Join us for the final of 3 blog posts celebrating spring for the trail runner.
Ronnie Staton is an ultra runner, coach and Hobo Pace race director. You can see more from Ronnie here.
You can also book onto Ronnie's May online seminar - The Positive Runner, here.
May is believed to derive its name from the Roman goddess Maia, who was considered a nurturer connected to motherhood and the growth of plants, an all round bonafide earth goddess! May couldn't be better placed as this is indeed the springtime month of exponential growth. Maia is to blame for our overgrown trails and she really must be exhausted by June!
This is also the month I’ve witnessed many runners make their largest training gains. The pull of summer events often provide a sharper focus and with recommitment to training since early spring, a greater gusto becomes apparent. Such enthusiasm perhaps faded a little over the cold wet winter for all but the die hards or the rare folk who thrive in winter running. Warm weather and more adventures on the horizon combine to provide a dose of motivation and inspiration for the long bright days ahead.
Longer they are too, daylight increasing by 1 hour 30 mins in the East. Just considered this for a moment, we now have 5 hours 21 minutes more daylight than when I first wrote part one in March! The trail runners world opens up, evening runs become a pleasure for those no longer needing to hug the urban streetlights for convenience or safety. Even the determined night trail head torch runner who has gone through the cold darkness is now relieved to be rewarded with easier times.
On 31st May at Hopton-On-Sea the sun will rise at 4:36am, only the most keen runners or wildcampers out on the beaches and coast cliff tops will see that. In the West (St Michael’s Mount) on this same day you can enjoy a 21:05 sunset! I dare say most of us will see more sunsets than sunrises for a good few months! This extended light, rather than warm days, is perhaps more responsible for the growth I see in many runners. Consistency increases as early or late runs no longer feel a chore, safety is less of an issue with route choice multiplying and some just can’t get enough so run twice a day! It all equals to the same thing, a consistent higher volume and often accompanying that better race day results, provided they don’t overcook it to become fatigued / injured of course.
If you are running early morning on grassy paths during May, more so than ever expect wet feet as the May Dew clings to the grass. The ground still cold from winter chills the blades of grass which warmer air moves in around, the air cools to become saturated with water vapor and with further cooling will condense to form droplets, known as dew point - which equals wet feet! Such droplets could also turn to occasional frost as May is still prone to cold snaps throughout the nights, especially in the North.
In fact getting more than wet feet in May carries as much risk as it did with the April showers. May weather is highly changeable feeling like a hot summer's day one moment to a winter’s day the next if the clouds suddenly mask the sun. This is due to cold airstreams from the East taking advantage of the weaker prevailing Westerly airflow during this month, contributing towards May hailstorms! If you are running long or fastpacking over a couple of days, be sure to pack both the sun cream and the warm base layers! Those camping will no doubt feel the chill of night and dawn too.
Overall the temperature is much warmer now though and it is exactly this that accounts for the explosion of green everywhere as trees are in leaf and the grass shoots up accompanied by colourful floral abundance. On leisurely runs and hikes in the hills we get to sit for a few minutes to enjoy the view without catching a chill. Bluebells peak, the purple dog violet and red campion will be seen and fat yellow dandelion heads scatter our fields and fight their way through pavement cracks. Buttercups, daisies and our grassy meadows plus roadside grass verges are in full flower. Blankets of yellow appear from vast stretches of oilseed rape. But also white, white and more white everywhere! That’s because so many of our fields, tow paths and parks are home to the Hawthorn which now reveals it’s pure white blossom. Reinforcing this white is cow parsley, the wayfaring and elder tree along with the flowering of wild garlic. White everywhere!
All the flowers send the bees into a nectar frenzy, cabbage white, orange tip and holly blue butterflies flutter along to share a few steps with us, or at night the moths. Magical and unworldly Damselflies and dragonflies begin to emerge especially around the water's edge. The sea cliffs become a cacophony of squawks, a wall of noise as you climb a slight undulation to reveal a cliff face, the sea birds are busy breeding and feeding their young. To run along the Yorkshire Coast on the Flamborough and Bempton cliffs home for a spell to the guillemot, puffins and gannets is always a huge highlight of my early summer running. The numbers of swifts, house martins and swallows also continue to increase and give aerial displays to mesmerise as you run by wheat fields.
I managed to get out on a mini fastpacking trip to bivvi and watch the April Lyrids, I hope some of you did too as it was a clear night, I spotted approx 15 shooting stars. The Aquariids meteor shower will peak between midnight and dawn on May 6th with up to 40 per hour, that’s double the Lyrids! I should expect to be out with my bivvi again if we are blessed with a clear sky. Get yourself out there!
The moon is full on Wednesday 26th May, always a great time to run long at night, fastpack or camp out. Five days either side of the full moon the light in a cloudless sky is often enough to be of use without a hd torch, so if you have to wait until the weekend to get out you won’t fully miss out. It’s at least worth a stroll just to see the soft moonlight reflect off the hawthorns. May’s full moon is commonly known as ‘Flower Moon’ to represent all such floral bloom. The medieval name is ‘Mothers Moon’ perhaps after goddess Maia again given her connection to growth and motherhood as previously mentioned.
Thank you for the positivity I’ve received from this three part blog, it’s been wonderful to hear from you reporting you’ve taken more note of what’s around you on the trail, as that was my main motivation for writing. I’m confident I’ll continue to be involved in someway going forward with Harrier and I'll perhaps see some of you on events, within my coaching or ‘The Positive Runner’ seminar on SiEntries which will run for the rest of the year. Lastly, you can subscribe to my new free coaching newsletter from my website. Enjoy the wonders of May.