It’s very rare that runners now get lost. We have smart phones and GPS watches. We always know where we are because we need to know where we’ve been to upload to Garmin, Strava and the world at large. It’s easy to forget that only a few years ago going for a run sometimes meant memorizing a map or route before you’d left the house.
Want to go on a five mile run somewhere new? Then stare intently at this map until you are absolutely sure how many left and right turns you need to take to end up back at the house and not in the middle of nowhere.
Last week, I went for a run round London. I thought I knew where I was going. I wanted to run to the Thames from Shoreditch then along to Westminster and back. In my head it would be around four miles. A nice 30 -35 minute run in warm sunshine and a cool breeze.
One hour and 10 minutes later I eventually got back to my hotel. I’d run nearly eight miles. What had gone wrong?
First, London streets are not in straight lines. That might seem an obvious statement but, when running round the City, it’s easy to turn left to look at a big tower like the Gherkin or the Walkie Talkie, only to turn left again and find out you’re actually running away from where you think you’re going. Roads double back. Buildings are deceptive. It’s like The Maze Runner but without the rubbish CGI spider monsters chasing you with a pneumatic saw/arm.
Secondly, London is much further apart than I’d remembered. This should also not have come as a shock. London is big. I forgot that. I used to live there. I should have known better…
Thirdly, and this was the main problem, I wasn’t carrying a map. I’d forgotten to bring my headphones with me so I didn’t bother taking my phone as I wasn’t going to be listening to anything. Instead, I had to navigate by bus signs. Every bus stop in London has a small map of the surround area, so, every five minutes, I’d stop check the map, work out if I knew the rough direction that would take me closer to Shoreditch then ran in that direction until I found another bus stop. Repeat until I finally found a street I recognised.
That’s why a four mile run became an eight mile exercise in urban orienteering. D’oh!