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Date : 4th December, 2020
Time : 1h 03’ 37” (delayed by bailiff)
Number of runners (total to date) : 3 (7097)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/5912588960
When people ask me what I’ve learnt on my Run the Word travels, I usually say that, despite the impression given by the media, people everywhere are generally friendly and helpful. Obviously there are exceptions. The angry armed guard in Somalia. The people who threw stones at us in Djibouti. The border officials on both the Kinshasa and Brazzaville sides of the Congo*. AND PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE WE MET IN THE LONDON BOROUGH OF HILLINGDON.
In truth it was one of those days when everything goes wrong. I’d somehow managed to get lost on the way and was late to meet Darren and Julian (this was back in the pre-lockdown 3.0 era) at the Springwell Lake car park.
The car park itself is by a narrow bridge that crosses the our old friend the Grand Union Canal. There’s a haulage company just south of the bridge meaning there is a constant stream of lorries trying to cross the bridge. Since the bridge is narrow – and a tight turn – they need to manoeuvre the lorries a few times. Which involves a lot of shouting and blowing of horns at anyone – such as us – who unwittingly gets in their way while congregating outside the car park.
Leaving the cacophony behind we ran south along the Canal to Black Jack’s Lock
where we crossed over the canal and continued running south along a narrow muddy path.
To our right was a sparse hedgerow through which we could see a country lane – running parallel to the canal – and a broad expanse of water.
We decided to cut through the hedge at the next big gap and crossed the road to the waterfront. For a very lovely vista over a deserted, full-of-wildfowl lake. Darren informed us that he’d just been talking to some bloke and, apparently, you need a permit to fish in the lake.
Having admired the view, we continued running down the lane until we’d reached 5km and turned around and made our way back up the lane. At which point a Jeep accelerated towards and screeched to a halt scattering us all over the lane. The driver got out and started haranguing and verbally threatening Julian.
Which wasn’t the greatest idea. Partly because there were three of us and one of him. And partly because Julian is one of London’s leading litigation lawyers. (He was named Europe’s leading litigator at The American Lawyer’s 2015 Transatlantic Legal Awards.)
After being ranted at for a few minutes, Julian, calling on years of experience resolving highly complex, billion pound cases on behalf of multi-national companies, then invited our assailant to ‘change his tone or f**k off”.
By this time I’d made my way round the car to be closer to Julian in case it all kicked-off (not quite sure why since I’m useless in a fight…). Realising he was getting nowhere with Julian, our new friend came up close to me. Far too close.
The sensible thing to do in these COVID times would have been to step back. But, boys pointlessly being boys in such situations, I stood my ground. He asked me – with more effing and blinding – what I’d been doing. I suggested that, since he’d already had this conversation with Julian, he knew perfectly well that we’d all been running along the lane.
Slowly the temperature dropped and we managed to establish that he considered himself to be the local bailiff and was accusing us of trespassing on private property. He flashed an ID card at us but frankly I have no idea if he was telling the truth or was just a complete nutter.
Eventually he moved on at which point Darren, who’d been watching the whole thing in amazement, told us that the putative ‘bailiff’ was the bloke he’d had a friendly conversation with ten minutes previously and who’d told him that you need a permit to fish.
We trotted on a little until suddenly the bailiff mobile came screeching to a halt again just behind us. He got out the car again and threatened to call the police. We strongly encouraged him to pursue this course of action and set off again. Only for the ‘bailiff’ to return for a third time a couple minutes later. By now it had all taken on a slightly surreal quality and I’m not entirely sure what our ‘bailiff’ was on about – but I think he was saying that the police were on their way.
It had got a little tiresome by this stage so, with a few sarcastic references to being able to hear the police choppers and sirens, we continued on our way and soon reached one of the gaps in the hedge and returned to the original path. Where we were able to confirm that, no, there were no ‘Private property ; trespassers keep out’ signs to be seen.
We made it back to the car park without much further incident beyond more angry lorry drivers at the aforementioned bridge. And the car driver who shouted at us to “Get out the f***ing road!”
Almost inevitably, there was a sting in the tail. Those who’ve run with me know that I run in an old, falling-apart-at-the-seams Run the World t shirt and a pair of slightly too short walking trousers. However, I do also own a high-tech, breathable, water and wind proof walking jacket which I run in on cold days. Which I left on the roof of my car after changing out of my sweaty running top at the end of the run. I just hope one of my new Hillingdon besties found it and appreciates the expensive present.
Finally, as a postscript, I subsequently tried to research the lake in question. I think it’s called Broadwater Lake – it’s nameless on Google Maps and my Garmin route map – but I haven’t been able to ascertain who owns it. Shame. I feel sure they’d enjoy this blog -and perhaps it would spur them on to check their public liability insurance…that ‘bailiff’ is going to seriously injure someone one of these days…
*In the interests of fairness I should note that, unlike Hillingdon, I also met loads of great people in Djibouti, the DRC and Somalia.
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A little bit of background. I’m currently undertaking a challenge – Run the World – to complete a 10km run in all 206 countries in the world. (I’ve run in 183 countries to date.) I’m doing the challenge to raise funds for Cancer Research and to promote the importance of an active healthy lifestyle.
In addition to completing a 10km run in all 206 countries in the world, I’m also doing 44 runs in the UK. Taking the global total to 250 runs.
Why? Because 250 runs is equivalent to running 2 500 000 metres. Which is a metre for every one of the two and a half million cancer sufferers in the UK.
All well and good but the question we asked ourselves at Run the World HQ is : where should those 44 UK runs take place? And part of the answer – three-quarters to be exact – is that 33 of them will take place in London. One in each of the 32 London boroughs plus one in the City of London.
We’re calling this the ‘London Borough Challenge’ and I’m hoping to run with as many people – and social running groups and crews and clubs –as possible!