Tuesday, 10 July 2012
Country versus city running; which do you prefer?
Originally I fell in love with London through running. It's one of the best ways to get to know the city.
There is not much that can beat the feeling of running along the Thames Path with Big Ben in the foreground, or puffing and panting up Parliament Hill to be rewarded with the view of our stunning London skyline.
However when you have lived, breathed and pounded the streets of London for five years it can become a little monotonous.
There is the option of choosing the same old routes to run or facing down an hour commute if you want to find new routes to run (why does everywhere take an hour in London to get to by the way?).
Coupled with that are the added city perils of breathing in London traffic pollution and the ultimate runner's rage - SLOW.MOVING.WALKERS.WHO.TAKE.UP.THE.WHOLE.PAVEMENT. The worst culprits are those that are heading towards you. They can see you coming and still they don't part to let you through. I just don't get it.
Finally there is the sad disappearance of the Runner's Nod in London. Try as I might to get some warmth and a smile from fellow runnners in London I estimate a 15% return on investment in my attempts.
I grew up in the countryside. Not even in a village, but a hamlet, with fields and country lanes for company. In the depths of rural Kent running would be interrupted by a quick chat or hello to fellow runners or dog walkers.
Plus the world was your oyster for places to run and terrain to cross, and if you weren't feeling inspired, a quick 15 minute drive to a new destination would bring a whole new world of running. And the only perils of running in the country appeared to be dodging cow pats and puddles rather than people.
Today I ran one of my usual routes in North London but tried to see it through fresh eyes. Parkland Walk, Queens Woods, Highgate Woods, Alexandra Palace. It's pretty amazing to think all this greenery is only four miles out from the concrete jungle of central London.
Queens Wood is one of my favourite places in London. It feels more unkept and wild than Highgate Woods. It's an ancient forest that used to stretch all the way out to Hertfordshire and Essex but now sadly is only 50 acres. More often than not I hear, and see, woodpeckers. That, along with the rich earthy woodland smell, and dense, fresh air brightens up my run no end.
One of the reasons I like running is that I feel it puts me back in contact with the big Mother N. But in London that's pretty difficult.
On my new journey to the delights of the Ealing half marathon, I'm going to continue to find those places in London that can still be rewarding and away from the concrete and crowds, even if it might take me an hour to get there and some people avoiding to do so.