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January 23, 2011
Tower bridge

Image via Wikipedia

The Paris Marathon training scheme says that I have to run 26 km this week. How to fit it in is the first challenge. Let alone that I have never run so far before. We are in London for business so it has to be done there. Best time, given traveling, meetings (and therefore late nights) – first thing on Sunday morning. Sorted.

So how long do I have to run? Given my recent half marathon time of 1.52.52 and the fact that I am likely to run slower, I reckon on 2 hours 30 mins. OK  – then I am back to how early do I have to get up…

The morning before I played it through in my head. Too late to run now but where will I end up when I do run? My previous London run was only for 1 hour 30 min and I just fell short of Rotherhithe. Rotherhithe is a “new” to me place that I have discovered as a friend of mine manages the Living Well Health Club, which is connected to the Hilton Hotel.

I would need to leave the flat in The Docklands at 7 am in order to have some morning left. I would just adopt my previous strategy of setting my phone alarm for half way and turn around and come back again. OR could I make it to Tower Bridge run over the Thames and make a circuit of it?

Up, a cereal breakfast, Winrgy & Sure2Endure a few layers, phone and more Winrgy for the journey – 26 km, I would need to drink on the way. Irritating that I forgot my drinks belt and have to carry the bottle and phone…

I added the reflective vest as it was still dark outside. Luckily, whilst it had rained during the night, it was not raining now.

I jogged through Millwall Park to the Greenwich Footpath lift. This would be a test. The lift man had previously advised that the lift operated from 7am at week ends. But if not my plan would be rather spoiled. Yes! I heard the grinding scraping squeaking sound of the lift and, as it had waited for me, the doors opened. Out came a couple of cyclists and I popped in.

My host was the same man as previously. Not the most healthy looking but friendly and chatty. “You’re early.” he remarked. “Yes, ” I replied, rather proudly,  “I have to run 26 km.” “What’s that then, “he said, “about 15 miles?” “Yes I suppose it, how far do you think that will take me?” I responded. “I don’t know. Training for a marathon?” he asked. “Yes, Paris” I said. “Oh, not that thing in London then?” he responded. “No” I said, “they did not want me.” [I had not been accepted in the ballot]. At this point the lift reached the tunnel and I said “see you soon” and jogged off to the next lift.

As I reached the top. I saw the various signposts for The Thames Path, Greenwich, The City as well as the signs for cyclists. Some had the distance to various places in miles. My friend in the lift set me thinking. Just how far would I manage to go? Could I reach my friend’s Health Club? Could I get as far as Tower Bridge?

As I ran along the, now familiar (due to my previous run) southern side of the Thames in the direction of the city, I started to calculate. I guessed it was a little more than 15 miles – I wondered if it was 18 miles [in fact a google search reveals its 16.16 miles]. So that would be nine miles – DEFINITELY get to Rotherhithe AND the Tower Bridge.

Whilst I had previously run this route. I still managed to lose the Thames Path as building works, water channels and houses got in the way. But most of the route did seem to fly by. I missed the Greenland Dock, although I did spot a sign post to it – I think that I ran “above it” along the river. Then I was in unfamiliar running territory BUT, hang on, this did look familiar as I had seen these roads in the car on Friday. YES – there was a sign to the Hilton. The Thames Path took me right along the doorstep of the Health Club. The path then “got stuck” in the Hilton complex itself and I met with a few dead ends but was soon back on track and running along nicely.

The down side of following the path is that it’s a bit of a mystery tour. The path suddenly ends, or you run up some stairs only to be popping down again just a few metres further. Still that all adds variety and additional “exercises” for leg strengthening. However it does slow you down.

As I bobbed my way through gardens, circuits and bridges, 2 male runners strolled past me. Ummm… maybe I should focus on the running and not on following this path. That said, it is glorious. The tall buildings of the Canary Wharf were all lit up when I had passed them and now I could see some other areas of London coming to life. I had always been a North London girl and South London was another world to me. But this was amazing. Quiet closes and little nooks and crannies as well as cleverly designed buildings that kept their old wharf style. One of my favourite walks when I had lived in London was along the Thames in the direction of the Houses of Parliament. Funnily enough, on the south side – it was the best view of the H of P.

When I saw the Tower Bridge – that gave a boost! Wow! I had actually made it! Well…almost… talk about so near yet so far! How to get to it was the issue.  At the same time my phone alarm peeped. The signal to turn back. How could I do that with my goal in sight? My husband always says that I never know when to stop and I thought of him waiting for me and how cross he would be if I was late… I just HAD to cross that bridge!

The path seemed to come to an end so I dived into some housing estates and followed the road that seemed to be parallel. I ran along several roads and eventually saw another runner who was travelling about at my pace so I thought that he must know where he was going. I ran along side him. Then the road came to an end. He turned around too. “Oh” I said, “that was not my intention, where are you headed”. “Home” he replied, “its here, that was my last sprint” (perhaps I was not running so slowly after all!!). “If I run right around this block, will I get to Tower Bridge?” I asked. “You could do but its better to go left and find a little path between building sites and then pick up the river again.” “thank you – I must have missed it earlier.” I went on my way – doubling back and shooting down a path that I had seen earlier but that looked like a dead-end. Indeed! A tiny path, UNDER some apartments and I was back along the Thames again.

And great! Some of my favourite restaurants – Brown’s Restaurant, Le Pont de la Tour – yummy!! It still looked as if the Tower Bridge was impossible to reach as the path seemed to go under…wait…a tiny passage and some steps! Yes! I was ON the Tower Bridge. I had to cross over as the side I was on was closed (typical!)!

I was joined by other runners running both ways – this was obviously a key point for runners in London!

As I came off the bridge and down the steps I searched anxiously to see if there was a Thames Path trail on this side of the river. I knew exactly where I was. THIS part was familiar territory, although I noticed the hotel name  – which used to be Tower Thistle (back in the days when we were organising Junior Chamber events with JCI London) is now the Guoman.  St Katherine’s Dock, another secret location behind the hotel – how tempting  – but must crack on. Ran under a sign post – hang on! How can that be? Canary Wharf 2.5 miles! I am sure that I had covered 7 – 8 miles on the South Bank so how could it be so short? At this rate I would need to go round again to get the 26 km in! I had run about 1.5 hours so still had an hour to run.

Picked up quite a nice pace – then saw signs to Thames Path again. In and out of passageways, gates closed, dead ends – best to focus on the running. Picked up quite a nice pace again. Legs feeling good.

Started to see familiar territory – at least familiar by car! Crossed a few roundabouts and found the river again. It was getting busier with joggers, runners cyclists popping up like mushrooms! I could feel competition from a lady runner behind me – no way would she get by – I quickened the pace – felt good – drat dead-end  – she obviously knew the way better than me!

Up some stairs – umm not too bad considering that I have been running for nearly 2 hours. I knew that I could run straight back to our apartment in about 20 mins but I needed more distance. Found the river again and started to run the outside “loop” of the Isle of Dogs. This was really good. I saw a few more runners. I wanted to shout -“I have been running for more than 2 hours and I am still going!” I could definitely feel that I had run for 2 hours – but it still felt good – I reflected upon the fact that you REALLY have to run for this time to feel like this. And this is it – this is the longest time that I have EVER run – over 2 hours. Its a pity that you simply can’t fast forward your body to this state and train this last half hour!!

I decided to try to race the oarsmen below who I could hear receiving instructions from their coach sitting in a boat that was motoring alongside them. Some how it did not quite work but it enable me to work just a little harder.

As I reached The Elephant Royale – Thai restaurant that produces delicious menus, I had to drop back into the houses. I ran past the lift to Greenwich and along the Island Gardens and then back towards the main road. I saw the very old Christ Church where we sometimes attend church (if I am not running!) and realised how close it was to our apartment. I entered Millwall Park and attempted to sprint along the path. OK, now I could feel my legs!

At exactly 2.5 hours of running I entered our apartment. I am not sure if I actually made the 26 km but it felt great to have been able to say that I had run for so long and still feel so good!

A look at the map did reveal that the north side of the Thames seems to “short cut” the south side – ok next time I run further to London Bridge



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