was a free guided run. These were run by different running communities from all over the UK and varied not only in distance but also activities: you could find yourself running an ultra, exploring the coastal paths or you could be running to the beach to pick up litter or maybe even running to help repair some fences along the popular Wales Coastal Path. But being as there was just so much to choose from I decided to not book mine and instead just go with the flow and see where the weekend would take me. Turns out this was the best decision as it allowed me to enjoy being in the moment and make full use of the busy schedule.
If however you prefer to be a bit more organised, there was plenty you could book on to. For a small fee you could find yourself running, climbing, coasteering, surfing, paragliding or sea kayaking.
On top of these extras you had the “just turn up” runs; these included a run to wild swim at the Bluepool, fully marked trail run along the coastal trails, pub crawl (organised by Bad Boy Running), orienteering, adventure OCR, Beer Mile World Championship, Hashing, sunrise runs, sunset runs plus there were always extra runs being added throughout the day too.
My personal choices were the marked trail run, orienteering, obviously the OCR and a spot of Hashing with the London Hash House Harriers. Throw in some talks and workshops and that was my weekend full to the brim.
After reading all that I'm guessing you all want to know what the OCR was like, well it was completely different to what we’re all used to. Being an adventure OCR it had axe throwing, archery and a climbing wall, and I have to say we loved it. The competitive instincts didn’t take long to kick in when we were told no one had managed to get round in under an hour!
The marker had been put down - a 5k with the above stations and a checkpoint with a nod to the Barkley Marathon where you were given a page number of a book to take to the finish line to prove you’ve been to the top of the hill. The scores on the archery were counted at the finish too so you had to be accurate with your shooting. We blasted around the course and finished under the hour and took 1st place, earning us some drinks tokens for the evening. This was the first time we’d done axe throwing and it is just as awesome as it sounds, if you have somewhere local to you, get yourself down there and give it a go, you won't be disappointed. As well as the OCR, I really enjoyed the orienteering, to the extent that, when the other guys turned around to head back in, I carried on and found another 4 checkpoints.
Hashing was a completely new thing to me; when someone suggested it I just looked confused and was expecting to be transported to Amsterdam. But as it turns out Hashing has been going since around the 1940s and different chapters can be found all across the world. Hashing itself was actually really good fun as it caters for every fitness level. The idea being the super fit head off on a marked trail that the Hare has laid out for them. The twist being that there are occasionally some false routes laid out meaning the lead / fitter runners have to fan out to find the route. It can take some getting used to at first but once you start to get the hang of it you get yourself involved and become part of the team. The great thing is its main aim is just to be social and a chance for everyone to just get out and run. If your feeling like you want to get out and meet some like minded people then look up your local Hash House Harriers.
Most festivals are judged by the facilities on offer and this was no different: they were actually pretty good, we all know the horrors of portaloos and showers at festivals. These have got to be the cleanest facilities I've come across at any festival/event. The toilets were cleaned regularly across the weekend, the showers basically had 2 changing tents and 2 shower blocks for men and women.
One thing I would say was a bit on the steep side was the cost of the showers, these weren’t included in the price of your ticket and cost an extra £15 for the weekend. I’m guessing the cost to hire these showers could be quite high as the quality was good, but £15 per person just seemed a bit on the expensive side.
Fresh water was readily available from various tankers throughout the festival and campsites, again there was teams going round checking these regularly. There were normal camping options or if you prefer a bit more luxury there was the glamping option- similar to Rat Race glamping, with the teepee style tents.
Camping was conveniently close to the car park so you didn't have the dreaded long walk to load and unload. Personally I think the best way to judge a festival, race, event or experience is to ask yourself 2 questions when you get home:
1, Did you enjoy yourself?
2, Would you do it again?
If the answer to both these questions is yes, then you will more than likely recommend it to others and want to do it all over again the next weekend. If you hadn't already guessed my answers, it's a huge YES to both. So much so I’m already booked up to next year's festival and I’m hoping to see some more Mudstaclites ripping up the trails, smashing the beer mile and just enjoying what has been one of my favorite weekends of the year so far.
Keep it yellow #bleedyellow