Train dreaming and place name poetry

 

IMG_5546

For the past 6 months or so I have been working in London and commuting weekly between my home city Edinburgh and London. Travelling for around 4 and a half hours each way on the same route – gives plenty time for train window dreaming and watching.

Maybe because I spent my early years on a farm – I notice the crops and farming circle of life more than what might be happening through glimpses of windows or back gardens. My ‘seen from a train window’ novel –  would be short on drama and deeply lacking in Girl on a Train tension.

My Oct to June photo feed is packed with seasonal variations on a theme of east coast skies, fields, sea, distant cooling towers, tiny houses, trees jumping into focus, blurry videos and the odd sunrise and sunset. Watching how the colour of ploughed fields changes – from the reddy brown earth of Dunbar to almost black of the Fens.

There are familiar punctuations that mark the journey passing; southbound – out to sea on the East Lothian coast, approaching the Scotland – England border at Berwick, counting the bridges over the Tyne, the light at York station, and then non stop from York as London draws nearer – the big  flatlands of the south.

And the poetry of place names

Balderton Barnby, Norwell Cromwell, Temple Hirst, Chapel Haddesey, Appelton Roebuck

Rattling on…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Days 4 to 7 – the London runs and the solidarity of runners

IMG_2535

I am working in London at the moment mid week, travelling from Edinburgh and this means an early start to get me there on a Monday or Tuesday and a late finish on Thursday.

IMG_2517

 

IMG_2562

Knowing I would be in London throughout December is one reason I was a bit tentative about committing to the marcothon – where the challenge rules say 25 minutes or 3 miles running each day of December.  I am following the spirit of marcothon , but unlike in other years I am not running 3 miles every single day.

I am enjoying my time working in London but the weekly commute from Edinburgh then the daily commute from where I stay to the office makes for a long day,  so to allow me to tick off year 6 of December running I have adapted the challenge to be –  run 100 miles in the month and this to include a minimum of 1 mile run each day.

IMG_2595

All these daily exercise challenges are somewhat arbitrary – but the underlying theme is about making a commitment to movement – and perhaps recognising how easy it is to kick exercise off the daily menu when you have competing demands on your time.

 

While my family find my December running habit a bit irritating – I try to reassure them by suggesting how unbearable I might be to live with if I did not exercise – and without the nudge of this challenge, it would be very easy for me to take a day off.

IMG_2590

Anyhow – this makes me sound a bit of a swotty herbert on the running front and truth is – last week, in particular, I was more of the class dunce and would very happily have taken a day off when the run ahead was a cold, early morning venture into the dark suburban streets of Ealing.

These midwinter morning or evening runs are the ones that are tough to start but joyous to accomplish.

 

 

IMG_2605

On Tuesday by way of variety, I ran after work before catching the tube home. This run was a loop along the river from Waterloo Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge with lots of  London landmarks to pass by and nighttime lights to enjoy – topped off by Tate Britain’s neon 70s style Christmas decorations.

IMG_2599

IMG_2603

I had seen this from the other side of the river like a beacon of tackiness, and close up it was quite magical.

IMG_2612

A fellow runner stopped to take pictures and we chatted for a bit. One thing I have found pretty much wherever I run is the friendliness of fellow runners. Sometimes this manifests itself as an imperceptible nod in passing – but occasionally you stop and chat and in a few minutes can swiftly exchange run goals /history and race experiences before heading off with a ‘enjoy your run ‘ salutation.

 

Runspotting

More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.

I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.

Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !

With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as  I do by running in different places.

So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus –  and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.

Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.

September London

Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.

Sept 24 Inverness

Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.

Sept 26 Belfast

A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.

Sept 29 Edinburgh

Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.

 

 

 

Short London run with art bonus

london-blackfriars-bridge-1-4

Last week in London I slept so well in my hotel room that I almost ran out of time to run, but having trundled running shoes in my trolley bag through underground stations and pavements – it would have annoyed me to not take them out for a spin.

My biggest challenge when running in London, or in any new destination I find myself in for that matter, is my rubbish sense of direction. This can result in a planned 30 minute 3 miler taking almost twice that time to complete,  time keeping not helped by my tendency to easy distraction and to scurrying  down lanes to take a picture of this or that, of crossing roads to look closely at something or other, and  of generally deviating from my planned route.

Sharing these tales of how I always seem to get lost wherever I go with a friend, he told me to just keep turning right (or at least I think that was the instruction). I guess the idea being that you should eventually return to where you started, something I accidentally achieved on a previous London visit when trying and failing to find the River Thames.  I know that I passed the same  group of  Chinese tourist visitors on  three different occasions at roughly the same spot.

I just hope I made the cut for their London holiday movies  !

So back to this run –  destined to be short and sweet as having overslept I did not have much time to spare before the start of day two of the conference I was in town for. Fortunately I was staying in Covent Garden – so even a short run would provide lots of interest and require just enough effort from me to kick start the day, get the heart rate up and make the carrying of running kit worthwhile.

From the hotel, a run down Drury lane and then a right turn into the Strand took me close to a landmark I know – Somerset House. From there I crossed Waterloo bridge to the South bank so I could run both across and alongside the Thames. The light was grey and sky was flat, a palette that suits the London landscape and murky river. I crossed Blackfriars bridge then looped back along the embankment to Somerset House.

I did not have much time to linger, but time enough to check out the exhibition in the courtyard -a collection of figures standing as sentinel, part of the 1:54 Contemporary African art fair . Then after a short view and a few snaps I retraced my route without diversion or digression to be  back in time for breakfast.

Somerset House NIke+ image

Elemental island run – Tiree

tiree-1-6

Just over a  week ago I visited the island of Tiree for the first time – and to use a cheesy but appropriate cliché – I was blown away by the place.

It is a strange kind of otherness and contrast to one late Friday afternoon, leave the plasticky confines of Glasgow airport departures – with its shiny duty free, unimaginative bars and rainy windows and then barely an hour later find yourself transported to somewhere so different that it feels like the place you left behind had never existed.

It is the joy of the weekend break of course – but some breaks offer more solace than others, and none more so than that provided by a small Scottish island – where the wind blows in all directions, sea is everywhere and the weather is so magical and changeable you can spend the whole weekend just watching it run through its’ repertoire.

I managed a couple of runs while I was there and while Tiree is pretty flat, the wind does make for a bit of a tough workout. It also means you have to keep your wits about you as running on roads with wind whistling and howling  – you don’t hear cars approaching until they are upon you.

Not that there were many cars to avoid on my most memorable run – where I set out with a forecast of 45 mph winds – a smattering of rain but very mild temperature. Perfect for the kite surfers I saw on the beach – and quite a joy when I had this wind advantage behind me for the first mile or so.

tiree-1-4

Earlier I had almost talked myself out of running but once out was glad that I did step out. It was a 5 mile out and back and the fiercest section was running towards Gott Bay into the wind that was whipping off the water – and where it did feel a bit as if I was running backwards.

Running along the beach was fun and exfoliating and then the skies darkened and it started raining – the wind dropped to a modest 21 mph making the return leg easier – but by this time wind had been replaced with heavy rain – making my last few miles a bit refreshing.

tiree-1-3

Tiree has almost too much sky and clouds and sea and beauty to take in on a short visit and in the few days I was there – I was very aware of being in a quite different place and of feeling the weather systems constantly change around me.

Elemental

 

Running undercover

I am not long back from a lovely sunny holiday in Ibiza. As is my new holiday habit, I took my running kit with me and despite the 30+ degree heat, I managed to go out on a few short runs.

While I love my regular runs back home, I always like running in a different place. Of course you can explore a new destination as a tourist on foot at walking pace, but there is something about putting on my running clothes and going out for a run- often early in the day – that makes me feel I am temporarily a local and getting a different sense of the destination.

Regardless of where I am running – early in the morning I will encounter much the same collection of folk – dog walkers, boot camp exercisers, shift workers , early morning night time revellers on the way home – if it is a city, the quiet army of people who clear up after the night before or set up for the new day, and of course fellow runners.

 

Day 22 – running everydayinmay… in May

I used to think the saying n’er cast a clout till is May is oot – meant you should keep wearing your vest until the end of May – and living in Scotland as I do that makes a lot of sense.

Then one cold May day, I was at some event or other and just chatting during a tea break to two very nice ladies and they kindly pointed out to me that the saying referred to May flowers – or the blossom of the hawthorn tree – which made more sense. Although of course as it happens, May blossom is often not fully out until the end of May certainly in Scotland, so I guess it works either way. There is a lot of folklore associated with the Hawthorn tree but folklore aside, May blossom in full bloom just so, so lovely.

This weekend I was visiting Cambridge and as I am running everydayinmay – on Sunday my day 22 run was a very enjoyable and easy trek along by the river Cam out of the city towards Fen Ditton and Horningsea following the towpath.

Although you can see and hear the motorway from some sections of the route, and now and then a glimpse of a train rattling along a couple of fields away, it feels very rural and pastoral and peaceful. I love how with running you can be just a few miles or minutes away from a city and yet be cast back in time and place and surrounded by nature.

It was a warm, sunny morning and my legs felt surprisingly fresh given that Sunday marked day 22 of consecutive running.  Surrounded by the heady fragrance of white hawthorn blossom, running everydayinmay in May – with a flat route, sunny skies, and a wonderful wildlife soundscape did put a spring in my step.

Everydayinmay May22 - 1 (20)

Day 22 Miles run 10 – total miles 99

Along with many others I am running everydayinmay to raise funds for Dimbleby Cancer Care, a charity that provides much appreciated practical and psychological support for cancer patients. If you would like to donate please visit Scout or Sally’s Just giving page. Thank You

Sunday morning sun-filled Cambridge run

Running in different places with a poor sense of direction has seen me lost on more than a few occasions, but if I stick to an easy landmark and use my eyes over my shortcomings in map reading its usually OK.

Sunday morning in Cambridge the sky was blue after two days of grey , so although my legs felt a bit creaky and my body a bit weary after 2 days of walking everywhere, I knew if I did not run I would regret it later.

Maybe it is my imagination but each time I visit Cambridge it seems that on the day I am due to go home – usually a Sunday – the weather is often at its best , and leaving when the sun is shining adds to my feeling of missing or loss. Maybe it just highlights my general low mood , knowing I wont see my daughter again for 8 weeks or so.

The route I followed headed out of the city towards Fen Ditton, and beyond. I followed the river starting from Newmarket road and as I could see runners and walkers on the opposite side I knew there had to be a crossing point somewhere.  It was a beautiful spring morning – skies blue, sun reflecting on trees and a day full of hope.

I had no real time pressure and was aiming to do around 6 miles – but once out and enjoying the windless almost perfect running conditions and the fun of exploring new territory – I kept going, crossing at a lock then on a bit further – catching a glimpse of a farmer tending sheep on the opposite bank then turning back for the return leg into Cambridge.