I am a person who gets lost. My friends despair of me. I build in 30 minutes ‘getting lost’ time into every appointment. I get lost more frequently in familiar places because I am over-confident.
Part of the problem is that I don’t seem to have a sense of direction, whatever that may be. Give me a map and I will start by turning it the wrong way round, I puzzle my poor phone by forever failing to comprehend that it is asking me to turn right. And I can’t even claim to have a problem with distinguishing my right from my left, I am quite happy with that. I just cannot position myself relative to outside concepts.
What I can do though, is understand a place by running it. And it sits in my mind for years if I have run it. Little snapshots of roads and paths and views. I have found that if I need to venture off-piste I need to turn round to look at where I have been, then I can recognise it on the way back. I can’t replicate an abstract set of turnings.
I was reminded of my need to understand with feet and eyes by my realisation that Herne Bay has turned from an oblong to a twisted straight-sided figure of eight in my head after looking for the post-box toppers. The oblong was one-dimensional with the long side along the sea.The figure of eight rotates through height as well as distance to allow for the climb up to the top of town, and the various ways off that peak.
I think this is one of the ways that running makes your mind work. It is always forcing you to save routes, times, distances, snapshots, ascents/descents, terrains (paving -fast and iffy, tarmac, trail, grass, mud and so-on), barriers (traffic, railway, stiles, streams, people), useful info (shops, toilets, names), and stop and stare moments. And cramming that information into your brain, while it is buzzing with fresh oxygen may just be a good way of keeping things safe.
So today I went out meaning to do a 3 mile along the shore, but was hit by a massive sledgehammer of dark-induced-doom as soon as I ventured out. It was nearly dark at 3pm, it was so horrible. So I decided to try and run it out of my head.
In the continuing spirit of going where no moorhen has gone before I ventured as far as the wrist of Neptune’s Arm (which bizarrely comes up on Trip Advisor). I didn’t go as far as the actual hand because there were fishermen and I didn’t want to disturb their fishing or other activities.
View east towards Reculver. So very England in winter.
You can just about distinguish the sea from the sky if you squint. I ran along to the end of the prom and up the steps to the cliffs just visible in the photo above. I decided that as I was still laden with mid-winter doom I was going to try to connect my old mental map (home to coastal destinations – Reculver-Margate-Broadstairs) with my new one (home to Dickensian Singing Penguins- Big dangly box-Winter Queen and Hench-mouse). It was too dark to aim as far as Winter Queen and Hench-mouse, but I connected end of prom to Big dangly box to Dickensian Singing Penguins.
And I find that home isn’t an oblong or a figure of eight, but a badly misshapen shark.