26 July 2010

Down to the Waterline

For a change, I decided to run from Paddington to the office along the Regent's Canal, at least as far as possible - remembering that great evening run with Sarah Gatley a few weeks ago. I arrived at Little Venice to pick the canal up on the wrong side of the river, so had to run a whole lap of the basin there, then off down the towpath until a stretch of private moorings forced me to take to the road. Then the canal disappeared into the Maida Vale tunnel and I had to find my way down Aberdeen Terrace (a blue plaque showing where Guy Gibson VC once lived) and along a length of footpath before picking it up again.

I had no idea that there was a linear green lung running across London, although I had seen some of it. The stretch through Regent's Park might reasonably be expected to be green and pleasant, but I could have been picking blackberries (had they been ripe) at many points along the route. One cyclist almost hit me by dint of ignoring the signs telling her to dismount for a short stretch, but generally it was a gentle and good-natured run. I cheerfully greeted almost everyone I encountered, the anglers universally responding, most of the pedestrians avoiding eye-contact, all the runners carefully ignoring me. I take perverse pleasure in being as friendly as one normally would have been when I was 35 years younger, in the north-east where people lost the habit of speaking to each other so much later than they did elsewhere in the country. I wonder whether they still do?

At Camden Lock I unnecessarily got onto the wrong side of the canal, though after passing locks and yacht basins north of King's Cross and St Pancras I was forced (as I knew I would be) to leave the towpath when the canal disappeared under Islington. Down Copenhagen Street - lots of memories there from the early eighties - then a miserable trudge through Islington's shopping centre and across Upper Street, where my right calf made a difficult-to-ignore complaint and I had to pause to stretch. I found the other end of the tunnel, but one towpath was closed for repairs and the other side didn't last long.

My plan was to run down the side of the City Road Basin, but I found that blocked first by Islington Boat Club's compound - never mind, only a short diversion round the back of it - then by a new residential development of the sort that doesn't want runners - or anyone else - coming too close. So it was a matter of running down City Road for the rest of the trip. Perhaps when the works between Islington and City Road Basin are finished it will be a more viable proposition, and if I could get to the other side of the basin I might get to the office without having to use the road so much. Distance-wise not much different from the usual route, and now I know the way - the signposted "Regent's Canal By-Pass" through Islington, in particular - I should be able to do it in a reasonable time. Here are the data.

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