When We’re Not Racing


Dinara Zapparova joins the Serpie trail runners in trading the pavement of London for the beautiful trails of the Peak District.

One of the big reasons I joined the Serpentine Running Club was to experience a different kind of running from pounding the London concrete on my own. With Serpentine, I found glorious new runs and discovered the joys of trail running. The guided social runs, led by dedicated and welcoming runners, took me to the meadows of Kent, the hills of Surrey and the wild coastline of Whitby.  Keen to explore more of the UK’s beauty, on an early spring morning, coffee in hand and clad in running gear, I boarded a train up north to the Peak District with a group of intrepid Serpies.

Day 1 – Runs and Puns

We arrived in Hope, which provided glorious runs and even more glorious puns. We ran in Hope, we ran away from Hope and we ran back to Hope.  Day 1 saw us grapple with two hills. We won over Lose hill, which stands at 476 metres. Having declared victory over Lose Hill, we celebrated by running up Win Hill. The 462-metre climb was challenging for a newbie like me, but the stunning surroundings provided an impetus to keep going. The abundance of countryside drystone walls provided encouragement to keep creating puns, with the team celebrating that no metaphorical or literal walls were hit.

Keen to explore more of the area’s beauty, a group of hardier runners continued down to meander along the reservoir, clocking up around 17 miles in total. Keen to explore more of the area’s desserts, another group continued to the village’s cafes for cake and smoothies. The great thing about Serpies is that there is always a running buddy or cake buddy to be found.

Eating and Sleeping

The weekend’s organiser, Alan, did a great job of finding a cosy and homely hostel – the pretty YHA Castleton Losehill Hall. The hostel offered hearty food and comfortable beds. Soaking up the sun with a pot of tea in the garden, and making friends with the hostel’s piggies was a wonderful post-run relax. It also showed me how diverse Serpies’ running and non-running experiences are, as the group shared stories of Alpine races, cat mishaps and soviet-era giraffe conspiracy theories.

Day 2 – Escapades

The day started with a group run up Mam Tor, climbing 517 metres. At the peak, we split up into smaller groups doing longer and shorter runs back to the hostel. The longest run group, headed by Alan, stayed out for 20 miles. The shorter group, led by Hisayo, ran 6.5 miles.  I dove in for a 14-mile run – the longest distance I’ve ever attempted.  I did the route as a mix of running, jogging and hiking. As a slower runner, I get self-conscious about feeling that on social runs, other faster runners are made to wait for me to catch up. This feeling soon melted away when I was met with encouraging smiles and high-fives from the group.

Thanks to the organisers and run leaders.

A big shout-out goes to Alan for scoping out the location, coming up with some fantastic routes and leading runs. Thanks to Hisayo for leading various groups.

The Joys of Trail running

For me, trail running provides freedom and peace by being active and so close to nature. Serpies love trails for a whole host of reasons:

“Wildlife. Running through Dering Woods in Kent, I saw a herd of deer dance across the trail and then back again. Magic.”

“You can be away from the hustle and bustle in an instant. I’ve got a small loop through a nature reserve right next to the A20, it feels miles away. Also free blackberries in the summer.”

“It’s so much more relaxing. You don’t feel like you are racing against the clock. It’s just you versus the trail. It’s truly meditative at times.”

“Feelings of happy childhood days wandering about outdoors and running for no reason at all. Soaking up nature, feeling restored.”

“Being out in nature triples the endorphin rush.”

“The smells, the variety, the feeling of freedom and the environment all contribute to making me feel far away from the mental stress of day-to-day life.”

Informal social trail runs are led throughout the year. If you’d like to get a taste of trail running, please visit the Serpentine trail running page and sign up for their emails.

Dinara Zapparova has been running regularly since around 2016, and has been a Serpie since October 2017. She likes climbing, aerial yoga and cheese.