What a revelation last night's run turned out to be.
Tom and I set off from a dark carpark at around half past eight, heading in a clockwise direction. Within a hundred yards of leaving tarmac we were slipping around in claggy mud, descending from the railway lines between chainlink fences through a small industrial park. In my head, I tried to remember whether this was the reason for not wanting to go anti-clockwise: this wouldn't have been the best way to finish a run.
Keeping map and compass in hand to negotiate a dozen or so field crossings in the dark, the going was mostly good. Small pockets of woodland were firm underfoot, and deep in oak leaves, and the occasional patches of heavy mud were mostly restricted to the gates and stiles.
And what about those stiles! Tom found it hard to believe that I had no recollection of the sheer number of them we would have to overcome. Within a mile and a half he'd run out of fingers to count on, and in sections of the run, we found ourselves entering a trail section over a stile, and simply shining our headtorches ahead, spotting the next and heading for it. With each little hedge, fence and wall crossing to negotiate, despite some fast running where the opportunities arose, our our average pace wallowed at nine and a half minutes per mile.
But I was loving it. With clear skies above dispelling the threat of rain, and some solid navigation on-the-go buoying my confidence, I was amazed that I hadn't revisited this route before. Through the mid section, we started to loose the smooth fields, to be replaced by some ridge running, and sharp inclines, and by the final quarter we found ourselves either pushing hard uphill, or stretching our legs on the descents.
Maybe this was my reason for not coming back sooner? By the time we were within a mile of our finish point, I started to recognised half a dozen locations where I'd struggled to find my way, last time round. Memories of battling over the navigation within the first ten minutes came flooding back, as did the disappointment of having so much gradient change so early on. The first time I did this run, it had taken a lot more out of me than it had on this occasion, and the combination of getting lost, early hills and a million stiles had clearly been too much for me.
Not this time though.
In respect of yesterday's thoughts, it seems that our memories can indeed be selective, and perhaps we can all be too quick in forming our opinions. Perhaps instead, all running is good, and every route can be a favourite, providing you're in the right frame of mind to make the most of it. And if you're not? Come back in eighteen months when you've forgotten it, and run it the other way round, at night, with a mate.
Today: 11.0 miles, 1:41 hrs, 1412 cals
January: 341.8 miles, 50:01 hrs, 46113 cals