Today, for the first time in a long time my long run started from somewhere that wasn’t my front door. Well, that’s not strictly true as we drove to our start point a few weeks ago, but this morning’s long run was different in that it took place in another city. This weekend we visited some friends in Bristol, one of my favourite cities in Britain. The sun was out all weekend and the weather conditions were more befitting of a day in April than February; the run was spectacular. Fortunately my friend is also a keen runner, well versed in the Sunday ritual of doing a run whose distance in miles begins with the digit 2. No chance of missing my long run this week.
Starting in Clifton, we dropped down the hill for a couple of miles, into and back out of the city centre, before heading towards the suburb of Westbury. The first half of the run was through residential areas but the second half was where it started getting interesting. We came out of Shirehampton and turned left onto a ramp which appeared to just head towards another footpath. I then realised that this ramp took us right alongside the M5, the motorway that connects the south west with the rest of the country. A steady incline for about half a mile was followed by a descent of similar length and we crossed the river Avon with cars and lorries speeding past us. I’ve never run over such a long bridge before and the breathtaking view in both directions distracted us sufficiently from the soreness in our legs.
We passed a couple of small villages and before long we found ourselves on a path along the Avon heading back towards the centre of Bristol. There were no cars, buses, trains or any other vehicle in our way. Just a few hundred other people with exactly the same idea as us. We wound our way along the path, talking about important things, unimportant things, about running, about life in general. It occured to me that this is what running is all about. No watch, no goal, no idea what pace we ran the last mile at; just good company, good scenery and the sun in your face. Whilst we all gain pleasure from bettering our PBs and seeing our hard training pay off in races, running really offers much simpler pleasures than that. The act of running itself, for its own sake, and without any greater purpose, can often be enough to put the biggest smile on your face.
Turning a corner, we saw in front of us one of the most iconic and well-known structures in Bristol, Cifton Suspension Bridge, a stunning piece of engineering that passes right across the Avon Gorge. The sun was streaming through its famous arches as we approached and the bridge looked imposing as we passed underneath it. Nothing puts you in your place and reminds you of how small you really are like a massive bridge hundreds of feet above your head.
We crossed a much lower bridge and prepared for the inevitable, the climb back up to the top. Whilst the view was breathtaking in the metaphorical sense, the road back up to Clifton was breathtaking in a more literal sense. We were gasping for air at the top. From there we took in the view, passing the bridge from above this time, and ran the short distance back to Mark’s house. The rest of the day was spent enjoying Bristol at a rather more sedate pace, sightseeing and taking photos.
Runs like this are why I do it.