Posted by: Leonie Brown15/03/2010
London: pulsating, 24-hour city full of contrast. And covering 40 miles of it on foot each week – at unsociable hours and along unusual routes – is, I have found, a very good way to discover its delights. Here are my five favourite things seen (or heard) in London while training for the marathon:
1. Speed skating buggy man
Not as exciting as it might first sound, mainly because the speed skating bit is in my head. Maybe it would be better to call my first choice a general ‘park life’ scene – strangers cooing over cute puppies, kids trying out their brand new bikes and couples enjoying a coffee in the winter sun. Such a scene is summed up by buggy man, who jogs while pushing a stroller, thereby ticking the childcare and exercise boxes all at once. Perhaps it’s an overdose of the BBC’s Winter Olympics coverage, but as I circle Hackney’s Victoria Park in the opposite direction to buggy man I imagine we are engaged in a speed skating-type duel, each time we pass revealing who has gained ground on the other. Then again, perhaps it’s a lack of oxygen to the brain as I hit 18 miles causing such odd imaginations…
2. Progress on the Olympic site
Call me a hopeless patriot, but I’m hugely proud that London is going to host the Olympic Games 2012. Each time I pass the site – on my current favourite route taking in Limehouse docks and back home via Hackney Marshes – visible progress has been made. As I suppose you’d expect with just two years to go. Still, it’s all rather inspiring.
3. London Zoo waking up
As the canal path exits Camden and hits Regent’s Park, it bisects London Zoo, with the aviary on one side of the water and the giraffe and antelope enclosures on the other (all bound by big fences to stop the animals getting out and the public getting in for free). Taking this route at 8am is, for me, a magical experience. From peacock to hippopotamus, as the zoo-residents wake up they call to one another, transforming this oh so inner-city north London spot into a cacophony of jungle-like sound.
4. Penny farthing rider
Attentive readers will have heard mention of this before – but it bears repeating: a man, cycling along the canal towpath, on a penny farthing. The best thing about this sighting was that very few people batted an eyelid. The man in question was accompanying a friend, on a normal bicycle, and they were chatting away as if popping to the shops like any old Saturday. Perhaps they were. It can’t have been too convenient when he reached the numerous low bridges along the way, though.
5. Barack Obama
I’ve cheated a bit here. I didn’t see Obama while training for the marathon – it was back last year when the newly elected US President was on his first visit to Britain. And OK, it wasn’t actually me who saw him at all, it was Caroline, who was jogging along the Embankment when his motorcade whizzed past her. But that counts, doesn’t it? She is co-author of this blog and my general marathon buddy, after all. And yes, all right, we’re not totally sure it was Obama in the car – could have been a dummy motorcade, or his wife Michelle. Even so, a pretty cool spot.
Leonie’s run rate:
Miles since 1 Jan: 235
Anxiety dreams about the marathon so far: two, and counting (both times I was late for the start)
Caroline’s run rate:
Miles since 1 Jan: 263
Exceedingly annoying leaks in water bottle, discovered about three miles into long run: one
Help make all those miles count - click here now to sponsor Leonie and Caroline who are raising money for HACT
From Home run
Tracking the progress of Inside Housing staff and others running the London Marathon for the Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust