Canal Adventure #13 – Haigh Hall to Wigan

Where to begin? Since my last post, I have consulted a physio who diagnosed me with both top-down (lopsided pelvis) and bottom-up (over pronating feet) wonkiness resulting in an over-tight iliotibial band on my left side, which causes pain in my right knee. There was a far more technical explanation to all this, which I nodded and mmmmmmed through as if I understood every word (a bit like when a mechanic explains why you’re going to have to pay them a vast amount of money because of what’s wrong with your car). The explanation was technical, the solution was simple – a foam roller. I have been instructed to roll daily, more if I can do, in fact “if you can take three weeks leave and use that to roll, that would be perfect…”.

At the end of three weeks of rolling (next Thursday) I will return to Andy and, if I have better movement, I will be taught some exercises to correct things. The first time I used the roller there was an awful lot of yelping and swearing, my god it hurt. I spent two days looking for bruises (there were none), couldn’t carry my work bag on the left because it hurt too much when it touched and felt like someone had been clubbing my leg with a blunt instrument. However, the pain has now subsided and I can roll with minimal yelping and falling off.

My most important question during the consultation was “when can I run again?”. The best part of the consultation was the look on Andy’s face when I followed this up with the announcement that I was asking because I’m supposed to be doing a half marathon in September. He then asked me a question, which I replied with the answer, “no, September 2011….”. To be fair, he kept a straight face and then told me I’d be alright running as pain allows.

Luckily we’ve had a lot going on, so it was fairly easy to take a whole week off before returning with a three miler on Saturday (alright, set off a bit fast, uphill was uncomfortable but not painful), four miles on Tuesday (brilliant, felt wonderful) and two on Thursday (rubbish, couldn’t get into the swing of it).¬† The knee has been fine, the hip ok, but the head is annoying me. I’ve lost a bit of confidence in myself and have convinced myself that I can’t run any kind of distance, let alone 13 miles. In an attempt to resolve this, Ginge and I planned to do a stretch of canal running that we’ve been saving.We planned it for Sunday, but then postponed it (twice) and decided to celebrate my birthday with it (I was also taken out for tea, it wasn’t the only thing that we did. I’m not that sad).

We started at Haigh Hall, where the miniature train was running and lots of people seemed to be enjoying the summer holidays, and off we went to tackle the Wigan Flight.

The start and finish - Bridge 60

The Wigan Flight is a series of 21 locks that takes the canal a height of 214ft in less than 2 miles. If nothing else, it dispels the myth that canals are flat. We chose to run down the flight¬† (we’re not daft) and have a few breathers photo opportunities on the way back up.

Bridge 52 - the turn around

The route takes you past the end of the Leigh Branch canal (linking the Leeds-Liverpool to the Bridgewater canal).

Leigh Branch Canal

Gateway to the Cheshire Ring

The Leigh Branch is 14 miles long and takes you through Leigh town centre and Pennington Flash, annual home of the swimming part of Ironman UK and weekly home to the Pennington Park Run what I did a few weeks ago.

According to my fabulous new Pearson’s canal books (Ginge knows how to pick my birthday pressies well), the Flight takes around six hours to navigate in a boat. Each lock is fantastically complicated, has vandal-deterring locks and British Waterways encourage boats to pass through in pairs in order to save precious water. When we ran through, two BW staff were hard at work coordinating the ascent and descent of several beautiful boats, which we gawped at enviously.

Room for two

As we continued our own ascent, several people helpfully pointed out that it was easier going the other way, which was very kind of them. Reaching Top Lock did require quite a bit of determination (and a little bit of walking. For my knee…) and it was something of a relief to reach Lock 65 (or Lock I in old money), not least because we were both proper hungry by this time and I had presents to open.

Top of the Locks!

Miles run = 6.5
Canal miles completed = 3.25
Total canal miles = 75.35/127*
Bridges = 60-52