Journey running as opposed to road running

I’m reading a marvellous book at the moment called, ‘The World at My Feet‘, by Tom Denniss

“In 2013, Australian Tom Denniss became the fastest person to circumnavigate the world on foot. His epic journey lasted nearly two years, and for each of the 622 days it took him to run around the planet, Tom completed the equivalent of a marathon or more. Based on distance alone his feat was an extraordinary act of endurance, but along the way Tom also survived a near-death experience on an ice cliff as he was running over the top of the Andes, was chased by dogs, snakes, and suspicious border police, narrowly avoided lethal cars and buses, suffered in 140-degree heat and sub-zero blizzards, tore through 17 pairs of shoes, and raised tens of thousands of dollars for Oxfam. He also experienced an amazing diversity of scenery, culture, food, and people as he traversed New Zealand, North and South America, Europe from the Atlantic to the Bosphorus, and Australia from Fremantle to Sydney.

The World at My Feet is his account of an incredible 26,232 kilometer run, and a vivid insight into an adventure of truly global proportions.”  (Publisher, Allen & Unwin – New Zealand)

One of the things I love about Tom’s story is how he describes he daily runs (and that he enjoys a couple of glasses of red wine most evenings!). These runs, covering marathon distances and more, weren’t breaking speed record type runs individually (though cumulatively they added up to make him the fastest person to circumnavigate the world on foot), but they were ran at a ‘journey pace’.

Since I started running, over two years ago, I have tried to work on getting faster, but increasingly found less satisfaction in my runs. I lost interest in half marathons and 10k runs on roads and started seeking out trail runs (of which there are many in New Zealand and in absolutely stunning locations).

I was always an avid hiker and love taking the time to appreciate my surroundings. Whilst running at a constant pace, on relatively even terrain, gave me a clear minded feeling, with the rhythm putting me in an almost meditational state, it wasn’t enough. I got bored after any more than 10km.

I have discovered, this year, that I am much more suited to trail running and mixed terrain of various undulations. It’s not about the speed (though of course I am pleasantly surprised at myself when I run faster than I expected) but about the journey. I have started mixing up my runs and found my overall fitness increasing as I take in more hills (my dog enjoys the terrain better too!).

I mix running with jogging and walking – depending on the terrain and the gradient of what I’m running up (or down!).

One of my favourite recent ‘journey runs’ was a week after finishing the Cigna Round the Bays Wellington half-marathon.

I headed along the south coast road to Owhiro Bay and on towards Red Rocks, leaving the road behind and raising my feet higher to navigate the pebbled, rocky surface now beneath my feet.

Red Rocks, Wellington

After around 6 miles (10km) I turned away from the sea and started climbing up  the ‘Red Rocks Track’ to the ridge-lines of the Te Kopahau Reserve (a climb of some 400 metres over 5km).


The views, as I kept climbing, made it all worth while and it felt amazing to be surrounded by this incredible landscape and barely see another person (I saw 2 trampers and one mountain biker).

Looking out across the Cook Strait, towards the South Island, I could see the ferries passing between the North and South Island.


Further down the coastline, of the south coast, I could see Island Bay, Lyall Bay, the airport and across to the south east coast of the North Island.


It was here that my cap blew off my head, in a sudden gust of wind, and sailed over the cliff and out to sea.


I carried on up, making my way to the Tip Track, where I would then make descent back to sea level, but first I had to negotiate some very prickly gorse bush that had grown over the track.

Unfortunately I was wearing only knee length leggings, with ankle socks, so my lower legs were completely exposed to the prickles. Ah well, there really was nothing for it. I hesitated for around 5 minutes, trying to see if there was an alternative (and not wanting to descend back down the distance I’d already climbed, to have to make a climb up another way). I was also enjoying being out in the remote landscape too much to head back the way I’d come.

So I went forth bravely, not being able to see where the track would reemerge (wishing I had a machete to hand!).


After around ten metres I came through the gorse and was back on the track, with much relief and only a couple of scrapes.


The rest of the track was clear of gorse and easy going. I carefully negotiated the loose ground as I descended on the Tip Track back to the road and then ran with ease home.

I ended up running the equivalent of a half marathon (taking longer than I had in the round the bays road half-marathon). Even though I’d been on my feet for longer (some 40 minutes longer) I felt more energised and alive than I had the week before running on the road. Negotiating different terrains and elevations had made my mind feel alert, whilst still experiencing the quietening of my mind that I feel when I’m running.

I vowed to spend more time on trails and make hills my friends in future!


Total distance: 21.83 km

Time: around 2 and a half hours (including stops to catch my breath, take photos, negotiate gorse bushes and bid farewell to my cap!) – moving time 2.23

Average moving pace: 6.34 (minutes per km)

Elevation: Maximum of 407 metres, overall elevation gain 773 metres.

Useful links:

Hiking Project – Wellington Hills – Tip Track to Red Rocks Hiking Trail (what I did, in reverse)

Explore Wellington – Te Kopahou Reserve