August 11, 2013
When I was little my mum had quite a laid back approach to keeping an eye on us during the long summer holidays. We were allowed out to play, until we got hungry and could pretty much go as far as our little legs could carry us, and although we got into a few scrapes along the way, it never did us any harm. If anything it made us all quite resilient.
I can remember how exciting it was to find new parts of the area while out making new friends too, a new park, or some derelict garages or even a shortcut to get to where we wanted to go faster. And when I got a bike at about aged 12 this sense of adventure was broadened even further and I enjoyed nothing more than cycling in any direction until I become lost.
When did I lose my love of getting lost? Or have I ever really?
In todays modern world too often we rely on sat navs, google maps or peoples spoken directions to get straight from A to B, it’s not often that we just set out and see where we end up. And as runners we also tend to stick to a few well-chosen training routes, either for safety and convenience or simply because we can’t be bothered to have to think about it.
I’ve lived in Newham my whole life, but since living in my current place in Stratford I’ve never felt so grounded and connected to my environment and this is in part because of my running. From my humble abode I can pop out the door and within minutes find an abundance of interesting trail paths, canal ways, new roads, cut throughs and now I have a brand new park to explore too.
Over the past 5 years it has been so exciting living in the wake of Europe’s biggest construction project, and long before the Olympic stadium was built the area around it was slowly but surely being transformed, and more often than not I would find a route which was ok one week, being closed the next, or a new striking view pop out of nowhere. When Westfield opened just in time for Christmas 2011 it meant a few new properly constructed roads too…but I always had my eye on the longer term development of the area.
Having worked to some extent on the planning of the “Materplan” for the area for a while, I had at least an understanding of the scale and the possibilities that this post Olympics area held, but nobody could truly predict what this would actually look or feel like in reality.
This morning I ran a great 5K, not in terms of time (at nearly 45 minutes eeek) but I ran on roads I didn’t know the names of, up hills I wasn’t aware existed before today and on more than one occasion I had to stop and come back the way I came as the road was blocked or boarded up, but that was ok too. Leaving from just outside the new exit of Stratford Tube by Westfields I carved out a new training route which gave me up close and almost personal views of the Aquatic Centre, the Olympic Stadium, the Orbit (the big curly wirley red structure), the Copper Box, with its very apt 30 feet tall RUN sculpture, the Media and Broadcast Centre, the Velodrome, and for me the jewel in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Parks crown, of course the superb parklands which subtly surround the river as it flows nonchalantly through all of these new shiny attractions.
I am reading a fab book at the moment called “Run Wild” by Boff Whalley, he scoffs at the spectacle that is todays city marathon and says we are missing a trick by pounding the streets day after day, and I think he has a point. He says
“Running shouldn’t just be an alternative to lifting weights and avoiding cream cakes. It shouldn’t be about winning or beating a time in a herded mass charge through a metropolis. Don’t we want our running to reclaim a connection with the earth beneath our trainers? To know the land, the birds, cloud formations, the history of a place, its geography and geology?”
I can’t ever see myself becoming a trail runner, and truly getting lost within my environment I mean I live bang in the middle of one of the worlds busiest cities. But I can really see the appeal that this type of running holds as a way of forging a more intimate relationship with our environment. And even in the most built up of areas you can always find small slithers of nature that truly take your breath away.
So before you tie up your laces and head out the door on autopilot heading for your fail safe out and back 3 miler, why not just go where your heart or your curiosity takes you, head down that road you’ve never been down, do a left rather than a right, tackle that hill, or those stairs that you’re not too sure where they lead to. You never know what you might find. Be brave, be bold (be safe of course) but most of all GET LOST!!!!