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Date : 12th February, 2021
Time : 1h 22’ 39” (for 14.26 km)
Number of runners (total to date) : 2 (7101)
Run map and details : https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/6292373192
This isn’t an easy blog to write. I’ve spent so much of my life living – and running – in the London borough of Camden* that almost every metre of our 10km route has an attached memory or a story. And that makes it difficult to write the kind of short snappy blog that readers enjoy best. Strict editorial discipline is needed – less is more!
So, without further ado, let’s get cracking. We started at an icy Pond Square in Highgate – which has really come into its own during lockdown as a place you can meet and pretend to be following the various lockdown guidelines while experiencing a social atmosphere. Somewhat to the distress of the local residents’ association whose chair is continually bewildered by the mess people leave behind. And their failure to use the toilets…
From there we headed down Swains Lane – probably London’s most famous cycling hill and location of the annual Urban Hill Climb Race. Its gradient maxes at 20% and, Darren, who does these routes on his bike, was, I believe, grateful that we started down Swains Lane rather than finishing up it…
Swains Lane goes past Highgate Cemetery – 170 000 people in 53 000 graves including Douglas Adams, Patrick Caulfield, George Eliot, Malcom McLaren, Karl Marx, our old neighbour Tim Pigott-Smith and one day, if there are any spaces left, me.
It also goes past Waterlow Park – venue for the daily dog walk and home of the mighty Highgate (Virtual) Tennis Club of which I am the proud (if ever willing to be replaced…) Club Secretary.
By the time we’d got to the bottom of Swains lane we’d only done a kilometre but it seems to have taken a number of paragraphs to get there so let’s fast forward down Highgate Road and Kentish Town High Street, take a right down Rochester Road past Jeff and Annette’s to Rochester Mews where we used to live when Freya was born. A fantastic party house but not obviously a family home – it had zero garden and an extraordinarily low room to space ratio…
A few back streets later we made our way to the rather wonderful Gasholder Park
Coal Drops Yard
Granary Square development north of Kings Cross. One of my favourite parts of London and all closed up thanks to that miserable little f****r of a virus. We’ll be back to eat, drink and party one of these days!
For now it was time to descend to Regents Canal
and head west to Camden Town. (Incidentally, if you’re not familiar with it, you can head east along Regents Canal to Victoria Park and beyond, eventually reaching Stratford and the Olympic Park. You have to leave the canal for a bit around the Angel Islington but otherwise it’s a fantastic run / walk / bike ride.)
We left the Canal at the ‘never seen it deserted’ before Camden Lock part of Camden Market.
Camden Market started life in 1974 as a small 16 stall Sunday arts and craft fair in the Dingwall’s backyard ; it’s now London’s largest market attracting 250 000 visitors a week to over 1000 shops, stalls, boutiques and bars. Its enormous and I’ve spent many, many hours there. But its currently just a pale shadow of its usual self with a few desultory food stalls offering take-way food. Even Cyberdog is closed. All very sad.
On the plus side you get through it a lot quicker when there are no crowds and we were soon onto Chalk Farm Road making our way towards the legendary Roundhouse. The extraordinary building that started life as railway turntable shed and became the stage for everything from Oh! Calcutta! to the Stones, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bowie and countless others.
Fast forward time again up Haverstock Hill and past the Royal Free to the mixed bathing pond on the Hampstead side of the Heath.
Ah, the heath, the heath. 790 acres which I’ve ran, walked and cycled round more times that I can remember – and still manage to find a new route every time I visit. The place where every north London teenager came – in droves – during lockdowns 1 & 2. One of the finest bits of urban greenery on the planet.
We ran / cycled through the Heath up to Whitestone Pond – the highest point in inner London where I said goodbye to Darren. We spent 5 minutes chatting and, by the time he left, I could hardly move from stiffness and hand aching cold….
A shuffle back to Highgate and that was our 10km – well 14 in total – complete. There’s so much of Camden we didn’t see – Kings Cross, the east side of Regents Park, Primrose Hill, the British Museum. But it was still a brilliant run – albeit one tinged with sadness. Darren’s Mum has been very unwell and she and her family are going through a tough, tough time – hugs and best wishes to all of them.
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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!