The wonders of walking in winter

Our fashion director Marie Kelly never thought she'd be into hiking but now she's addicted. 


If 20 years ago, I'd been shown the above photograph of me trekking up a 925-metre mountain in sub-zero conditions, I would have assumed I was undergoing some sort of penance. It's not that I've never been a walker, it's just that in my twenties my routes were familiar and laden with landmarks... Selfridges, Covent Garden, Topshop in Oxford Circus... I was a city girl and I loved nothing more than to spend Saturday walking the length and breadth of central London, where I was then living.

Back then, walking wasn’t about fresh air, nature or headspace, it was about immersing myself in the excitement of the UK capital. It was about “looking the part” and feeling like I was part of this fabulous city.

But four years ago, a wonderful friend introduced me, first to outdoor running, and second to hill walking. Although always a good walker, I had never run. Ever. Well, not since primary school. He trained me slowly and confidently and within a year I was addicted. Not just to running, but to being outside, among trees and leaves, whatever the weather. We ran in the rain (glorious), we ran in hail (hilarious), we ran hills (excruciating) and power-climbed steps (exhilarating).

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Running made me feel happy, and so does hill walking. Most of us have spent our lives being told to hurry in out of the cold and rain. But why? To quote an old cliché, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.” Running in the rain is the most refreshingly glorious feeling. Standing at the top of a mountain when the wind chill is -10 and everything around you looks like the top of a Christmas cake is incredible. And you’ll never relish the warmth of a shower more or taste food as wonderful as those you indulge in after a fabulous walk or challenging climb.

I’ve learned over these past few years that I respond hugely to natural highs (I experience the same kind of serotonin rush when I swim in the Forty Foot). I think most of us do, but it's so easy to become distracted by life's complications and forget how healing it is to just get outside, put one foot in front of the other and think of nothing except what you see around you. Of course, when you've grown up being told you'll catch your death, the message sticks. My advice? Invest in some good base layers and waterproof trousers. Mother doesn't always know best, you see.

Photograph by Patrick Bolger

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