One of the most challenging things I have ever done…
I spent much of Friday afternoon staring apprehensively out of the window at the rain pouring down relentlessly. Visions of me twisting my ankle in Oxleas Woods led to a rapid rethink of my planned route. The carefully mapped out circular route via the Green Chain and Oxleas Woods seemed a wonderful idea on a crisp Autumnal day, less so during a downpour.
First loop – Westcombe Park, Blackheath, Lewisham Way to Cator Park and back – 14 miles
The only other people I saw out that day were bedraggled dog walkers and other marathon runners, easily identifable even if their numbers weren’t visible under their wet weather gear by the look of stoic determination. As we passed each other, we high-fived and continued our unique journeys towards the magic 26.2 miles, step by wet and soggy step.
Second Loop – Westcombe Park, Thames Path to Rotherhithe and back – 12 miles
Final 6 miles – run a couple of steps, walk a couple of steps to a landmark a little in the distance. A car, a statue, a lampost. Wince, walk, swear, run repeat…
My neighbours saw me run out and were following me on the Virgin Marathon app. They were waiting for me to stagger back round the corner. I’d miscalculated the final 0.2 miles which meant I’d finished at the bottom of the hill instead of at the top. I very nearly flagged down a bus to take me that final bit.
Once Lockdown is over, South London Special League are going to spend the money we raised to provide tennis on Friday morning in Greenwich Park.
Sunday October 3rd 2021 will be my second London Marathon. I’ll be running once more for South London Special League, helping raise money for Friday Morning tennis in Greenwich Park. I’m looking forward to watching the sessions and the players develop over the year and will provide an update here.
31km, 19.2 miles. My longest distance ever. I was running a steady, much slower pace than I’d originally planned; once more I found myself naturally speeding up for the final 4km and actually enjoying the run.
26.2 miles amazingly now feels achievable. I just need to figure out the final part of my route and avoid the strangely magnetic presence of the A205 South Circular when I reach Eltham…
The next part is still TBC as I lost the Green Chain route and ended up on the A205 South Circular for the third time. The plan on the day is to continue on the Green Chain route to Oxleas Wood, pick the Thames at Woolwich and loopback until I reach 26.2 miles.
Beckenham back to Greenwich: Change of scene via BBC Sounds. I travelled to nineteenth century Russia and a classic tale of doomed romantic love with Anna Karenina – imagining Beckhenham Mansion (below) was the place where Count Vronksy abandons Kitty to dance with Anna for the first time…
Where I awarded myself a Personal Best for Distance – not for time, this was one of my slowest runs ever – more like a fast walk in parts! However, this was my first long run where not only my legs weren’t screaming at me to stop for the final 2km, but where, amazingly, I was actually picking up speed for the final few km instead of slowing right down.
So there’s a first marathon lesson – run much slower than you normally would for the first half.
Next October with one marathon under my belt, I will focus on improving my time. This year, I’m focusing on enjoying the unique London Lockdown Marathon experience and raising money for South London Special League.
The playlist this week moved between The Prodigy Experience, Arab Strab’s Monday at the Hug and Pint and The Last Romance, Baxter Dury’s Prince of Tears and Marhaba by Maalem Mahmoud Guinia.
The green contemplative peace of Beckenham Woods – another part of London I didn’t know existed before marathon training.
Following the Green Chain from Beckenham to the Tudor / art deco architecture fusion of Eltham Palace.
13 miles on what is now my usual running route – Blackheath, Lewisham, Waterlink Way to Beckenham and back.
Next week I’ll be in Block Three of training. And that means it’s 5 weeks until the world’s first Virtual London Marathon on October 4 2020 and my very first marathon.
Today’s soundtrack was Jon Hopkins’ soaringly gorgeous Singularity, Underworld’s pounding Everything, Everything live album, finishing off with the Prodidgy’s seminal Music for the Jilted Generation. Steve Lamaq and 6 Music’s Album Club played this album out in all its uncensored, anarchic, energetic musical fury on 19 August 2020 and what a glorious, glowing, raving listening party that was. All these years later and it’s lost none of its urgent rawness.
And I celebrated by runing futher than I’d ever run before, training for my virtual London marathon for local charity South London Special League.
28km or 17.4 miles (and I really did feel the final two km….!)
Accompanying me on my run was Zero Point, a rather fine deep house mix by Duncan Marley, including tracks from Omar S, Small People, Super Discount and Francoise K.
I discovered new parts of London via the Green Chain and Capital Ring routes, picking these up at Beckhenham (after coming off the Waterlink Way) getting slightly lost in Beckhenham Mansion grounds and then finished at Eltham Palace. What I should have done here is continued along the quiet routes to Oxleas Woods and Woolwich. Instead, I headed down the relentless South Circular just as I was starting to feel the miles and needed maximum distraction.
The no filter photos – just the quick snap with my iPhone 7 as I run past:
Blackheath. Welcome to your birthday.
Discovering a new building – Beckenham Mansion. Turned a corner and there it was.
Photoshop out Canary Wharf and I could be deep in the countryside.
Panoramic view – central London in the distance on the left, Canary Wharf and Greenwich to the right. Eltham Palace a couple of miles ahead.
There will be no summer holidays this year but as I stepped out of my front door this morning, it felt like I was on holiday. Warm sun, soft gentle breeze, golden light over Greenwich Park. I found out on Friday that this year’s London Marathon will go ahead on October 4th – but it will be an elite only event. The rest of us have the option of running a virtual Marathon – as long as we complete 26.6 miles on Sunday October 4th, we get a 40th anniversary medal. And also, be part of London Marathon sporting history at the same time. The photo below was take approximately 2km into my 5km tempo run while listening to Four Tet’s Love Cry. Take microholidays where you can. Leave the madness for a few minutes. Don’t forget to breathe.
The woman on the red sofa was being interviewed about the local food bank and how so many more people were using it because of the pandemic and the impact it had had upon families. And then she started speaking about her autistic son.
I think he’s loving this situation, she said thoughtfully.
He has me and his father and Ralf our border collie with him in the house all day every day except when I’m volunteering at the foodbank and he doesn’t have to go out unless it’s to walk Ralf which he loves, and he doesn’t have to go to school which he loves when he’s there but getting him there every day for 9am can be a struggle…
Her son had spent the weeks since lockdown taking stuffing out of cushions so he could put the stuffing into sacks and replacing it with lego (only the round shapes, not the square ones) and then he’d ask her to sew up the cushions so a little later he could unpick the stitches and take the lego out so the game could begin again.
We don’t have much left stuffed in the house, she said, with a small laugh. But we do have two huge bags of stuffing that’s growing all the time. I suppose we could use them as replacement cushions…
His bed’s nearly off the floor with all the random bits and pieces he hoards underneath it.
Before the lego cushions, it was nuts and bolts – he spent hours dividing them into equal piles across the lounge carpet and we’d have to make sure Ralf, our border collie, didn’t run into them and knock them over because that could cause a meltdown.
For the two months prior to nuts and bolts, it was wrapping tins in cellotape and string. And then there was the obsession with rice in plant pots which he pushed under his bed.
Any little thing could cause a meltdown. Life with him was living on a hair trigger, you never knew what it could be that would set him off. There were certain key triggers – like getting him ready for school and then on the way to school, if we didn’t see the 825 train to Birmingham go past the level crossing…but there were other things that I could never see coming at all. Something that made him really happy one day (e.g playing with a red balloon in the back garden) could spin him over the edge the next…
Now there’s no set timetable, the meltdowns are far fewer…he seems happier…and so are we in some ways, we aren’t constantly trying to him fit in a world which is a different shape to the one he inhabits. And he loves sorting out the tines for the food bank.
The woman interviewing her, sitting behind the desk, smiles and says it’s so good to hear some good news for a change…