Running London – My 5K Visit

I realised the other day that it’s been such a long time since I put pen to paper (fingertips to keys) and whilst sitting on a crazily delayed train, why not take the time to write about my recent 5K run on the Thames.

Now I know that it may not sound that exciting.

“Hey Andy, we live in London and we’re always running up and down, over bridges and waving at the Queen every morning” I hear you say.

But for me, since jumping on the running wagon and hearing all your London tales of marathon runs, fun park runs and basically having the ultimate car free running route in the UK up and down the Thames, I wanted to join in.

Now as some of you may know I started a new job a few weeks ago and this involved a couple of overnight stays in London. On my first trip down I spotted the swathe of paths and pedestrianised zones down past the Tate and the Globe etc and the abundance of runners, walkers and anyone who wanted to use that space.

This was my in!

The next week, I packed a suitcase with just my running gear with the sole purpose of waking up early before work and getting out there. The plan was sound, until a last minute “newbie drinks” was arranged and I found myself in Soho still wheeling my wheels around. After a huge amount of amazing food and a few tasty beverages, I checked into the hotel and set my alarm.

7 Hours later my alarm buzzed. I leapt out of bed, ready to get going, and immediately dived into the floating bed side table the Premier Inn (The most Premier of Hotels) had handily placed for me. Bruised and Confused  I got my gear on, waved farewell to the receptionist (She thought i was a bit bonkers as she had checked me in the night before) and set off into the unknown.

Luckily the hotel was right on the south side of the river, just before London Bridge. As i started to stretch I noticed runners on their own or in groups flying across one end of the street. This must be a route, THE ROUTE, so following them I can’t go too wrong.

I set off and headed east.

2 minutes later I was stood in front of the Golden Hind in its dry dock. Amazing. I knew my run would get a bit touristy, and I’d reminded myself to watch the path infant and not just stare upwards and around the whole time. Obviously whilst doing the opposite and looking at the Hind I had my first and only narrow miss. I shouted sorry but they zoomed on unabashed. Maybe it’s normal to come across folks like me on a slow one (well, more on that later) having a good old butchers at the hotspots.

As I carried on on the next stop was the HMS Belfast. My run was taking on a real nautical theme! The Belfast is moored in a huge pedestrianised area of the river and it allowed me to get out of the way and really marvel at the London skyline. The size of the Shard, the Gherkin and the wacky bulging building that I think somehow refracted the sunlight and melted cars in its first few months!! DEATH RAY!

Up in front of me was Tower Bridge. Probably one of the most famous landmarks other than Big Ben that screams London! I hadn’t really planned to cross over the river, but as I was already here, why not! There are a little set of stairs from the river upwards that get you up onto the bridge, I confess, I walked up these. At this point, it was super congested with busy business folks, briefcases and top hats, monocles, you know, London.

I got up onto the bridge and set off. It was ace. I know it’s nothing like running across it in the London Marathon but all those years of watching the race etc came flooding back and I pushed on through, well around the visitor centre and then back down the other side. Again the bridge is wide enough to wiggle your way through the people but, if you were going at top speed, you’d just be a pile of knees by the end!

After running across, I thought, well, whats the next touristy place I can see. The Tower of London! The plan now was to run along the north side of the river and cross back, maybe at London Bridge.

The Tower of London is so much larger than I imagined. The grounds of the Tower are very grand and as I spent a few minutes running alongside, I realised just how big it was. Unfortunately, a Beefeater barred the way in, and any thoughts of a run selfie looked slim. I cracked on.

The next 10 minutes were spent running into dead ends and backtracking. The path was blocked numerous times and oddly, there were fewer runners this side of the river. As I had no one to follow (or they were so fast I couldn’t see where they’d gone) I had a lovely tour of the entrances to a few city centre building sites!

A few minutes later and I’m back on the riverside, heading up to the Millennium Bridge. Perfect, nice pedestrian way back over the river. As I climbed the steps up to the bridge I realised that the bridge and preceding road nicely frame a route up to St Pauls Cathedral. Well….. whilst I’m so close.

I run unto the cathedral, over a few roads and some winding paths (great for the local skateboard crew, running, trip hazard central) and took a few moments to look up at such an awesome piece of history.

Looking at my watch, I was touching around 4K at this point although it did feel a lot further. I guess swapping quiet familiar country roads for this non-stop be aware city scape warps your sense of time.

Back across the millennium bridge I ran, and down past the Tate and the Globe and came up on the hotel. It was closer to the Globe than I had imagined! As I checked my distance I was exactly on 5K, and looking at the time of 33 minutes, I’d just ran my fastest 5K time yet!!

Which meant one of two things. After taking a few weeks off to recover my right shin, it had healed and I was ready to run! Or, that London is so incredibly flat that this is actually more my normal time, if I didn’t ave to contend with hills and dales!

My takeaway from this run is this. If you’re ever in London for an overnight stay and can get your running gear with you, don’t miss a chance to get out there in the early morning and soak it in. I doubt you’ll find anywhere more geared for runners to just get up and go, with so many route combinations you can take. Your only limit is how far you want to go!!

My top tip, stick to the sides as best you can, as like me, your probably going to want to spend time looking at all the cool tourist sights as you run by! 🙂

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