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Recovery runs

April 23, 2011

Opinions about when to return to running after completing a marathon vary. Some follow the ‘one day off for every mile you raced’ rule of thumb, that leaves you off your feet for the best part of a month. Last year I had too long a break, which meant it took some time to get back into running. This year I’m easing myself in sooner, but focusing on enjoying the runs rather than pushing the pace.

So, Thursday was my first post-marathon run, and it felt good. The weather was warm, I had no watch or Garmin so didn’t know my pace or what time it was, and just took an easy four miles or so. Then, today (Saturday), nearly a week after the Virgin London Marathon, I decided to take my Camelbak and my camera for a leisurely long explore of the routes round North London.

The view from the Capital Ring near Seven Sisters

The Capital Ring is a long circuit around London, here it follows a disused canal

Following the Capital Ring, I ran alongside the disused canal until I  came to Finsbury Park. As it was an unseasonably warm 26°C and London was bathed in blazing sunshine, even this normally less than picturesque stretch of still water and shopping trolleys looked pretty and lush.

A greylag goose in Finsbury Park

The geese and ducks in the small boating lake at Finsbury Park had been well fed over the school holidays

Passing the boating lake and crowded play areas (although it’s worth noting that Finsbury Park has an amazing play area – and an outdoors gym, should you fancy pumping some iron in a public arena) I made my way to the disused railway line that climbs up towards Highgate.

An abandoned station on the path up to Highgate

An abandoned station on the path up to Highgate

The path up to Highgate is fairly busy, but cooler thanks to the foliage on the trees. If it wasn’t for all the people, it would be easy to forget that you’re in London. I passed a man explaining to his son that this railway line was closed ‘because there was a silly man called Dr Beeching’. I felt like pointing out that despite recommending the closure of a substantial number of branchline services, these closures were probably the saviour of the train system we have in place today. Imperfect yes, but better than none. Fortunately I didn’t and just carried on running until I got to Highgate.

Hair of the Dog is a shop in Highgate that specialises in canine clothing

Highgate is, it turns out, rather posh. And posh people love dogs. Fact.

Highgate is aptly named (being up quite a big hill) and is lovely, if dramatically out of my price range. As an illustration of the area’s wealth, let’s take the existence of the shop ‘Hair of the Dog’. Specialising entirely in canine couture, it’s the only place to go if you want to dress your dog up in a seasonal outfit. Want to celebrate Easter in the only way that’s fitting and appropriate? Come right on in, we’ve got a bunny costume for your dog. (No really, look in the window and you’ll see there is one.)

I decided to jog on before anyone realised that I was a pleb.

The cemetery in Highgate is well-known and a bit overgrown

Passing Highgate Cemetery

Cutting through the park and down the long road, I passed Highgate Cemetery. Most famous as the burial spot for Karl Marx, the cemetery also houses other luminaries including Douglas Adams, George Eliot, Michael Faraday and, um, Jeremy Beadle. I carried on downhill towards Hampstead Heath, lest I get caught up in one of the walking tours.

The view from Hampstead Heath, looking towards the city of London

Despite the recent smog warnings, the view of London's skyline was clear

Like any other green open space in London – and particularly one with a view (yes Primrose Hill, I’m looking at you) – Hampstead Heath was rammed with sun worshippers. Climbing up to the viewpoint it’s easy to see why the Heath is such a big draw, and I suspect it will start to feature in more of my runs now that I’ve found it.

After a pause to soak up the view, it was time to head on into the woods before turning back and passing Highgate Ponds.

The still waters of one of Highgate's ponds

The banks of this pond were packed with sun-seekers

Running alongside the banks of the first of Highgate Ponds that I came to, I was first struck by just how many people were crammed into such a small space. And despite the general balance elsewhere in the Heath, there were substantially more men than women. In fact there were loads of men. Absent mindedly I’d noted this coincidence and then it clicked… I see, I thought.

The road up to Highgate is steep

Once the incline up to Highgate starts, it's a little unrelenting

The climb back up to Highgate is hard going. You cover 72 metres of elevation in three quarters of a mile. Yah, I thought to myself, this is totes the place to do speedwork. I then made a mental note that I should probably stop reading my girlfriend’s copies of Heat in the bath after long runs.

Once at the summit of the hill, I ran back the way I had come, taking advantage of the predominantly down-hill nature of the tracks. It wasn’t long before I emerged back into Finsbury Park, from the highest points of which you can catch a glimpse of Canary Wharf, where I was running just over a week ago.

The tip of the buildings at Canary Wharf can be seen from Finsbury Park

You can just make out the buildings at Canary Wharf over the trees, other buildings and funfair in and around Finsbury Park

And soon I was home, having run a very slow and very easy 13 miles. My cough was still niggling away at times and it was hot, but runs like this really make you appreciate being able to get about and see the city on foot.

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