Day 3 on foot.
Given the choice I would run on trails but choice is a luxury. There’s a river but the north or south banks are very much busy urban jungle. Whilst the pace of my commute has slowed my thoughts have not quickened. They’re stuck on perpetual loop: ‘what’s best: running/cycling?’ On repeat, playing over again with every foot strike. My conclusion?
Unlike riding a bike through London, running immerses, connects to the City far more as feet pound the pavement rather than slicing through on thin 700c wheels. Running you’re part of a different tribe, runners are a calmer crowd, less likely to turn on each other, closeted in their singular commute by their headphones. Commuting on a bike can make you paranoid – everyone is out to get you! Running – no one cares, you can just do your own thing. There’s no large target on a runners back. Pedestrians don’t hate runners as much and car drivers don’t even notice runners, their paths don’t cross.
It’s looking good for running.
Running beside the river through central London, amongst the tourists and the workers, there doesn’t seem much wrong with the World, or this city at least. In the immediate vicinity of the river at least London appears a functioning and burgeoning city. Despite the crowds – the traffic moves along well enough, people get to where they want to get, or go no where if they don’t, there’s plenty of great spots to stop, look, drink, to relax and enjoy this city. No wonder everyone wants to come here. I did myself from rural Oxfordshire, whilst it’s hardly the 3rd World I saw no opportunity for me there. I can understand why people travel from all over the world to be here, rich and poor, free or persecuted. Why wouldn’t they? For some London represents a sort of Heaven.
Day 3 on foot it’s a sort of Hell. Everything is uncomfortable. From the impact entering my body at my feet and quickly slamming like unstoppable waves into knee joints and upwards into suffering thighs and stiffening back. My quads are bearing the brunt of my enforced running regime and are paying me back with excruciating tenderness, my ankle has swollen and 2 toenails have turned black. This is just the visible, physical damage being wreaked. Cycling never did this to me.
The mental damage is equal if not worse. I’m struggling not to be overwhelmed by the crushing knowledge that I can no longer count myself as a runner. Is age or cycling to blame? Either way the impact of my failure to maintain the physical ability to do something as simple and natural as run has riven a sense of mortality through my sporting psyche.
Running well or running badly I’m still running along the banks of the River Thames, able to choose the north or south side as I please and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.