29 June 2017

When he first moved to Sheffield, he admits he found running up the hills “staggeringly tough.”

But now Austen Puleston is not only embracing the trails around The Outdoor City, but introducing other runners to them, as a run leader.

He regularly leads runs on The Outdoor City’s new Run Routes across the city, from Bradfield and Damflask in the north to Ecclesall Woods in the south.

The 27-year-old said: “I started running just over three years ago, at a rather frosty parkrun at Walsall Arboretum in the West Midlands.

“Then I got the parkrun bug and soon started adding in a run or two during the week to try and better my time the following Saturday morning.

“I have a rather sedentary day job, running an IT support company, so running is a key way for me to keep myself active.”

For beginners, Austen said, Rivelin Valley is a great place to start out – and with the new signposted Run Routes, which start from next to the café, off Rivelin Valley Road – it’s easier than ever.

He said: “Rivelin, for sure, is a great place for absolute beginners to start running. The green route stays next to the river and therefore doesn’t have any big climbs, plus Rivelin Valley is very pretty.

“The routes at Graves Park are also worth a look, just remember to take the climbs nice and steady. Once you’re happy running 5km then the blue loop at Low Bradfield is a must. It’s a lovely loop around Damflask reservoir and again, it’s nice and flat.

“The most important tip I’d give to beginners is to start gently and build up slowly. Make sure that you find a way to enjoy it.

“It doesn’t really matter whether that’s running in pretty places, running with a group, or training for an event; the important thing is that you find a reason that will get you out of the door when the weather’s not so nice.

“Also, I think that finding a group to run with really helps. Wood Run, which takes place on Wednesday mornings at Shire Brook nature reserve and on Thursday mornings at Ecclesall Woods, is a good place to start. It’s a great group and we focus on strength and technique to help you run more efficiently.

“The Outdoor City website has a list of groups and clubs. You can also check out the RunTogether website to find a running group that’s ideal for you.”

The second phase of the Run Route initiative, funded by England Athletics, officially launched earlier this year as part of the wider Outdoor City project.

In total, 30 signed Run Routes have been created at 14 locations across the city, providing simple-to-follow trails through Sheffield’s parks and woodlands.

There are a number of different routes at each site, which are colour coded, graded as Easy, Medium, Hard and Challenging, and which loop back to a clear starting point with a noticeboard and map.

Sites in the first phase of the project were Concord Park and Woolley Woods, Ecclesall Woods, Bradfield, Graves Park, Lowfield, Manor Fields Park, and Ponderosa and Crookes Valley.

In the second phase, new routes were added at Rivelin, High Hazels, Firth Park, Shire Brook Nature Reserve, Thorncliffe and Wharncliffe, and from the city centre alongside the River Don or around Norfolk Heritage Park.

And it’s the off-road options that particularly whet Austen’s running appetite.

He said: “Given the choice, I’ll always head off-road. I’ve always loved the mountains and I find running on the trails is a fantastic way to experience the outdoors.

“In the winter, I’ll stick to the roads for the shorter runs, but I’ll still head out onto the trails on longer runs.

“When it comes to the Run Routes, I’m a real fan of the routes at Wharncliffe. The woods there are spectacular and the routes really show them off.

“The blue and red loops both have a fair share of ascent in the second half of the route, so make sure you leave enough in the tank to get back up to the finish!

“During the spring, the blue loop at Concord is also a must. The bluebells through Woolley Woods are incredibly pretty in the springtime.”

Austen added: “The new routes are fantastic. One of the common barriers to running for some people is finding routes.

“The Run Routes really showcase how green Sheffield is and offer plenty of options for all levels of runner.

“There seems to be a real buzz around the Outdoor City at the moment, which is really exciting to see.

“Sheffield is such a great place to be active and the run routes provide a great opportunity for people to get out and enjoy some of the many special parts of Sheffield.”

Maps and descriptions of all Run Routes, as well as videos, are now available on The Outdoor City website.

Handy pocket-sized leaflets are also available, detailing each of the run routes, with photos and maps.

For more information, visit The Outdoor City website here

And to find out more about running groups in Sheffield, visit the website here