27/3/11 – 10.4 miles
On this run I reflected on the birth of spring, the passing of winter and that hope springs eternal.
South West London is familiar territory for me. My dad was brought up there, and some of my earliest memories back in the late 1970s/early 1980s are of visiting his mum and dad there in Wimbledon. Also more recently I lived in Southfields 1998-2001 when I’d just started working in London after finishing University. I have to say, for a part of town well known for its wealth, the mainline station is very grotty. So I took my trademark solemn first picture of the day (reflecting the weather – overcast, windy, cold) and started to run.
I followed the arc of Alexandra Road round and slightly up. Due to time of day there weren’t many other people about. On the other side of the road a big burly runner went past in fluorescent yellow top and headphones. He looked a bit like a ‘rugger bugger’. Gave him a big wave, but he just looked confused as if to say “why would someone that I don’t know wave at me?” Must have flummoxed him for the rest of the day but it was the first of many to be tested against my ‘grumpy runner’ scale.
Shortly I arrived at Wimbledon Park station, a quaint building that basically like many of the others on this route acts as the surface level entrance to which you descend to platforms. There was a tiny newsagents here and other than that it was just an interlude in a row over (very expensive) houses.
I couldn’t see the Park itself but had a recollection whilst seeing it on the train there about going there with my dad and with his parents back must have been in late 1970s when I was a mere lad, possibly on a new bike. I was very small indeed. I remembered the very tall trees (which are still there) and extensive playground at one end. Isn’t it amazing that you can retain a memory in your mind even though some thirty years have elapsed?
Anyway, I was excited about the next stop because that is where I lived with Simon for some three years back in the late 1990s. This was when I’d just started work in Victoria. Southfields station was a direct tube line to work. This area is also famous for being the place you go for Wimbledon Tennis every summer. For those two weeks, residents of the area have to endure their little station being turned into a jamboree of sponsorship. I remember one year they put pretend grass all along the steps. Crazy. I arrived from the South, I recalled that in all those years living there I never really explored any of the streets other than the ones between our flat and perhaps Wimbledon Common. Contrast that to the last couple of months where I’ve explored over 200 miles of London’s streets and suburbs. So it was with a bit of nostalgia that I posed for this photo, started to ascend the hill that I’d walked on my commute for three years then dart down a road that I’d never stepped along.
Next it was East Putney, home back then to another work friend and close to trendy Putney. The route took me up some inclines but was in residential streets, except for when crossing the A3. I was unable to take a better photo of the station as the concourse had a big florists’ cube in the middle. I was now suitably hot to remove my hat (still possibly not washed after all these runs!)
Now on to the River Thames. In celebration of the Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race, which took place on the Saturday I paused to take a photo on the middle of the bridge and you can see on the river – on cue – some rowers. With lots of greenery all round and with the sun breaking through the clouds at this very point its no wonder that South West is one of the most traditionally pleasant parts of town.
Putney Bridge station is just a little removed from the riverside, with the tube crossing on its own bridge. There was a bus station here.
It was when I crossed Putney Bridge that I first came across the Marsden March, which was taking place on that day. I’ve since learned (well, solely for the purpose of this write-up, actually) that the route was ambitious – coordinating around 2000 walkers between the hospitals two sites – the first in Fulham and the second down in Sutton. Raising funds for a cancer charity, a noble cause and to a hospital indeed that is local to me. Lots of people dressed in t-shirts with balloons on ribbons flying up in the air. Men, women, teenagers, the elderly, some with dogs, some in groups, some on their own. A real good vibe along the way with people chatting away. Now the only problem I had with it was that it was going the other way to the way I was going! Now yes, I could have crossed to the other side of the road but actually I, and anyone else on that side of the road had proper right of passage. So why was it that these people were oblivious to the fact that they were basically steamrollering through the route, not really giving much room for anyone else that happened to be around?! If they had been looking ahead, understanding what was coming, then they could have at least accommodated other people along the way! After a while trying to make eye contact for my test of ‘grumpy marchers’ I decided that it would just get me progressively angrier and so I crossed over.
Heading towards Parsons Green I was amused to see this butchers’ shop with cow outside. The cow is plastic (or marble, I didn’t feel it) but the butcher in the window chopping up (possibly chops) was very real.
Now perhaps the fury of the march had made me lose my bearing so I had to ask a cop near Fulham Broadway where the station was. There’d been a slight over-shooting of the mark, and I retraced steps about 1/4 a mile and found the station (not signposted at all).
Next stop was Fulham Broadway – station inside the shopping centre.
I then had to double-back and pass through a little village area with some nice shops and restaurants then shimmy through some side-streets till I got to West Brompton, which is a possible entry point to Earls Court Exhibition Centres. There was a Vitality Show going on which looked interesting but given that I’d only done six miles there was more to be done. A quick swig of water and a handful of jelly babies and I was off again.
A very short distance along a crescent street and I was back to Earls Court, where I’d visited last weekend.
Because of time of day it was busier, and lots of horrid people smoking outside station. That ‘box’ was still there…
Now having finished the Wimbledon-Earl’s Court branch of the District Line, the remainder of the run would be on familiar territory as it twins up with the Circle Line. So from Earl’s Court I found the Brompton Hospital and then took the same road as before (this time in the opposite direction) to High Street Kensington.
I didn’t stay long on this busy shopping arcade but this time took Campden Hill up towards Notting Hill.
I took a mini detour at this point at the request of Lorna S who had suggested I visited Rabbit Row – possibly for obvious reasons but perhaps something to do with A-Ha, perhaps she can explain.
Anyway, I was now hugging the North side of Hyde Park so quickly made my way through morning (grumpy) runners and foreign tourists for Kensington Palace and side-stepped to Bayswater.
Then I remembered that this would be the last time I would be tube-running through this cut-through towards Paddington and so I needed to find Leinster Gardens and those houses with the false facades. I took quite a few pictures outside this end of terrace at 18-23 but the Wikipedia says that its just a little further. I get the general point though. V interesting. Worth a look – or worth sending your least favourite taxi company or pizza delivery to!
Next stop Paddington Station…
… and finally Edgware Road. Total of 10.4 miles in 1 hour 35 minutes, or 9:12/mile (second fastest run to date, but only 12th longest).
Deliberately short as its all part of the Brighton Marathon taper. I wasn’t finished quite there however and without map I made my way towards Charing Cross (3 miles – my route here). This actually wasn’t too difficult as all I had to do was find Hyde Park, which was generally south, through the “Hyde Park Estate” (of very posh houses). It was nice to run through the Park on a Sunday seeing lots of people enjoy it in various ways – whether running, horse riding, walking, doing some kind of military fitness, paddle boating on the river, or just sitting and enjoying the flowers.
I left the Park on the South East exit, through Wellington Arch and then (joy!) realised that Constitution Hill and the Mall were closed to road traffic, so I was able to run (although with another couple of runners) straight along the centre line of the six lane avenue. Perfect! Made me think about when I ran there with Zoe on the Royal Parks Half Marathon, and also of course finishing both London Marathons on the Mall.
On the journey home I continued to reflect on the cyclical nature of things. We are where we are because of where we’ve been. There is sadness along the way but from this we build a solid base and from this foundation, no matter how hard we are hit we can make it onwards and upwards. And with heads held high, and hands holding those of loved ones, hope springs eternal.
In memory of Samuel, who last week was born just a little too soon.