Running lost in London

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been in London on a course. The course was really good knowledge-wise but it was a lot of material to get through in four days so I was at saturation point by the end! But what has also been fantastic is actually spending a longer period of time in London. I’ve never stayed longer than a night so this was quite exciting.

As I’m still marathon training I needed to continue my running schedule. How fantastic, I thought, running London!  You see all those “instarunners” run-commuting to and from work looking very cool. London to me in general is very cosmopolitan and exciting. So on Tuesday after my course had finished I walked the ten minutes back to my hotel, kitting myself out in my gear and headed out.

I’d received some great route guidance on Twitter so had a vague plan in my mind, basically going across the bridges and doing a 2.5 mile out and back. Simple. Easy peasy. (I’m sure you can see where this is going).

Just to quickly add a precursor as a reminder before I go on: I’m a country girl, I’m not used to big cities, I don’t go to London that often and, when I do, briefly (and usually under the strict supervision of someone more adult than me) and I’m Anna, the idiot.

My hotel was located in the Whitechapel area near Tower Bridge so I headed there first to cross the Thames. My first annoyance was just as I started going I had to stop for traffic several times before actually making it onto the bridge. This was annoying but I didn’t want to die sooo I couldn’t make any leaps of faith like I can in Hedge End (dodging one car a mile down the road).

Then as I got onto the bridge I was suddenly faced with a sea of people. Tourists and commuters were everywhere and suddenly I was dip-diving through any tiny gaps I could see. I knocked shoulders with several people and my inner-Britishness of being strictly polite at all times cringed in abhorrence. I briefly noticed a 9k race sign and wondered what was going on.

I carried on and eventually got across the bridge and parallel to the water to an equally busy area. It became exhausting having to look ahead to spot spaces and avoid people. I realised I hadn’t listened to any of my podcast. I turned it off so I could concentrate on not colliding with anyone.

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I spotted a race HQ-type area and a sea of blue t-shirt wearing runners. I stopped and asked someone what was going on because I was curious. They told me it was a TeachFirst race (10k Run the River apparently). I pitied their cotton t-shirts as it was so humid that evening and carried on.

Now I’d become a pro at dodging people. I saw so many other runners that I assumed were commuting (backpacks on and a steely look in their eye that they’d seen it all before). I tried nodding and smiling but they had a fixed glare ahead. Even regular runners seemed to ignore me. I think I counted one smile and two stiff nods. Blimey.

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As I got to around 2.5 miles I realised I should think about heading back. I’d gone across a few bridges and knew all I needed to do was head back and find Tower Bridge again, which was super easy because Tower Bridge is a well-known landmark and looks different to the other bridges (dangerous Anna logic).

I had to move off from the safety of the Thames and head into the “wild”. I got myself a bit confused and realised I needed to stick to the safety of the river to keep myself in check of where I was. I quickly checked the GPS map on my phone. Yep, looked about right, just gotta keep heading along the river.

IMG_4754When in doubt, take a selfie

I kept running and running and I couldn’t see the Tower Bridge anywhere in the horizon which was odd because surely I would by now? I checked my phone again and realised I had moved further from the area I knew my hotel was at. What?! I couldn’t get my phone to show me what direction I was pointing and by now, having run almost six miles and no sign of getting back, I started to panic a bit. I asked someone nearby but they were foreign and didn’t know. So I did what I always do in these sorts of situations. I rung my dad. I’d love to say he was surprised but he knows me too well. After he stopped laughing he asked me what was around me and what I could see. Well, the river and Big Ben in the distance and Lambeth Bridge not far from me.

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My dad quickly helped me work out where I needed to go (“go past the London eye”). I now realised I was about four miles from the hotel. Bugger.

I couldn’t follow the river all the way because people had built silly buildings like hospitals right next to it (Winking smile) so I had to veer out again and, my sense of direction being appalling, I got myself mixed up again. I checked my phone and I was running away from the river completely. GARGH!!! I stopped someone and begged them, “please, where’s the river??”.

After getting lost and confused a few more times I ended up on a ridiculously busy area of traffic where cars were going very fast and realised I needed to cross the road. There were no crossing points, limited pavement and no other pedestrians. This was highly stupid I know but I was tired and fed up and legged it across when I could. I then realised there was nowhere for me to go as it wasn’t a pedestrian area. I could see the Thames but I couldn’t get there. Unless I jumped over the wall…which I did. Into a huge stream of blue t-shirt wearing runners. I then had to run against the tide of the race. Much to their and my annoyance – it was not a fun situation for anyone but I just had to do it. The race route wasn’t closed off to the public so technically I was allowed.

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The race then looped back round so I was running alongside runners which made me feel a bit of a fraud as the marshals cheered them on. I was very thirsty by this point as it was so warm and hadn’t anticipated being out for this long (now at 8-9 miles) and wondered if there would be a water station I could beg some water from…but thankfully I spotted a Starbucks and the kind barista gave me some tap water.

I then ran past the lovely scenic Tower of London and got trapped in a garden which didn’t seem to allow me out, but then finally found my way back to familiar territory. At 10.6 miles I was finally back.

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I was tired, hot and bothered. It was entirely my own fault of course but I was just annoyed.

IMG_4762Back at the hotel, not happy and very sweaty

It was now closing in on 8pm. So much for an early night as I still needed to get dinner.

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On the plus side, my splits were fairly consistent and the run itself felt good (albeit very warm and sweaty). I got to see some of the sights and get a few selfies so it wasn’t all bad! It just confirmed my lack of sense of direction and idiocy. Not carrying money on me was probably my biggest mistake as my phone battery got perilously low.

But there we have it, Idiot Anna strikes again! Winking smile

Have you ever ran in London?

Do you ever run-commute?

How do you plan a route in a new-to-you place?

22 thoughts on “Running lost in London

  1. That ended up being quite a long run! My first few forays along the Thames Path were a bit confusing as you can’t always run next to the river but after using it as my marathon route I’m now really familiar with the ins an outs (at least I think I am because it’s always changing!). I’m glad you found a friendly barista to give you some water – one of the plus sides with running in London is that there’s always a shop to buy some which I take for granted when I’m out of the city! x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…Fashion: I Know What Your Wore This SummerMy Profile

  2. Yikes! Well done for keeping your cool and making it back to the hotel. I’d have panicked, had a tantrum and abandoned the run. I like London, but I don’t think I could handle running on the pavements there. I’m not quite a country girl (anymore) but I’m a canal and riverbank runner, if I have the choice.

    Run-commuting has always sounded pretty good to me. Unfortunately, it’s never going to be an option as I’m really, really lousy in the mornings. And I live 20+ miles from work.
    I did run (more from necessity than by choice) from a fitness instructor course to the train station once. That was a stinky journey home!
    Laura recently posted…Jillian Michaels – Beginner ShredMy Profile

  3. I think I would have started to cry. When I first moved to Clapham I got lost somewhere between Clapham and Balham. It was dark and I got very scared. I stuck to running on the treadmill after that experience. More recently I managed to somehow get lost in Regent’s Park. I spent ages planning out my running route, but ended up getting trapped on the Inner Circle for what felt like ages. I reckon that running in London is great but only if you know where the quieter and less touristy running spots are. When I’m in London in two minutes from Baker Street, it’s a nightmare.
    Emma recently posted…Great Birmingham Run training week 11My Profile

  4. I mostly stick to my local area around Greenwich and it’s much quieter which is better for running, although when I am doing longer runs I do run mostly along the thames path and I absolutely love running there, I just wouldn’t run along the Southbank at rush hour or peak times on weekend. I used to run commute from Shoreditch to Greenwich and that was a really nice route along the river, and fairly quiet too, I can’t do that anymore though as I work all over the place now and have too much stuff to carry with me. I always take my contactless card with me, and then I know if I get into trouble I can just bus/tube home.
    Lauren (@poweredbypb) recently posted…August UpdateMy Profile

  5. Oh dear, that is what always worries me about running on holiday- I try to do very simple out and back routes, but when going back the view looks different (obviously) so that confuses me too. At least you made it back in the end. It reminds me of once when I was going to visit a friend- it was the second time, and the first time I had got the train to Kings Cross and then got a bus, but we had walked back to the station and it was basically down a straight road. The next time there was all sorts of building work going on, and I had probably come out of a different exit. I ended up walking along a river, and had no idea where I was (before smartphones) so I called Andy and he worked out where I was on a map, directed me back to the station and then to the right road!
    I’ve only run in London for actual races- the one at the Olympic park and the Winter Run (not sure I’ve done any more)- I do keep wondering about a parkrun but then it’s a longer way to go for a short run, and the trains are expensive and the underground isn’t that near to here.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Going to an actual yoga classMy Profile

  6. Oh honey! You got about as far as where I used to work from where I work now! And that’s a route I know pretty well….

    Next time: contact Serpentine AC, and someone kind will be bound to say “come and join us on our Wednesday night two parks (4.3miles) or three parks (7ish miles) run”. In fact – next time, just email me, and I’ll make sure you’re in the right place at the right time on a Wednesday night, wave you off with the fast people and catch up at the end. I’m pretty sure you’re allowed to ‘try’ it out at least twice before joining properly…

    In Prague, we ended up finding that it was way better having a guided run than getting lost. There’s a company that does those in London too.

    Otherwise – I tend to take a print out of my route with me, and a card in addition to my phone, so I can pay for something (and, in London, use that for the bus).
    Jane recently posted…Eridge Park 10 milesMy Profile

  7. This did make me giggle (!!!) – I’ve worked and lived in London for a while so have always run along the river and I have a fairly good sense of direction so I just hope for the best and generally pop out where I have a vague idea of where I am. The little map signposts are also very handy! To be fair though., you don’t really realise how much the river actually bends through central London until you lose a landmark – hence not being able to see Tower Bridge.

    There are a few nice backroads that mean you don’t have to fight with the tourists (who are a nightmare if you are a runner, I’ve 100% ruined a LOT of people’s photos of Big Ben etc)
    but my big tip for running in London is always have a contactless card! Then you can always hop on a tube/train/bus/buy food. Especially helpful when marathon training and you are fed up.

    I run in fairly once a week or so (Tooting – Farringdon) No-one smiles. It’s a London thing unfortunately…we’ve too busy breathing in exhaust fumes!
    Katie @ TheseGirlsDo recently posted…Altitude training in the PyreneesMy Profile

    • Haha the last thing I cared about was ruining people’s photos! I was so stressed out. I had to yell “heads up” to one woman who had her head buried in her phone and there was no where for me to go.
      Yes this card thing seems like a good idea!!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Olympic Park 5kMy Profile

  8. Haha yes, this rings true. I’ve run to work in London for a few years now – the traffic is horrible, tourists and people everywhere and no one ever makes eye contact. I tried running asking the canal tow path for a while but you have to contend with cyclists down there which I find impossible at rush hour. It can be lovely if you go early or late though, around 6 am if you can. You’ll have the streets pretty much to yourself and it’s gorgeous!

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