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Date : 29th December, 2020
Time : 1h 06’ 48”
Number of runners (total to date) : 2 (7099)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/6021290654
It feels like every time we go for a London borough run* there’s at least one memorable moment – even if it’s only an encounter with an irate bailiff. And sometimes, as in Kensington and Chelsea, it seems like there’s something truly remarkable around every corner.
The City of London run was definitely in the latter category – an extraordinary juxtaposition of the historic and the modern.
The City isn’t, strictly speaking, a London borough. It’s a city, a ceremonial county, a local government district and an enclave surrounded by Greater London. It’s the historic centre of London and constituted its largest part from the original settlement by the Romans in the 1st century AD until the Middle Ages. It lies to the east of the part of London that most tourists probably consider the centre – Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly and Leicester Square – and is why that area is known as the West End.
The City is also known as the Square Mile because it is small – around 1.12 square miles / 2.90 square km. But its more than big enough for a great 10km.
We started at Blackfriars Bridge – named after the black cappa wearing Dominican Friars who moved their priory to the area in about 1276 –
and headed west to Inner Temple gardens. (The Inner Temple being one of London’s four Inns of Court : all barristers – that’s the lawyers who argue cases in court – must belong to one of the four.)
Unfortunately the gardens were closed due to COVID so we ran up Temple Avenue to Fleet Street, famous as the home of Sweeney Todd – the fictional penny dreadful barber who killed his victims with a razor before handing them over to his partner to turn into meat pies – and, up until the 1980s, most of Britain’s national newspapers. Many of which could probably also be described as cut throat..
East along Fleet St to St Pauls’ Cathedral – Christopher Wren’s massive masterpiece –
and then south down Peter’s Hill with views over the ‘wobbly’ Millennium Bridge to Tate Modern.
East again – this time along the Embankment to Queenhithe. I’ve run past Queenhithe many times in the past without noticing that it’s got both a plaque to mark Alfred the Great’s resettlement of London in 886
and a mural of the history of London.
On towards the Tower of London which has served variously as an armoury, a menagerie, the Royal Mint, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. It’s probably most famous as a prison having housed a number of luminaries including Elizabeth 1 (before she became queen obvs), Sir Walter Raleigh and, in the 1950s, the notorious Kray twins.
A little bit north then west again past All Hallows
and the ruins of St Dunstan in the East – after being almost destroyed by German bombers in the blitz it was turned into a garden rather than being rebuilt.
A little further west we came to the Monument to the Great Fire of London – an enormous conflagration which gutted the City in 1666. The Monument itself is a 202 feet high Doric column situated 202 feet away from the bakery in Pudding Lane where the Fire started.
Northwest to the Royal Exchange and the Bank of England – the eight oldest bank in the world, it’s the central bank of the United Kingdom and, per Wikipedia, is the model for most modern central banks.
It was now time for some of the more modern buildings – the Walkie Talkie (winner of the 2015 Carbuncle Cup for worst new building in the UK)
the Lloyds Building – Richard Rogers’ much feted example of radical Bowellism
and the multi-award winning Gherkin
By the way there are plenty more skyscrapers planned – here’s what the City may look like in the future
I’m conscious that this blog is starting to become a long one so I’ll speed up now and just say that we then made our way past Liverpool St station up to Broadgate Tower, then back south to Broadgate Circus, Finsbury Circus Gardens, the Guildhall – currently being used a s COVID testing centre – and then along London Wall to one of the better preserved bits of the old London wall built by the Romans as a defensive wall around Londinium.
From there we ran past the London Museum to the Barbican Estate and Centre before heading west to run round Smithfield’s meat market and finish at St Bartholomew the Great, London’s oldest parish church founded in 1123. Which just happened to be displaying ‘’Exquisite Pain’ by Damian Hirst. A final ancient and modern juxtaposition which seemed particularly appropriate at the end of 2020…
Along the way we also passed innumerable other notable buildings, statues and monuments too numerous to mention but I hope the above gives you a sense of how truly amazing the City is!
Top picture by Tristan Surtel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83153416
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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!