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.
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.
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.
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.
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 () 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.
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.
I was tired, hot and bothered. It was entirely my own fault of course but I was just annoyed.
It was now closing in on 8pm. So much for an early night as I still needed to get dinner.
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!
Have you ever ran in London?
Do you ever run-commute?
How do you plan a route in a new-to-you place?