There is nothing nicer than going out for a run mid-autumn. When the colours of the landscape you know are changing and there are so many more shades of brown than there were green. The Heather seems to glow as it skips across the hillside like a young maiden begging you to follow, maybe for a kiss.
There is nothing finer than choosing a route you half know, choosing a destination and testing your sense of adventure and trusting yourself to navigate to where you need to be.
Nothing more relaxing than doing it all on your own, knowing that you can always keep up with yourself.
Marvellous though it is to find kindred spirits with whom to share bullshit philosophies, banter and so much hilarity there are sometimes pleasures that can only be enjoyed alone.
The night before the run I was reading a book by Bryon Powell: Relentless Forward Progress. It claims to be a guide to running ultra-marathons. The missus picked up the book and opened a page at random. With much hilarity she started to read from page 117. 'Defacating in the woods' A whole page would you believe. It turned out to be a useful education. I would be glad p117 was the one she chose.
Another pleasure I enjoyed was running with music. I have never ran with music before and after about 5 miles I remembered I had brought my phone, also for the first time, so I stuck it on random and enjoyed some interesting moments. Turns out U2, Pink Floyd and Neil Young are not at all good to run with, the best music is some good ol' fashioned banjo pickin' bluegrass. Perfect. What a joy. Also in moments when the weather was moody and the trees were closing in and the horizon had gone there were moments of Prince doing some straight piano jazz that really brought it all to life. No sex-funk just pure crystal twinklin' jazz. Lovely.
Not sure I would run again with any music other than bluegrass, if I ever do it again.
Oddly as I approached the spot last week where I gratified "Spandau Fuckin' Ballet" on a road sign, To Cut a Long Story Short by Spandau Fuckin' Ballet was playing. I turned it off fearing getting busted. I had not seen a single soul since the very odd and very hurried and worried looking wee foreign hiker who didn't speak English many miles back on the road, and the only other eyes to see me were of some seriously inconvenienced rams whose field/river/bog-thing I had the temerity to sneak across. The chances of getting busted were slim of course but I was not in the mood to be taking chances.
The luxury of such a rich soundtrack was afforded as I was running with my brand new Camelbak Octane XCT. A recent upgrade from the 2L Camelbak Classic I have enjoyed this summer. With an ultra or 2 in mind for next year. (no more than 40 miles...promise) I chose to upgrade the Camelbak from 2 to 3L. The Classic has one teeny weeny pocket which is pretty useless but it does force you to not take unnecessary crap with you. The octane allowed me to put whatever the hell I wanted in it and it will come as no surprise to anyone that the difference in weight on my back was considerable. If the 2L Classic is unnoticeable the Octane felt like I had a big fat heavy pig cuddling me....again.
May need to rethink my run luggage. I have a whole winter to finger it out. Plenty time.
The joys of West Lothian may be very hard to find for the tourist but I love having this little secret just around the corner from my house and on my regular runs.
And I love that the trees of Bellsquarry bare strange fruit.
I call it Sex-Litter-Art!
I love that even though I apparently managed to run either side of it I still haven't found out where the hell Murieston Castle is. I loved the way that to satisfy my curiosity upon seeing some bin bags wrapped around 2 barbed wire fences I climbed over to find a muddy and well camouflaged hide-out carved in to the hillside with a shovel next to it. I loved the way I backed off nervously my heart racing thinking about what happens to curious kitties.
I love the way the Giant Pylons cackled and spat at me so angrily in the drizzle that I was scared to go under them and upon trying to reestablish my bearings I realised that I had just gone a little off course and actually they were shoo-ing me back the way I came.
I loved the secret big mansions and fancy hooses that you would never see otherwise. Tucked away well into the countryside with secret roads that must lead up to them, but from where?
I loved finding the wee trail to take me from Linnhous. Now and then on that trail a brick road would reveal itself underfoot, not a yellow one but a well fired burnt toast kind of red brick road. Occasionally my mind wondered what purpose this road must have served and who built it here, and when and why but mostly my mind tried to not let me trip and fall into Linnhouse Water on my right or what looked like a very deep green swamp on the left.
I love turning round and taking a photo that looks like a Neil Young album cover.
I loved that most of those things I would probably have missed if I were not alone.
My fabulous 16 mile route took me from the Livingston Inn in Livingston Village up Adambrae, through Bellsquarry and into Murieston. Out of Murieston at the 3rd attempt via Castleview Lane. Then South to the non-Roman antiquity whatever that may be of Linnhous. Leaving the road at the bridge over Camilty Water and heading East by the riverside trail and then North into a field to cross Morton Burn just before it joins Linnhouse Water. if you stay on the right side of the trees going up the hill that will take you through the field of grumpy rams quicker than going left and before you know it you are back on a single track road again. Along that road I spied a damp cottage. At the front room curtain-less window I figured that must be a bed and in that bed was a gentleman sitting up enjoying the view and some toast. I was trying to compare his bedroom view with mine as I almost slid off the road. From my bedroom I have a quite interrupted view of the Pentlands across the valley. He has an uninterupted extreme close up. But I have super quick hi-fibre broadband and curtains. And central heating. So there!
This road leads eventually past Morton Reservoir and the clay pigeon shoot at the foot of the hills and on past Sell Muir Plantation and finally out to the Oakbank Bing where I sneaked over the A71 and down the steep and violently slippy railway sleeper steps to the tunnel back under the A71 but curiously above Linnhouse Water then under the railway and onto the muddy Oakbank Trail taking the long way round via the Linnhouse Circular trail back to Murieston then straight North Via Bellsquarry and Adambrae crossing over Harwood Water and River Almond with a few steps and 2 crumbling old bridges.
A fit young couple were jogging slowly down the hill as I approached the Livi Inn and seconds later they shot past me up the hill. Ah Livi Inn hill reps. Like it. I am sure there are a few Fuds who would be keen to try that for a training session.
Later I enjoyed an afternoon at the rugby watching Livingston beat RHC Cougars. Pie and beer in each hand. Brilliant day. Winners wear Pink!