The joys of not having a plan

Posted: 12/03/2013 in Laughingly Called Training, Running

I knew I wanted to run today, as I’d stumbled upon a windfall flexi-day, and I knew I wanted to cover 17 miles, that being my current Jantastic target. But I really wasn’t sure where I might go.

Vague notions included:

  • The pedestrian Tyne Tunnel – love the place and it’s closing for a refurb at the end of the month
  • Into Newcastle – though it’s a little far for a there-and-return, being about 22 miles in total
  • Up to Blyth – this being a bit of a fall-back position
  • Around in circles – that old favourite, and a definite contender

On which happy, but slightly confused note I left the house this morning, into blustery but bright conditions. It was a bit chilly but thankfully most of the ice had departed. First choice is left to Blyth or right to Tynemouth, the tunnel and Newcastle. I chose right, so that was one option at least partially done away with (thought I could have done a bit of a circuit back, but that would be weird, right?).

Down to Tynemouth, drop down the hill to the north bank of the Tyne and inland. Past the Fish Quay, so named because it’s made of actual fish, and up Borough Road and through North Shields. Out past the Parks Leisure Centre and along the main road to the turn down to the various Tyne Tunnels. I was feeling pretty chipper at this point, though no better planned – a vague notion of crossing through the tunnel, out the other side to hit 8.5 miles then turn around and hoof it back to the safety of North Tyneside.

Down the lift, through the tunnel, which still feels like a little treat, and up the other side. Random conversation with the sweary biker who held the door for me – he’d been to the doctor’s in Tynemouth, though he lives in Gateshead. I didn’t ask why, he was too busy swearing his way through his half of the conversation, and I felt I ought to give him the lion’s share of time in order to fit them all in.

Out into the no-less-sunny South Tyneside, and I’m in new territory. I’ve run from the coast at South Shields up to the tunnel before, but never further upriver (and there’s a word you don’t get to say often enough). I had what I like to call a “vague idea”, but we can correctly refer to as no-idea-at-all where I was going, but that’s ok, remember, it’s a couple of miles out, turn around and head back. Any fool can do that, yes?

Except.

There’s a whole set of national cycleways, I’m led to believe. They certainly advertise themselves as such and it’s true that they do seem to pop up most of the places I’ve been, even if I’ve not been everywhere to check. Let’s assume there is, I suppose, for the benefit of this post. Now you could take the boring approach and actually cycle them. Or, if you’re a dyed-in-the-wool non-conformist, like I’m currently pretending to be, then you could run along them instead. Cocking, as you go, a snook to the man who suggested they were for cycling on.

Turns out that route 14 heads into Gateshead and Newcastle along this side of the river. So it seems like a good way to go, but remember, I’ll be turning back around, right? We’re all agreed on that point.

Only.

After the usual through-the-industrial-estate part of going anywhere new, the path ends up down by the river, and I quite like being down by the river. It’s leafier, and greener than the route along the north bank, and it seems quite inviting.

So I could just follow this, end up in Newcastle and then run home, or maybe run part of the way home to get to my 17 miles and then perhaps catch a bus. Unlike so many other runs when I’ve wanted to buy something but come out penniless, I’ve actually had the foresight to bring along a tenner today. Clever me!

I’m told the north bank into town is abut 11 miles, so this must be about the same right? So off I plod, seven miles, eight miles, nine miles, etc. and I’m really enjoying it, this is a great path, honestly, you should come and visit and have a go. It’s ace.

It’s also a bit longer. Checking a map after, I think the north bank route cuts off a whole corner of river around Walker, while the south side can’t unless you’re Jesus, and so you have to run around it. Add a couple of miles by my reckoning. There must be more of the same – it took an age for Newcastle to slowly wallow into sight, around a languorous curve of the River Tyne. I saw a load of things I hadn’t seen before – brightly coloured yacht-related buildings, huge carousels of cable stacked on the other side of the river, presumably for some offshore endeavour.

Eventually, I suddenly popped out at the Baltic Contemporary Arts Centre – and not a moment too soon – the chilli from the night before had been working it’s evil magic for the last few miles, and to be blunt I needed to use the conveniences. You know how people who’ve been stranded in a desert for weeks say the first drop of water is the best water they’ve ever tasted? Well, these were the best toilets in the world, ever. Ever.

Suitably “recharged”, I almost shot over the Millennium Bridge onto the north bank, and along the quayside. Up the hill past the Theatre Royal – without dying either, which is pretty good going for running up that hill – and into Newcastle proper.

Hmm, still only on about 15 miles, I’ll have to go a little further. With thoughts of the Metro home, I headed towards Jesmond. Bingo, arrived there with some exciting subway action (the under-road-byway, not the sandwich shop) but with about a mile still to log. OK, West Jesmond it is then, and the possibility of a coffee in a cafe at the end, sounds mint.

Hoofed it to West Jesmond, and then a little bit further, and the Strava iPhone app tells me it’s 17 miles. Job done.

I stop, I upload the journey. My Soleus GPS watch says 17.33 miles, so I know I’m a bit over. Hang on.

Strava now says 16.8 miles – what’s that about?

Grr.

You know when you’ve done something, spent the time and effort to chalk it off, and then you find you just hadn’t quite done it? Well this was like that, only a lot more annoying, while being the same thing too. I knew I’d done 17 – my watch was over that, the same bloomin’ app had announced 17 miles to me, and now the heinous website was trying to underestimate the work. As I say, grr.

On the basis of a simple majority, I convinced myself that it was fine, but it’s still a bit of an irritation. However, I will try to be big about it, and perhaps always run a little further in future in the hope that any underestimation is thereby taken care of.

Next week, 18 miles.

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