5 miles up to Islington: Canal’s history

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07/12/12. London. Partly sunny. 5º. 66% humidity.

Thinking of the day of the marathon (Feb, 25) as I left home towards the canal. Almost 2 months and half to start the race. To be precise, 80 days to run the desert. Although jogging in the London canal on a 5º winter afternoon doesn’t really matches the conditions under which the Sahara Marathon will take place, 5 miles run on nearly an hour is a good starting point for someone who’s only been training for 2 weeks. Inspiring improvement considering I could barely hold my breath when I begun running 20 minutes.

islington map

Regent's canalRegent’s canal, built between 1812 and 1820, would not have been possible without the work of 400 Irish navies, many of whom died during the tunnelling. It was praised as a technological improvement at the time for easing horse-and-cart traffic jams in overcrowded 19th century London. Actually narrowboats and cargoes were also pulled by horses through the canal back in the days.

The towpath ends at Islington tunnel, where runners, cyclists and pedestrians have to go up to continue walking on the street until the tunnel, 878 meters long, finishes. As there’s no towpath inside the tunnel, cargoes and barges originally had to be legged through the tunnel. In 1826 it was upgraded with a steam tug attached to a continuous chain on the canal bed which would heave barges through. The navigational depth is, on average, 1,15m. One would hardly be drowned. Yet, the aim is the marathon, not the triathlon. Candem will have to wait until next training.

Islington tunnel

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