I sent a text to my mate Ciaran after this run. “30k in the bag”, it read, “legs in the skip.”
(And for my readers across the larger of the two ponds that surround this island, that means a dumpster.)
Another running mate, Gary, had tapped me up during the week to see if I fancied a run out to Keenan Bridge on the Royal Canal. About 18 miles or so. Sure, why not, said I. Ever the sucker for a bit of punishment.
It was an early start. Up at 6am and off to meet Gary at his house in Maynooth. The cruelty of the route is that we would pass within a mile of my house. Twice. But in order to collect my car, it would mean finishing the job. At least the weather was kind. Cold, for sure. Indeed, I had to defrost the car windows and it meant layers, hats and gloves. But that also meant blue skies and wonderful sunrises, and once the flaming ball of gas that keeps us all going got up high enough, we could shed some of those layers.
The first few kilometres were at a reasonable pace, and when I say ‘reasonable’, I mean not at a pace that I was going to keep up for the full distance. But I figured it would settle down.
We soldiered on towards Leixlip, and soon we were passing beyond my normal bailiwick. It would be unfair to call it bandit country, but it certainly has a different atmosphere to the canal towpath I know and love. It’s decidedly ‘urban’. The only time I ran along here before was last year, when we made the film. I was accompanied then by Gary and Des, and was glad to have them riding shotgun.
This section is due to become part of the Greenway. The Royal Canal Greenway was officially opened last month with much fanfare. But the ones who know about such things were very much aware that the current greenway starts in Maynooth, whereas in truth it should start in Dublin city centre. That is indeed the plan, but there are many hold-ups, and given the way things work here, I would not be surprised, dear reader, to find that the final missing piece of the puzzle – Maynooth to Dublin – never gets done. But we live in hope…
We reached the turning point and stopped for a bit of a break and a snack. Gary – ever the excellent and erudite host – gave me a potted history of the locality, and rather than rehash it (and therefore, make a hash of it), I shall instead hand you over to let him tell you in his own words here…
Okay, are you back? Good.
The picture from the top is the old schoolhouse Gary talks about in his blog (see, you DO have to read it after all), and it is a rather sad tale. And the building is also rather ominous-looking.
It is due to be absorbed into yet another apartment complex of the type that seem to springing up all over this area. There’s nothing wrong with apartments, by the way, but here in sunny old Ireland, we just don’t do them well. They are not built for families, and there are rarely enough amenities around them. Fine if you are a young couple, and this is your first place. But even then, the government have conspired with developers to make them hugely expensive, representing poor value for money for a pretty-looking shoebox, and worse still, vulture funds tend to buy these off the plans, and this adds to the cost, and also makes for hefty management fees for often quite basic stuff, like simple maintenance. Ireland. No place for old men. Or young couples…
The return leg was taking its toll. As we passed through Leixlip, I apologised to Gary for holding him back. He confessed that he too was feeling fairly beat up. We made it back to Maynooth, and I clocked it at a shade over 30k in 3:15. A modest pace of about 6.29 min/km. I’ll take it. I have to!
We sat out in his garden and drank squash, and then it was home and a bath to soak the legs and scrub the salt off my face. I suppose, with GaelForce West on the horizon, I should put together some sort of programme. Without one, I will be led into bad habits. 30k after the break I’ve had due hand injuries and my swollen toe… not so clever!