With just over a month to go until the Disneyland 1/2 Marathon, my training is now becoming serious, with the distances covered becoming more and more ridiculous.
This weekend's run was a 15k run, which took me two hours to complete. Because I'm out there for such a long time, I need to make sure that the routes are at least interesting - it's all part of the mind games I play in order to get through the boredom of long runs. As before, I took my camera to practice and also because I knew this was going to be a pretty run.
So come with me on a virtual run! We start at Willen Lake - where a lot of my runs start, purely because that is very near my gym. It's nice around Willen Lake too, and I used to run loops of it until I got bored, but I always add at least a loop of it to my long runs (if I'm going in the right direction) because it's an easy way to add distance:
Before long we get to the Medicine Wheel which is on the north part of Willen Lake.
And very quickly after that is the Peace Pagoda. I really like this building and the setting - I've even run up the stairs on some runs, but not today as it appears there are some people doing yoga at the base of the pagoda.
The north part of Willen Lake is a lot quieter, but it is a lovely place to run...
Eventually we leave Willen Lake behind and head out towards the Ouzel Valley Park, a very pretty linear park that joins Willen Lake to The Open University campus, where we're heading today. The park has a lot of turns and is pretty varied and also well used, so it is a great place for a long run.
Can you see the church in the distance, below the trees on the right hand side? It is a reminder that Milton Keynes is not all new - some stuff has been there for a long time!
The linear park has a lot of different paths, all heading roughly in the same direction but it does add variety to the route. There are also a number of bridges, like this one, that add some elevation to what is generally a very flat terrain.
If you pick a certain path, there will be lots of gates like this one. They are a bit annoying as I have to stop and open them, but on some days I am quite happy to have an excuse to walk a bit :) Why are the gates there, you ask?
Because there is cattle in the park! Normally there is also sheep in here but not today for some reason - but the cows are here. Thankfully they kept away from the path and I didn't have to get too close to them. They may be tame but they are still bigger than me and make me nervous.
I didn't cross this bridge but if I had, I would have been in The Open University campus. I run around here a lot, during lunchtimes, but I also like to include the OU in my route as there are toilets and water fountains in the cricket pitch that I can use. Today I don't need either and my route will take me around campus, so no visit to the OU today.
I run around campus and get to the village of Simpson on the other side, towards Caldecotte Lake. I intended to get to the lake and turn around, but instead found myself running in the village as I'd never really been in it before. Just like during my last run, I found these weird early 80s houses in the village. I don't think they were intended to be used as solar houses, but the sloping roofs are very unusual.
I suddenly turned a corner and saw a typical Milton Keynes sight: the old mixed in along with the new. This thatched cottage is clearly part of the original village of Simpson, but you can just about see the new houses directly behind it. The houses with the sloping roofs are out of the photo, just to the left. It makes for an interesting mishmash of architectural styles, and I'm not sure the combination worked.
Here is another view of the village, where you can see that the combination of different house styles is a little bit odd...
After Simpson I quickly found my way to the Grand Union Canal - another favorite of mine. I can always find it, because of those tall trees that seem to line the entire path and can be seen for miles. It is also usually a varied journey and entertaining enough to avoid boredom.
After a while I got off the canal towpath and went into the village of Woughton Park, where I saw this lovely house that used to be a school:
Eventually I made it back to the canal path and thought this picture was also typical Milton Keynes, mixture of old and new bridges:
I then ran past the Peartree Marina...
... and saw quite a few canal boats around the pub. It's the summer holidays so there are a lot of people making the most of the time off and they hire these to go around the canals. I can't imagine doing something like that, as it would drive me nuts, but it is a popular activity.
The canal path takes us off the canal for a bit and throws us into the middle of the green in Woughton on the Green. It is SO quiet here, even during the middle of the day! You wouldn't know that less than 10 minutes away is the shopping center and all the business of the downtown area. It feels so rural here, so peaceful, and things probably haven't changed much in this village for a few hundred years - it's just the city that's sprung up around it.
Back on the familiar canal paths, with these tall trees. I wonder what they are called? They remind me of France.
To add mileage I leave the canal for good this time and head on back towards the Ouzel Valley Park, along lovely paths like this one...
I am very close to Willen Lake now and took a picture of this strange bridge that goes nowhere. It has been there for a long time and I always wonder where it came from and why it's there? This whole area has a feel of 'backstage' as it is literally behind Willen Lake and there are all those logs and just stuff that feels someone will use someday soon...
In this area there is also this weird road that goes nowhere. I guess at some point this was an actual road (you can see it was accessed from the road that goes over it, in a sort of loop) but it is now closed to traffic and it just peters out into the back of Willen Lake park. So this is another thing that adds to the feeling of 'backstage' here.
AH back in Willen Lake and nearly at the end of this very long run!
Because it's the holidays, there is a summer fair in the Willen Lake area, so I had to run through all the attractions... it's not quite Disney but it did remind me of it! :)
At the end of my run: is that a castle spyre I can see in the distance? Unfortunately the castle is the same color as the sky (gray) so it's hard to make out but it's there and it's from Gulliver's Land.
Here is a photo of me at the end! Don't let the smile fool you - if I hadn't been holding on to that tree I would be a wobbly mess...
So that was my run. I hope you enjoyed it and didn't feel too tired at the end... and now it's time to cool down, shower and take it easy for the rest of the day. Don't forget to refuel!