Easy Like Sunday Morning
Love it or loathe it, winter is here and with it brings runners problems as their regular and favourite Spring and Summer routes often become impassable thanks to the wet & rainy conditions we endure year after year. For many of us in Leeds though, we do have some excellent all year routes available.
A favourite of mine is hitting the Leeds to Liverpool canal. It’s so diverse and can offer an aesthetically pleasing yet practical solution to a runners needs and thanks to the works recently completed by City Connect to re-lay the towpath from Kirkstall right through to Shipley it has never been more “winter friendly” to run on.
Based in Rodley, I have the best of both worlds and most weekends I only decide which direction I’m going to run once I arrive at the towpath. Left towards Greengates and Shipley or right towards Kirkstall and Leeds. For this article I have gone right towards Leeds, after all this is for “Run Leeds”!
My usual starting point is the swing bridge, off Bridge Road near The Rodley Barge public house. It’s an obvious marker point if you’re like me and have to have markers to run to/from.
The magic of the canal is its running at a simple level. Out & back style. Fancy a 2 mile run then it’s a mile out and a mile back. However, as I am starting to up my distance ready for a mid-January Half Marathon, I was looking to get 8 miles in the old legs. From experience, I knew I’d even have a good marker point at halfway to turn back. A friend joined me for today’s run and as it is an entirely road and traffic free course it lends itself to a social run.
The first marker within a mile is Rodley Nature Reserve. A beautiful setting and actually quite a large area, which could be a running route of its own in future. Gliding past it around a mile and a half on and we’re passing Fallwood Marina, or as many may know better the Abbey Inn public house and the first “downhill section” of a small lock.
Striding out towards Kirkstall more stunning views to the left of Kirkstall Abbey, another area which perhaps is worthy of its own article in the future? All this countryside on our doorstep and we often don’t appreciate it whilst pounding the tarmac streets.
Once you have passed the student accommodation of Kirkstall Bridge, an old converted mill complex split over both sides of the canal, a slight deviation from the towpath is possibly advisable if there has been heavy rain. There is a small tarmac access road running parallel which will keep your running sneaks clean and dry. The access road is for a large electrical power sub-station and upon reaching the far end of this where Aire Valley Marina begins brings us to our marker point and time to swing around and enjoy the home leg – only 4 miles and we’re home. It’s strange how running the reverse leg always seems to give a very different perspective on the scenery too.
If I were to pick a fault then it is not advisable for night running at this time of year for very obvious reasons. But generally the canal is versatile and adaptable for beginners and race ready competitors alike and everyone in between – weekends are perfect! Cold yet sunny winter days seem to make it even better, call me mad but I absolutely love running through the countryside we have on our doorstep with blue skies and brisk, cold temperatures.
Check the route in full here