Tag Archives: london

Long Slow Run Report: hitting the finish lines

The Mall

With two and half months to go, it’s time to start building my endurance. After last week’s 22km, this week I was aiming to add another two to that.

I began by plotting out a route on Mappedometer, all through pretty familiar places which meant I wouldn’t need to keep checking maps.

Hammersmith: fugly

Hammersmith: fugly

I set off, from my house in Barnes, and headed north. I crossed the river to Hammersmith and made my way round the pedestrian’s nightmare that is the Broadway shopping centre/rounsabout/bus station. It occurred to me that if London was ever invaded, Hammersmith would be the western front. An invading army would take one look at the place – with its flyover, its ugly shopping centre, miserable high street, and the monstrosity that is the Ark – and turn around and go home.

I left the place as quickly as possible, and headed through Olympia and on to Kensington High Street, where I dodged slow moving, bewildered tourists – something that were quickly to become a theme for the run. I turned into Kensington Gardens, which was much better running territory, although there were still far too many tourists. I looped around the top of the Serpentine in order to cross where the finish line was for the NYD 10k only a few weeks ago. I thought about how hard I pushed to get there in under 1 hour, and really picked up the pace here.

I carried on through the park to Hyde Park Corner, where I stopped to drink some water and take a really rubbish selfie. Then set off again, down Constitution Hill, past Buckingham Palace and down the Mall. By this point I’d really got into my stride. As I tried to picture myself running across the finish line there on 13 April I experienced a proper rush – I was actually enjoying  this. It felt odd.

I took a quick snap, then turned south through St James Park and through the backstreets of Westminster, close to where I used to work. It was odd to see how much had changed since I was last there – shops closed, others opened.

From there I turned on to the embankment, and headed along the river, taking the same route I took when I ran home last week. In Pimlico I passed a petrol station and considered stopping to refill my water bottle, but decided against it.

This was an error. It turns out it’s feckin’ miles until the next one. This stretch of river seems to go on forever without passing anything much. After an age – in which I was really parched – I reached World’s End in Chelsea and turned toward Kings Road. There’s a Shell garage by this junction, so I stopped here and bought a Lucozade. I still had my headphones in, and it was only when I went to pay that I realised I was heavy breathing and looked an absolute state – no wonder the people in the queue gave me a very wide berth.

From there it was a relatively straight run down Kings Road and over to Putney. This final stretch – the last three or four kilometres – was unbelievably hard. Every step felt like a challenge, and I had to force myself to keep going.

I made it – 24.52km – but was disappointed when I worked out this is closer to 15 miles than 16.

There’s still a very long way to go.

A home run

Battersea Power Station

Today I tried running home from work for the first time. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for ages – first, looking up all manner of routes on MapMyRun, then obsessing over what kind of runner’s backpack I’d need to minimise chafing.

But yesterday I caught up with two colleagues who are also running the London Marathon to compare training strategies. Both are taking a similar approach to me – a weekend long run with a couple of runs in the week – and we chatted about the logistics of fitting in running around our busy jobs.

On my way home I realised the obsessing with routes and kit was yet more procrastination, and I should Just Bloody Do It. The struggle with hills on my last two long runs have left me feeling a little downbeat about my strength, so I figured I ought to try some running on the flat to cheer myself up. And the run home from work is exactly that – right along the Thames from the City westwards. None more flat.

Attempting to set off early, I changed into my kit then had a minor panic about what I did and didn’t need to take home. Eventually I stuck my iPad and personal phone in my bag along with my Oyster and bank cards and a bottle of water, and stuck my work clothes, shoes and the handbag full of crap I usually carry around in my locker in the office. I strapped on my Pebble and my little rucksack, fired up Spotify and Runkeeper, and headed out of the building.

I headed vaguely south-west, hitting the riverside at Blackfriars, down the embankment to Westminster and my old workplace, the Houses of Parliament. I ran past the bus stop opposite my old office on Millbank, and felt a pang of guilt at the number of times I’d hopped on the bus from there to Vauxhall rather than do the 15 minutes walk.

From there I kept going along the river, past Millbank Tower and the Tate, and headed for Fulham. There I was stuck on a corner for five minutes while police stopped traffic in all directions until a car and motorcycle outrider appeared.

It passed, and I was off again, heading along the embankment. When I stopped to take a picture of Battersea Power Station, I noticed my Pebble – which I’d thought I’d fixed after its recent fail – had died again and was giving me the error 504 sadface.

Strangely, this didn’t bother me at all. I was actually really enjoying the run. I kept going, ticking London bridges off in my head as a passed. Vauxhall, Chelsea, Albert (site of my very first snog, fact fans), they seemed to pass in a blur as I processed the day’s stresses and mentally wrote the first half of this blog post.

This is the point where the Thames Path veers quite spectacularly from the actual river and gets quite confusing, so I made for the relative safety and simplicity of Kings Road, which gets progressively less glamorous as it extends west.

Outside a kebab shop, some twats with bikes shouted something at me. I expect it wasn’t very nice. I didn’t care. Right then, I felt fucking brilliant. Strong and healthy and happy.

Soon I reached Putney. It was just before 7pm by then, so I decided to head for the station and take the last couple of stops back from there, else I’d have been ridiculously late back, and the route from Putney home is through parkland so I wouldn’t feel safe at night.

I jumped on the train a couple of stops, then sprinted the last half a kilometre back from the station with a huge grin on my face. I haven’t felt so alive in years.

Finding my feet

putney

After feeling a little despondent about my training so far (or the lack of it) and resolving to up my game, I finally did.

I live by the river Thames, which is an excellent place to be (until the sea levels rise, when it won’t be). Amongst the many great things about where I live is that the Thames towpath is right on my doorstep. It’s a brilliant place to run; there’s no traffic, it’s peaceful and quiet, and you get to see the different birds as the seasons change. I know it sounds wanky, but it makes me feel much calmer and more connected to the seasons when I get out along the river.

I have a regular route from where I live in Barnes down to Hammersmith and beyond, and back again. Whenever I want to add a bit on to my distance, I just add another bridge on to my route on either the way out or back again. The Hammersmith-Barnes loop is a nice 7.5k – a good lunchtime distance – but I hadn’t been further than that in a while.

Today I reached Hammersmith and still felt like I had plenty more in the tank, so I kept going, all the way down to Putney, across Putney Bridge (see photo above), and back down the north side, around 14k in total.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Cold but sunny. There were cormorants and herons on the shore, and rowers out on the river. I felt fit and strong and happy, and as I made my way back home, I felt like I could have gone on longer were it not getting dark. For the first time I felt like I can really do this.

I can run a marathon.