Off the back of my 26.2 marathon challenge and an article I wrote for Like The Wind magazine, I was invited to give a short talk at Love Trails Festival 2019, which was held from 4-7 July at the Gower Peninsula. I’ve had friends attend in previous years and only heard good things about the event, so naturally was very excited to share my story and get to participate in a weekend of trail-running adventures!
The concept behind Love Trails Festival is to combine running, music and fun in one epic weekend. Starting on the Thursday night, participants camp or glamp while taking part in organised group runs and activities from 3km to 50km, then coming together to party at night. There are yoga, pilates and bootcamp classes, alongside talks and workshops, and brand demonstrations. It’s basically a runner’s paradise.
I gave my talk on the Thursday night, and shared with the audience my journey through 26.2 marathons and how to approach a challenge. It went down really well, I had a lot of people nodding along as I spoke and I felt like the message came across well. It was my first time presenting at a running event, and I’d call it a success! Even better, I was then free for the next three days to enjoy all that Love Trails had to offer.
There were so many runs on offer throughout the weekend that I was a little bit overwhelmed with choice, and wanted to do as much as I could. My first run on the Friday was the 16km Summer Trail, which kicked off with a stretch accompanied by DJ tunes under a Red Bull arch. The run headed through some gorgeous woodland, through some dunes and over to a very flat beach. I ended up running with a small group of 4-5 people, chatting a lot and making friends. We were pushing the pace a little, but it felt good to be out running.
In the evening, I joined up with my friends Claudi, Heidi, Matt and Em and the Adidas Terrex crew for a mini sunset run down to the water. Along the way I got chatting with pro-sky runner Holly Page (!), which just goes to show you the sorts of people at the festival – and how totally chill and open they were. That sort of thing kept happening all weekend, it was fabulous.
Day Two: each Love Trails festival-goer had one Guided Run included in their ticket (as well as being able to purchase additional tickets for things like Run to Kayaking or Run to Coasteering). I chose the WMN Run 10km, which promised some good female-empowerment at a social pace. As it didn’t start til after lunch I took myself off for a little explore, got lost half-following a Hash House Harriers course (who paint their directions on the ground in flour… but the directions aren’t always correct!) and met some sheep.
When I finally got back I wolfed down a cheese toastie from one of the many food trucks that were catering the festival, only to discover I’d misread the start time of the organised run and so had to dash off again! In a day of adventures we ended up being blocked by a closed path, went squelching across a big field of mud only to decide that wasn’t the best way through, and so had to add a few extra kilometres to the planned 10km. I was pretty tired by this point so elected to just have a little rest at the village café I spotted on our way back… and OK fine, an ice cream too.
Quick! Hurry! It was lovely to sit and chill with the view but the Beer Mile Relay championship was starting back at main camp! This event was the highlight of the weekend: groups of four had signed up to each run one 400m lap – after chugging a can of beer. There were heats, semi-finals and finals, meaning that the two final teams had had to scull three beers and sprint three fast laps each! ? From the sidelines though it was an absolute riot, and I’m so impressed at the times they somehow still managed to run.
Saturday was the biggest day of the festival, as some people only arrived late on the Friday and many would return on Sunday afternoon. That meant that it was also the biggest night of partying, with bands and DJs cranking out tunes from 5pm onwards. There were two costume themes for the night too: ‘Fast and Furious’ and ’70s Throwback’. Do you get who I went as?
Em had been volunteering all weekend, and Sunday was her only free day so we followed the Run to Wild Swim route across the cliff-tops on ahhhhh – just the most stunning run. At one point we stopped to chat to these lovely folk who lived down on this peninsula, and then later found ourselves just out in the open, nothing but sea on one side and quaint countryside on the other. It was my first time to Wales and was just so so beautiful.
To get down to the cove to swim meant precariously climbing down some steep sharp rocks, but once in the water was just lovely (if a tad chilly). I had brought my goggles around so along with another girl we set off across the bay to a rock-formed archway. I had hoped to swim through the arch and see what was on the other side, but once we got close we saw a MASSIVE jellyfish – bigger than a dinner plate! – and both just freaked out and started swimming as fast as we could back in the other direction. It was HUGE! Later when Em and I were running along a different beach to catch the bus back to camp we saw more of the jellyfish washed up on the beach. Their tentacles are short which means that it wouldn’t have been harmful, but I still can’t get over their size!
Running with Em was such a joy, as was being out in nature, at the (British) beach and in fresh air. We bought cold Coke, Fanta and ice-cream (each) from a little shop in a cliff-top town, and the whole thing felt to me like I was living in a storybook. That evening we booked ourselves into the hot tubs, before listening to the Power of Uke sing hilarious songs – and even got up on ‘stage’ to join in for one! It was such a friendly, celebratory atmosphere, and the perfect way to end a brilliant weekend.
Big big thank you to my friend Em who let me steal her photos, share her tent and saved me all weekend with her camping knowledge – honestly I would have been a hot mess without her! It was also just wonderful to spend time together after two years apart ❤️Also to all the other friends I saw and met throughout the weekend, it was so great to run and chat and I just had an amazing time!
If you’re anywhere remotely near Wales in July next year (or even if you’re not!), go and book yourself a ticket to Love Trails Festival. You can run as much or as little as you want to, and it is genuinely just such a great vibe. This is not a sponsored post – I just can’t speak highly enough about the experience, and so hope to see you there in 2020!