April 18, 2017
I am a proud Londoner, I always have been.
London is in my blood, it’s in my bones (as Adele sings in her song about the River Lea) as at least 5 generations of my family have lived in this wonderful city.
The only time I’ve ever lived outside was when I was studying for my degree in Winchester, and even then I couldn’t wait to get back as often as I could.
Sport has taken this love affair even further.
When I took up running in around 2004 I was still living at home in Forest Gate and would run laps of Wanstead Flats, where very few people could see me. I then moved to Hackney and by this point has started training for a triathlon so started Cycling from Hackney Central to East Ham, via the canal network and the Greenway.
I started to really explore my city, bits of it I’d never paid attention to before.
Marathon training takes this desire to explore the city to a whole new level, especially as a plus size athlete that isn’t always comfortable with running on the main roads. So for me it was always about exploring new routes which were a little more discreet, but also that didn’t require me to run laps…I HATE LAPS!!!
So I got to know the canals and parks really well, and started looking to see if I could run to or from meetings during the week instead of getting the tube, even if that meant turning up a little red faced and in my running gear.
Sport really helps me feel connected to where I live, and I wonder how my life would look if I’d never fallen in love with it in the way I did.
The London 2012 Games had a huge part to play in it, as a project manager looking after volunteers in one of the host boroughs I found myself providing support to all kinds of sports events, both grassroots and international level stuff. It was a real eye opener as to what sports were out there and just how accessible they could be.
My home town was changing too. As the Olympic Park took shape, bits of my normal running route were cut short, and whole sections were out of bounds for months, but I now have the most incredible urban park on my doorstep which links to so many different inspiring routes.
I often pinch myself at how lucky I am…I mean the Olympic Aquatic Centre is my local pool for goodness sake.
But for all of this marvel and wonder of what I have on my doorstep London can be a lonely place at times, despite it’s 8.674 million residents.
The friends I’ve made through running make it less so though, and I know when I’ve spent a few days at home having not spoken to anyone other than my 4 year old, I can pop to my local parkrun, or to my Monday night track session in Woodford, and be around like minded folk for an hour or so.
This weekend I found myself in one of those lonely moods. Easter weekend is a long weekend when you are a single parent with their child spending time with their Dad. I have been so busy with work lately, lots of trips away, and I’ve been a bit preoccupied with the London Marathon which is coming up this week. I had forgotten to actually arrange anything to do with my weekend.
So Friday night I went to see my friend Liza perform in Gingo…a mix between Gin and Bingo in Walthamstow which is a hilarious night of fun. Liza is one of my Clubhouse members and is about to run her first marathon…something she reminded the audience of at key moments through the night.
Saturday I met fellow fitness blogger Helen Tamblyn Saville for lunch and a few drinks…we have known each other for about 3 years, meeting each other at races and various PR events. Recently we have been working together on one of my programmes, and it turned out we were both at a loose end on Saturday which was great, as I got to show her my end of town.
Then came Sunday….what to do? what to do?
I wanted to go for a long run, but a CrossFit session in the week had rendered my quads unusable…well not unusable, but they were still pretty wrecked. So I kept putting the run off, and sat watching box sets instead.
But it was a nice bright day and I figured if I didn’t get a run in before my daughter came home, I’d only regret it. So I put my kit on and headed out.
I stuck to a real familiar route.
Along the Channelsea path which used to be a river once travelled by King Arthur no less, but is now a pretty tarmaced path from Abbey Lane to Stratford.
Under the bridge by the waterworks along to 3 Mills Park, bypassing the Tesco’s at Bow, along the canal to the Greenway, into the Olympic Park at its most southernly point, passed my CrossFit box which was just shutting up shop for the day, and home.
This route is a quickie, just short of 3 miles, its a route I do because there is so much to see without me actually being seen. I usually do it when I’m wearing mismatched kit, or haven’t been out for a run in a while and theres a high probability of walking, I do it when I am sad and need a little cry, or if I am short on time. Its actually quite a flexible route.
Along the canal about half way into my run, a guy waved at me to stop. A fellow runner. I was listening to an audiobook at the time. So took my headphones out so I could hear him.
I’m wondering if you could help me he said.
Apparently, his phone battery had died while out on a 10 miler and he was meant to be meeting his girlfriend after his run, but hadn’t told her exactly where to meet him.
I lent him my phone, and he told her where and when to meet.
Turns out this was his last run before the London Marathon. I told him to give me a wave at mile 10 where me and my Too Fat to Run ladies will have our cheering station on Sunday.
He thanked me profusely and then we both went on our way.
These interactions may seem small and insignificant to some, especially if you live somewhere where people always say good morning and thank the bus driver when they disembark, but London ain’t always like this and can sometimes feel cold and unfriendly.
Sport has given me permission to let my East London guard down a bit, to smile at fellow athletes on my journey, to walk up to random strangers at parkrun and start a conversation, to be the weird mum running alongside her daughter on her scooter on the way to nursery.
London inspires me to play sport, and sport inspires me to explore London….it’s a pretty healthy relationship and long may it continue.
Also…while out running on Sunday I had a brainwave for a new Too Fat to Run challenge. It is off EPIC proportions and will absolutely transform what I am trying to do with Too Fat to Run. I have no idea how I will do it, or even if it can be done. But I am 100% inspired by it, and have thought of very little else the rest of the weekend.
So watch this space.
I have recently become an ambassador for London Sports new campaign #LDNMovesMe celebrating everything that is great about being active in my city. From a walk to work, to a fitness session at your local club, or outdoor lido swim, it all counts and London Sport wants us all to show it off.
To show how London moves its people and the great work physical activity and sport organisations are already doing to get Londoners moving, we’re using #LDNMovesMe to celebrate the great work that you and your customers are already doing, day in, day out.