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London running

January 31, 2011

I’ve been training in London for nearly two months now. Running here is somewhat different from the sleepy streets of Abingdon and Oxfordshire. There seem to be a few things that have characterised my city running experience so far…

  1. Places are a lot closer together than you expect. Getting around London on the tube, it’s easy to think things are much further apart than they really are – especially when tube stops can only be a few hundred metres from each other. Perhaps this explains the peculiarly London aversion to leaving a mile radius round where you live.
  2. Everyone is going somewhere very important. Far more important than where you’re going. So you’re just going to have to get out of the way. Be it pedestrians, bikes or cars, giving way is a sign of weakness in the urban jungle.
  3. Traffic lights and pedestrian crossings are occasionally effective. Even when there’s a green man permitting you to cross, it’s a good idea to get across as quickly as you can. (In Holborn, where I work, the traffic lights have been equipped with a countdown-to-death timer, warning you that in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds a torrent of tooting, accelerating traffic will be heading directly for you.)
  4. Go anywhere near a tourist site (of which there are many, surprisingly close together – see point 1) and you’ll be in the way of about a million people taking photos. If you’re a tourist it’s very important that you take photos in the middle of the pavement, preferably diverting everyone into the road or the cycle lane as they march somewhere incredibly important.
  5. Expect the unexpected in London’s parks. Sundays are typically sports days, so footballs, hockey balls and frisbes are intermittently arcing over or bouncing down the paths. Similarly, London’s pets get a walk on the weekend and – like the pigeons in Regent’s Park – are not afraid of your feet. They’re not all dogs, either. Today I saw a man in Hyde Park walking a ferret. Just sayin’.

And yet, despite the congestion, the constant peril of pedestrians and road crossings, running in the capital is a fantastic experience. It definitely seems the best way to piece together my jigsaw knowledge of London and discover new places.

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