Norfolk may have a reputation for being flat but Carmine De Grandis is hoping to open our eyes and our minds to the beauty of Norfolk trail running.
And for the last two weeks he has been organising weekly trail running meet ups on Wednesday evenings between 6.45pm and 8.30pm attracting runners from as far afield as Norwich and King’s Lynn.
“I wasn’t expecting that,” he says.
The 47-year-old, who is originally from the Abruzzo region of Italy, but settled in Norfolk after getting married, said he was keen for people to spread the word about trail running here in the county.
Carmine, who used to have his own blog detailing his own runs, started the Norfolk trail running FB page while recovering from injury and very quickly people started getting in touch asking him to recommend routes.
“I became aware that there were lots of people in Norfolk that loved to do great trails, but there was no place that could recognise them,” he says. “So many people love trails but it’s very disjointed – it’s almost like being a Cinderella thing,” he says. “Then I started getting messages from people who would say ‘I’m coming to Norfolk and do you have any nice races and trails I could run. Then somebody asked if they could meet up and run some trails.”
More than just chasing a time
“The idea of Norfolk Trail Running is the fact that we have become more and more aware of people who want to experience the outdoors through running. Running is a method for finding one’s soul and getting in touch with yourself beyond just chasing a time.
“The people I have met here stumble across trail running. People get into it because they want to discover places and views and often it’s got nothing to do with sport. It’s about finding that spirit.
“The days are getting longer so I thought why don’t we start by having a meeting, seeing who comes and see where it will lead. Then I set up a Strava group and said ‘who else can make a training night?’
“I only created it last week and it’s already got 58 people on it. We introduce ourselves and it’s an opportunity to meet people and then decide the focus for the evening based on what people want to do and whether anyone is training for anything specific, or whether they want to keep it flat or do something more technical.
“For the first one, people wanted some hills, so we did some of those but we also stop and look at the views. So far it’s been about enjoying the trails, I don’t know if it will develop or if someone will come along and say they want to do a really good session.”
Anyone is welcome to come along to the Norfolk Trail Running meet up though Carmine advises you should be a runner used to comfortably running a 5k and happy to run off road.
Spreading the word
“The first time there were only four of us and we were similar in terms of training and experience. At the next one there were people of different abilities and pacing so I varied the session by doing something together first and then breaking it up for people who wanted to go a bit quicker.
“During the run people have been talking to each other. After the first one I brought some beers which were very well received!
“Norfolk is great in terms of trail running. There are lots of long distance trails and off road routes, then you have also got the coast and the Dunerunner movement.”
However, though people such as Positive Steps hold several events including the Marriott’s Way Marathon, he says that there is no established trail race bringing people to Norfolk.
“We are not quite a Peak District where it’s easier to get to, we are a little bit stuck on a limb. We have got the cross-country scene, but in terms of big races we don’t have as much recognition, but there are more people coming on board.
“There are lots of trails that are quite undiscovered – it’s like a micro-world. You have got quite wooded areas, and more technical sections, and then you have a coastal path. It’s really varied.
Most people assume Norfolk is flat, but North Norfolk is definitely not that!”
I don’t always want it to be in the same place. There are lots of other places I would like to meet at. My training ground is North Norfolk because that’s where I live. I have run many other paths, including the coastal path.
“I’ve also got the idea of doing virtual events sometimes when we can’t always meet together “I’ve got an ambition to put on a race with a twist which I want to call ‘The Lucky One’ because it will be determined not just by pace but by going on different courses and who finished first will depend on which course you pick!It’s got to be fun, different and quirky!”
Carmine’s favourite spots for Norfolk trail running
“The area between Cromer and Sheringham is one I really like. Sheringham Park is another obvious one, and the coastal path between Overstrand and Trimmingham. Run from Cromer towards the lighthouse to Overstrand then go to the beach if the tide allows, that’s also beautiful because you can go to the cliffs.”
For him sharing his knowledge through Norfolk Trail Running is a way of ‘paying back’ those who shared their love of trails with him. And if the group develops he said they may arrange trips away to trail runs across the country.
“I run to keep my mind clear. One of the things I love about running is that you talk to people, and you meet people,” he says. “I want to show people around, because other people have been so kind to me when I went up North for trail running.”