Mountain amphiteatres of the Cairngorms and the vast skies of the Flow Country.
In a world that's ever more pressured, hectic and artificial - we increasingly seek solace in a simpler, quieter, more natural environment. The temptation is to invest our wishes in annual vacations, but by so doing we risk rushing through our lives seeing only the briefest glimpses of the simpler world we seek.
However, we can find that solace as frequently as we wish - by pulling on our running shoes and heading out on the trails.
I'm exceptionally fortunate to live in the Highlands of Scotland. I would say I'm lucky to live here, but it wasn't luck - it was a conscious decision to move here, driven by the desire to intimately explore some of the UK's last remaining wild places. Trail running is the main vehicle by which I not only explore those wild places, but also find solace from the ever present pressures of the modern world.
I do enter a very limited number of ultra trail running races through the year and, whilst I love those events and the camaraderie of a shared challenge, I gain much greater enjoyment from the numerous long training runs beforehand - for it is those training runs that present the greatest opportunity to absorb the natural world. During those long training runs, I can really appreciate the fullness of the natural world; whether that be at the macro scale of the huge, mountain amphitheatres of the Cairngorms, or the vast, empty skies of the Flow Country - or at the micro scale of a perfect raindrop about to fall from a pine needle, or an intricate ice crystal forming at the edge of a stream. It's as though trail running heightens your senses, you become more in tune with the ebb and flow of the world's natural cycle, and the migration from one season to the next.
It is the opportunity to appreciate the fullness of a natural, unsullied world that trail running presents to us, and which I grasp with both hands - never running with earphones in and never running at night with a headtorch on - to do would be to deprive myself of the very thing I'm seeking, the inner peace and solace of a natural trail runner...