I’ve come to realise that choosing of a regular running route is much like a choosing a method of intimate hair removal, in that it’s both a delicate and personal matter. For me, having the same regular running route is essential – owing to my ridiculous self-competitive nature and thus needing to ‘see if this week’s Ben can beat last week’s Ben’. The route I usually do is around 4.1 miles long, and is a satisfying mix of urban and rural (Urbal? Ruban? Urbanural? That last one sounds like a medical procedure…), chosen specifically to give me things to see, ponder and fear. This variety is key in the war against running apathy and that feeling of ‘urgh…not running again’. The route is one long loop rather than the dreaded ‘out and back’ or the even more dreaded ‘laps’ scenario. It’s not the most straightforward of routes, but I usually complete it between 28 and 32 minutes depending on conditions, energy levels and obstruction caused by animals, minerals and vegetables. Behold the highlights of the regular run:
1) The urban level crossing
Man, I do love a train. Most of the time. But not if I’m partaking in a ridiculous, unnecessary sprint finish. Hence we encounter this level crossing early on, so if I’m forced to pause for the Whitby to Hexham express to rocket through at 15 mph, it’s not the end of the world. Still, public pauses are never good for the angst-ridden runner. There’s a stark choice to be made. I can either jog on the spot in the full knowledge that everyone thinks I’m a prat, and indeed motorists and passengers sat in their vehicles waiting for the train to pass will no doubt say something along the lines of ‘Here, Maureen, look at that prat jogging on the spot’. The other choice is to pretend you’re not out running at all, just taking a Lycra-clad stroll past the ‘ol level crossing. On a recent run, I faced just this choice – only with added confusion. The lights were flashing, but the barriers were up! (To which my inner monologue cried ‘the barriers are up! They’re up!’ in the same way that a psychotic cross-dressing Sean Young declares ‘the laces were in! They were in!’ during the climax of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective).
In the end the signal box dude saw my obvious distress and stuck a raised thumb out of the window– the universal signal for ‘it’s OK mate, you can crack on without getting smashed in the face by a train, trust me’.
As a conniseur connosure connasir fan of all of the arts*, I can appreciate the value of some forms of graffiti that could legitimately be termed ‘art’. And yet I can also abhor the mindless tagging undertaken by a cretin with a spray-can. However, I’m going to give Kyle a pass on this one because his handiwork amuses me every time I run past it. I’d really like to know what kind of statement Kyle thinks he’s making by adorning this dog waste bin with his name. I can hear him now, bragging to his mates about how he ‘totally bombed the canine egesta receptacle’. I mean, we all like to think that when we shuffle off this mortal coil there’ll be a little bit of us left behind somewhere. Perhaps for Kyle, he’ll go to his grave satisfied in the knowledge that ‘when people think of dog faeces, they’ll think of Kyle’. Or maybe I’m coming at this from the wrong angle. Maybe the dog waste bin has become self-aware and named itself Kyle. It’ll be the ultimate rags-to-riches story when it becomes mayor of Middlesbrough in 2020.
3) Rural level crossing
Oh man, now we’re talking. Lacking the fortified crossing gates of its urban brethren, all that stands between a man and disaster here is a feeble barrier and self-restraint. What you can’t tell from this picture (and, I should add, I put a colossal sprint on to get in position to take this picture whilst the crossing lights were on and the barriers were moving and everything) is that just beyond the crossing is the opportunity to continue my run along a path that runs parallel to the tracks, thus allowing for a ‘man versus train’ race like that one in Superman: The Movie.
4) Rolling countryside
I acknowledge I’m lucky to have such a splendid view only minutes from my house, and being out in the countryside for a jaunt usually helps my demeanour no end. Unless it’s windy, then this bit becomes a gusty, exposed, expletive-ridden hell mile. Still, pictured above we have two of Teesside’s more iconic sites. That little dot on hill to the right is Captain Cook’s Monument; hand-built by Cook himself in 1777 from pteranodon fossils discarded by the nearby Boulby Potash Mine. To the left you can see Roseberry Topping, the 4th highest peak in Europe.**
5) This bus stop
Being mental, a high proportion of advertising irrationally annoys me, and making repeated runs past the same advertisements only fuels that annoyance. Having endured several weeks of an advert that seemed to imply that if women weren’t a size 0 they may as well hibernate for the summer as the beaches were reserved for skeletal-types only, I was delighted, at first, to see this one appear in its place. After a degree of mid-running contemplation regarding whether or not it’s being ironic, I’m assuming not. Sadly. No, it legitimately promotes the phone as some sort of life guru. What else does it remind you to do? Be attentive to personal hygiene? Set aside quality time for your lover? Breathe?
6) The Danger Zone
Now, the people that one meets whilst running is largely another rant for another day, but lets acknowledge that the site illustrated above is something of a potential hazard. Should it be inhabited with age-appropriate occupants, there is not a problem. Younger children care not for the passing runner, and on the off chance there’s an altercation even I fancy my chances of winning a battle of wits with an abusive 7-year old. No, the issue here is if the park is overrun with surly teens, eager to impress their brain-dead peers by drawing attention to and lambasting the passing chap in skin-tight yellow. Over the years I’ve naturally suffered verbal abuse, the odd thing thrown at me and, on rare occasion, I’ve been challenged to an impromptu race by the odd particularly cocksure teen who’s clearly had one to many cans of Relentless. The best advice is to ignore all and plough on, as experience has taught me that what they have in brash dickheadedness, they lack in endurance.
This weeks running
I’ve managed to put 22.4 miles into the running bank this week, with a couple of runs around the regular route as mentioned above, a longer, marathon-pace run of 10 miles on National Running Day (Wednesday the 3rd of June, if you didn’t know. There’s always next year…) where particular highlights included being so startled by the air brakes on a passing bus that I almost fell over and battling ferocious wind (of an atmospheric nature, rather than chronic flatulence). Then there was a few miles by the sea. Where the ridiculous hill was ridiculous. But that’s next week’s blog entry…stupid running.
* – The use of the word ‘all’ here may be misleading
** – ‘Facts’ in this paragraph are subject to possible embellishment