Looks like I’m not the only one who goes running outside while on work trips abroad!
Just came across this on the National Geographic Blog on running while on assignment around the world – it also reminds me of the tour-running I did in London back in July but have just been too lazy to write about. (Actually, it’s not the writing, but getting the photos out of my phone that I find tedious!)
After a tiring week holed up in Mainz, Germany for work, I stopped by London for a weekend. I haven’t been back since I left more than 2 years ago. So I snuck out early one morning to revisit one of my favourite stretches of London.
I remember when I used to cycle this towpath at night, often going to or returning from a visit to Nasty’s place in Limehouse, and later when he moved, in Shoreditch. Or I’d be going home from bootcamp at Victoria Park. Or just from one of the pubs. It was a good way to avoid traffic and the always scary Shoreditch roundabout.
But at the same time, I never felt at ease being on the towpath alone in the dark. Once in a while, you hear stories of muggings along the canal: Teenagers throwing chains to catch your wheels. Getting beaten up by your own D-lock. People making away with your bike. These were things I always had in my mind as I peddled home each night, praying that no one will jump out at me after that next bridge…
Funnily enough, I’ve never ran along the canal. In fact, I never ran when I was living there. So much was always going on in London, running was the furthest thing I had on my mind. I loved my bike, and climbing was my favourite activity.
So given this chance to stop by London, I spent it revisiting some of my favourite places. This day, I ran from Dalston to Victoria Park. Or rather, I more like shuffle-jogged. I don’t think I ever recovered from jet-lag flying from Hong Kong to Germany and it followed me all the way to London. The day was great, the air crisp, and I was eager to see the sights. But my body and legs just weren’t up to it.
The canal was like a central spine, different spots leading off into my many memories of London. Around here in the photo above was the turn off to Broadway Market, one of my favourites places to be. Saturday morning stalls of pies, dips, hog roasts and tea. Mmmmmm….This is also where our friend Rob had a taste of a hummus-like dip I bought and ended up in hospital with a really bad case of nut allergy. Uh-oh.
A lot of time was spent in Victoria Park as well. It was the closest park to our houses and I grew to love it. We were here for Guy Fawkes night fireworks, fun fairs, and bootcamp in the snow. But mostly we came here just to hangout, have a cup of tea, or maybe one of the nice breakfasts at the Pavilion. If you are ever in the vicinity, you should check out Bagel on the Park as well. I never ate there as much as I should have!
The narrow boats were always a colorful and interesting part of the canal. Maybe one of these days, I’d be able to travel through the canals on a narrow boat. Perhaps that’s what the next step should be. Now that I’ve walked, ran, and cycled my little stretch of the canal, next would be to get in the water itself. On a boat of course.
This is what I remember of London. This is the London that I grew to love. The canal. Victoria Park. The colours of the narrow boats. Cycling on the towpath. Hanging out at markets. Climbing. Nice cozy pubs.
Once, a friend asked me why I need to run on my travels. Could you not see all the same things just by walking anyways, she said. I didn’t know how to answer her. Perhaps I could’ve said that it’s convenient – I get to see the sights and get my daily exercise done all in one go before I have to cater to the wills and whims of my travel companions?
Reality is, it’s all that, but also, particularly in cities I’ve never been to, running takes me places I would otherwise not go, show me sights I would otherwise not see. What’s around the corner? What’s at the end of that street? Can I try a different way back to the hotel? What if I just run one more block? There’s an element of chance, luck, and exploration. There’s a feeling of freedom because you’re not carrying a map, a notebook, your jacket, passport, or wallet.
You feel more liberated. Not confined by the baggage of a traveller. You just go.