I admit, I’ve been hesitant to post much about running. As a devoted couch-sitter for the last several years (if not most of my life), I’m sort of allergic to runner’s talk. My eyes glaze over when people start talking about miles logged, or pacing, or running gear. I tune out completely when it comes to races they’ve run. And if they happen to mention “runner’s high” or endorphins, I have always felt secure in my belief that chocolate does the same thing without all the effort. So with apologies to my friends who have the same allergy I just described, I promise this blog is not generally going to run on and on about… running. But that’s what I’m here for today. Sunday is the half-marathon I’ve committed to in Bratislava, so running has ramped up and taken an increasingly large wedge of my time over the last month.
I swore I was not going to fall for the whole running gig– too much time down the drain, and too much wear and tear on my already crickety knees and ankles. But the fact of the matter is that I have been running for nearly six months now. I feel great, and it’s part of my life– so I guess it’s time for me to come out of the closet about it. And now that I’m running all over London, I’m really enjoying that familiarity of city monuments being landmarks on my regular routes. Instead of setting off specifically to see Big Ben, it’s where I turn right and cross the river on one of my runs. Trafalgar Square is a halfway mark– I either turn right and run to Buckingham Palace from there, or I turn left and run up The Strand. Getting to see and know London in this way is yet another unexpected benefit of my very surprising detour into running.
It’s been pretty cold and wet in London recently. One day recently I had a particularly hard time making myself get out there (but surviving that 13-mile run coming up is pretty good incentive, it turns out.) I finally kicked myself out the door, looking fairly ridiculous in my daughter’s running cap– which is a little small for me and tends to pop off the top of my head, despite the efforts of my scrawny ponytail to anchor it in place. I like to start with a nice long, downhill incline toward Camden, enjoying the view over London toward the new Shard building. Camden is a busy, edgy area with street markets and lots of vendors selling everything from tacos and donuts to bustiers and big boots. I always have to dodge around people meandering the sidewalks, but it never bothers me much at the beginning of the run, when I’m still fresh.
On that day, I had a moment’s eye contact with the guy wearing a sandwich board advertising one of the many tattoo parlors– we silently agreed I wasn’t part of his target demographic. The lady of a certain age in running tights and a turquoise jacket doesn’t usually stop off for a quick piercing or tattoo (sweaty eyebrows are a piercing disaster waiting to happen! And please let’s not talk about navel piercings…) My running app calls out one mile exactly when I cross the canal in Camden– I will miss that feature when we move and my run starts from somewhere else.
This first half of my run after Camden is basically right above the Northern Line on the tube: Mornington Crescent, Warren Street, Goodge Street, all pretty nondescript until I run smack into Tottenham Court Road tube construction. After a little detour around the fences, I’m suddenly in theatre-land, running right past Leicester Square. It gets a little crowded in this area, but not too bad considering how dense the crowd is just on the other side of Charing Cross Road, on the pedestrian area where they sell all the last-minute theatre tickets. (Laura, we bought tickets there! And Sandy, I think that’s where you buy them). And then, who knew it was so close to Trafalgar Square? I never did until I started doing these runs. The Church of St Martin-in-the-Fields is just up the street and across from Trafalgar Square, with its tourists, its steps, its fountain and column and lions. Today there were lots of the guys who pose as statues (taking gratuities from tourists to get their photos taken with them), as well as a kilted bagpipe player in full blow. I had to dodge behind a gold pirate “statue” wearing a Captain Sparrow wig and Ray-bans, as a class of young kids spotted and mobbed him. You may remember I have a theory that Johnny Depp gets bored and goes to Covent Garden in full Jack Sparrow kit… but this was definitely not him.
And this, in the other direction. Then I ran past the Canadian embassy (and the Texas Embassy, which is a cantina located in the former White Star Shipping offices– you remember, the Titanic people? The actual Texas Embassy from 1836-1845 was not too far from here, though.) From there into St. James Park, across in front of Buckingham Palace (where I unintentionally photo-bombed a handful of tourist snaps– really, it’s impossible to stay out of all of them!), and on to Hyde Park. Then a tube ride home from Hyde Park Corner, because I was out of time before the kids were due home. And because I had already been running for over an hour.
So maybe you can see how running has become a pretty fun pastime for me. With all the things to visit, I barely notice that I’m actually running! And that’s just when I’m alone. At least once a week I run with about thirty women who are also training as beginners for the Bratislava half-marathon. We meet up in the morning and take to the streets together– most recently running through the city and out to Kew Gardens, a final 11-mile trek before our trip. I wish I’d snapped a photo, but I was too busy running and chatting! There will be at least one more post about running– the one where I tell you about the fantastic group I run with, and how I ended up doing this thing that I said I would never do.
Never say never, right?