shit happens

shit happens

Bounding out of work (I can’t think of a time I’ve bounded into work).  Sun still shining.  There’s still a warm, shiny evening to enjoy.  The faster I run the more of it there will be (when I get home).  I crank up the volume on my earphones.  Loud music gives my running a boost.  Combining psychologically with my bright new Adidas Ultra Boosts.  Running fast and having fun.

At Southwark Bridge there are a number of options.  Option 1: Left, crossing over the River Thames to Option 1A: the busy Southbank Thames Path, or Option 1B: the quieter but less scenic back roads or Option 2: stay north of the river in the Embankment.  (There’s actually a lot more options but listing them all would make for a dull post).

Decision time? 3 options.  3 different ways to travel to the same destination, all delivering the same outcome.  In theory.  On such small routine decisions our fate is decided.  Option 3.  I choose to stay north as it’s a longer run to Waterloo and whilst it’s busy the pavements are wider providing lots of space to run fast whilst enjoying the sun and postcard London.

It’s busy.  I feel like I’ve turned the corner with my running. I’m running faster, more freely, less painfully.  I’m on the right of the pavement, near the kerb, a tourist steps right, right into my path.  It happens quickly but it’s fine I’ve anticipated this.  Cycling in London makes you anticipate.  I hadn’t anticipated putting half a foot on the kerb and half a foot on nothing.  I don’t go down completely, a desperate stumble, a slow motion stumble so I hear the crack from my ankle clearly.  This is going to hurt.  The stumbling is over, I’m running again.  No I’m not.  It’s no good.  I have to stop.  I should have gone south taken Option 1B.

Holding on to the nearest wall, looking at the sparkling Thames – there aren’t many days a year that it looks this blue and sparkling, looking down at my ankle watching it balloon. Visibly.  Off course I try to run on it, run it off. Run to Waterloo before it gets really bad.  I’m not running this 1 off.  The reality is that I limp slowly, painfully from Blackfriars Bridge to Waterloo Station.  Blackfriars Bridge to Waterloo Station is longer than you think, especially on 1 leg.  In retrospect hailing a black cab would’ve been the sensible option but I’m not thinking straight.  I’m thinking about making a positive from a negative, I’m thinking about choices, hindsight and fate.  Why didn’t I go South?  This wouldn’t have happened if I’d gone south.  But that’s something I’ll never know.

Footnote: shit happens.

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keep on running

keep on running

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. 

running on empty

running on empty

This wasn’t the plan. Subconscious-cycling has become the subconscious-running (after a small operation – photos available on request).

Sure there’s more to life than riding a bike. There’s running too. It’s easier to put trainers on and just go.  Why don’t I go for a run? No cramming pockets with inner tubes, tyre leavers and energy bars. Out the front door in 5 minutes.  Simple, quick, easy. (In theory “who’s moved my headphones?”).

To make a positive from a negative my bikes have been consigned to the cellar and a brand new pair of trainers purchased (positives from negatives) and I’m running to work and back to reclaim my running legs – which have previously been consigned somewhere similar to the cellar on a long term basis.

Home to office is 9 miles.  My goal is to work up to running back from the office to home in 1 go.  I’ve already decided I’m not going to do there and back in 1 day – I know my limits.  Over the 6 week cycling ban I’ll extend my run back a station at a time: Waterloo, Vauxhall, Battersea, Clapham Junction, Wandsworth Town, Putney and finally on past Barnes to the finish line: Home.

Sound like a plan? How’s it working out?

Is it possible to unlearn something? Apparently so.  Not gilt-edging my running past, I wasn’t ever that good but I wasn’t ever this bad. Cycling 100km holds no fears whilst running just 10km currently appears unlikely.  I used to cook a mean Thai green curry but I’ve lost that ability, swapping cooking dinner for reading bedtime stories (a good swap).

Our modern world would struggle to match the engineering feats of the Egyptians.  Even substituting slaves for modern machinery I doubt we could replicate their pyramids.  Or match the engineering and artistic feats of our medieval forebears who built our grandest cathedrals either.  Technologies and skills gone forever. Lost or forgotten through neglect, laziness, new distractions or lack of demand.  Unfortunately, just like my running ability.