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Escape the city

December 18, 2012

Sunday saw my first 20-mile long run in ages. As with any first serious long run in months, it wasn’t pretty or comfortable.
But it was sunny and unseasonably warm. With the sun on
my back and a gentle tailwind I set off north along the Lee Valley. Unlike last time, this was before lunch and there was plenty of light left in the day.
The Lee Valley, as you slink out of Tottenham, bears some resemblance to the countryside. Hold your breath against the stench of the London Waste Plant, squint so the pylons vanish from the horizon and studiously ignore the bus depot and boxing gym and you could plausibly be out in the wild.
Continue onwards and track the length of a massive reservoir, pass a nice-looking Harvester on an industrial estate and a warehouse that hangs precariously over the canal and things start to look more rural still.
Pass a boatyard, cross a minor road at a lock and run along the raised bank through a small residential area (which always makes me wonder whether they’re prone to flooding) and you’re on the home stretch to something you can class as countryside.
Under the M25 and pass one last industrial estate, under another bridge and you’re out to a stretch of canal with greenery either side and only a few pylons lining the route.
‘Rather you than me,’ a solitary walker jokes as he steps unprompted to one side to let me pass.
I nearly stop in my tracks. On my long runs over January, February and March I got used to youths spitting at me in Stratford, a tirade of swear words and the odd projectile along Seven Sisters Road, and at best indifference from other towpath users in Hackney. Impromptu friendliness seems alien, yet familiar from my time running in Oxfordshire.
My Garmin clicks past 10 miles and it’s time to turn round. Another mile of countryside (with the low drone of the M25 carried on the headwind) and slowly and ultimately painfully London rebuilds around me like polygon blocks in seminal mid-90s racing video game Lotus Elite. (I don’t expect anyone to get that reference, but it you do yay you.)
And so the lesson I take from this is that I’m 9 miles from actual countryside and potentially common courtesy. To paraphrase, one swallow does not a summer make, but better a swallow than a spit.

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