It’s been a strange three weeks, but at least one good thing came of them, running-wise: I’ve stopped thinking!
To put it into context, I had to do a lot of travelling (much of it unplanned) for work and personal reasons, all of it involving long, tiring days and strong emotions. Every time I packed though, I made sure my running shoes went in the case first (and my Garmin last) and (most importantly) I made sure I put them to good use when I reached my destination! Here’s the running highlights of these past three weeks:
1. Early morning in Regent’s Park
I’ve previously lamented that not being a morning person, I miss opportunities to get runs in before breakfast. I genuinely regret it, since on the few occasions I’ve managed to get out for an early morning run, swim or other workout, I’ve absolutely loved that time of day and the buzz it leaves you with afterwards. Well, finally I managed to do something about it, and despite another disappointing business dinner the night before (the advertised “dinner” turned out to be a few canapés and chunky chips) and maybe a few too many glasses of wine to compensate the calorific deficit (well, it was a “networking event” -hics- after all!) I dragged me and my empty stomach for an easy morning run up to and around Regent’s Park.
I loved running up a sunny and empty Tottenham Court Road, over the remains of the night before, past the first commuters of the day and into the park (ok, stopping at traffic lights and still almost getting run over wasn’t as fun). I was surprised at the lack of other runners on the streets at that time, but that changed once I got to the park: A true cross-section of the running community, from casual joggers, serious runners and some very fast boys and girls were running along the paths criss-crossing the park. But the most memorable image of the morning, as I was glancing at my phone for news that was to come two days later, was the sun reflecting off the golden dome of the Islamic Cultural Centre:
2. Two coastal runs in Athens
A few days later I was in Athens for the funeral of my father, who had died unexpectedly two days after my Regent’s Park run. The evening before was a Sunday and I resolved on an evening long run, as much to clear my mind as because I had already missed too many training sessions recently. As I was staying with my sister at the south suburbs, I went out for a 2h coastal run from Voula to the old airport and back. It was light when I set off and I was treated to a lovely sunset over the islands of the Saronic Gulf and on the way back it was the rising moon that was reflected on the sea.
The evening was hot and humid, so my pace was slow (speed wasn’t the goal here anyway), but I enjoyed running on the significant pedestrianised sections and along a route I hadn’t ran before. A particularly pleasant surprise was the number of other runners I saw along the way, it seems that the sport has really grown in Greece! I felt the old British runners dilemma when I came across the first few (do I smile? Nod? Ignore?), but it turns out that the norm in Greece is to lift a hand in greeting and – breath permitting – engage in a little chat with people running in the same direction as you.
It was on this run that I came across the following piece of graffiti and this remains my only encounter of running related graffiti anywhere! I like to think of it as a call to a very different uprising in Greece…
The second run was a much shorter, steady run the day before I flew home. We started with Niko (my sister’s fiancé) and it was on the same coast, but headed in the opposite direction this time. Away from the busier pedestrian areas I had used the last time and towards some little tavernas at Kavouri. Reaching the turning point (the end of the paved path), I couldn’t resist continuing a bit further on, following a track up a little wooded hill till it wouldn’t go any further: It was dusk and turning back I took this photo of where we had come from:
I’ve always known Greece would offer some outstanding running routes, but I always expected these to be away from the large cities and into the countryside, of the kind that my favourite Greek running bloggers (1) write about: running in the rain in the Peloponnese, or perhaps on island paths leading to some secluded beach… So it was a lovely to come across one in Athens itself, and it led me to wonder how many more unexpected routes exist in and around Athens… Recommendations welcome, and I look forward to try them out on future, happier visits!
3. Back home
So now I’m back, eager for a bit of normality and concentrating into getting back into a routine: catching up with work, doing all those things I had said I would around the house and (most importantly, as far as this blog is concerned), following my training schedule on a daily basis and not by exception! But I also feel much calmer somehow, no longer worrying about the November date or the training that I will or will not be able to fit in my schedule over the coming months; I just run each session at a time, not worrying so much where it fits in the whole, each run a gift to myself…
Yesterday for example, after the afternoon downpour, I went out for speed intervals (12 x 1′ @5k race pace with 1′ recovery), and the only thing I can remember crossing my mind was an awareness of the brightness of the evening light on the soaked roads, and a reflection of a bright white cirrocumulus in a huge puddle, sailing on its way to rain on someone else…
I expect my outlook on a number of things has changed subtly since my last published post (in some cases perhaps too subtly for me to fully appreciate yet), and one of them is that I have returned to enjoying running as an end to itself – and that is altogether a much healthier state of affairs!