I knew I had a busy weekend coming up, with a couple of parties, and full day visiting my kids on Sunday, so I decided that I’d run a long run on Friday night.
Having upped my mileage from practically zero the week before to just fourteen miles between Monday and Thursday, and with the marathon now almost exactly a month away, it was time to start putting in some serious miles. Almost.
I decided on an eight mile route, practically a straight line from my house, onto the main road, through Stoke Newington, Shoreditch, past Liverpool street and across London Bridge. And then back in the other direction.
I don’t usually run ‘there and back’ routes; I prefer circuits that I can pace myself on, so I decided that I would run whatever time it took me, and then try and beat it on the way back.
Knowing that I was running longer than I had for a while, and with the strain of the week weighing heavy, I ran slower, back at my normal 7:30/mile pace.
Out of the door at 9pm, I headed out into the warm summer air, the last of the daylight just beginning to fade. As I hit the stretch of road that constitutes the local high street, full of Turkish cafes and restaurants, the Friday night crowds were just starting to gather. I ran past them all, at a pace that seemed consciously slow.
As I hit Shoreditch, Friday night is now in full swing. Crowded pavements, full of revelers starting their weekends with abandon, failing to notice me as I bound past, and after a few minutes, I find it easier to run in the road, rather than fight the crowds. A slightly risky strategy, in that death is probably only a misstep away (One hair raising incident shall be described later…), but I make good time, and hit Liverpool street within 25 minutes. Six minutes later and I’m crossing London Bridge, the far more iconic looking Tower Bridge over to my left. There are still many tourists about, but thankfully all seem to be able to notice the 6’3″ guy dressed in fluorescent green hurtling towards them, and step out of the way, rather than risk being flattened.
I cross to the other side of the Bridge, more for the sake of not wanting to look strange just turning around, and begin making my way back, clocking the time at almost exactly 31 minutes. I step on the gas a little, knowing that I need to lose a couple of minutes to be back within the hour.
My first mistake was crossing to the other side of the bridge. Roadworks at the far corner mean that I’m usher through a narrow corridor of boards and scaffolding, along with tourists and drunks alike. I slow to a frustrating walk, but manage to pick up the pace once I’m out in the open again.
The crowds around Liverpool street are near insurmountable, and I again switch to running in the road, scaring the life out of a few cyclists along the way.
And then that hairy moment… A truck that was parked, decides to pull out, just as I approach.I’m forced to run wide, into the path of oncoming traffic, and manage to leap out of the way at the last moment.
I continue on my path, spitting a few choice words in the direction of no one in particular, and before I know it, I’m back in the relatively open streets closer to home. The rest of the run passes without much incident, although I do marvel at how little my legs ache considering the step up in mileage.
Just as I turn into my road, my alarm beeps. My hour is up, less than 300 meters from my front door. But rather than defeated – I feel triumphant. My second four miles had effectively been run faster than my first. It takes a little leap of maths to work it out, but a steady eight miles over the hour is not bad at all.
I think I’ll do the same again. But not on a Friday.