The perfect holiday? This retreat pairs running with wine tasting

We headed to Norfolk for a weekend fuelled by delicious homemade food and top-notch wines.

The popular phrase “everything in moderation” is a good choice for many things. Too many miles will hinder a running career as, of course, too much wine will also be potentially damaging. But together, in sensible amounts, they can provide relaxation, entertainment and the chance to meet and make new friends. 

A runner enjoying the sunshine alongside a lakeCredit: Chris Coates
Trails and Vines breaks cater for runners of all ages

That’s exactly the philosophy behind Abby and Chris Coates business, Trails and Vines. They organise running breaks where, says Chris: “We try to cater for improving levels of fitness regardless of age. 

“For us, wine has always been the perfect reward after a hard day’s running. That and wine are two of life’s great joys and we want to share that with others. There is nothing better than kicking back with a glass of local wine after a run. 

Drinking alcohol is, of course, a very personal choice and comes with a World Health Organization warning that no alcohol at all is the best option, so you can choose to simply benefit from the amazing surroundings and expert running coaching advice on the retreat, not to mention the fine dining.  

The weekends are led by the couple, both of whom are England Athletics qualified coaches and hold Wine and Spirit Education Trust level 3 qualifications. They are as much about the running as they are wine tasting.

“Chris does all the running stuff and routes, and I do everything else,” says Abby. “Everything else” includes food prep and cooking. “I’m one of seven siblings in a big Irish family and I love to cook. It also stretches to fitness yoga and Pilates to help prevent running injuries,” she adds. 

The holiday reflects the content of their packages, whether it’s Stubbs House at Loddon, in south Norfolk, and the vineyards in that area, or Bergerac in France or Rioja in Spain. They also have a marathon-specific offering at the Warren House Estate in Norfolk, March 4-8 2024. “It’s five days for people to do really focused training. There’s lots of running and all meals are cooked for them. All they have to do is think about running,” says Abby. 

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Expert advice

It’s all about earning your rewards

“We hit the ground running with a 6.5km [four-mile] run to Chet Valley Vineyard,” says Lynne Maxwell, a guest on the Norfolk retreat. “A cool-down walk through the vines was followed by a welcome glass of water and the sight of yoga mats all laid out.  

“It was only after that we got to sample a crisp sparkling white wine, on the deck overlooking the rows of vines.  

“Then it was onto the yoga mats. A lot of what we did focused on the core and keeping it strong,” says Maxwell.  

“Power comes from the hips, so we work on strengthening those,” agrees Abby. “Single leg exercises put two or three times your bodyweight through and the stronger you are the more efficiently you are going to run.” 

Runners enjoy a hot tub and a glass of wineCredit: Lynne Maxwell
A dip in the hot tub is always a great way to celebrate a run

The conditioning exercises are a prelude to the main event for the day, interval sessions. The plan is to do four sets – three minutes out and two-and-a-half minutes back. They are broken down into 90 seconds and 60 seconds, with one minute’s rest between each rep. 

But first, Chris shares some tips on technique. “Imagine you’re holding a helium balloon with a propeller on it; lean forward. You should not be able to see your toes because that means you’re leaning from your hips; instead, be like a vertical plank. You will fall forward, so you have to run. Now you can be a bit more upright – relax your shoulders and pump your arms. This is especially good at the end of a race; it propels you over the finish line. You naturally speed up as your legs match your arms.” 

There’s plenty on the menu

A trip like this is largely about running, but other elements – food and wine – are important. “Meals are as much part of the journey towards improved running performance as exercise, so, while it couldn’t be described as seizing the opportunity, I do try Bircher muesli for the first time the following morning,” says Maxwell. “This fibre-filled fruit and oat muesli is a powerhouse of nutritious energy that will keep you fuelled for hours.”

Penny Pullinger, a first-time guest on one of the weekend breaks, particularly enjoys the combination offered by Trails and Vines. “I only drink occasionally – preferring quality to quantity – so the ethos of Trails and Vines and visiting the vineyards suits me,” she says. “I really enjoy learning about which wines to match with different foods and visiting small local producers.”

The story of the local vineyard is also entertaining, with Winbirri vineyard owner and winemaker Lee Dyer recalling how he returned from Thailand to find that his dad Stephen had bought a vineyard. Sixteen years on and it’s not only on the Norfolk wine map but also the world stage since winning a platinum best in show medal in the 2017 Decanter World Wine Awards.

 

Where to book

Are you ready for an amazing, friendly weekend?

If food, running and wine sound like the perfect mix, then Trail and Vines’ next weekend on September 810 is for you. Prices are £395 per person, all-inclusive and include accommodation, food, yoga, running, expert advice and, of course, wine. For further information visit trailandvines.co.uk 

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Paul Larkins

Written by Paul Larkins

Updated:

Paul Larkins has been a sports journalist for more than 30 years, covering two Olympic Games, one Paralympics, numerous World Championships and, most recently, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022. He’s also been a magazine editor, heading up titles covering everything from running to cooking and buying tractors. But his real passion is running. As a former GB International athlete and sub-4-minute miler in the 1980s, Paul has a great understanding of life-long fitness and the benefits it can provide.