The idea behind the institution that is now Muddy Saturdays was born in a pub, like so many of the best and worst ideas. Demi and I had called in our local for a nightcap after a night out, when we bumped into a group of our neighbours and hung about a bit. The conversation soon turned to running – as it so often does – and Nick (a keen cyclist) mentioned that he had recently started doing more running. As this was some pints into the evening, it didn’t take long for one of us to come up with the brilliant idea of going for a run around Croft Hill at 8:30 the following morning.
Now, I am not a morning runner in the best of circumstances (one reason why I haven’t made it to our local parkrun as often as I’d like), let alone after a night’s drinking! Still I set my alarm clock, stumbled out of bed and got into my running gear, half hoping that Nick had forgotten all about it and was still asleep. But no, there he was outside my kitchen window warming up while I was still struggling with my laces!
It was a great run though, at a nice steady pace through muddy fields and the Croft Hill nature reserve, following the path to the new section that completes the loop round the hill to the village of Croft and back home. That first run was only about 6k, but a gentle trail run first thing in the morning gets the pulse going and sets you up for the day. Nick (with whom we hadn’t spoken much till the night before in the pub) was great company and the steady pace meant we could just about keep up a steady stream of conversation. When we got back home we renewed the appointment for the following Saturday, and thus the institution of Muddy Saturdays was born!
From such humble beginnings they have grown into a 15h event taking in three Leicester villages! They start with the Boozy Friday at 9pm in the Red Lion with the original drinking group, continue with the Muddy Saturday run through Croft on a Saturday morning with Nick and occasionally Dave, build up to a hot shower and coffee and reach their climax over a cooked breakfast and tea in Cosby! It makes the early Saturday morning almost worth it!
This weekend’s run was slightly atypical in that the mud wasn’t as deep as usual and that there was no ice on the puddles, but that didn’t get in the way of my giving my new trainers the baptism they deserved!
The distance has stabilised around the 10k mark, but the route varies slightly from one week to the next to add an element of variety. On the last one Nick recommended a detour off the short road section (the only blot on the route) which took us to the old part of the village of Croft, a part of it that I had never seen before… might be worth returning with my camera one day.
I thoroughly enjoy these runs and the varied scenery: There are the beautiful trails one would expect, but also some more unexpected sections like the new path opened by Aggregate Industries to permit a full loop around Croft hill, and which we have named “East Berlin”. Running between the steel fence and the railway line, it’s easy to imagine searchlights from watchtowers and barking from alsatians getting closer!
Following our last run Nick claims to have also discovered “West Berlin”, appropriately separated from “East Berlin” by security fences and railway tracks. We have decided to include it in next week’s run!
The benefits of incorporating runs on different terrain in a training programme are well documented: they are easier on the knees, help develop core balance, proprioception, etc. I do feel those benefits of our Muddy Saturdays, and also the improvement in my running form through the impromptu drills they incorporate (running along a flooded path, you can’t help but keep those knees high!) For me though the greatest benefit is the sheer fun of it: it reminds me that running is first and foremost something I do because I enjoy it! This is easy to forget sometimes when you follow a structured programme that dictates when, how far and how fast you must run!