I got lost. Well, not exactly lost, just over-shot my turning by a couple of miles and found myself having to run that little bit further to make it to my family meeting point. With the Cardiff Half Marathon just three weeks away now, I decided to run ten miles over the weekend and, in my attempt to fit this all in with family life, we agreed to meet at Coram’s Fields, which is near Russell Square. It was a gorgeous morning and a delight to run along the canal, with the sunlight sparkling on the water. Edward suggested running all the way along the canal to Victoria Park, then taking the Regent’s Canal towards King’s Cross.
The first bit is very familiar territory, being a well-trodden path of mine, and I saw the usual sights and encountered the usual handful of runners, then I ventured slightly further than I have been for a long time along the towpath, in fact it’s probably been over a year and a half since I ran down that way, so I wasn’t entirely sure what lay ahead. I remembered from my London Marathon training runs that you could hit a bit of a no-way-through point on arriving at the Olympic site, so was pleased to find my way through easily and to enjoy the view of a growing cluster of stadia and accompanying buildings through a high security fence (this is better than the secretive hoardings that used to be here). As you run along here, it is interesting to look both ways and observe the vast differences between the east side of the water and the west: one gleams with newness and is dripping with the money invested in it, while across the water you see graffiti-plastered industrial buildings lying empty or crumbling with decay. It turns out I should have been on that side of the canal. That says it all!
I felt myself beaming at other runners along this stretch, everyone seeming to glow with the excitement of being so close to the scene of future sporting achievement and glory, and I felt myself picking up the pace as I imagined the times being beaten behind those elaborate structures to my left. As I enjoyed this daydream I noticed the canal branching out west with no way of getting over to join it. ‘Oh well’, I thought ‘I can pick it up further along’. Of course, this didn’t happen and I found myself in a busy gyratory asking some workmen the way to Victoria Park, only to be greeted with them pointing and saying ‘Black tunnel, black tunnel’. I was heading more towards Greenwich Park than Victoria Park…via the Blackwall Tunnel. I know this spot only too well after we found ourselves stuck here on our way to a wedding, with the tunnel closed for repair. Not exactly the lovely canal-side run I had planned, but not the end of the world.
The next leg of the run was Bow Road. I found myself looking into the distance at the gherkin, thinking ‘If I head that way, I’ll be able to find my way to Coram’s Fields’, and speeding up at the same time, to make it go a bit quicker. I stopped once or twice to look at bus-stop maps and ask a girl if I was heading the right way (‘You could get on a train’ she said!) but realised I would get very cold if I didn’t keep on running. I was soon passing through Mile End then Whitechapel (oh, how I would love to have stopped to tuck into some delicious food at Tayyabs…), where some people were passing through the doors of the Whitechapel Gallery, which tempted me to pause…I didn’t. Now I started to wonder if I should head north, or just keep heading west in a straight line. The west won and I passed into the city.
Anyone who has ever run the Crisis Square Mile race will know that a GPS is useless in the city, and I was reminded of this here. My signal disappeared straight away, and came and went for the rest of this leg of the journey. I passed all the sights: the gherkin, the Royal Exchange, the Bank of England and all of the many tiny and ancient churches along the way. It was about here that my Garmin said I had run ten miles but, when I next looked down, it had jumped back to nine miles, I felt a bit disheartened by this. I did take a turn up towards Moorgate then passed by Smithfield Market. Not far now. Eventually, I was delighted to see Grays Inn Road, then remembered the last time I had walked along here recently when I had a wisdom tooth removed at the dental hospital: I was weaving around like a drunk apparently!
Next turning on the left was Guilford Street, where I gave it one last effort and rolled up at the gates to the playground where there was a family fun day with fire engines, police vans, drumming, face painting and the usual cheeky goats, rabbits and chickens. If you have children and are in central London, it’s a fantastic place to let them run around and play, we often end up spending a whole day there. Of course, I headed straight to the sandpit where I was bound to find Hector digging away. ‘Hello Mummy, did you have a good run?’.
Time: 1 hour 57 minutes 12 seconds
Distance: 11.03 miles (I am saying it was 12 though because the signal was caput)
Average Pace: 10.38
Best Pace: 7.13