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Monday 20 May 2013

Dogs, Imaginary Dogs and Deer & Putting Your Child on a Leash: 7 miles at 7:30 min/mile

Goal: 7 miles at 7:30

I don't know why, but the thought of any pace at below an 8 minute mile scares me. It just sounds so darn quick. It doesn’t matter what I try and tell myself, it sounds uncomfortable and just a bit too ... wind tearingly, vomit-inducingly, hair-staright-out-behind ... fast!

On the schedule for this evening was 7 miles at a 7:30 min/mile. Humph. I’d better find a route where there aren’t too many gates to climb, roads to cross or ploughed fields then. I’d hate to die under the wheels of one of those moped riders just because I was too determined to maintain my pace to check the road was clear.

I decided to run Central Walk (ahem … Run) which is a disused railway line running through the centre of Rugby, It’s usually peaceful and fairly quiet apart from the dog walkers and cyclists. Personally, I reckon they’re the SAME dog walkers and cyclists every day, rotating like on the Truman Show. They take it in turns to maintain traffic on the route. REALLY, they’re undercover naturalists waiting for a (non-looping) dog walker not to scoop the poop or a cyclist not to stick the path, then they’ll STRIKE. The offender will get a stiff talking to about eroding paths and the dangers of dog poo and get sent on their way with a warning and a leaflet about Natural Beauty on Rugby Byeways.That’s why it’s poo free and the cyclists tend to have a scared look and stick to the paths. You realise I said NATURALISTS don’t you, not NATURISTS. They’re all fully clothed. I know you were thinking it. 

I’d meant to run straight from work. This never happens. I get in the door and get distracted by what's in the fridge. I got distracted this time by a large packet of chocolate buttons and by the time I’d polished those off, I decided I may as well have tea now as well.

I set off about 8pm, leaving the sound of a wailing toddler who really didn’t want to go to bed and the sound of a huffy Daddy who really DID. Outside the door, there was silence apart from the birdsong. Bliss.

A trot around the block and then onto the paths leading along the canal. A few ducks swam peacefully, looking peaceful and completely unlike the Hovis Muggers I knew them to be. First rustle of a plastic bag containing bread and those things lose control and go bread barmy. Don’t trust ducks.

Under the canal bridge and over the cobbles, dodging a walker coming into the tunnel from the other side and hopping over the half a tree some chav has thoughtfully broken off and left as obstacle training for me. Bless their hearts. Don’t let anyone tell you that chavs don’t care.

Following the cycle path with fields on either side and over the river. The mountain bike someone had left in the river seems to have disappeared. No doubt, it’s been dragged home by someone who has cleaned the duckweed off and sprayed it with oil and has popped it on ebay. Good luck with THAT one, Mr Buyer.

Over the road with a pause to check I’m not about to get mown down by a mad moped rider, a pensioner or a cyclist on a bike dripping with duckweed. Nope and over the road, past the post office with a stuffed Postman Pat toy looking out of the window. 3 year old always says “Look there’s Postman Pat” when we passed the post office. I always used to mollify her with ”Yes dear. That’s right, it’s the POST OFFICE.” Thinking I had a child prodigy until one day I spotted the toy. Under the railway bridge, echoing with traffic and grey with traffic fumes and dust. This is my 1 mile point.

Past the bus stop – no teenagers today with outstretched legs to trip over – past the corner shop and up the tiny residential street. I squeeze myself as small as possible to make way for dog walkers and people going in and out of the takeaway. It sounds silly but I try to be a running ambassador. And besides any one of these people could be a runner too. A hand patting you on the back for encouragement as they pass you in a race, a friend sharing a water bottle or a conversation in the portaloo queue.

The tower blocks stretch up high at the end of the road, windows already lighting up in the dusk. I turn right onto a path of cinder blocks and through a tunnel of trees and all of a sudden all of the town sound is muted, then as I travel further down the path, blocked out. No car horns, traffic or train noises. As deeply and quickly as though a velvet hood has been dropped over my head.

The next 4 or 5 miles are all on trail – a mixture of cinder paths, dirt and gravel. Lovely. Much more fun to run on than pavements or roads and much kinder on the joints. Not so kind on the trainers, mind, when I get home from running here, they’re decorated with a lovely mixture of brown water and mud. It’s worth it.

I passed a few cyclists who greeted me with nods or smiles and a few dog walkers with well-behaved charges who DIDN’T greet me with drool or jumping up. Exactly as it should be. What is it with dog owners who excuse their ill-trained pet’s behaviour as “He wants to play”? Who cares if he wants to play?! He’s NOT ALLOWED to play with ME!! Mind you, I’ve never had a problem with dogs except for the odd overenthusiastic lick and muddy pawprints on clothes but I seem to one of the rarities. Most runners I’ve spoken to have been chased and quite a few I know even bitten. I love dogs, but only well-trained ones. You wouldn’t let your kids bite people, would you? Or poo in the street? Well if you do, please keep them on a leash. Yes, the kids.

I reach the end of the path and turn around. A man is holding a lead and peering into hedges calling a dog’s name. There’s no sign of the dog and the man looks a bit shifty. I’m sure he’s quite normal but the way he’s acting makes me wonder whether he’s taking his imaginary pooch for a walk. Well. At least he wouldn’t have to pick up poo I suppose. 

Back down the path. It’s very slightly downhill on the way back but the way back on any route always seems much easier than the way there. No idea why. I guess it’s knowing you’re on the home straight. This time, the path is entirely deserted and I have it to myself. The birds are singing and dusk is falling. It’s peaceful and lovely running here on my own. I always find running with other people harder. Maybe it’s the sheer volume of inane chatter I manage to produce. It must be quite tiring for them to listen to. Although it’s an incentive for them to speed up and escape the noise – the run is over quicker and they’ve got a new PB into the bargain. Win.

As I come down towards the end of the path, there’s a movement on the verge to my right. I stop and 2 deer are looking at me. They’re timid, but not scared and they’re small. Much smaller than the deer I’m used to seeing. They’re about the size of Alsation dogs and a deeper brown. They move away from me steadily but not fearfully and move into the bushes at the top of the verge. It’s amazing that I’m standing on this path in the centre of a town – although it feels secluded and peaceful – and I’ve come face to face with 2 deer. It’s lovely. 

Sorry ... not a great pic. In fact it looks like a kangaroo. But it was a deer. Promise!

A few minutes later my path ends and I’m back onto the pavements and on the home stretch. It’s been a nice run and quicker than I usually do this route. But it’s nice to know that I can do this pace if necessary. The deer have been a lovely addition to an already lovely run.

Goal: 7 miles at 7:30 min/miles

Actual: 7 miles at 7:25 min/miles

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