My ankle hurts.
It still feels stiff from yesterday’s seven miles, despite my pre run routine of exercises and stretches. I concentrate on my breathing and soon I feel a rhythm developing. My feet pound, pound, pound on the ground, ground, ground. The sun is cresting the horizon, although at present it is behind the houses in the street. A quick check that my sunglasses are atop my head. They are. Good, I’ll be running into the sun.
I must press on, I want to catch the beauty of a Spring sunrise.
At the end of the street I cross into the old market car park and crossing a bridge at Firepool Lock I’m on the canal. Rabbits scatter ahead of me and moorhens rush from the towpath into the water. Curling snakes of mist rise from the still canal surface, blurring the boundary between air and water. The pain in my ankle starts to dissipate. I’m going to enjoy this.
I run underneath the railway bridge and the Obridge flyover. As yet the sun is behind a hedge to the right, the hedge is exploding with fresh greenery and, at regular intervals, white hawthorn blossom. A multitude of tiny voices welcome the rising sun as sparrows and blackbirds claim their perches. On the opposite side a weeping willow tumbles a green cascade gently brushing the canal surface. My feet pound, pound, pound on the ground, ground, ground.
Nearing Swingbridge the mist seems thicker and the air colder as I come to the town’s edge. Do I turn off here for a four mile run? I look ahead ,under a bridge ahead, the air is golden with dawn’s light. Carpe deim, seize the day. Seven miles it will be again. The sun is a bright golden ball, it consumes me and becomes everything as I now run straight toward it. The frost of a month ago is mirrored in the wet dew that swathes the fields on the opposite bank.
My appearance startles a heron, who takes flight. It looks prehistoric; a huge, magnificent bird. I silently mouth an apology for disturbing it’s fishing. My eye is drawn upwards to a squadron of crows, ever watchful, on the look out for an opportunity of breakfast.
At Hyde lane the bridge is flanked either side by cherry trees, now bedecked with white blossom as delicate as lace. I remember a ten mile run last summer. Foolishly I didn’t take any water with me and the cherries from these trees helped to relieve my dry mouth… a little.
I suddenly enter an area of thick mist. An otherworldly effect is created. There are two suns now of equal intensity as the reflection bounces of a mill pond still canal surface. The mist has me lost in space and time. As I run behind reed beds. I could be in Avalon with a ghostly hand proffering me a sword from the water, or the ferryman to the underworld could appear pushing his boat toward me over the River Styx.
Beyond the motorway the mist clears, now just wisps hugging the fields either side of me. A thicker line emanating between trees marks the River Tone to my South and just behind, the sun sets the Tower of Ruishton Church aglow. My feet pound, pound on the ground, ground, ground.
Nearing Creech St Michael are the remains of the Chard Canal lock system which had a junction here. The end building ,now bedecked by ivy, was converted into a War War 2 pillbox, part of the Taunton Stop Line built during those dark days when Britain stood alone. Beyond stand old Victorian mills. It is hard to believe that this tranquil place was once a major communication line feeding industry around it. Horses graze in orchards backing onto the towpath. The apple trees limbs are gnarly, their leaves and emerging blossom dwarfed by huge balls of mistletoe.
I turn off from the canal here, through the village over railway lines and onto the River Tone. The river splits to form an island at Creech. Running West now from the village I pass an abattoir. It has a characteristic metallic smell of blood and flesh. "Out to graze they look so sweet, we hate the blood but want the meat"The lyric from "Country Life" pops into my head. The mist is now burnt off leaving a high haze. Dog walkers are in the fields nearby. I can see the wooded crown of Thorn Hill to my left and ahead I come to more of the remains of the Chard canal. The road guarded by another disguised pillbox amongst the foliage that has now claimed it.
I run along Cheats Road toward Ruishton, it’s a long straight road. My feet pound, pound, pound on the ground, ground, ground.. Passing the village hall and rec I enter the village. Rounding a corner I pass old cottages and the village pub. I turn into Drakes Lane, past the church I saw from the canal, jump up some steps and run across a field towards the river. The earth is noticeably softer than the road, spongy but dry. A few months ago it was mud and I almost lost my running shoes. At the river I see a swan, its head and long neck under water foraging amongst the weed. A little Egret suddenly explodes into flight from the river edge. That’s the second angler I’ve disturbed. I mouth another apology.
I approach the motorway bridge. The noise is telling. Whereas the canal waters created habitat this new communication is a lifeless construction of steel and concrete. Certain death awaits any creature that strays in the traffic. When the oil is all gone, will the motorways become enjoyable areas of recreation?
I enter park land on the other side of the M5, though stands of birch, ash and willow. The river lazily meanders to the right and my path loops along side. Sainsbury’s is behind the high hedge on my left, I can’t see it but I can smell doughnuts being baked and bacon sizzling in preparation for a Sunday‘s trading.
Leaving Hankridge water park I run along the Tone by the railway, past Creech Castle and the tumbledown, burnt out remains of Holly cottage. What a waste of an old building, now a relic of an earlier time, besieged by the modern world. My feet pound, pound on the ground, ground , ground.. Atop Creechbarrow Hill are three white crosses marking the onset of Easter. The trees here are Willows, Poplars and Silver Birches; the beautiful white clad queens of the wood. I pass a watchful buzzard perched in a birch tree, he eyes me warily.
I shiver, not through the cold but the rush of endorphins that are now rushing through me. Lovely, the runners reward! Euphoria fills me. All the cares of the working week and money worries are subdued. Any aches in my legs are smothered in its glow. I feel at one with creation, an integral cog in the multi-verse engine of space time. Where did that come from? These endorphins are strong! If we all need a touch of spirituality in our lives, then this is mine. To think that in my youth I strove, illicitly, to reach this feeling. This is more effort than those far off, wasted days sitting in a dingy bed-sit passing the chillum. Certainly a lot healthier! I’m fitter now than I have been for twenty odd years. I wish I’d taken this up sooner, but what will be will be. What is done is done.
Now back in town, through a subway and into Victoria Park. I pass two lads, stumbling along, who look like they’ve been up all night. Rather them than me, I like my bed too much. My home is in sight. I can see the distant wooded slopes of the Quantocks at the end of my street. My God, I love Somerset. What a great seven mile run and the day has only begun! What ankle pain?