Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I was very proud of myself this morning. I got to the gym and it was packed, almost all the equipment in use and some of the people on the treadmill were people who I knew would be doing long workouts. I know there's a sticker on the treadmill that says to limit use to 15 minutes at busy periods, but most people ignore it, and as I've started ignoring it too it would be hypocritical of me to whinge. Also, I was planning on a 40 - 50 minute run so could hardly kick someone off because they'd got to 20 minutes without letting someone else have a go.

In the past I'd have given up and done something else. But I'm a runner now, and I wanted to get that run in. Almost without thinking I knew what to do. It was a lovely sunny morning. Cold but bright. I went back downstairs, put my tracksuit bottoms back on over my shorts, grabbed a woolly hat and headed back out of the gym.

I've recently been looking for new running routes round Leeds and someone had recommended the canal as a nice route. This is one I'm definitely going to try in marathon training - I'll get the bus or train a suitable distance out of town and run back in. You can get down onto the towpath not far from the gym, so I decided to give it a go.

I'd never run up there before so I had no idea of distances, I just decided to run at a relatively comfortable pace for 22.5 minutes, turn round and run back for a 45 minute run. I guessed that it would be around 5 miles (which is what I recorded it as in my training log), but I'm not getting hung up on the precise distance or pace.

And I really enjoyed it. I was a bit cold at first - if I'd known I'd be running outside I'd have worn a longer sleeved top, but after a while it wasn't so bad, particularly once the sun got some warmth in it. It was lovely and peaceful.

I love canals, they look so serene and unhurried, and even better other than three locks and a couple of bridges they're nice and flat too! I've got canals in my blood to some extent, this is a photo of one of my great grandfather's boats. He used to transport goods up and down the canals and do pleasure cruises from Wigan Pier at weekends. I've seen his photo in a couple of museums and pubs round Wigan (according to my grandmother he'd turn in his grave at the latter as he was a committed teetotaller!) There was a big row between my grandmother and her siblings when he died, and the boatyard (which used to be close to Old Trafford football ground) is long gone, and most of the boats were sunk (although one of the boats is in a museum at Ellesmere Port I believe, which I keep on meaning to go over and visit*), but I still love canals.

But I was meant to be writing about running. I ran up the canal, I turned round and I ran back. I actually managed a slight negative split, getting back in just under 44 minutes, although I was just trying to run comfortably rather than at a certain pace. And I enjoyed it so much more than the treadmill.

I've been pondering for a while buying a rucksack so that I can run to work instead of running inside and I will probably do that to fit in the 8 mile midweek training runs I'll need to do for the marathon. If I'm running instead of sitting on a bus I will have an extra 30 - 40 minutes of running time to play with. I don't want to do that at the moment because it's still cold enough that I need a coat to travel home from work in, and I don't want to carry a bulky coat in a rucksack on the way in. But I don't see why I can't run down the canal more often once I've dumped my gear at the gym, like I did today. I'll dress a bit better for it, but just being out in the sunshine and having a bit of variety has made me feel so much perkier today.

Of course, it does make me wonder whether I'm paying my gym membership simply for the privilege of being able to use their showers, but never mind. I do like having the gym there as a safety net, but I'm developing more and more options to use as alternatives, and far more enjoyable ones at that.

*On this subject, I've just sent an application form off for the Chester Half Marathon. If I get a place (the closing date is tomorrow so I don't know whether it will get there in time or whether there will still be places), I might pop in after the race, it's years since I went to see it.


Blogger kathrynoh said...

Funny - I've been thinking about the same thing, using my gym for the lockers and showers while I run outside.

Let us know how you do with the rucksack. I have a cheapie backpack and I'd never run with it on because it gets kinda of unbalanced -- even just walking it's flipped up a few times and I've fallen over. I guess to run with one you'd need the strap that goes around your waist?

11:04 PM  
Blogger VTH said...

I swear I only pay for my gym membership for the change room and showers. Although lately, since it will not stop raining, I'm using it to get dressed to go out after work rather than running outside!

I have a great Kathmandu rucksack that I bought in New Zealand (I think the brand is available in the UK as well). It has a waist and chest strap so once it's snapped on it feels like part of your body. I strongly recommend it.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Abs said...

I agree about the runs outside. So much more refreshing! But I don't always complain because I still need a good pacesetter regularly, and the treadmill does that well for me.

As for the rucksack, I've never done a run with one (unless I was running after a bus in my uni days). Do you have a chest strap? It may help stabalize everything in addition to a waist strap...just a thought.

3:53 AM  

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