It was thanks to a run in Richmond Park when we were over here on holiday in January 2007 that we ended up moving to England. My wife, Ruth, used to live in England in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and had always wanted to move back. But I was a loyal kiwi who couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else other than New Zealand – until I ran in Richmond Park.
I am sure that Ruth knew what she was doing when she suggested that I do my long run in Richmond Park. I had never run in such beautiful surroundings and fell in love with the place. After moving to England for the first time in mid 2008 I became a regular runner, and now walker, in Richmond Park and have spent many, many hours training all over the park – as well as running or walking Richmond parkrun 61 times during the last 6 1/2 years.
Today is Saturday which is otherwise known as parkrunday. So the day started off with a 5km run at 9am. This time at a brand new parkrun in Oxfordshire by the name of Didcot parkrun.
And then this afternoon I headed up into Richmond Park for the first time in daylight since I can’t remember when. There are hundreds of trails within the park and often I will just wander through the middle of the park following the various trails, but my favourite route is around the parameter. A lap of the park following the parameter trail is about 7 ½ miles and depending on the direction you go you have a steep hill in either the first half or the second half, and a more gradual hill in the other half. I went anti-clockwise which gave me the steep hill during the 3rd mile but also presented me with a great view looking out over Twickenham, Teddington, and down towards Kingston during the last part of the lap.
And the best news from today’s walk was that I was back to normal training pace. I won’t get too excited yet. I tried to walk a fast mile during my walk on Thursday night and struggled to increase my pace. So I am not planning on doing anything strenuous just yet, but am looking forward to hopefully getting out for another easy 2 or 3 hours tomorrow afternoon.
I can’t remember the last time I was so cold. It was a mild 4 degrees when I left home at 4:15 this morning but it was raining, and after a couple hours in the rain I was wet through, and frozen.
To add to my problems I had lost one of my gloves after about an hour (more on that later) and at one stage I was so cold I contemplated stopping and catching the tube home. But today was Saturday, and then means parkrun day, and if I had caught the tube home I may not have made it to a parkrun, so I kept going.
My morning started at 2:48am. The alarm was actually set for 4:30am but at 2:48 my wife, Ruth, woke me to ask if I had turned down the central heating before going to bed (just 3 ½ hours earlier) as she was hot. Our central heating is on a manual system and with the bedrooms being upstairs, the bedrooms are always warmer than downstairs. And no, I hadn’t turned the heating down.
So I got up and went downstairs to turn the heating down and then found myself unable to get back to sleep. Thirty minutes later I decided to get up, have some breakfast, and then get an early start on my walk. This meant that rather than heading west to the Upton Court parkrun as I had planned, I would head north east up through London to Pymmes parkrun – about a 4 hour walk.
Just as I was leaving home it started to rain but I had dressed suitably (three long sleeve layers plus a lightweight running jacket and hat and gloves) so that wasn’t a problem.
I headed in to Richmond Park, one of my favourite places to train in all of London and something I will cover in future blog posts, with the aim of doing a half lap, possibly seeing Rob Young (Marathon Man UK) who runs a marathon a day, usually in Richmond Park in the early hours of the morning, and then exiting the park on to the A3 at Robin Hood Gate.
I have run and walked through the park in the early hours on many occasions before, but I probably haven’t attempted to leave the park at Robin Hood Gate at 5:30am, at least not in winter, and was surprised to find the pedestrian gates locked when I arrived. The gates themselves are probably about 15 feet tall so there was no way I could climb them. I knew that there was another gate not far away that went along a path that I had never followed before. So I decided to find out where that path went – which was to another locked gate. But this gate was beside a low fence that was easily climbable so I climbed the fence and followed the path into what turned out to be the Richmond Park Golf Course.
The problem was that when I arrived at the main entrance to the golf course, the tall wooden gate was also locked so I continued walking and eventually found myself on the 4th tee in the dark and in the rain.
By this stage I was totally drenched and starting to shiver because I wasn’t walking fast enough to keep warm. I decided to backtrack and managed to climb the stone wall at the entrance to the golf club but as I jumped down off the fence I caught my left hand and tore my glove. I was out of the golf course however, and I headed up the A3 towards London. I had to dispose of the glove at the next rubbish bin which in hindsight wasn’t such a great idea as my left hand became extremely cold and it wasn’t long before I couldn’t feel my figures.
Years ago, whilst watching the Tour de France on TV, I saw that the riders often put newspapers up the front of their cycling jerseys to keep warm and then disposed of them when they warmed up. As a runner and walker I have done similar in the past but used plastic shopping bags as they are much lighter, so when I got to Wandsworth I found a plastic bag on the ground and I turned that in to a makeshift glove. This helped but by this stage I was very cold and nothing was going to make me warm again.
I like to take photos when I’m out walking and one of the reasons for starting this blog is to give me a place to display those photos. But walking in the rain and in the dark, photos don’t turn out very well but the following are a couple photos I took as I walked through London City:
London Bridge taken from Southwark Bridge:
The Great Fire of London 1666 Monument: This is on the site where the Great Fire of London started in 1666.
Unfortunately these are not great photos and I’ll get better photos another time – when I am walking in the area in daylight perhaps.
By the time I had made it into London I realised that I wasn’t going to make it to Pymmes parkrun so decided to head through Tower Hamlets and up to Mile End parkrun. I have been trying to do a different parkrun each weekend and Mile End was the closest parkrun that I hadn’t done.
Reading the ‘History of Mile End Park’ sign in the park was interesting and I have added a photo of the sign here:
Running parkrun was enough to warm me up for a while and I caught the tube back to Richmond after the run. An hour sitting on the tube in wet clothes though, and I was shivering again by the time we arrived at Richmond Station, so rather than catching the bus home I walked the last 3 miles along the Thames and past Ham House.
In total I ended up walking 25 miles and running 3 today.
The other great news from today’s workout was that I have been experimenting with a new nutritional supplement called UCan. Normally after any long workout I have a craving for Coke, but not today. Today was the fifth time I have used UCan and I have had the same results each time. Interesting, and something I will discuss further in the future.