As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’ve been trying to find a safe route to be able to run from home into work for some time. Failing that, a number of times now I’ve made the commute on foot via a train. I’d run to the station in Rugby, get the train to Coventry and then run to work from there. It works out around 5.5 miles there and then the same back again in the evening, but I’ve always wanted to ditch the train.
After speaking with a colleague at work who regularly cycles in, and following a few local people on Strava who make similar journeys to Coventry on foot, I was confident of piecing a route together that would be semi-safe. So I booted up Garmin’s courses feature on their website, entered OpenStreet mapping mode and began plotting the route.
Regardless of direction, there was always going to be a stretch of the journey involving country lanes with no paths. This is where the cyclists’ advice came in handy, as he helped point out a couple of roads that he always uses that barely sees any sort of traffic, particularly early in the morning. I scouted these out on Google Street view and they are single track roads with farmers fields on either side. No single track road sees a great deal of traffic so, with Ling Lane and Coalpit Lane I had the third quarter of the route sorted, which would see me into Wolston where the paths returned.
Prior to that, I had to get from the footpath safety of Rugby into Lawford Heath. This would involve crossing a minimum of two farmers fields. I’m always cautious of crossing farmers land as I know a lot of farmers get very precious about their territory and don’t take too kindly to pedestrians venturing through it. I was listening to a piece on Radio 4 (no, I’m not that old) recently whereby a number of farmers were interviewed regarding the bridleways that ran through their respective land and, although they had to accept the fact that there was a public right of way through their field, many were not too happy about it. Anyway, for my goal to succeed, there was no getting around it.
Once into Lawford Heath and onto Coalpit Lane, I could either take the slightly longer route and stick to the path-less road or take a selection of shortcuts through various fields. A confirmatory look on the OS maps website showed that there is a bridle way through the middle of the two fields shown below, cutting across the Fosse Way, although looking at the satellite image I was less than convinced.
Something that came to mind was the Strava Heatmap feature that was recently published. I thought this would be a good way of seeing if there was actually a track there by seeing if / how many people (how bright the heatmap was) had travelled along it. Below was what I found.
Again, not entirely convincing. A bit before this, I found a more obvious track, which seemed well trodden according to Strava, so I opted for this one instead (the ‘hot’ section that can be seen at the bottom of the image above.
Once the 13 mile plus route was planned out, I arranged for my wife to collect me from work the day before so that I didn’t have to run it home too and then everything was set for Friday 26 January.
It’s both a good and bad trait that when I say I’m going to do something, particularly when I set a date, there’s very little that will then prevent me from doing it. Taking into account the amount of off-road running that I was planning, this really wasn’t the best week to embark on such a journey. It’s pretty much rained everyday this week and I knew that this would make the off-roading slightly more tricky than originally hoped. Before setting off I did debate whether to go with the trail trainers, but with less than a quarter of the entire run off road, it didn’t seem worth it, and I didn’t want to wear the lugs out on my Roclite’s, so I opted for the Vongo road shoes.
My alarm went off at 5am and, after a small bowl of porridge and a final kit check, I was out of the door by 5:25. The first 5 miles were relatively easy going although, at that time of the morning, not a lot can be considered as easy. Once I got into Cawston I had to pick up the Cawston Greenway before taking the bridge over into the first farm field. This was the same disused railway track that we ran along as a group at Christmas and, as expected, it was very muddy. My pace immediately dropped off from around 9:00 /mile to slower than 10:00 /mile as I ran down a pitch black track with just my head torch for sight, navigating around the trenches and puddles.
After the bridge, there was a short, sharp downhill which led into the field. I’m not sure how I managed to stay on my feet but I got to the bottom still standing. I was then presented with a mass space in front of me with no sign of any path/track. I adjusted the head torch to try and find where I should be running but it wasn’t until I looked down at my watch that I discovered where the path was.
This was the first time that I had properly used the F5X for its navigation feature and, I have to say, it was fantastic. Throughout the run, particularly as I was running down dark country lanes, I had no idea where I was or where I should be going, but a glance at the watch helped me stay on track and ultimately helped me make it all the way to work.
My pace picked up a bit through the field as I just wanted to get through it as soon as possible and I soon found myself out the other end and onto Ling Lane. Around 1.5 miles of dark lane running was ahead before I was due to enter the next field which would shortcut through onto Dyers Lane which would then take me into Wolston. I got to the entrance of this second field, took one look and decided to stick to the road. If I thought the previous off-roading was bad, this would have been awful. It was almost under water. I knew that if I stuck to the road that I was on, it would take me into Wolston and back onto my planned route, albeit slightly further away than I had planned.
In all, it was around 3 miles of path-less lane running, during which time I saw just three cars, each of which saw me and kindly gave me a wide birth, even though I had hopped onto the grass verge and completely stopped.
It was all plain sailing once into Wolston, as I ran out onto the A45 and then along to Tollbar Island. A seemingly never ending hill was about as exciting as it got from here as I made it into work in 2 hours and 1 minute – 13.35 miles. There were a few surprised faces when I made it, “you ran all the way in from Rugby?” Yes, and it was great!
I must admit, as I was running along the Greenway, I was thinking I am not doing this again until the summer months, but then I got onto the lanes and instead thought this is great, when can I do it again?
It was good fun, and a fantastic feeling of achievement when I completed the journey.