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Laura Briggs

Laura lives in Somerton and like many parents, juggles work with family life. She is one of the first Running Mayors in the UK, representing Somerset, and wants to encourage people of all abilities to get out and try running for themselves.

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Tell us about yourself

Why do you love getting outside in Somerset?

Somerset offers the best of all worlds. We have the Levels, rich in wildlife, stunning marshland, rivers and reeds; we have the hills – such as the Quantocks, Blackdowns, and the Mendip Hills, which can be challenging but hugely rewarding when you reach the top! And of course we have the coast – Kilve, Watchet, Weston-Super-Mare and Clevedon to name a few. I love the diversity of this county and the ever-changing landscape which is dependent on the weather and the time of day. I feel really lucky to be able to step out of the door and know that there’s a great place to explore each way I turn.

Can you tell us a little more about why you love running and how you first got into it?

I think of myself as a bit of an eco-warrior, so I’d rather run than drive, and hopefully can show that sometimes walking or running is better than taking the car. I document my journey as a vegan, barefoot ultra-runner, over on Instagram, and I LOVE bright colours!

I suppose I’m a bit of an accidental runner. I started with Langport Runners when I was in my 20s, but I never did anything over and above club meets and the occasional 5 or 10k run. I enjoyed it, but it was very much a hobby. Then when work got busy and I had children, running took a bit of a back seat, and it’s really only in the last three years or so that I really started getting seriously into running. I happened to start working with a sportswear company, and the owner is a serious ultra-runner. She convinced me to sign up for my first 50K run, and I never really looked back. I started to make running part of my life, rather than an extra thing to fit in around it, and if that meant getting up at 5am or running at 10pm in order to fulfil mum and family duties, then I did it.

I realized that I could run by myself very happily and that I loved the adventure of just taking a map and navigating across new paths. I love running coastal paths and woodland, and I mainly stick to trail running where I can. Since my first ultra, I’ve clocked up goodness knows how many miles, I’ve run 40-miles in one day, ran 500 miles in March, and became an ambassador for the National Running Show. Running has given me a new confidence in myself.

I love who you meet through running, and I love the feeling you get tackling a new route or completing a long run. I also love showing people that speed and distance doesn’t matter, if you have a goal, you can achieve it.

Where are your favourite places to go outside in Somerset?

There are so many beautiful places in Somerset but I particularly like Coombe Hill Woods. Firstly it’s very close to me so I can run from my home up to the woods. I love the dramatic views when you get up to the top of the hills, and I love how green it is up there!

I love the Mendip Hills, around Ebbor Gorge and  Priddy and following the Monarch’s Way – of which I’ve run a fair portion of now! It’s a really challenging place to run give the ascent, but it’s so stunning.

Around Montacute and Ham Hill is absolutely gorgeous, pretty villages and stunning hills and woodlands.

On a good day the Quantock Hills can take your breath away – running through the sunflower fields in summer is something else. I have also been up there and not been able to see my hand in front of my face though – it’s all part of the fun!!

Do you have any favourite running routes in Somerset?

The Polden Way passes through Coombe Hill Woods but that whole route is a great run.

The Monarch’s Way partially goes through Somerset and beyond, and is a challenging but beautiful path to run.

The Leland Way – Alfred’s Tower to Ham Hill

And I recently ran around the village of Butleigh and I found it such a pretty place to be. That’s the beauty of Somerset, there are so many gems.

What advice would you give to people who want to get into running?

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.  If you have the desire to get out and try running then do it for you. Don’t beat yourself up if you walk either – I always walk up hills, and I also take a good packed lunch with me on plenty of runs! Make it enjoyable. Take photos.

Give yourself an achievable goal such as – I’m going to run to the end of the road, or I’m going to run for three minutes, walk for two. Never underestimate your achievement. Oh, and also remember there’s no such thing as a bad runner. If you got outside and moved – you did it!