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Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – Queen Elizabeth Country Park

We sent one of our Ambassadors along to the Silva Explore More Tour UK 2018 – take it away, Al….

Back at the Endure 24 race weekend I’d heard from the guys at Silva that they were planning to bring the concept of the ‘Explore More’ Tour of night runs to the UK in the Autumn of 2018. Tim Young, Silva UK Sales Manager, explains;

“The Explore More Tour is all about exploring new and challenging trails at night. The SILVA Explore More Tour nights are special runs: they are guided, they take in tough terrain and challenging trails. The latest generation of high powered running head torches are so good that you don’t have to be limited by darkness. The products we are running with this season are the SILVA Trail Runner 4, Cross Trail Ultra 5 and Exceed 2. We always finish up with a sticky bun and a hot drink and we invite a mix of industry people, athletes, ambassadors and event organisers” 

The first stop of the tour in 2018 was at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park in the South Downs National Park of Hampshire on fireworks night, there weren’t any bangs and flashes of the explosive type, but plenty of bright flashes from a gaggle of runners equipped with hyper-bright headtorches. 

QE Park is the venue for the next Maverick Dark race series on Saturday 24th November, where I’m planning on running the ‘long course’ race, so this more casual foray into the woods would hopefully serve as a good introduction to running there in the dark. Check out their site for more details. Silva will be at the races too with head torches to try out.

 We met up in the park main car park and straight away got on the coffee supplied out of the back of a cool Landrover Defender run by Brian from ‘HitchnHop’. The group was a great mix of trail running enthusiasts, all excited to be getting out on some great trails in the dark! Tim from Silva got everyone kitted up with the latest high tech headtorches. I donned an Exceed 2 light which boasted a maximum light output of 1500 lumens and an impressive minimum burn-time of 4 hours (@-5DegreesC, even better if it’s warmer!). The battery pack is a little chunky, but isn’t a problem to carry in a rucksack or technical vest, which is what most of the runners were doing. This approach does make the light on your head really nice and light though!

 After a quick intro to the lights from Tim and a run briefing from our guide Sam from Run With Karibu, who was in charge of making sure we all went in the right direction in the dark, we set off up into the park. Straight away it was clear that we weren’t lacking in light power, with the trail lit up like a stadium from the output of a dozen slightly car-like headlights! The first mile and a half were spent warming up nicely as we climbed steadily before hitting the first singletrack section. This where the running got interesting, with a bit of space between the runners the lights really showed their capabilities. I now had the Exceed 2 into max mode and the light it now put out allowed me to run as fast as I dared along the narrow, slightly greasy, rooty and leaf strewn trail. It still required 100% concentration to stay up right, but the feeling of speed as the trees whipped past in the dark was awesome! 

 We continued on stopping off for a quick spot of obstacle course play in the middle of the woods! An another stretch of climbing took us up to the high point of the run at just over 750ft. Now we were over in the back section of the country park which contains some of the lesser known but more technical trails! What followed simply wouldn’t have been possible at any sort of speed without the assistance of a lot of light… It was steep, loose, off-camber and rooty. Words don’t really do it justice, so check out the video (slightly epic music, but I think it deserves it!)…. It was a blast, such a cool feeling of zipping between the trees and even over a jump. The light was brilliant allowing me to pick out all the details on the trail in enough time to put my feet in the right place!

I was also getting a lot of confidence from the excellent Salomon Sense Ride shoes I was wearing (thanks to Scott at Alton Sports for the loan!). The Sense Rides were gripping plenty much everything, including the greasy chalk surfaces which are characteristic of the South Downs. The ability to put my foot down and know that it would most likely stay there coupled with the Exceed 2 light was a winning combination. The Sense Rides are also insanely comfortable to wear, plus they feel good on the road too, so all in all a great shoe. Definitely one on my Christmas list.

The remainder of the run was more gentle as we followed the South Downs Way and loop round back to the main car park, where great coffee buns and pastries awaited us! Everyone was buzzing and super impressed with what the Silva head torches enabled us to do in the dark. I can’t wait for the Maverick Dark race in a couple of weeks’ time!

Shop Silva on our site

Buy the Trail Runner 4 headlight here

You can follow Al’s running achievements on Strava / Instagram Twitter.

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An adventure in the Lake District with inov-8!

It’s a sunny morning down south as I begin a five hour journey across London to the Lake District. Oxenholme Station to be exact with the final destination being Staveley. The home of inov-8! What do you think of when you think about inov-8? I think my first perceptions were lightweight, minimalist trail shoes that you can smash about the trails and mountains in. A brand with Northern heritage that are for elite hill runners, perhaps? How wrong can one man be!

After my epic journey and far too many coffees, I arrive at inov-8 HQ just in time for lunch. It’s not a massive building, they are buried in some offices in the corner of a very cool yard. The kind of yard that has a hip coffee shop, brewery and bakery. My kind of  yard! As they proclaim later, they are not a big team and they’re proud of where they are in the world. The offices are surrounded by fells and trails and the team use their lunch breaks to test out new kit and to go running. Why wouldn’t you?

We sit down for a few hours of product training, so we can immerse ourselves in the brand and learn all about who they are, what they stand for and all their awesome products. The first thing that hits me is that they make shoes for all terrains – whether it’s ice, mud, rock, trails and even road. Their shoes are all different widths (there’s 5 different sizes). they’re precision fit, there’s 3 different kind of grips and the number on the shoe is the weight. Another cool thing is that if you look on the heel on the shoe, the arrows indicate the amount of drop on the shoe. One arrow is 4mm and 2 is 8 and so on… (there’s a couple of exceptions where they are a 3 and a 6).

inov-8 have only been around for 15 years, they are relatively new in the shoe world. They don’t have sponsored athletes, they have ambassadors (like us really) and I loved how passionately the team spoke about the brand, and how knowledgable they were about the plethora of shoes, jackets and all accessories. They even brought out the people who design the products, so we could give them feedback. Cool huh?! We’d sat for a few hours and listened attentively, now it was time to get out and do some running and shoe testing.

inov-8 gave us some X-Talon 230 and Roclite 290 to test out… first stop was running up the Loughrigg Fell and then back down it with some of their ambassadors – awesome ultra runners, Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack. I can honestly say I have never ran on terrain like that in my life… we just don’t have it down south. The run was 5.7 miles and there was nearly 2000 ft of climb, which was great! The X-Talon 230 were more than capable of handling whatever nature threw at our feet (inov-8 are big on exteroception in their shoes – which means “relating to stimuli that are external to an organism” – as in being able to feel the ground around you with your feet and responding naturally to it with the shoes). What do you do after running up a fell? Drink some IPAs and talk about running of course.

An early 6 a.m start and a different kind of run – a run to the picturesque Easedale Tarn with many a stop for a photo. We set off in the dark but when the light came it was all misty and close. We ran in the Roclite 290, a true all rounder, capable of running across most terrains and inov-8’s most flexible shoe. I’d ran in them before, and liked it, so was good to try them out on something totally different. I was trepidatious as we cascaded down slippy rocky paths, with the advice being “lean forward & go for it, or you’ll land on your heel and slip over.” Solid advice but easier said than done for a man who is used to tarmac / hard packed trails / the odd XC route. A solid 4.5 mile run and back to the Youth Hostel for more running chats and sausages.

What did I learn from my 36 hours with inov-8? I learnt that I like running on fells and that it’s a totally different kind of running. It was so cool to be able to immerse myself in the brand, their heritage and everything they stand for. I learnt all about their shoes and equipment and that their shoes are for all terrains. At Alton Sports we always advise to come in-store and try a pair on your feet, it’s the only way to see if those shoes are for you. On a personal level I am looking forward to trying more of the range on… I did get to try some Trail Talons on since and they’re totally different to anything I have ran in from the brand – a lot more cushioning and therefore proving they have something for everyone…!

Last but not least, it was cool to learn that they will be adding graphene (you might have seen their recent G-series launch) into a lot more of their shoes. Graphene will help provide the world’s toughest grip and is 200 times stronger than steel with the aim being that 80% of their shoes in 5 years will have graphene in. A whirlwind 36 hours and then one last 5 hour journey home south. A trip that educated me about the brand but also added a whole new world of running into my life. Amazing. Can’t wait to go back there and do some more running, and I’ll be popping into to inov-8 to say hello and see if I can try on some more shoes.

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