Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Lone Ranger

Last weekend Jo was away with her girlie friends - for a spot of culture in France, so I was left to do my runs on my own. Also, on Sunday, I was scheduled to meet up with some old Friends Provident mates for what can only be described as a geek-fest (aka playing Dungeons & Dragons!).

Usually when Jo is away for a weekend I'm afraid to say I become a slob. I end up buying junk food and become glued to the sofa while I eat junk, play on the Xbox and catch up on some DVDs. Well, this time, I was determined to avoid slob mode - so after work I went to the supermarket and bought all my food supplies for the weekend. I was pretty pleased with myself, as I avoided all the unhealthy treats. No chocolates, cakes or cheeses. Good start. Of course I regretted it late on Friday when I had a craving for a treat (or two) and discovered there was nothing in the house - but isn't that the point? Don't go food shopping when you are starving as you will then avoid buying rubbish, and so you won't have junk in your home that you're tempted to eat in a moment of weakness.

As much as I wanted to slob on Saturday I knew I had to run. Also I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't have the time or inclination to run on Sunday so I decided to do my long run on Saturday instead of Sunday. I couldn't face doing the long (and boring) run along the Thames without Jo so I decided to try a completely new route. The weather was brilliant - sunny and hot (especially since I faffed about for ages and ended up running at midday)...just how I like it.

I decided to run East to Limehouse and then pick up the Regent Canal, which goes North-West and eventually links up to the Grand Union Canal (hence I could run all 300 miles to Liverpool - and beyond - should I ever fancy it!). I wasn't sure what to expect; canal tow paths can be open and well maintained or derelict and dangerous (as they can be magnets for drunkard trouble makers). Jo and I had shied away from running along this canal before as it went through some dodgy area - dodgy in the sense the canal goes through housing estates where kids have nothing to keep them occupied as councils don't give a damn about providing them with decent sports facilities or parks, so they end up hanging around in groups looking for mischief.

Anyway I needn't have worried - the tow path was well maintained, open and frequented by plenty of families. It was brilliant. My family lived next to the Grand Union Canal twenty-five plus years ago - I think it was probably our happiest home (it certainly was for me), hence running along the canal brought back nice memories.

I was amazed at how quickly I got to Mile End from Limehouse along the canal. That's the great thing about running - it helps you get a better perspective of the area you live in. I had only ever been to Mile End by car or tube hence considered it to be quite far away, only now to discover it was pretty near. Although, to be honest, I was running too fast - I find it difficult to control my pace when I run on my own - my heart rate was in the mid 140s whereas it should have been sub-140...I knew I would pay the price on the return section. Just after Mile End I ran past a kind of water garden...it was lovely, plenty of ducks and other birds with their young and I even saw two small turtles basking in the sun (pretty unusual sight around London). It was lovely and tranquil, with not too many people about.

I wasn't actually sure how long I wanted to run for - I figured at least 25 kilometres and possibly longer (since I knew there was a good chance I wouldn't run on Sunday). Eventually (around 9km) the canal took me to Islington. When the Victorians decided to build this canal they decided that the canal would go under Islington, rather than using locks to go over it. That's a shame really - as it meant the tow path stopped. At Islington, you have to leave the canal and go over the hill while the canal goes under it. Islington High Street is pretty busy and horrid, so it meant slowing to a walk while I made my way - trying to follow sign posts which were few and far between. To be honest I wasn't impressed - the Regent Canal is brilliant, something that should be shouted about, but Islington council made nothing of it. You could live and work in Islington and not know there was a canal nearby - in fact our company has offices on Islington High Street...I had no idea the canal would take me there.

Eventually I found my way overland to the canal and continued West. After about 14km it started to get noticeably busier on the tow path (but still easy to navigate). About 100 metres from the 15km mark it got very busy and then (exactly on the 15km mark) I realised I was in hell (aka Camden). For those of you who don't know Camden - to say it was busy and crowded would be like saying the Sahara desert is a bit sandy!!! I've never been a fan of Camden (it's definitely not my cup of tea) - and to discover that there was no way along the tow path other than through the mega busy and smelly food market was the final straw....it was time to turn around and head for home. It's probably just as well really because I was in my Forrest Gump mood - I would have just kept on running. Last year when I was training for the Helsinki Marathon I was scheduled to do a 30km training run - instead of turning back for home at 15km I just carried on...in the end I turned around at 21km hence doing a complete marathon (42km). My ethos is that sometimes it's good for the soul to just run in one direction as far as you can comfortably go - without worrying about the distance back to home. You will always get home...whether you run, walk or jump onto a bus, so why worry about it. In the mood I was in I was keen to see Regents Park (around 16km) and Maida Vale, aka "Little Venice" (around 19km), in fact I may have carried on all the way to Southall and Bulls Bridge where we used to live (probably around 30km from home!)....so it was a good thing I was forced to turn around and head home.

Just before the Islington tunnel I struck up a conversation with two young guys in a boat.
They asked "Are you going across to the other side of the tunnel?".
"You couldn't do us a favour could you?"
"Sure. What is it?"
"Over there you'll see a boat called the Lone Ranger. It's blue."
"Could you ask the lovely lady if she would come and rescue us from this side of the tunnel?"
They'd obviously made their way across through the tunnel but for some reason didn't relish going back into the dark to the other side.
"Lone Ranger, right?"
"Yes, thanks - just before the dock. Cheers."
I made it to the other side of the tunnel (over ground) and found the Lone Ranger.
"I've got a message for you, from two guys in a boat on the other side of the tunnel. Could you please go and rescue them from that side?"
"On the other side of the tunnel - not just the other side of the bridge?"
"Yup - there's on the other side of the tunnel. I think they're scared of the dark. They were crying so I felt sorry for them and so here I am!!"
She laughed, but I'm not sure she was convinced they needed rescuing.

On the way home the tow path was considerably busier (think people were back on their walks after eating) - but it's amazing how much you appreciate a bit of politeness on the path. Twice I ran past walkers who went out of their way to ensure that my path was clear...as I ran past I said "thank you" and they took the time to say "you're welcome". It's all too rare these days in this "wonderful" city of ours! The norm in London is what happened about a kilometre from home. Two women walking with their bikes (towards me) on a very wide footpath - I'm running on the roadside of the path....even though they could see me clearly (and they looked me straight in the eye as they approached) they still only gave me 6 inches of footpath to run on as we passed (as they were too busy chatting to bother moving over slightly for me). People are just so inconsiderate.
"Thanks for moving over for me" I shouted...I know sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but people like that really get my goat...there's no excuse for being oblivious to the rest of humanity.

I didn't, however, let that last incident change the way I felt about Saturday's run....I loved it. I ran with the sun and a smile on my face - shame Jo wasn't with me...reckon we would have looked like two weirdos both running with big stupid grins...suspect the men with white coats would have taken us away.


Blogger Georgie B said...

Humbly I must admit that this is the first time I have spent time reading your blog.... You are a pulitzer prize winning author in waiting. After I read some of the
" Specs " of your training I got nervous that we are going to be meeting up with a bunch of studly dudes and dudettes. I was relieved to see the reverance that you hold for Hostess Cupcakes and other staple foods. It give me great hope that at some point in our Trans Rockies adventure will we spend time around a campfire with a bunch of beers and chips !

Looking forward to meeting you and your partner. I am going to go with the mysterious elderly gentleman routine when I'm around all attractive female runners... please don't let anyone of the softer gender know that I am indeed a " Knucklehead ".

7 May 2008 at 21:41  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home