A long run today and I again used walkjogrun.net to plan my route.
I’ve been waiting quite a while to try and follow the greatest part of the Wandle Trail, which follows the path of the River Wandle from Waddon Ponds in Croydon to where the river dumps into the Thames at Wandsworth, and this is the first time I’ve ran a distance long enough to get me both there and back.
I didn’t start out from the ponds themselves but picked up the trail near Mitcham Common – I’ve already ran the earlier part of the trail several times and posted about it elsewhere on this blog so I didn’t mind starting a bit further upstream.
In the early stages, as the river winds through Poulter and Ravensbury and Morden Hall parks, the river is little but a large stream, typically English picturesque with weeping willows hanging over it… it’s very pretty and serene but today was full of midges.
Yes, the temperature has risen a good few degrees and while the sun sparkling off the water was welcome, the thousands of little buggers made running a bit of a mare; for a good half mile, I had to put my head down and keep spitting just to keep them out of my mouth and eyes.
In Ravensbury Park, the river splits into several different branches that wind away from and back to each other, creating a huge wetlands area full of ducks, geese and storks – very pretty – and you can then follow the banks as far as Merton High Street.
It then goes underground for a while, emerging back at Plough Lane where you can follow the banks through Garrat Park to Earlsfield where it disappears again … In this stretch, you can see the river’s industrial heritage. In Victorian times it was London’s ‘hardest working river’ with more than 100 mills on it’s banks (you can see an example of one at Merton Abbey Mills where there is also a delightful little crafts market).
In some places, the old mill cottages have been converted into nice new apartments or terraced houses, but in other places, it’s simply huge depots and rubbish dumps where the mills used to be. A bit sad really, the surrounding area could easily become an attraction if town planners had zoned it into a recreation zone instead of leaving it industrialised. It was here that I saw my first shopping trolley thrown in – perhaps somethings will never change.
The last stretch goes through King George’s Park in Wandsworth before it empties into the Thames, a little underwhelmingly, I have to say, at Bell Lane Creek.
I’d probably got to 11 miles by this point and despite having now done several runs much longer, I realised my first wind had well and truly gone to the point where I almost contemplated stopping. It was hot too – I’d gone out with a long sleeve adidas thermal top under my 1095miles tee shirt, I was dripping with sweat and the bottle of Lucazade sport I’d taken with me had long been finished.
Luckily, I’ve now learnt a few tricks on long runs, so I was prepared with some cash in one of the little pouches on my water belt and stopped at a newsagents for a quick bottle of water and to take my top off – cue a second wind from nowhere, where I started picking up speed again around 12miles only to start to flag again around as I was coming through Balham on the way home.
Mentally, I felt fine and the calves were holding up but my glutes (bum muscles) were so tight each step felt like someone was kicking my ass and I could feel the start of a massive blister on my left heel – combined the two had me shuffling miles 16, 17 and 18 where, again miraculously, I picked up again for the last mile, cantering home at a great pace.
Laura, bless her to pieces, has learnt the routine now. So a quick call 10 minutes from home had her not only filling up the bath with freezing water to relieve the muscles but also with the living room fire on and a hot water bottle at the ready for when I was done to warm me back up.
I’m pleased to say I’m feeling pretty good and pretty chuffed with myself for not giving into the couple of minor walls I came to… roll on next week’s half marathon.
Click here for a Google Map and full details of the day’s run
Miles today: 19.2
Miles to date: 694.56
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