It probably wont come as much of a surprise to you that I love the outdoors and I love exploring but I think a lot of people think of those two words, “outdoors” and “exploring” with quite a lot of mental baggage.
If I say “outdoors” what is the image that comes into your head? A wild and windswept moor, a shaded forest or a long panoramic beach? What about “exploring”, does is conjure up images of fighting through thick jungles, gripping an ice axe while summiting a mountain or racing down fast white water rapids on a wild river? I think these are very much what a lot of people think of but I think its necessary to pull back from that and not force an epic, often unobtainable image onto something which is available and accessible to everyone.
At the start of the 2020 lockdown I found myself with a lot more time on my hands but restricted as to where I could go and for how long so I decided I would shift my own idea of exploring and outdoors and started to go on runs around the streets and footpaths close to me. Every run I did started and ended at my front door and rarely lasted more than an hour but I wanted to make each one unique and experience something new each time. As I ran I looked for small paths and side roads, routes I have never taken before and tracks that I might have jogged by without considering. The freedom to explore the space around me was really quite exciting, I knew I could get lost or turned around but equally knew I would never be far from home and at worst it would only add a little distance to my run.
As I ran I tried to take in the spaces around me and take note of all that was new to me, the engravings of old factory names over archways I never noticed before as I jogged past them which opened up a window into my towns industrial past or the wide variety of ground I ran on from turf to cobbles, tarmac to sandstone all within a short distance of each other. Sometimes my random routes revealed small patches of nature as I discovered little areas of woodland thick with the smell of wild garlic or paths that have almost been reclaimed by grasses and brambles which left me wet and scratched with dew and thorns. While I always started and ended on familiar ground each time these little additions kept things novel and kept me engaged with my surroundings and what I was doing and in that way each run felt like an exploration of the outdoors.
More than a year on I am still managing to find new paths and little quirks and oddments as I run and now I can add to that with how I have seen the places change over a year. Seeing people building extensions to their house or a path getting even more over grown with ferns as I run along it gives me a sense of something unique and special reserved just for me, an exploration of time as well as space which gives me pleasure as I run.
All of this has redefined the “outdoors” and “exploration” for me and brought it far closer to my door than it was before