Anna Paxton on why Sheffield truly is the Outdoor City
Born and bred in Sheffield, Anna Paxton is a freelance copywriter, film producer and mountain runner with a passion for all things outdoors. Over the years Anna has worked with various organisations such as Red Bull Adventure, Lowe Alpine, ShAFF, and The Outdoor City, whilst her website, Outdoorista, documents her recent projects in the Steel City and promotes women’s involvement in outdoor activities.
Outdoorista focuses on the exciting stories of women in the outdoor world. How important is it to showcase female participation in outdoor activity?
When I started blogging in 2014, I didn’t really see many women represented in sports – particularly outdoor or more extreme sports. There was a real lack of female role models. I wanted to tell the stories of women like me getting involved in outdoor sports. I do think times have changed quite a lot in the last few years; there are so many more women participating in sports such as climbing and ultrarunning, so we have definitely come a long way.
What advice would you give to women who are looking at getting involved in outdoor sport?
I remember my first ever 5K about 15 years ago – I didn’t know if I would even be able to finish it! I think it’s just as rewarding whether you finish your first 5K or your first ultra-run – you get the same amazing feeling. One of my first blogs, which became really popular, was about walking around the Tour du Mont Blanc and then eventually running the massif. It took years, starting small and getting bigger and bigger, to be able to do that. It’s not for everyone but if you enjoy it then keep going!
I recently saw an article you wrote for Red Bull about taking part in the 23 mile long Steeple Chase in Devon – it sounds gruelling but you describe it as rewarding. What is it about mountain running and extreme sports such as this that you love?
Well, the reason that I got into mountain running was that I used to be a climber – I did a lot of extreme climbing. After a while, I decided that I wanted to try something new, but I still wanted to get out into the mountain environment. Trail running and ultra-running seemed to be the way to keep on doing that.
You were born in Sheffield but you’ve travelled all around the world for trail and ultra-running events, from the Alps to America. You’re still involved with lots of Sheffield-based projects, like the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and Salt Street Productions. Why do you think we have such a good relationship with outdoor activity here?
I think Sheffield is really unique. Normally, if you want to go somewhere to do outdoor and extreme sports to a world class level, you would be out somewhere completely remote in the mountains. Whereas in Sheffield, you’ve got the national park within its boundaries so there is world class climbing right on your doorstep. And what Sheffield’s got now, that it didn’t have even two years ago, is that edgy, cool, independent spirit.
Especially with the ‘Outdoor City’ push beginning a couple of years ago.
Yeah, I think the outdoor city label has brought us into the light, and helped people come together as a collective. It’s a way for people to easily recognise the city and become aware of what’s going on in Sheffield, which they might not have known about before.
What are you working on at the moment?
I recently did the PR for the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival. We’ve been going into schools in parts of the city that don’t access the outdoors as much, showing the films for free to encourage young people to come to the festival in March and get involved. Another Sheffield-based project I’m working on is the Outdoor City website; I wrote the copy for the relaunch, encouraging young European people to visit Sheffield!
Some top tips for getting active in Sheff!
As the north’s largest cable park, Sheffield Cable Waterski has no shortage of fun things to dive into. With an Aqua Park featuring a Total Wipeout-style inflatable obstacle course and a bar to relax in afterwards, it makes for the perfect summer outdoors experience. The full size cable course is the ideal place to let out all that adrenaline and test your wakeboarding and water-skiing skills. However, don’t sweat if you’re new to the world of water sports, skilled staff are on hand to teach you the basics of knee-boarding before you go onto something more taxing.
If you’d rather visit the countryside while remaining in touching distance of the city centre, you need to give the Sheffield Round Walk a whirl. Perfect for a warm day, the route takes hikers through suburbs and rural areas in a 15-mile loop that includes some beautiful sightseeing and spectacular countryside views.
No rope or harness (but on smaller walls, obviously) bouldering tests strength, stamina and brainpower as you negotiate your route to the top. Balance is essential as the manoeuvres are more complex than traditional climbing as your upper body strength is tested to the max.
Keep On Running
Every Saturday at 9am, Sheffield residents gather in areas across the city to race against each other, the clock or themselves. These 5K park runs are a reliable, free and easy way to let off some steam. Notable routes include Endcliffe Park and Hillsborough – just remember to pre-register before your first run.
Jumping Off Things
Basically, get fit whilst pretending to be Spiderman. Check out the Sheffield Parkour and Freerunning community.
Reach New Heights
Opened in 1991 as the UK’s first dedicated indoor climbing centre, The Foundry is a top class climbing facility that welcomes aspiring climbers of all abilities. There are also student discounts on memberships and daily entry fees.