London Run 6 : Richmond -upon-Thames with the Plogolution!

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 31st May, 2019

Time : 1h 44’ 59”

Number of runners (total to date) : 7 (4057)

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3708653062

Regular readers will know that that I’ve been shocked by the amount of plastic I’ve seen over the world. From the Marshall Islands in the middle of the Pacific

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to Cote d’Ivoire on the west coast of Africa

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its sometimes felt like I’ve been running through and by oceans of plastic.

So, when I first read about plogging – originating in Scandinavia, plogging combines jogging with picking up plastic – I was determined to give it a go. And when we came up with the plan to run with as many different running tribes as possible as part of the London Borough Challenge, I searched to see if there were any ploggers in London.

And I came across the Plogolution. Here are its founders – Dermot and Michelle – with the origin story.

Not content with organising plogs all round London, Michelle and Dermot decided to undertake an Ultra plog. Which consisted of plogging the length of the Thames. That’s 184 miles in 6 days. Gulp.

184 miles in 6 days is obviously a fair old distance by any standards. However, its a lot tougher when you’re constantly stopping to pick up plastic and rubbish. Which is then put in a rubbish container – carried by Dermot – and taken to the support car a few kilometres up the road.

I met Michelle, Dermot and various supporters at Richmond on the banks of the Thames. (Picture at the top of the blog.)

And I can’t say my plogging career started particularly well. I picked up a McDonalds milkshake that someone had left on the side of the path and was going to put it in the rubbish container – when I was told that we couldn’t carry anything containing liquid. Normally you’d just empty out the liquid but you can’t really do that with milkshake without making a right mess. So I put the milkshake back down by the side of the path. Only to be told off of by a member of the public for littering…

Things went a little better after that as I learnt the ‘dos’ – all plastic and rubbish other than the ‘don’ts’ –  and ‘don’ts’ – tissues, condoms, bottles full of liquid etc. I probably should have worn gloves but hey ho…

Now, the Thames path between Richmond and Hammersmith isn’t too bad for litter. It’s apparently much worse in inner city, higher population areas. However, it’s still amazing how many bottles and cans get left behind.

Such as the coke can spotted in the swampy area off to the side of the path. Dermot decided to cross the mud on a fallen branch to retrieve it. On the plus side he got the bottle. On the down side, he also got the mud…

As you’ll see from the video, everyone was pretty determined not to leave anything behind as we plogged our way past Kew Gardens,

to the support van full of bags of plogged rubbish

and then on to Chiswick Bridge and almost as far as Hammersmith where I had to leave the team on a river bank festooned with plastic beer mugs. Alcohol really did seem to be the single biggest contributor to the rubbish and plastic we picked up….

From there I ran over Hammersmith Bridge with a view back over the Thames

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and finished at Hammersmith tube station where the crowds were gathered for Britain’s Got Talent.

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It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Michelle, Dermot and all my fellow plogggers for the company and the opportunity to plog. And to anyone reading this – plogging is a great way to combine exercise with doing something good for the environment so why not join the Plogolution!

If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

 

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Running with the Backpackers

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 23rd  May, 2019

Number of runners (total to date) : 15 (4050)

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3679525353

One of the things I love about running is that runners come in all shapes and sizes. And abilities and ages.

They also all run at different paces. Some are frisky bunnies and there are plenty of clubs for them. And some run at a more relaxed pace.

If you are one of the relaxed tribe then you might well want to consider the Backpackers Running Club. It describes itself as “A London based running family setting out to show the world that the warriors at the back of the pack are just as worthy and worth celebrating, as those at the front.”

I joined their Thursday evening run which meets at the Asics store on Regent Street. Asics provide the club with a place to meet, a place to sit and relax, and a place to drop off  bags. They also provide free carbonated drinks of a variety of pleasing flavours. And, of course, you can buy running gear there.

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Backpackers is led by the super charismatic Leeanne Adu (below) and the evening starts with a review of the highlights of everyone’s week. (One member had just been promoted to deputy head of her special needs school.)

Running highlights are then celebrated. Club members take part in a lot of races – sometimes as participants and sometimes as pace setters. Plenty of club members had completed the Hackney Half the previous weekend so there were stories, medals and hugs. (Pace setters are needed at the back of the pack just as much, if not more, than they’re needed out front.)

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They were kind enough to give me the floor for a couple of minute and pose for group photo (above) before we headed outside onto Regent Street for a warm up.

We then split into two groups – joggers and jog/walkers – and headed to Regent’s Park. Where we all met up again and where I was able to shoot a some of my notoriously poor footage of us all running in the particularly beautiful English Gardens.

Our route back took us through Broadcasting House (i.e. the BBC) and their marauding bollards

past Oxford Circus

and back to the Asics store.

Backpackers is, as they say, a running family – a very supportive one at that – and if that sounds like your kind of set-up then don’t hesitate to join them. Its free and really rather wonderful!

It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Leeanne and all my fellow runners for the welcome and the run. If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

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Run 149 : Monaco – Monte Carlo Grand Prix Circuit

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 13th August, 2018

Time : 55’ 58”

Total distance run to date : 1490 km

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/2963908855

You’d think the start line of the Monaco Grand Prix would be a major tourist attraction with a plaque on a wall, a stand selling gimmicky tourist tat and the opportunity to be photographed with a replica trophy. Instead there are some scuffed grid markings on Boulevard Albert 1er – and the odd bemused tourist wandering round wondering whether they’ve found the right place.

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But after that it lives up to its billing as the most iconic grand prix circuit in the world. You quickly accelerate as you head towards the first turn at Sainte Devote (scene of many an accident during the grand prix).

From there’s it’s a ‘steeper than it looks on telly’ climb up Montee Beau Rivage. The cars take this in 6th gear at over 250 kph. I was probably going at about 7kph…

A left at Massenet and then right at Casino past the famous Monte Carlo casino.

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Right at Mirabeau Haut and then a hairpin at the “most famous bend” in the world aka Grand Hotel/ Fairmont (Loewes as was).

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Mirabeau Bas and Portier follow before you enter Tunel. For those unfamiliar with the route, Tunel is a long tunnel and, on tv, it doesn’t look like you could run (or walk) through it. In fact there are pavements on both sides that you can run along

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before you come out into the port area blinking in the sunshine. Nouvelle Chicane, Tabac and Piscine follow as you run past the yachts and the (strangely underpopulated when we were there) swimming pool.

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Down into 3rd gear (6kph) for Rascasse ,

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then Anthony Nogues (founder of the Monaco grand prix) – with great views up to the Casino and the mountains behind

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– and then full speed to the start/ finish line.

Each lap is almost exactly 3.33km so it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you need to run 3 laps to cover 10km.

The first lap went pretty slowly- there were a lot of people about and I took a wrong turn (which presumably doesn’t happen during the actual race… ). The 2nd lap involved a few stops to take pictures.

I therefore decided to treat the 3rd lap as if it was the final qualifying session for the race – or Q3 as it’s known. This session determines the top 10 starting places on the grid. And at Monaco, where overtaking is notoriously difficult, your grid placing is crucial.

It was therefore vitally important that I run the 3rd lap as fast as possible. Or at least it was in my slightly delusional imagination.

No-one else seemed to care. In fact they just went on strolling along the pavements as if it was a normal Monday afternoon rather than a critical part of a major sporting event. Allied to the fact that I was suffering from a bit of wear and tear on my tyres (aka my legs were a little heavy from the uphill section), it wasn’t easy to run fast.

In fact the third lap took me about 17 minutes. Which is roughly 14 times slower than Max Verstappen’s course record of 1’14.620″.

So what’s it like to run the Monaco Grand Prix? Well, there’s quite a lot of uphill, the pavements are crowded and it can be warm. You’re not going to do a PB here. But it’s a fantastic way to see Monaco and, even if you’re not a petrol head, it’s an amazing experience.

Run – or walk – it if you’re ever in the area. If there isn’t already a running race on this course then there absolutely should be. Ideally with a one lap qualifying session that determines your starting place for the actual race.

It just remains for me to say a big thank you to Liz, Charis, Nic, Matt, Charlotte, Joey, Freya and Sienna for battling through the traffic and joining me in Monaco for my first ever Grand Prix run.

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If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

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London Run 5 : City of London with the Midnight Runners

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

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Date : 21st May, 2019

Time : 1h 35’ 41”

Number of runners (total to date) : 120 (4035)

Run map and details :   https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3672105509

Midnight Runners describe their Tuesday night run as a ‘10k music boot camp run’ – which sums it up pretty well. Though you’ll need to go along if you want to experience the energy, friendliness and buzzing community of it all.

Here’s founder and run leader James Holt with a bit more background on the club.

You drop your bag at the Samuel Pepys pub and then everyone congregates just north of the Millennium Bridge – between St Paul’s and Tate Modern – for a warm up and announcements.

And then it’s time to start running.

The route varies but usually goes along both sides of the Thames and over various bridges. On this particular evening, we ran along the north bank of the Thames to Blackfriars Bridge, crossed over the river and ran to the National Theatre for our first exercise stop.

The stops serve two purposes. Firstly, they give you the full boot camp experience. And secondly they bring the group back together again. (The ‘frisky bunnies’ at the front, as Anthony calls them, were running at about 4 minutes per km pace ; others were running at 6 minute pace.)

From the South Bank complex we stayed south of the river, overlooked by the Houses of Parliament where they were no doubt putting the finishing touches to a unanimous all party agreement on Brexit,

until we got to Vauxhall for our second exercise stop in the shadow of the MI6 building. (When I first moved to London, MI6’s location was a classified secret ; now you just type it into Google maps).

Over Vauxhall Bridge, back east towards the Houses of Parliament and over Lambeth Bridge. Time for another exercise stop and a game of ‘dip, goose, chase’ (at least I think that’s what it was called..)

Over Golden Jubilee Bridge for a thigh burner of an exercise stop under Charing Cross station.

South over Waterloo Bridge and to the IMAX for the 5th and final exercise station

and then back to Tate Modern and over the wobbly bridge towards St Paul’s Cathedral

and the finish.

The whole thing is led with enormous enthusiasm and exhortational charm by the Midnight Runners team and is accompanied by a soundtrack of (mostly) 120+bpm 90s dance music – think Rozalla ‘Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)’ – except for the warm down where we stretched to Massive Attack. (If you’ll excuse a muso nit-picking the playlist, I’d suggest not playing anything by Dexys Midnight Runners* was a missed opportunity.)

An enormous thank you to James, Joel, Jody and everyone from Midnight Runners, to all my fellow runners and to Lina, Andrew and Anthony for accompanying me. It was a brilliant evening and I shall be back!

If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

*For younger readers, Dexys Midnight Runners had two massive no 1s in the 80s with ‘Geno’ and ‘Come On, Eileen’. Older readers will undoubtedly recall drunkenly shouting along to ‘Come on Eileen’ at parties / college discos/ weddings without ever being quite sure what “Too ra loo ra too ra loo rye aye” might mean…

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

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London Run 4 : Lambeth with the London Frontrunners

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 13th May, 2019

Time : 56’ 41”

Number of runners (total to date) : 50 (3915)

Run map and details :  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3646938507

London Frontrunners bills itself as London’s inclusive running club for LGBT+ and gay-friendly people. And, chatting to some of my fellow newbie runners during the run, it was important to them that it’s a an LGBT+ club.

However, if you’re not part of the LGBT+ community, then really the only word that matters is that it’s a “friendly” club. Watch the video below of Simon, Membership Secretary, talking about the club and I think you’ll see what I mean.

I joined a Monday night run* which meets at the Castle Centre – which offers lockers and showers – near Elephant & Castle station.

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From there you all jog off to Geraldine Mary Harmsworth park. (Named after the mother of Harold Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Rothermere who gifted the land to the ‘splendid struggling mothers of Southwark’.) Where everyone forms a big circles, introduces themselves, listens to Simon’s announcements and then heads off on the run. Apart from the few that I managed to hold back for the group photo that is (above)!

The run route takes you to Lambeth Bridge, along the south bank of the Thames, over Vauxhall Bridge

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along the north side of the Thames, past Battersea Power Station (still, extraordinarily, under construction after all these years)

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and back over the Thames at Chelsea Bridge to Battersea Park.

Once in Battersea Park, runners decide how far they want run in the park. Our particular group ran along the Thames as far as Albert Bridge and then turned back past the Peace Pagoda. This was all done in beautiful sunshine so I decided it was time to shoot some of my notoriously bad video footage..

On the return journey, the chat turned to Brexit. Now, dear reader, I know you don’t visit these blogs to read about Brexit. In fact it’s probably the last thing you want to hear about. But it’s always fascinating talking to someone who’s job is directly affected by Brexit. Whatever your views, and without wanting to break any running confidences, there’s undoubtedly an enormous job to be done disentangling the UK’s economy from the EU.

The run ended back at the Castle Centre and it was time to head home where my wife, a local politician, was watching Andrew Marr interviewing Nigel Farage. In between descrying Marr’s interview technique, Farage noted that both he and Jeremy Corbyn were on the same side of the Brexit debate. I’ll leave it you to judge whether that’s an argument for or against Brexit.

It just remains for me to say a huge thank you to Simon and all my fellow runners for welcoming me to your club and for a great run. If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

*They have regular runs four times a week (on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays) in some of London’s most beautiful parks (Regent’s Park and Hyde Park) and along the South Bank. They also offer training and coaching sessions three times a week at Primrose Hill, Battersea Park and Mile End Stadium.

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

 

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Run the World Foundation : Youths Who Run the World

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If, like me, you travel and meet people all around the world you will frequently be reminded that many people live in conditions that those of us fortunate enough to live in richer countries would consider incredibly tough.

And if, like me, you read the World Bank’s data about the countries you visit, you will notice that, while life expectancy is growing in almost every country in the world, it’s still substantially lower in many countries than it is in richer countries.

After a while you’ll start to ask yourself whether you should be doing more than (in my case) donations to Oxfam and the occasional disaster appeal.

The turning point for me was probably my trip to Lebanon where I ran with both Syrian refugees and kids from the meanest streets in Beirut. I realised I couldn’t keep just thinking about this – I actually had to do something.

But what?!?

Pretty much every country in the world will tell you that they need additional investment in health care, education, housing, transport, clean water, the economy etc etc. All vitally important of course – but also all areas in which I neither have any expertise nor sufficient funds to make a difference.

Then I realised that I should stick to what Run the World is all about and support people / programmes / organisations that:

  • Promote and encourage people to adopt physically active and healthy lifestyles ; and/or
  • Promote cancer awareness

I know from personal experience that, done in the right way, this kind of work can make a huge difference to people’s lives. And yet have a relatively low per capita cost. In other words, and at the risk of sounding like the business man I used to be, it has the potential for an extraordinarily high social return on capital.

To cut a long story short, the end result of all this was the Run the World Foundation and I’m both delighted and excited to say that the Foundation is now funding its first project : We’re working in Cameroon with the Noela Lyonga Foundation on the Youths Who Run the World project.

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In Noela’s words :

“This project is called Youths who Run the World and it has as objective to raise awareness on active and healthy lifestyles to prevent illnesses like cancer, heart disease and depression. Focus areas will include:

  • Importance of Physical exercise
  • Balance diet eating habits
  • Drug abuse prevention
  • Better sleeping guides

This project targets 500+ participants between 12 and 25 years of age from: juvenile homes, less privileged groups and schools (5 or more institutions). These participants will receive presentations from the above topics and will participate in a 2km run from the 1st of May to the 1st of June. This will help develop healthy lifestyle mindsets in the minds of youths from 12 to 25 years of age in Cameroon.”

The project has just launched – please see below for Noela’s initial feed-back and a sense of how it’s all working.

“We had our first 2km run and presentation on May 4. We started at 8:00am with a presentation at Campus 1  of the Douala University. This was followed by the 2km run from Campus 1 to Campus 2 and back to Campus 1 at Ange Raphael where the University is located totally covering 2km and 700m.

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Before and after the run we had some exercises

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and the youths were so happy about the run and presentation.

In total we had 150 youths from different departments in the University of Douala. We are planning the next run within this week but we are still to confirm the date from a secondary school and we hope to also get hold of the finances from the bank this week.

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Below is a link to a video.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1h7_x0IE1N69HthVftqH2WSRWzrz14cBu/view?usp=drivesdk

I’ll blog more about this project as it progresses but, for the moment, I’d like to finish by wishing Noela and her team the very best for the rest for the project – it certainly seems to have got off to a great start!

Finally, a big thank you everyone around the world who has supported me on my journey to setting up the Run the World Foundation – including everyone at SB Overseas and the refugees I ran with in Arsal, Ghia, the students and everyone at Tahaddi in Beirut, and Rima and Julian. Particular thanks also go to British High Commissioner Rowan Laxton, Mireille and everyone at the British High Commission in Cameroon who introduced me to Noela.

If you are reading this and know of a project that would meet the criteria then please do get in touch. (Please note that, in addition to the objectives set out above, the focus is on supporting the most disadvantaged communities around the world.)

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London Run 3 : Southwark with the London City Runners

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Please donate generously to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter

Date : 7th May, 2019

Time : 53’ 17”

Number of runners (total to date) : 120 (3865)

Run map and details :  https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3628772737

London City Runners gets billed as London’s biggest running club – and there were certainly plenty of people there as I arrived at the club house on Druid Street. Amongst the crowd was the club management team – Kerry, Duncan and Tim.

Tim, who founded LCR, was good enough to do a piece to camera about the club including its social life (9 marriages and 4 babies to date.)

They were also good enough to give me two minutes to talk about Run the World before the run and to arrange a group photo (above). Then it was time for the 120+ runners to set-off.

The way it works is that you can do a 5km, 6km or 10km run. All the runners set off at roughly the same time and then run through Butlers Wharf

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over Tower Bridge

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around the Tower of London

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and along the north bank of the Thames.

Duncan, last spotted at the pre-run briefing, then somehow appears and reminds everyone to cross back-over the Thames at either the Millenium Bridge (5km), Blackfriars Bridge (6km) or Westminster Bridge (10km).

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Or at least that’s what you’re supposed to do. For some reason I climbed up the steps to Charing Cross Bridge before realising my mistake and descending again to cross over Westminster Bridge.

The return takes you along the south bank of the Thames past the Royal Festival Hall – where I took a ‘picture’ of a couple of runners which turned into a rubbish mini-video because I had the wrong setting on my camera… (can someone please send a professional camera crew along to one of these runs because I don’t see to be able to combine running with cinematography!) –

the National Theatre, Tate Modern , the Globe, the Golden Hinde, Southwark Cathedral and back to Druid Street.

Along the way I spoke to a number of runners and asked them why London City Runners is so popular. Answers included, “It’s free” ; “They’ve got their own club house” ; “Everyone’s welcome ; some running clubs are targeted at a particular demographic”, “The club house serves craft beer.”

Quite a few of those answers hint at one of LCR USPs – their club house and business model. Along with a crowd funding campaign, Kerry and Tim put a lot of their own money into the club house and it now serves not only as a base – and bar – for the club but also as a venue for other running club functions and adventure talks. With the help of a lot of volunteers, they now generate enough income to just about cover their costs – so everyone can run for free

After the run, I chatted to more runners :

“ I just smashed my PB for 10km – from 1h 2’ to 57’ “

“I live in the in the north and work in London a couple of days a week. There’s a running club you can join every night of the week in London but this one is my favourite”

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“I’m running to lose weight so that I can join the air force” (this from a heavily muscled rugby player without an ounce of fat)

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All of which, I thought, pretty much summed up the joys of running and being part of the London City Runners.

Thank you Kerry, Tim and Duncan, and all my fellow runners, for the warm welcome and the great run. If any of you can make it, then I’d love to see you in London on 4th July 2020 for the UK, and final, leg of Run the World!

If you’d like to help fight cancer then I and, far more importantly, cancer sufferers around the world, would be immensely grateful for any donations to Cancer Research : https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Dan-Thompson11

Please like / follow Run the World on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter because it would be great to stay in touch and because, however silly it may sound, it makes all the travel and running that little bit easier if you think people care!

 

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