Tag Archives: London Runs

On a kringle of santas…London Santa Runs 68/100

dsc_0005_36-2img_4743-2The British love to dress up. Any excuse will do. Fancy dress, as it is called, is a staple of the social scene, year round. Costumed runners have long been part of races of all lengths, especially for charitable fundraising.  Why not combine the two? Not a great idea, so I thought. I am not a fan of dressing up for parties. I really don’t like dressing up to go running. But when in Rome, or London, to be exact…I have run in a bunny costume, particularly humiliating as it was after Easter so we all looked deranged. I have also run in a gorilla suit, much too hot and heavy to try again. In 2011, the older two children and I ran in a Nativity run. The remit was to dress as a Nativity character. I dug out a battered pair of wings from our dressing up box. My daughter wore a cape, crown and carried a box, a wiseman obviously. Joseph ran in his bathrobe holding a real hammer. He was Joseph because he is Joseph. The organizers seemed overwhelmed by this fact, as if he was in on a secret joke. They couldn’t stop mulling it over aloud, which was rather off putting.  As I said, I’m not much for the costume runs. With one big exception.  I have run in a Santa suit. Many, many times. Too many to count now. The Battersea Park Santa Run has been a fixture in my diary for years now, even when I wasn’t in a running frame of mind. Usually, 10854272_1006953772664677_5097500656784772341_oI have been able to convince a child or two to tag along. Felt, one-size fits all, santa suits are distributed upon arrival at the start, which means we all look the same. For most, the suit is far too big, though occassionally there are matching child-size ones, ill-fitting in their own way, so we are rather a motley crew of santas. And the beards are horrible. But we are all willing. No one doesn’t wear the suit, and the few girls who show up in sexy elf suits just look like idiots. They are shunned by the pack. I love this race. For many reasons, but most especially for the looks on the young Battersea residents’ faces, staggering round the park in hopes of clearing their holiday overdosed heads, when suddenly one thousand (literally) santas come lumbering along….”I am still 1396756_775235222503201_1053749200_odrunk” and “I’ve got to stop the recreational LSD” are but a few of the visible responses. We santas wave, we cheer, we photograph ourselves and others as slack jawed strangers try to settle their over-excited dogs. A perfect way to start the Christmas season!

This year I decided to try something new and signed up for the City Santa run, and convinced 3 of my children plus Katherine’s good friend and frequent running partner, Lexi, to join me. As you know, I will do pretty much anything in the City. And running in the City is a beautiful thing. This morning was perfect, blue, sunny sky and just cold enough to make the fabric felt a welcome overcoat. The santas gathered were fewer in number than Battersea, but just as enthusiastic, maybe more so. The crowds watching were also fewer, but made up of tourists instead of hungover locals. They were amused, delighted, baffled, all holding phones aloft. No telling how many of us are on strangers’ social media sites. dsc_0023_16-2And what a glorious run it was. Starting from the north end of Millennium Bridge, a flood of red flowed, poured over my favourite bridge, much to the surprise of early morning strollers. We continued along past the Tate and the Globe, back across Southwark Bridge. Along the Thames Path the Shard and Tower Bridge came into sight, dodging tourists I drank deeply of this view I love so much. dsc_0026_15-2Through the hordes queuing to get into the Tower of London and then back along Fenchurch Street, through the festive Leadenhall Market and then the final bit, my beloved St Paul’s ahead, to the finish in Paternoster Square. The race was only 6k, yet it seemed to pass in seconds. And despite the cloying felt suit, I felt invincible. Yes, the world still exists with Syrian and Brexit and Trump and upcoming French elections and Italian referendum and Austrian vote (relieved to have just seen the result) and the youth football child abuse, but for a little bit of time, none of that mattered. Instead, my eyes and brain could only concentrate on things I love: art, theatre, history, Harry Potter, beauty. The things that keep us all going in troubled times. Running in the City, the city I love the most, it just might be what gets me through.

Instagram: @mylondonpassion

 

On Running & History…..Secret London Runs 43/100

There is nothing that fills me with quite the same amount of Not Taking Part despair as the London Marathon. No matter that I had no place nor trained even one step, I knew that on the morning I would be filled with longing, tears maybe, as would my friend Alice. What to do?  A private booking with Secret London Runs, In the Shadow of the Shard tour, to the rescue. It is an idea sooo clever, I really really wish I had thought of it myself! Founded by history buffs and experienced runners, Amy and Vanessa, they organize runs in London that include a good dose of history and great deal of fun.

IMG_20160331_203753My first outing with SLR was on their  Jack the Ripper night, a few weeks ago. A short run, in teams, through Spitalfields/WhiteChapel/City in pursuit of clues on the identity of Jack the Ripper. Actors (or long-suffering friends?) were scattered along the route, dressed in Victorian costume, ready to answer questions and direct or mis-direct inquiries. This should have been so my kind of thing. But at the very last minute, my only teammate and above mentioned Alice had a childcare crisis and couldn’t join me.  When I finally arrived at the starting venue, a pub just off Petticoat Junction, the only other single runner was a woman who told me, but only once we were outside in the freezing cold!!, that she couldn’t run. Oh dear. Suddenly my running attire seemed woefully inadequate to cope with the weather. Because we walked. Slowly. It was bloody cold. I did try to get into the spirit of it as much as possible and, as we were now not really competing against other teams for times, I felt free to chat away to the Victorians as much as I liked. We were hardly going to get less cold or be any slower. This is how I know that the policeman at the Tower is from Ventura, CA and that pretending to sell oranges in front of the old Billingsgate Market is a cold and lonely prospect indeed.

IMG_20160331_204309We didn’t guess the correct villain, but I did get some lovely photos of London at night, never can have too many of those, and had my circumstances been different, it would have been a fantastic night. I had to try again.

So that is how Alice and I found ourselves greeting Amy half way across London Bridge, such an alluring place to meet, feeling slightly sorry for ourselves that we weren’t traveling on to Greenwich with the other marathoners….but a few minutes on London Bridge cured that. Just look around in all directions, Amy encouraged us. To the north the City, still the financial heart of the capital, and to the south, Southwark. Once a dangerous and filth filled area of town.  Now, with the  Shard, the tallest building in Europe (for the moment), a symbol of new wealth and power, looming of the southern bank, a respectable, trendy and expensive part of London. But yet, touches of its dirty days still remain, and those are what we came to see.

IMG_20160424_103245One of the first stops was the ruins of Winchester Palace. London history can be dreadfully confusing, both chronologically and geographically. This is a good example. The Bishop of Winchester had his palace, not in Winchester (about 70 miles SW of London) but here on Bankside, between Southwark Cathedral and Clink Prison. The Bishops, down the ages, would have allowed prostitues to ply their trade in the area, but for a sizable fee. Extracting money from the desperate has always been a reliable money maker for  those in power. But when they died, these same women were not given final rest on consecrated ground. Instead, they were buried at the Cross Bones Graveyard, along with plague victims and the general poor. A literal dumping ground for the unloved. A final insult to lives filled with injury.

IMG_20160424_103934The land was closed to burial in 1853 on health grounds. It retreated into folk-lore and was then forgotten. Until London Underground started digging around in the 1990s. And historians realized what they had found: a tip filled with the unwanted of ages past. A garden of sorrow, if ever there was. Now the gates are covered in ribbons and it has become a quasi-shrine to remember the outcasts and unwanted of society, though increasingly it has become a place for people of all traditions to show respect and remembrance. Today, many of the ribbons are for people who are deeply loved and painfully, achingly missed. IMG_20160424_104258_editA baby, a young mother, a son. It is a wall of collective grief atop bodies for whom no grief was shown. With the iconic Shard looming overhead. Circle of life at its most theatrical.

And that was just the start….for about an hour we ran, at a very nice pace, chasing tales. Listening to Amy’s stories of misery and dirt and death (I do love a bit of grim) and the subsequent transformation to…well, the café and art gallery  filled Bermondesy Street we know today.

By the time we finished, many, many photos later, Alice and I had rather forgotten about the Marathon. We couldn’t get the rejected women of Cross Bones out of our minds. And the fact that running history laden streets with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide like Amy is a pretty perfect Sunday morning.

http://www.secretlondonruns.com

Instagram & Twitter: @mylondonpassion