If you’re trying to keep the momentum going with your January exercise regime, the flat surfaces and convivial atmosphere of a canal towpath can give you just the boost you need. Ruth Allen, who runs alongside the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire, explains the appeal.
‘While I run for personal fitness, I suppose I also run because I like the world I see when I’m out there and I like the feeling I get afterwards,’ she says. ‘I’ve always run on trails and up hills and mountains, which I find easier than road running and a lot more interesting. On the road I get pretty bored, but when I’m running along towpaths and trails, there’s so much to see that I forget the pain in my muscles. I get into a natural rhythm.’
It’s no surprise. The Cromford Canal is home to a six-mile Site of Special Scientific Interest and a local nature reserve. You’ll also see some impressive feats of engineering, such as the Amber Aqueduct, the Butterly Tunnel and the Lea Wood Pumphouse.
Nestling on the outskirts of the Peak District, the Cromford Canal has a wide variety of running routes. Beginners can tackle short sections of the canal, which offer flat, relatively forgiving ground. More energetic runners could try running the entire length, which measures just over 14 miles.
If you are up for a bit of a challenge, you can start from Cromford, snake along the A5012 for around half a mile, then along the Clatterway before heading for the hills up Black Tor Road. Cut along Slaley Lane towards Upper Town, then descend via The Bank and More Lane to Abel Lane, turning right and heading towards Matlock. There, join the River Derwent and head south back to Cromford (or catch the train if you run out of steam). Refreshing rewards await at either Wheatcroft’s Wharf Café or The Boat Inn.
Plan your local waterway run here: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/enjoy-the-waterways/canal-and-river-network