Last Friday I finally ran home from work. I’d been planning to do this for over a year, an interesting route from one side of London to the other. And with a week to go until the Birmingham Half Marathon, the 13 or so miles required formed the perfect, longest long run.
I got off to a bad start leaving work late with a massive chip on my shoulder about the person I’d last spoken to there and then hanging around in the early Autumn London chill and drizzle, waiting for a satellite to finally loom over Kensington and shake hands with my Garmin.
I then snuck into Hyde Park, at that point shrouded in darkness and got going. As well as the Serpentine, in the North West of the park there’s a round pond interestingly called Round Pond which on Friday night was decorated with the flashes of white wave tops as the wind howled around it. After semi-circling Round Pond I disappeared into the woods, where every now and then I’d see ghostly apparitions of people walking, running and cycling into focus.
I crossed into the back streets of Lancaster Gate, avoiding the gazes of the armed police outside the more sensitive embassies, inhaling the herby aroma of meat being grilled in the more upmarket Lebanese restaurants.
Over Edgware Road, the scene of my only and severely embarrassing bike accident (I’d crashed, in the main road, there was no one to blame but myself), I ran parallel to Oxford Street through one of those expensive but anonymous parts of London that I’ve only ever cycled through and never stopped (and after yesterday, run straight through) until I crossed Regent Street into Fitzrovia. There I dodged the obstacles caused by office workers stood outside pubs (and the temptation to go and join them).It was then into Somers Town and Kings Cross’ borders to tackle my favourite Central London hill, LLoyd Baker Street. When I cycle up this I like to pretend it’s one of the more testing stages of the Tour de France where I “attack” other “riders” (and more often than not get overtaken by a really old man on a Brompton), but running up it was no great challenge. Maybe I’m a better runner than cyclist after all?
At this point I was increasingly in need of a toilet stop, which was strange because I’ve never needed such a thing during my marathon and half marathon exploits. The question was, where to go? I wasn’t exactly dressed for the various bijou Islington pubs that I’d just loved to have stopped at for a swift ale, and sneaking down an alley seems increasingly unacceptable these days. So I made the decision to drop down by the Regent Canal. It was seriously dark, there were no lights along the towpath so I assumed I’d have the place to myself. I felt my my way down, clutching onto a rail alongside some muddy steps to the water’s edge only to find that there was an endless stream of people who had no qualms taking a night-time stroll down an shady, slippy towpath. Eventually I found a suitably private place, next to a tunnel where the path ended, half expecting a man in a cloak and top hat to appear from the mist.Relieved, I returned to my route through more nameless bits of Islington and Hackney, keeping the slow but steady pace going. The final section was the most challenging, the long unrelentingly dull stretch that is Lea Bridge Road. 3.5 miles and I’d be home and so I pushed on, even managing to speed up a little as home came into sight.
So I’d finally run what turned out to be 12.9 miles after a day at work, with a bad attitude, in the dark, in the rain though 7 London boroughs. The usual Friday night wine-lust was temporarily replaced with a thirst for water and more water. It was 9 p.m. The onset of muscle soreness was immediate. The weekend had finally begun.