Last night I dream’t about London. The prospect of the 2014 London Marathon is looming large at just two weeks away, so today I got my final long run out of the way. I usually head south into the picturesque hills and countryside of the shire on my long runs, but today was different. This run had to be done and I wanted no frills, so headed north into the remains of Stoke-on-Trent’s industrial heartlands and the relative safety of the flat, featureless canal towpath
Stoke was once a thriving city, it’s industry kept alive by the arterial lifeline that is the Trent and Mersey Canal. Today the steel, coal mining and pottery for which the city is famous, is all but gone. Just a few pot banks survive, dotted along the waterway as it weaves through the city, the rest is a vast expanse of rubble. It’s not much to look at, but knew that if I kept my head down and ploughed forward, the miles would take care of themselves.
Mrs Trenthamfolk and Junior accompanied me for the first mile (a tactic to try and burn off some of Junior’s energy that didn’t work) but for the next three hours I was on my own. Apart from the bottles bobbing in the brown water and the odd landmark, there were few points of reference. I don’t know the north of the city well, and after four miles I had no idea where I was, but I knew that if I kept to the path, I couldn’t go far wrong. That was until I came to the Harecastle Tunnel, near Kidsgrove. The fourth-longest navigable canal tunnel in the UK, I had forgotten it was there! I didn’t fancy the towpath, so took to the roads and kept going.
Half a mile later, I saw an entry to a park and ducked in. The park was busy with walkers and the surface good and I made steady progress. Before too long I came to a lake and a dry ski slope… all this stuff I was unaware of! I decided that at just over 9 miles it was time to head back, so circled the water and made haste back towards home. As a ran, I tried to work out where I was by referencing distant landmarks. On one occasion I thought I was closing on familiar territory, only to realise it was the wrong church spire and I was in fact miles away!
Never the less, I made it back in one piece, having had a quick natter with my friend H who was out cycling, and now have some Natural Hero Ginger Rub on my knees. Despite my right knee complaining a little and a bit of upper body tension the run went well, all things considered. I have a couple of sports massages booked in over the net couple of weeks to ensure I turn up in the capital all floppy and ready to attack the distance. I am looking forward to some light runs in the lighter evenings but must be careful not to do anything dumb. I am a man after all.
Today I ran 18.26 miles and felt, well, OK… Training has been a mixed bag of beer and running but I’m looking forward to the spectacle and the experience! 14 days and counting…