Sunday, July 09, 2006

Fact and Fiction

I have mentioned quite a few times that the Grand Union Canal is my home run. Every time I go there it feels secure, and familiar, yet at the same time there is always something new to notice. Even the name is good - the is something noble and Victorian about a Grand Union. But safety is not something that all canal runners can take for granted. A couple of months ago I noticed this story about alligator attacks in Florida, including an attack on someone running by a canal.

I know they are different types of canal but it did make me think about mild it is to run in the Home Counties. The climate is mild - you can mostly run all year round, the scenery is pleasantly undulating, people are pottering about on boats or strolling by the water. There is an air of easy contentment. However that was not my first thought. No - I immediately thought of Carl Hiassen. It could all have come from one of his novels, especially his first,
"Tourist Season"
which is about a small group of terrorists who want to stop the relentless development of Miami and the destruction of the wilderness. It includes scenes of a crocodile munching on humans and also the canals.

At the same time I read about Steve Vaught a fat man who spent a year walking across America from coast to coast. He wanted to loose weight but more importantly reclaim his life(his blog is here). When reading about his story all I could think about was a novel I really enjoyed last year

I am drawn to stories about redemption through physical endeavour and a long lonely journey. By moving outside our normal range in order we see ourselves more clearly. In fiction it is easier to make a neat ending where everything becomes clear, whilst in real life it is likely to be messier, less clear. Steve Vaught was like that he did not loose as much weight as he wanted and his wife left him but he gained a number of insights and moved a long way in reshaping his nature.

I was struck by the coincidence of reading two stories where reality and fiction had become entwined.

So far I have yet to read the story of a middle aged man quietly running through the domesticated countryside of Hertfordshire, on a pleasantly warm morning, passing a few people out enjoying themselves. If there is such a story it would probably be called "Not a lot happened - but is a good way".


Kieren said...

I'm quite fond of running the Grand Union Canal too - at least when it's light. In the winter months some parts an be a little dangerous but I think commuters are more at risk from muggers than runners..

Thankfully no crocodiles on my stretch but I have seen a few angry looking swans ;)

b-z said...

GUC-the race-is one of my long term goals

womble said...

I've been inspired to buy that book that you read last year! Now all I have to do is wait for Amazon to do its bit!

Glad you're back and blogging.

Hmmm, Ruth, STOPPIT, you're putting ideas in my head.

Highway Kind said...

Kieren - I don't think muggers have ever crossed my mind. When running the only thing I carry is water and a front door key. The dark is a different matter - the canal would be a bit hazardous then.

Ruth - You know this is seriously mad. It is mile and miles. And Karen I think you are encouraging her!

b-z said...

its 145 miles

I will do it