London Calling

It has been a while since I last wrote anything on here, over two months in fact, with my last update being Ironman Staffs. Whilst I have not had any races since, I have of course been doing plenty of training, making the most of the English Summer. Well, that is not strictly true, as those in this part of the world will know it has been a bit rubbish for outdoor training, but even so I have had some great training, both at home and abroad.

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First up was a couple of sessions I got in whilst on a work training course in London back in July. Of course the main reason I was there was to learn some new skills to use back in the office, but the bonus for me was the chance to explore one of the most famous cities in the world at my own pace.

When I used to spend my time in the gym purely lifting weights or swimming, I could never understand the attraction for people I knew who went on long, lonely runs, frequently in the freezing cold – for fun! But over the last few years I have managed to come around to it, and realised it is probably the best way to get to know an area, reaching parts only accessible on foot and at reasonable enough pace (i.e. slow in my case!) to take it all in.

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My hotel for the week turned out to be decent, although pretty much in the middle of nowhere by London standards, a few miles up river from Canary Wharf and on the borders of EastEnders-Land. Not that that was an issue, but it meant I had to go some distance before I actually got anywhere interesting, rather than a huge / not-currently-being-used exhibition centre and a lot of warehouses & factories. With all respect to those living nearby, it was also not in what I would call the ‘best’ area, not too much of an issue at 6am, but not one to wander at night-time. Either way, I was glad I had my trainers with me…

For my first run I was actually up well before six, and I decided to make my way to Canary Wharf where I was doing my course, to scout out the location and see what it was like before it got too busy. It turns out London-folk start work a bit earlier, and there was a surprising amount of businesspeople wandering around before 7am: most getting in extremely large coffees to wake themselves up! It was cool to run past my head office at that time though, catching the early morning sunrise against the tower.

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After a while I came across signs to the Isle of Dogs, which sounded interesting enough to be worth checking out. Sadly, this was not a Murakami-esque fantasy land, inhabited solely by our canine companions, but more of a concrete miracle situated in the middle of the Thames. Still, it had some nice views, most notably of the Millennium Dome (I am sure it has a new name, but for many of us it will always be so called). The wharf also backs onto the famous Billinsgate Fish Market, which no doubt had been buzzing for hours by the time I got there.

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The next day I thought I would try a different route. Sadly it seemed my first choice was not possible, as I had wanted to get closer to the Dome, but due to a lack of bridges in the East end of town this would have involved going quite a few miles out-of-the-way, and I simply did not have enough time. Well I could have got up before 5, but let’s face it – that was not going to happen this week!

I decided I may as well try and get ‘Sarf’ of the river to see how close I could get to it, but again I was thwarted. It turned out, what I thought was the main river, was actually more of a marina / offshoot. Easier to explain in a picture. Basically I was staying below the ‘C’ of the BBC logo below, and during my run I only managed to get around the blue strip underneath. This was still ok for a few sights, as I managed to see the Thames Barrier for the first time ever, which – I will be honest – is not much of a looker up close, whilst the the final part of the loop took me past London City airport and a close up look at some of the flashier jets that travel there.

EastendersCanary Wharf Run 2

By the time I got near my hotel again I had only been going about 40 minutes, so I headed North towards E17 to try to see a bit more. After a little spent while getting lost on a housing estate I found my way to a combined city farm and park (a but strange but ok…) which excitingly had an adventure playground type thing. Given it was still before 7am and I had the place to myself, the temptation was obviously too much to resist, and I was soon recreating an Indiana Jones type adventure across the rope bridge. At least I hope I had it to myself…!

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After a while, it was time to head back. Navigation was reasonably easy given I could at least head for the tall buildings, although the numerous unmarked cul-de-sacs and dead ends made it significantly harder than it could have been to run in a straight line. Finally I managed to work my way back to the hotel without incident, and headed straight to the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet to refuel!

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