Tomorrow’s Sunday, and in the morning I will go for my weekly run. Dodgy knees allowing, I’ll probably do my favourite 12.5km (8 mile) run.
I start from home, turn left down the road and onto the cliff-top. I then head eastwards towards Hengistbury Head, staying on the cliff-top path until it runs out, then a little bit of road-running before I cut across the open land on a sandy path, then a board walk, and then towards Hengistbury Head itself (see photo).
The path then joins one of the main tarmac routes over the Head. I loop round through the woods, round the back of a golf course, and return home via the prom.
Last week while running this route I was thinking that this run has all the elements of a well-written novel.
During this route I run on all sorts of surfaces: tarmac, firm mud path, gravel track, sand, boardwalk. Each surface gives a different feel to the running – rather like a good novelist employs varied pace at different points in the narrative.
There’s a lot of different and wonderful scenery, from the broad expansive seascapes to the closed in woodland. I run past a field which sometimes houses rare breeds cattle, past a golf course, past some residential houses. On the way out I’m looking towards the Isle of Wight and on the way back, Purbeck. It’s never a boring run – there is always something different to look at. Just as great novels need different settings to keep a reader’s interest.
If you look at the photo you can probably see a tarmac path going up the hill. I start off going up that, then turn off to the left on a mud path which is less well trodden. With some novels you think you know where it’s going and what will happen, and then it veers off in a new, unexpected and much more interesting direction.
This path leads into some dark, tangled woodland. At almost half way I pass a point where once I came across police investigating a body that had been found in the woods (tragically, a suicide). Throwing in some surprise and intrigue at the half way point does no novel any harm.
Then the path leads me out of the woods and onto the high ground covered with heather and gorse at the end of the headland. The path keeps leading forward but you can see there’s soon no more land, nowhere to go, and it must turn back. Novels, too, reach a point where the narrative needs to begin to resolve itself.
My run comes down some steps to sea level, and takes a sharp left on a tarmac path through woods. There are always a lot of people here, walking dogs, cycling, pushing prams. And the occasional land train comes motoring along. I cut off this main path back onto a mud track through woods where I’m usually once more alone. Novels sometimes lull you into a false sense of security by putting the main character in a safe place, surrounded by other people, before once more sending them off on their own again.
Then it’s past the half-built visitors’ centre, past the outdoor pursuits centre and along a gravel track behind a golf course. High hedges mean you can’t see much other than your next few steps and there is only one direction to go in. The novel rushes on, the narrative moving relentlessly forward, towards a conclusion which is now inevitable.
Finally I come out in the open, back to the prom and home. It’s a longish stretch on the prom – I can see the end of the run from a way out, and enjoy the view across Purbeck and the feeling of a good run finished. This is a novel with a leisurely, drawn out ending where we see the characters settling down into their post-novel lives, all loose ends tied, all sub-plots nicely completed. I end up back where I started, but with a different view (westwards rather than eastwards) and with tired, satisfied legs.
I’m not sure whether this post has worked – it all sounded more sensible in my head while I was running, than it did just now trying to write it up. Ah well. If you’ve followed my womagwriter blog for a while you’ll know I’ve a habit of coming up with tortured analogies such as when I likened writing to the Tour de France.
(Incidently if you’re a Mapometer user here’s my route. I think you may need a Mapometer account (free) to be able to click this link. It’s a great tool for mapping routes, working out distances and saving or sharing them for future use.)
Sounds like a wonderful run. Enjoy! (And the map worked fine and was a nice addition to the story.)
Keith Havers said:
I feel worn out just reading this post. I think I’ll go and lie down.
Sue Blackburn said:
What a brilliant post Kath. The analagy to writing a novel was spot on. And I enjoyed every minute of the run, the scenery and twists and turns – but I have to say thank goodness from the comfort of my chair!! Running’s never been my thing but it sounds a truly amazing thing to do when it is. x
Della Galton said:
I used to do that run, Kath, you’ve made me feel all nostalgic. Beautiful isn’t it. And I think you’re spot on about running being like writing. Doing Nanowrimo is definitely akin to doing a marathon, as in you tend to lose the will to live at the three quarter mark. Well, I remember thinking at around 18 miles, this is crazy. And I thought the same when I got to 33,000 words of Nano. Happy running and writing:)
I’ve only recently come across your blog and I was immediately drawn to this post about Hengistbury Head. How lovely for you to have such a magical and insperational place to run and write. As I child I spent many happy summer holiday with my family staying on nearby Mudeford Island – all five of us crowded into a beach hut! My family and I often went for walks on Hengisbury Head and through the woods. As cars were not allowed on Mudeford Island we use to have to take the Noddy Train along the paths to the Island, which I always loved.
It is a fantastic place to run, Sandie. I wouldn’t run if there wasn’t somewhere beautiful to do it.
And when I retire I want to get a job driving the land train at Hengistbury Head.