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Published: February 6th 2020
Recently I read Silence by Erling Kagge . Written by the Norwegian polar explorer , I expected a tale of loneliness and a verging on insanity tale of his experiences in the polar extremes. The book touched on his solo South Pole expedition , however its value was much more and touched a chord with many aspects of the running different objective. Erling was quick to point out that you did not need to venture to the ends of the earth to experience silence and, happily for those of us looking , it can often be found closer to home.
Earlier in the week I drove the twenty miles down the road to North Berwick and set off for one of my favourite runs – an hour westward along the beach , turn and then retrace my steps finishing where I started and then having a pint , a bite to eat and a rummage through the bookshelves of the charity shops on the Main Street. This is a winter staple of mine – enjoyed the most when I have had a busy spell and felt the need for a chill out. The book Silence gave me the inspiration to
try and put this beach run into words.
Skipping onto the beach within 100 metres of the car and I was instantly free. The first view of an expanse of sand with water and sky competing in which blue is best competition. There were a few folk about however as it was early February – all seemed to have a purpose. As I settled into a rhythm , I felt the silence. Similar to peace being an absence of war , silence is an absence of noise. There is still sound. However it was natural sound. Waves. Feet lightly touching the sand. The odd gull . The head wind striking my face. It lacks the detritus of engines, phones , drumbeats and chatter.
The silence – lack of noise – brought the other senses into perspective. Running solo – in silence – helps me notice things and in agreement with Kagge’s conclusions appreciate my surroundings and enjoy the moment. Some of modern running has been annexed by the adventure brigade. In contrast , this run along the coast was a quest for contentment rather than some lust for adventure concocted by some marketing agency.
Embracing the silence made the run feel natural . I was free . Free to vary the route – take pictures whenever I liked and bringing the scenery and occasion into brighter focus.
The coastline to the west of North Berwick is a series of coves, inlets and dunes. There are regular access points however there is space to enjoy solitude. I particularly enjoy the middle section which run parallel with the premier golf courses of Archerfield and Muirfield. There is co-existence between the exclusive and expensive of these man made courses contrasting with the free coast . At the end of the path at Archerfield , there is a steep drop of only a few feet with a rope to aid walkers . I managed to fall into the bushes however was in such fine humour that I didn’t mind.
I was in the moment. Many of the other beach users were also in the moment. I noticed how happy the dogs were that I passed on the run. In some circumstances , I am very wary of dogs despite having an affinity with them. For instance , I stopped doing intervals down
our local park as a result of the close attentions of an Alsatian and a rather unsympathetic owner. Maybe the dog was a bit bored. In contrast on the beaches , the dogs I met were in paradise. They had balls to chase . They had waves to hurdle. They had other doggie pals to play with. Harassing the passing runner didn’t make the canine things to do list.
This had been a great two hours. It was two hours exactly so I congratulated myself on such an even paced display of running . It was more important than that . I had found somewhere I never tire of going that is very easy to get to from home. There is always something different I notice and there is always a sense of overwhelming satisfaction of being on the beach . In the summer I often park at Longniddry and run a bit further and in one direction – returning by bus to retrieve the car. It is impossible to get lost and a decent public transport system does allow for a point to point journey. I think Erling Kagge would approve of finding somewhere very beautiful
on the door step and enjoying it for what it is . This run has unlocked new ways of thinking about running for me I would agree that “it is possible to reach silence anywhere – You have to find your own South Pole”.
Thanks for reading this.
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