Falling in Love with the Trails of Leeds

Tom Godhand

For years running was something of a repetitive task for me. Every other day (unless it was really grim out) I’d set my alarm, wake up early, do the same three circuits of the same local loop in LS6, at around the same pace. Then the day starts. It was a routine, and it worked, but it was hardly inspirational.

Then of course, there was the pandemic. I was working from home – what had been Commute Time became Potential Running Time. And a vague idea that maybe I might just get properly fit.

So, I did the same loop even more times. And unsurprisingly it started to get tiresome.

It was around that time that I started jealously watching other people’s runs that they logged online – they looked far more interesting than mine. And my wife (a more serious and dedicated runner than I) was saying ‘you might just enjoy it a little more if you tried a new route…’.

And, you know, I thought, now I’m fitter I can start to push myself a little further. So, I did. And then I started reading books by ultrarunners, obsessively hitting these glorious trails for 50k, then 100k.

They made the idea of being out in nature, in hills, in the mud, in the grass, over pebbles, sound romantic, exciting, and just a little bit thrilling.

If only – I thought – if only there were dramatic trails to run around me in north Leeds.

And of course, I was foolish. Because in north Leeds the countryside is all around you.

The last half a year or so my ignorance of what was on my doorstep has become clear, and with that a whole new appreciation for what Leeds has to offer. It’s not just a bustling city, it’s green, it’s open and now, I realise, it’s an incredible place to run.

I started on the Meanwood Valley Trail – running alongside the beck through what must be one of the most under-appreciated parks in the city, then hopping up and down the rock-strewn Scotland Woods, getting your feet sucked into the heavy grass of farmer’s fields before winding up in the pathed Golden Acre Park.

And of course, you have the canal. Glorious straight paths. You don’t have to think about navigation for even a second, and it just gets greener the further you go.

Then I pushed further north. You can pretty much make a half marathon from my front door, round Eccup Reservoir and back. And for the most part you’re surrounded by fields and open skies.

And then, every trip in the car, every walk out with the family, my eyes were open for public bridleways, interesting looking paths and snickets, intriguing woodland just asking to be explored.

A lockdown birthday during the winter of this year should have been a depressing slog, but instead I laced up my new trail shoes (thanks mum!) and decided to explore the Leeds Country Way. Rounding Harewood House (the views as you first see the house sitting on the horizon are spectacular), then winding my way through trails round Wike and Bardsey, slipping and sliding on ice, feet plunging into puddles, cheerily waving to walkers. And then returning home to a family laughing and pointing at legs genuinely caked in mud and new shoes gone from sleek black smartness to a soggy brown mess.

And what you realise, as you run these trails, is how reviving it is to be places where there are no sounds of traffic, where there’s no roads, and where the views stretch out over rolling hills, green fields and the occasional clutch of woodland. And there is simply loads of it around here. You don’t need to drive hours out into the Pennines, or to the Lakes (although, obviously those places are a whole different kind of incredible); if you’re willing to travel just a little way out, or even just pull on your shoes and point your nose towards the nearest green thing, there is plenty you can love and appreciate about running in around this city.

Tom Goodhand @tomas311


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