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A bit of history

With a bit of a sleep, I felt a lot better about getting out again this morning. Running in London isn’t easy, its not the necessarily the monotony of suburbia that gets to me, but the constant road junctions that you have to cross and avoid getting killed every 20 seconds, add to that the rock hard paving stones that are generally cracked and broken and you’ve got an obstacle course made in hell.

Today I elected to run an out and back which took me to Blackheath. This is part of the 18km route I generally run to our London Bridge office when I have the opportunity to work in London. The highlight of my two hour run this morning was the fact that it wasn’t raining.

After a while of thinking about nothing in particular, it struck me that my run took in some relatively historical sites (not that you can see them, you have to know they are there). First up I was running on the old Dover road (once known as part of Watling Street) which links London with England’s biggest port, first laid by the Romans, this road is nice and straight and therefore requires little or no brain power to navigate. In the 17th century this road was much beloved of highwaymen such as Dick Turpin and his mates who made a tidy living of holding up mail coaches on their way into Kent and Dover. These outlaws would hole up in the woods and ambush the stagecoaches, robbing their passengers of valuables and occasionally their lives. The woods in question are known as Shooters Hill which marks my halfway point towards Blackheath and also featured in the opening chapter of Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities‘. Its not much of a hill (in comparison to those in the Cape), but is one of the highest points in greater London. The run down into Blackheath takes another 30 minutes, and according to legend the heath holds the bodies of 14th century London plague victims (hence the ‘Black’) buried in mass burial pits under the grass that the dog walkers and yummy mummies love to stroll on. I turned around at the gates of Greenwich Park (also the start of the London Marathon) and ran back the way I came.

Running notes
Route: The parents house through Welling, Shooters Hill over the A2 and then to Blackheath and back
Time started: 10:15am
Total time: 2:05
Total distance: 18.5km
Temperature: 9˚
Runner’s condition: Not bad

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Twelve types of grey

Grey roads, grey cars, grey houses, grey sky, grey puddles, grey mood.

It had taken me until 3pm to pull the running kit out of my suitcase and go for a run. I’d arrived at Heathrow at 9am and I knew I had to run at some point during the day, and the only reason I managed to get the damn shoes on was because it was getting dark and I had an hour and twenty to get done.

I’d gone from 30˚ yesterday to hovering around 10˚ this afternoon, I was tired from 13 hours on a plane with the mandatory screaming babies and the toddler kicking the back of my bloody seat. My sister had picked me up from the airport and driven me the two hours to my parents house in South East London. As you can imagine, running was pretty much the last thing I wanted to do.

I set off towards the Thames which I reached in about 20 minutes. The river at Erith was the same colour as the sky and today looked particularly menacing. At this point the river widens to about ten times the width as in the city, and houses some delapidated tug boats and barges that bob about as the seagulls hunker down against the prevailing drizzle. At this point I’m fighting the urge to turn round and go home to the central heating.

On I go through some of the most depressing areas of the London Borough of Bexley, constantly checking the watch to see when I can escape the most uninspiring training run of my life. I struggle to reconcile the fact that I actually used to live in Belvedere, ten years ago I thought the view from the flat was great – on a good day you could see the sun glinting off the cars from the Ford factory across the river in Dagenham.

I miss my mountain.

Running notes
Route: The aged parents house in Bexleyheath, down to Erith, through Belvedere, and back to Bexleyheath
Time started: 15:45pm
Total time: 1:22
Total distance: 12km
Temperature: 10˚
Runner’s condition: I was secretly hoping some yobs might steal my running shoes so I never have to run here again.

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