I was in London for a work meeting. I travelled down yesterday and stayed overnight. The big question was: would I be brave enough to try and run on my own in a place I didn’t know and where there would inevitably be loads of people? The answer is yes. I was. And it really wasn’t that hard!
I had decided I needed to run while away. I didn’t run Thursday, deciding to go out for dinner with the still injured Kath instead. I didn’t have time to squeeze a run in yesterday so I have gaps on the schedule and a very very fast approaching half marathon. I just had to get my butt out there. In a rather brave moment on Thursday evening I printed out a Regent’s Park Running Map and decided that the 4.45km outer circle route would be a good one to go for. Nothing much to worry about, just a slow, not quite 3 mile plod around the outer edge of the park. Simple. Hotel to where I wanted to start in Regent’s Park was, according to google maps, almost exactly a mile.
I set my alarm for just before 6am. It went off. I turned over a few times and went through my possible excuses. The conversation in my head went something like this
- Too tired – No, not really. I’d had a good night’s sleep
- I didn’t bring a cap so my hair will fall across my face (I know!) – I did bring my washbag, I have hairbands in there!
- I didn’t bring my running belt, nowhere for room key – I did bring my new running pants which have a little pocket which fits a credit card sized room key
- I don’t have time – Yes I do, I’m not meeting Chris for another 2 hours 45 minutes
- There will be people – what kind of bloody excuse is that – get your arse out there
I got dressed. I went downstaris into the hotel lobby and out the door. I walked from the hotel to the park. I walked quite fast to treat it as a bit of a warm up and because London streets are remarkably busy even at 6.10am on a Saturday morning! I felt anything but confident as I walked down the street in my running pants and ‘Leeds 10km Glory Achieved’ T-shirt. It was a huge relief to duck into the park. I set my little stopwatch and set off. The first couple of minutes were a bit huffy and puffy and I felt a bit rubbish but a minute or so of counting in my head sorted that out and I settled in. The path was easy to find and follow and before I knew it I’d run 5 minutes. Ooops, there was supposed to be a walk break after 3 minutes on my run/walk interval training. I kept going until I hit 6 minutes and 30 seconds and then stopped to sort my laces out. I’d tied my right shoe tigther than my left and it was annoying me. Then I set off again.
After another 5 minutes or so of following the path I got bored with the idea of running round the edge of the park – there were so many paths going off here, there and everywhere and I wanted to take them instead – so I did. I zig-zagged my way to the Zoo and waved at a couple of camels eating their breakfast as I ran past their enclosure. I didn’t pay that much attention to the route, I just took whatever path I fancied really and tried to keep a vague sense of direction (not a strength of mine at the best of times). I planned to run for roughly 20 minutes that way and then start heading back to my starting point using a fairly direct route. My plan was to run for 30 minutes total. I enjoyed the open space as I turned away from the zoo. I didn’t see anothe person, just gulls, crows and a few geese. I then weaved my way in and out of what, looking at the map now, must be Queen Mary’s Gardens and was just in the middle of another random little loop when I realised I’d been running for 29 minutes. I felt pretty good still. I wasn’t sure where I was exactly so ran past one of the information boards that seemed to be everywhere. Helpfully they mark the ‘you are here’ point with a big red dot so I didn’t even have to slow off to see. I figured that it would take me roughly 3-4 minutes to get back to where I started and that if it then took me somewhere between 12 and 13 minutes to run the mile back to the hotel I would actually make the 45 minutes of a normal maintenance training run.
So I went for it. I got back to my starting point and my watch said 33.46 – so I had another 11 minutes and 14 seconds to go to make up the 45 minutes. Perfect I thought. I’ll get to just before the hotel and can just walk a few steps and get my breath back before walking into the lobby. I left the park and got back onto the main road. After the total quiet of the park it seemed horribly noisy and busy. I didn’t like it at all. I had to stop twice at traffic lights but otherwise I just kept running. I just wanted to get away from the hussle and bussle. I stopped my watch when I stopped right outside the hotel. I hadn’t checked it at all since leaving the park. It said 43.25. That is a very fast mile for me (presuming of course that google maps is accurate – it might not be a mile at all!), particularly given that I actually had to stop and wait at some traffic lights twice. I wasn’t conscious of trying to run fast. I didn’t feel like I’d just run fast although I was a sweaty mess. I was just relieved to have turned off from the main road!
So, second ever solo run: One walk break, not a clue on overall distance or pace, 2 traffic light stops and a quick last mile. My ‘I can do this’ voice is getting louder and it is being cheered on by colleagues and friends being fantastically supportive. Thank you.