Remember when I said I didn’t fancy being a running commuter? Well, I’ve changed my position slightly.
These last few weeks I’ve had to do a midweek 12-mile run as part of my Dublin Marathon training. My workplace, down the coalmines, is around 12 miles from where I live. I’d rather not have to get home after a 12-mile commute just to turn on my heels and head back out for a 12-mile run.
So, a couple of weeks ago I started running home from work every Wednesday evening.
Unlike most runner-commuters I see, I don’t run with a backpack. I just carry my keys and some emergency paper money wrapped up in the pocket of my shorts.
The logistics are as follows: on Wednesday morning I travel to work on public transport as usual, but with my running gear in a bag. (I leave my mobile phone at home; in an emergency I can be contacted at work, if a scruffy young pit-lad shouts down the mineshaft or sends a message via carrier canary.)
Then when it’s quitting time I change into my running gear, leave my clothes and shoes at work, and run home unencumbered by bag or belongings. The following day I bring home Wednesday’s clothes.
So that’s the planning. What’s the actual run home like?
Well, it’s not the most scenic of routes. I start on the footpath beside the busy N11 dual carriageway through south Dublin. While I’m running on the relatively quiet side heading into town, the far side is a stream of cars towards the suburbs at the end of the working day.
Maybe it’s the bustle of traffic jangling my nerves, but I usually feel a bit subdued and edgy at the start of the run home. Another possible reason is that, unlike the out-and-back loops of my runs from home, this run is a 12-mile point-to-point route, which means I’m 12 miles from home. That might make the run just a little bit harder psychologically.
I get some respite from the roar of traffic when the pedestrian route veers off the dual carriageway for a mile and into the village of Cabinteely. Being bypassed and off the main road seems to suit Cabinteely; it has an old-fashioned pub and some nice-looking restaurants. When I’m not running, I must pop down there sometime.
After Cabinteely I head back to the dual carriageway for a couple of miles. Going past the junction for Foxrock, the heartland of genteel south Dublin, my route has a fairly demanding climb. If you were driving here you mightn’t notice the hill because the road is so wide, but on foot it’s a notable drag.
Down the other side, I leave the dual carriageway again to head through Stillorgan. Another bypassed suburb, it hasn’t got the village feel of Cabinteely or Foxrock – Stillorgan has a busy shopping centre from the 1960s and not much else. But I like this place; I lived near here as a student and I still pass through here on my weekend long runs. And I like shopping centres, especially old-fashioned ones.
After a mile through Stillorgan, it’s back onto the main road. To avoid having to wait at busy junctions I take a pedestrian flyover and then further down the road I take another one to cross back. This manoeuvre leaves me outside Belfield, the campus of my alma mater, University College Dublin.
Belfield is a great place for running; you can choose from its miles of tarmac ring road or its 6-kilometre trail. But the Belfield track, a legendary venue in Irish athletics, now seems to be gone forever. Closed in 2011 because the surface was in a worn state, the track was used for a couple of years as a storage area for construction material – and a few weeks ago half of the track was paved to be used as a car park. The red, dilapidated segment of track that remains is a sad reminder of former glories.
After running around Belfield to the Richview exit by the old red-bricked college of architecture, I reach the last section of my run – three miles of tarmac paths through parks along the river Dodder. Tonight I found myself speeding up here, probably because I knew I was almost home.
So that’s my regular Wednesday evening run right now; it ticks a box on my training schedule and gets me home early enough to let me feel like I have an evening off. Once the marathon is done, I’ll know if I like it enough to continue doing it.