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May 26, 2013

First it was lawyers – thousands of them, bunched up into territorial practice-based packs – and then it was ladies with hats, men in top hats and tails, and swathes of frivolously abandoned cars. A busy week for The Mall in London.

Which is a pity, because The Mall is a fairly key part of my standard mid-week run. Leaving work in Holborn, I trot down Kingsway, cross The Strand, duck down the steps on Waterloo Bridge, head towards Westminster along Embankment, cut through Whitehall Place and Horse Guards Parade, hang a right on to The Mall, cross through Green Park, duck through the underpass at Hyde Park Corner, do a quick circuit of the Serpentine and then follow the route back the same way. It’s a neat 7 miles and it looks a lot like this.

You run a route often enough, you know the pinch points where you stand for an age at traffic lights, or where you might get held up behind ambling pedestrians. You also – intentionally or unintentionally – have a barometer of whether a run was good or not based on how long it takes you to complete it.

On Monday I found myself running in the road a little more than often as the pavements were swarming with lawyers, starting at Embankment. Like (over-blown simile alert) Theseus descending into the maze, I followed the string of legal eagles – easy to spot by their corporate tshirts, and the spontaneous cheers of route marshals – and was dismayed to see them threading through Horse Guards Parade. However, they headed left, towards Birdcage Walk, so I thought I’d lost them… Only to pick them up at Green Park, where we followed exactly the same route round the Serpentine and back towards Hyde Park Corner. Despite the obstructions and crowded road crossings, there were some good fast sections and I arrived back at the office in 51:11. All considered, not bad.

On Wednesday I took the same route, safe in the knowledge that my run would be unimpeded this time round. The plan was to take it a bit easier – after all, this week was about building volume and breaking the 30-mile threshold – so running comfortably was all that mattered. That said, arriving on The Mall to find cars abandoned on the normally wide paths and hordes of highly polished folk drifting across the pavement I tutted to myself. Turns out the Queen was having a garden party. The road was clogged with taxis and party-leavers, so I crossed opportunistically and made haste for Hyde Park. If there was one thing I could be certain of, it was that no one was going to be having a long constitutional in those shoes.

Returning back to the office, I stopped my watch, satisfied in a nice run, but not convinced the time had been anything spectacular. 51:10. Things, it turns out, are gradually coming together.

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