Saturday, 14 November 2015

KIcking the Habit

I'm sure we all have a number of circular runs that we do regularly.  Mine are different lengths, different surroundings, different difficulties; some just right for a quick blast, others for a tempo, an endurance run, or just a gentle contemplative meander. We do them because we can just go and run, no need to think where to go or to concentrate too hard on finding the way, easy.

But if you're like me, and I'll take a bet that many are, then you will do each of these circuits the same way round every time you go. Maybe you don't even think about it. The first time you did a particular run you did it clockwise; then every time since. This started to concern me, I don't know why, what does it matter after all, so I tried doing some of my runs the other way round. I didn't enjoy it. I couldn't put my finger on why exactly, but it didn't feel................comfortable. Maybe a psychologist would be able to tell me why but I don't think it would help. I went back to doing all my runs the right way round.

One circuit that I've taken to doing regularly is the circuit of Derwentwater because as a part-time Keswick resident, it's on the doorstep for me. It's just over nine miles on a path that is easy enough under foot to let your mind wander if you wish, and more or less flat with only around 300 feet of climb over the whole length. A mixture of woodland tracks, grassy fields, shingle beaches, with maybe a half-mile of tarmac on the link through the outskirts of Keswick. Often popular during the daytime, the time to get it mostly to yourself is in the hour or two before dark regardless of the time of year. Then, as well as the normal squirrels and sheep, you may meet voles underfoot and owls overhead, as well as surprised-looking champagne-quaffing occupants of the Lodore Hotel's hot tub as you pop out of the woods a few feet from them. I occasionally have a good bash and get round at under eight minute miling pace (a good gate-opening technique pays dividends here), but somehow it's rather too good for that, much more rewarding to take a bit longer, float along and absorb the surroundings.

Right from my first acquaintance, I always went anti-clockwise. I'm not sure why; maybe because you start across very easy ground, the field path and the shaky bridge to Portinscale, a bit of road then smooth going through the woods past Mr MacGregor's garden, Hawse End and down the lakeside. Across to the river and half the miles are already in the bag at a nice pace, you don't need to start thinking about options governed by how high the lake water level is until you turn for home. I was happy doing it this way until I raved about it to Dave Troman, a proper Keswick local. No, no, he said, go clockwise, it's better.

Well, I wasn't sure but you have to listen to the experts, so I tried. Dave was right, I was going the wrong way. I still can't put my finger on why, but I have rarely been the other way since. It's nothing earth-shattering, just a whole raft of little things that work out better. Here's an example. After crossing the bridge over the Derwent at the southern end of the lake, you follow a few hundred yards of boardwalk then some open pasture before diving into ancient woodland. You emerge past a house with a teddy bear in the garage window (he's always there, he gets cards at Christmas), then down through a gate to a path just above the water with a scree bank above. If you get yourself to this point on a sunny evening in late August, then as you round the little headland just ahead you will be treated to one of the finest views in the Lake District, which means, of course, in the world.


Dave T said...

...... but then there's the view down Borrowdale when running through Manesty as you go round anti clockwise ;-)

Ben Pine said...

I try and mix up directions every now and again as I think it's probably good for mental flexibility, but like you I have a default preferred direction which is the first way I did it.

Rob said...

"Squirrels, sheep, voles and owls" and "more rewarding to take a bit longer, float along and absorb the surroundings" reminds me very much of Richard Askwith's sentiments in Running Free.