Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Got the t-shirt

Most of my runs recently have been short, fast bursts, and this blog entry is in that same staccato rhythm. 

My official t-shirt from Merlin arrived a couple of days ago. It's a bit 'white-van-man': a loose fitting singlet with lots of green writing. Nevertheless, it's exciting, and marks a final countdown to the 22nd April. 

Not my Merlin singlet

My motivation has been dwindling a little. A minor health niggle put me back for a few days, and although I'm back on track, in every sense, it has been more difficult than I'd expected. I'm managing this by focusing on each small step, and am now also resting for at least three days a week.

I'm enjoying running by the Thames, which always feels like the heart and soul of London. One of my 'weekly favourites' at the moment is running from the London Eye to Putney. The London Eye is a great place to start a Thames path run. It's easy to walk there from Waterloo, and the post card vista of Parliament is a fantastic motivator. The prospect of leaving the crowds behind also means the run is destined to start well.

detail from a painting by Samuel Scott, mid 18th Century

Just before Lambeth bridge, there is Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the past eight hundred years. It's worth spinning around for a moment here, and looking back on the route to the Eye, Parliament and the Thames. In these recent blue-skied Spring mornings, it's been easy to think this is the best river view in London. 

Next up are the spooks in their cream anti-palace that houses MI6. It's said to be an incredibly ugly building, but for my money there are worse offenders.Beautiful Vauxhall Bridge more than compensates. You need to cross up and over the bridge itself, but stay on the Thames South Side.

Best view in London?

The old towers of Battersea's Power station are visible from some distance and are brilliant to head towards, as they appear closer than they are. After Battersea, there is a lot of riverside visual treats. Chelsea Bridge is as elegant and gracious as the Albert Bridge is sweeping and majestic. 

Battersea Power Station
Between these two, you will pass the Peace Pagoda, which was a gift to London from a Japanese Buddhist Order. 

Peace Pagoda

There are several statues along this stretch of Thames, which instead of enthusing about, I will encourage you to discover. The plain blue and white bridge is Wandsworth Bridge. There has been a bridge here, ever since 1873, when a toll bridge was built in anticipation of a railway line that ended up not being built. From here, it's a short run through the park, and then into Putney where there are trains, buses, tubes and many lovely cafes. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Excitement and trepidation

I haven't run for a little while.  Couple of health issues, nothing major.
Am hoping to be back on the pavements at the end of this week, and can't believe there are just six weeks to go. Excitement and trepidation.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Pride comes before it all

I had the worst run of my life, and it’s taken me over a week to write about it. 
Previously, the ‘worst run of my life’ was a 16km Leppin Auckland Off Road series run, that I did on a whim. I say on a whim, but actually I was signed up to the whole series in 2007. Egged on by a friend, I completed a succession of short distance bush runs, through the most beautiful countryside I had ever seen, and learned to love mud, but not hills.

Where's the finish line?

The Leppin series was set up with three distances, short which was a 4-6km run, mid wich was 12-16km and long, which from memory was marathon distance. After a few short distance events, my chickismo got the better of me. Suddenly I was doing ‘mid distance’. On all these runs there was a ‘tail-end-Charlie’, whose job it was to make sure that all the runners completed the course, and that he was the last in. 

Spot the English Girl

10km into the ‘mid distance’, the tail-end-Charlie overtook me. I spent an hour stumbling around in the bush, going over repeatedly on my ankle, feeling sick from the too-strong Powerade in my Camelbak, and having an anti-epiphany. There’d be some elegance in this story if I could write about crossing the finish line, but it, and the last 3km markers and directional arrows, had been taken down before I made it back, and I was collected a few hundred metres from the finish line by concerned friends. So I stumbled over what was once the finish line, a line in the sand, on what I still consider one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. My friends had drunk all the beer. My ankle recovered faster than my pride, and the event became known as ‘the day you thought you could run in the bush’.

Next left, or right

So that’s my gold standard of a ‘bad run’. And last week I bested it. 
A good friend works in the House of Lords. Wouldn’t it be magnificent, I thought, to run along the river, passing London’s glorious landmarks, and meet her at the Lord’s for some light post-run refreshment. 
First day of Spring

Despite seemingly perpetual ‘first day of Spring’ weather of late, my planned run coincided with the greyest, wettest day last week. I made the error of crossing the river to Southside too early, and then discovered that the Thames path along great screeds of South West London is being repaired, in patches, with abysmal sign posting. There can be few things more demoralising than running in drizzle with a buggy, only to find sudden blockades, and arrows pointing me back to non-river backing suburbia. Had I ever wanted to intimately know the backstreets of Putney, Barnes, Fulham and Hammersmith, this would have been my moment in time. Snug in the buggy, under blankets and secured by a raincover, Baby B slept soundly. 
Now you see you don't

I was wet, cold, lost, miserable and chaffed. The vistas I’d hoped for were elusive. Everything was hazy and blurred and there were several times I ran in such big pointless loops, I wondered if it would be better to get the bus home and admit defeat.
In the end, we did make it to parliament. Quite how a drenched running woman with a sleeping baby can look like a security risk is beyond me, but after being scrutinised, scanned and snapped, I changed into a dress and heels (nappy bags are fabulous for so much more than nappies). Was it worth it? Probably not, but I’ve learned a few lessons:
  1. Don’t cross bridges on a whim, follow the map
  2. Getting cold and wet is horrible, but foreseeable. Take a change of clothes other than an evening dress and heels. 
  3. If you’re going a long way along the Thames in the rain, the best place to be is in a buggy with a raincover.
  4. Turning up at our awe inspiring Houses of Parliament chaffed, wet and in running gear is every bit as embarrassing as the finish line being dismantled before getting there.
  5. Nothing ventured...
Over these past few days, I’ve rediscovered the short, fast dash. Necessity more than anything, but I tell myself it is all miles on my cliched clock.