Last year it was the lockdown which restricted our running routes, this year – for me at least – it has been this little fuel crisis which we’ve been undergoing. Although, I suppose it’s not a fuel crisis at all, it’s a HGV driver crisis (which sounds considerably less dramatic, although clearly that’s unfair) – though one can’t help but think that eventually an actual fuel crisis will strike us. Whatever you want to call it, my desire to drive has been curtailed. This is no bad thing, I think. Whilst the majority of us are still pottering around in dirty old combustion engines, eating up petrol and diesel, we should probably be a bit more mindful of how many unnecessary miles we’re doing. Yes, it’s nice to run in different places, but what real difference does it make for my training to travel 20, 30 miles up the road? Can I really not find a hill, some grass, some mud, some long, quiet roads in foot travel distance?
I can. I do. I have.
We all aren’t so lucky. If I lived in a city, I would probably feel the urge to escape more desperately, but then I would also have easier access to public transport. But it doesn’t matter, I have no desire to tell anyone else how to live their life, I’m just interested in living my own life to the best of my ability, and I think making the most of the routes which I can find via my own two feet is part of that.
I’ve mentioned previously that I live extremely close to the lowest point in England, literally below sea level, and am right on the edge of the Fens, so for the most part things are pretty flat. Except, not really. I can be in a different county in 5 miles of running, and that border between Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire has some wonderful, rolling roads to follow. Hilly long runs are not a big ask around there, and judging by the pelotons of cyclists which relentlessly patrol here it’s no secret. 2.5 miles in the other direction and I have a great steep grassy hill to do reps on. Attached to the back of that is lovely wood which is full of ups and downs. Pop out the top of that wood and you’ll find a series of bridlepaths and public pathways which can be connected to knock up the off-road miles. Then, right by my house is a 2 mile, a 5 mile, and a 7 mile loop, all perfectly pancake-like and perfect for when I need to keep things flat for speed, or just for ease.
Getting to know these roads and trails, becoming a regular visitor at their table, has it’s romance as much as exploring new one’s does. Strava has its downsides, but the tremendous inventiveness of some of the segments around these parts is not one of them. High Hadon Heartache, Cooks Lane Classic, Tinkers Trail, Lap of the Lamas, erm Dogshyte Dash…Fetch the Lube Watson…Cow-face…
Don’t they all sound exciting? When I toe the line for my half marathon in November I can recall all of those hard miles on Dogshyte Dash and be utterly sure of my fitness. Okay, some of them are a little questionable, but knowing the names of the segments as I hit them does add a little more excitement, a touch more character to what otherwise would be fairly anonymous stretches of roads. I actually don’t care much for racking up Local Legends or Course Records on these stretches, I just like that they exist at all, that they create a tiny bit of local running mythology to encourage us to revisit the same old same old, and realise that familiarity does not always have to breed contempt.