19 February 2012


Some of my best--and longest--runs have been the unplanned ones. The ones where I head out, thinking I'll knock out a decent seven- or eight-mile route, and then the serendipitous co-occurrence of good weather, good podcasts and good sleep the night before make me choose to keep on running. And yes, the previous sentence does sound like it comes straight from Private Eye's Pseuds' Corner column.

Industrial wasteland, somewhere near Stonebridge Park
Today, I decided to run along the Grand Union Canal for a change. My flat is only half a mile from the canal and then it's towpath all the way, which makes for a more peaceful, solitary outing than my usual turns around the Royal Parks. I figured I would probably go as far as the Car Giant near Willesdon Junction (no, it isn't the prettiest route), which is an eight-mile round trip. But the weather was perfect--cool but sunny and not windy--I had several podcasts lined up on my iPhone and, despite a tiring week and strangely achy legs yesterday, I was feeling pretty good, so I kept on going. In fact, the main problem was that some of the factories that form the industrial wasteland that surrounds the canal seemed to be making donuts and other sweet treats. Usually, this would have made me hungry but on long runs, the smell of food, especially sweet food, makes me feel sick.

I ended up timing myself using podcasts because I wasn't using RunKeeper and estimating my distance by the occasional signs near the towpath. The aforementioned industrial wasteland alongside the canal means there isn't really any decent destination to aim for so my targets were distance-based instead. Based on the signs, 7.5 miles got me to a place I'd never heard of, called Alperton, which seemed as good a turning point as any. Calculating my route on Google Maps when I got home suggests that I "only" ran 14.1 miles, which is the furthest I've ever run, but in a pretty decent time of about 1h50. Not bad considering I wasn't really pushing myself. My legs were aching a lot towards the end but I think I could probably have done another three or four miles without too much fuss. And yet, if I'd try to "make myself" run 14 miles today, I would have ended up talking myself out of it. Isn't motivation funny?

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