TOTR: The best city I ever ran in is…

I love Tuesdays on the Run. And I love having the “cheat sheet” of the topics early so I can get these written at the weekend. This week? This best city I ever ran in is…

Linking up with: Erika at MCM Mama, Marcia at Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and Patty at No Guilt Life.

And I’m going to cheat and purely look at destinations, because otherwise there’s no way I answer this as anything but home. There are so many great places to run around Manhattan, especially Central Park. And it has been true for two hundred + years! 😀

“Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be
In the greatest city in the world!

I’m only counting cities where I’ve run outside (so no Amsterdam or Reykjavik) and actual cities, so no Nyack, Avon, NJ, Palm Springs or my friend’s subdivision in suburban LA. (Yes, Palm Springs is a city but I only ran on the resort grounds, so it doesn’t count). My Birmingham adventures with Liz feel like a hybrid as we took a bus from the city center to her neighborhood but our running route had a decidedly suburban feel so I’m putting that in the same bucket as Nyack, Avon. If the question were places, this would be a lot harder.

So that said…Montreal, London, Washington, D.C.,  Santa Monica, Fort Lauderdale.

Ugh. This is hard.

I think off the bat I’m ruling out Fort Lauderdale since none of the runs felt like city runs. The half marathon is great and I look forward to running it again in 2019, but to me it’s against the spirit of the question. True the hotel fun run did run down a major thoroughfare, but… It has to go.

By the same token, I’m throwing out Santa Monica. It’s heartbreaking to think about the Woolsey Fire in Malibu as I ran just south of that from the Santa Monica pier north to Pacific Palisades and then back down to Venice before finishing on the Pier. But it was a paved path on the beach, so that isn’t a city.

So that leaves London, Montreal, and Washington D.C.

Each has really good things about it. Montreal was a way to explore the area near the hotel and get the lay of the land. Washington D.C. was cherry blossoms! Can’t imagine a more beautiful race course, yes cherry blossoms > oceanfront somehow. London is… London. Running through history.

peekaboo Victoria Tower, I see you!

Yeah, that’s my answer. From the day I arrived where I sightran along the Thames to get the lay of the city to a short run for a view, to my pre-airport farewell, London was nothing but magic. Weather was perfect, it was easy to add distance when seeing new things, and the city’s architecture is just out of this world.

What’s your favorite city?
Is there a city/race you recommend?

Travel Tuesday: Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines

aka walking around London.

England book acquisitions

The rule for buying any books in England was as follows: not available for Kindle and/or some specific or unique tie. I think I did pretty well bringing back only 4* (one on the way from Amazon because I was still regretting not buying it at Stonehenge despite the font). The top two were charity shop purchases in Stratford-upon-Avon: love Marian Keyes and she’s not easy to find here, and Liz thrust the second at me as it was set partially on a bus we’d taken. The bottom two were London finds.

Other London Write-Ups:

  • Travel Tuesday: Pre-Roman Britain
  • London’s Churches: St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey
  • London’s Castles and Palaces: Buckingham, Kensington and the Tower of London
  • Walking London
#TravelTuesday Review: @WalkTheLinesLDN walks the entirety of the London Underground, 269 stations Click To Tweet

Only in America is the BBC Correspondent on life in America in the early 2000s, which I found at the South Bank book stalls. I found Mark Mason’s Walk the Lines: The London Underground, Overground while waiting for my train at London Euston to meet Liz. After finding WiFi to ascertain it wasn’t available for the Kindle and was well priced, I bought it. What caught my attention? Walking. Of course. Fittingly, it’s the 80th book I finished in 2018 and I often lament that reading is a casualty of my love of walking. If I took the train more, I’d definitely read more.

I loved this book from its premise but rather than reading it on the train to & from Birmingham, I was staring out the window at the sheep. Yes, sheep. I got the bulk of it read on my flight home last weekend but didn’t want to carry it in my purse, so it took me until Sunday at the beach to finish it. Had Friday turned into beach weather it would have happened then.

Although it felt like I walked all over London, I didn’t hit even a fraction of his 269 Tube stations. As I read about places I was/had been, especially Pimlico early in his walk, I loved those moments of I know that place! That happens often for me in New York, but I think London is the first place it happened for me because of all the walking. I only took the Tube six times in London: to and from Heathrow, to Kings Cross (to do Platform 9 3/4 on the way to Euston), from Marylebone to hotel to drop off my bag and make a mad dash to St. Paul’s for sunset, to the hotel after a late-ish dinner/long day in South Kensington after Stonehenge and home from dinner on the South Bank in the rain. Taking the Tube would have been more time efficient (especially when going from South Bank Festival to the British Museum and/or Buckingham to Kensington Palace) but I really think walking nearly everywhere helped me better get the lay of London and incorporate sightseeing with “commuting”. I did some of this in Amsterdam too, although the weather wasn’t anywhere near as conducive to it.

The days I was fully in the city I averaged about 12 miles. Even the ones with transit were in the 8-10 mile range with the exception of Stonehenge which was full day driving. London is just perfect for a wander or focused walk. What helps is that the stations are so close together – it often didn’t pay to spend ~$3 to get between places A and B when it was just as easy or easier to walk. In doing so I managed to see things I wouldn’t have otherwise including: the book shops on Charing Cross Road, the theaters of Drury Lane, the Cleopatra’s Needle along the Thames, Churchill War Rooms and Downing Street and more. None of those were on my itinerary, but I was so pleased to stumble on them. While most of my walks were in daylight because I was otherwise too tired, the dusk walk from St. Paul’s back to my Tower Hill hotel was great in seeing how the city switched off.

Would I recommend my walk sightseeing of London to another visitor? It depends. There’s a lot of “lost” time so if you only have a short time, I might say hop the Tube. But if it’s someone like me who enjoys the journey and the unexpected finds along the way? Absolutely. I’d love to do a walk like Mason’s in New York, although I can’t imagine it would be anywhere near as feasible, especially in the boroughs. Manhattan though might be a bucket list when/if I ever finish the bridges.

Some moments that lined up well with my London sightseeing:

  • the “government buildings” on the south side of Vauxhall Bridge. I had a feeling when I ran that way on Tuesday that it was either MI6 or some other not so secret entity based on the number of armed men and CCTV. Haven’t seen much James Bond, but I do read Daniel Silva and Gabriel Allon frequents Vauxhall.
  • “one almighty temple to Travel known as VIctoria” yep. Aside from my last day when I got super turned around near Borough Market, the only time I came even close to that was walking back to the hotel from the V&A via Harrods. All the roads seemed to go kablooey around Victoria, which is a behemoth.
  • I loved his walk down Piccadilly from Green Park toward Hyde Park Corner and beyond. This was my first real exploration of London on Sunday morning (more, TK, when I post the London Palaces writeup) when I walked from Horseguards to Kensington Palace along Piccadilly because I wanted to find the Hard Rock Cafe. I don’t eat or shop there, but this tradition with a friend goes back to when we lived in Osaka and would use it for American food. Also, I started “collecting” Hard Rocks as a kid after my first in Toronto in 1993, and sometimes you have to. Besides, why not take the longer and more scenic route between two places when possible. You see so much. I saw the Ritz, which he mentioned but did not know about Burlington’s prohibition against whistling. It was also fascinating to learn why the line went so far south of Harrod’s — plague pits! Part of what made this book even more interesting is the people he interviewed: the city planner, the voice of Mind the Gap on the Piccadilly line. It added so much more to an already interesting book.
  • “The tourists at Tower Hill stand on the same ground where huge crowds used to gather for executions…” creepy! OK, maybe I’m glad I didn’t read this part as I stood there.
  • The Waterloo and City Line was super confusing. How is that even a line?  That said, I was glad to have it when I needed to get home from Waterloo in the rain. Although the connection from Bank to Monument is long, it was great to do it below ground so as not to get more wet.

Other moments I enjoyed:

  • I loved his idea of a personal Tube  line for the places and moments that are significant. For me in NY, it’s the Upper East Side and on  a running note, Central Park.

“Preferring Dickens to Disney is all very well, until you come face to face with Bill Sykes. Besides, to wish that London was immune from boom-and-bust economics is to wish away the city’s entire history. A few miles south of here they’ve turned boom and bust into an art form”

Part of what I loved the most about London – especially in The City where this description is from – is the layers upon layers of history. Discoveries like The Great Conduit when building One Poultry, and items extant from before The Great Fire are all over and it’s really only possible to find them when wandering. Or even walking with purpose like Mason did.

  • It’s sad, but also perfect, to realize that there was one part he couldn’t walk, the tunnel at Heathrow which has been closed to pedestrians. If there’s any place more non-pedestrian friendly than airports, I’m not sure what it is. Like earlier when he wrote of Wembley and other city icons not actually being in the city due to space constraints, airports are meant to be traveled to, before serving as the start or end of another trip. It’s eerie, and kind of interesting
  • One of the places on my ginormous google map that I didn’t get to was Olympic Park – it was just too far out. While I rarely watch the Olympics, I love visiting their “remains”. Mason’s walk was in the lead up to the Olympics where many sights were still being constructed and I enjoyed how he imagined their use. I did visit a couple spots where Olympic events took place, including Greenwich and part of the route of the marathon, which made me think of Becky Wade’s book as she was there for the games.
  • Loved his realization that the issue with the view from Tower 42 and Barnet church was that it was still man’s eye view. I never thought of maps that way and while I’m not a maps person, I liked how he used them throughout. Not just the literal journey planning, but to explain the city. To truly know the lines.
  • I agree with him that it is people, and stories that bring the cities, buildings and lines to life. London has a history, but we tell its story

The book? It’s traveling again now, back to Liz who mentioned she had it on her wishlist.

London Calling, weeks of 8.12, 8.19

So London was meant to be part of an organized runcation, but that didn’t get the minimum number of people to go forward. By the time it was cancelled I already had the time off work and the itch to go to London for the first time in 17 years-not counting a layover 11 years ago- and I decided why not.  I’m an obsessive trip planner and immediately hit up a Google map. Grown ups think of literature based London prompts. Me? All nursery rhymes. I had Pussycat, pussycat in my head throughout. I also picked up a London version of the Moleskine City books and while I didn’t use the features for which I bought it: the maps, I really loved it for making trips before and during the trip.

While I was unsure about pre-booking a run tour I hit up Strava for a couple of routes including a River Thames sightseeing loop, a 6-7 mile run of the Royal Parks, and Regent’s Park/Primrose Hill for the views.

More to come on the London front in another (series of) posts. In the mean time, weekly wrap catch up. I’ll do what I can to catch up on reading as well.

Weekly Wrap with Holly and Wendy:

Week of 8.12:

  • Monday:  for the first time in a while #NeverMissAMonday was running based. I had an epic case of do not wanna and had to literally bribe myself to get an additional quarter mile from miles 1-3. Some things never change. I did the same workout as this Monday and came in about thirteen seconds faster. I alternated quarter miles at 5.5 with 6.3 with .05 miles of walking at 3.3 after each 6.3 segment. The walk segments were consistently shorter and the running quarter mile segments didn’t fluctuate in speed.
  • Tuesday: was supposed to be a cross training day, but I was at the office late getting some deadline items done and really needed to pack for London, so it turned into a rest day. I also think four days in a row was not a smart plan with the distances I wanted to do to run/sightsee in London.
  • Wednesday: finally got the chance to meet Darlene who seems to run here as much as I do, despite not living in the city. It was a beautiful evening with relatively little humidity and we had a comfortable run/walk through Central Park. Other than office run group I don’t typically run with others, so this was good practice in running at a conversational pace. Not linking Strava because holy hell did my watch have a hissy fit or six.
  • Thursday: office run group and my watch worked! Alas it was 85+ and 60% humidity so we weren’t setting any land speed records. Still nice to catch up with some folks between vacations.
  • Friday: London bound!
  • Saturday: I wanted to shake off the plane stiffness and explore a little so I’d be tired enough to go to sleep on London time. The training plan called for 8 and I got in 9.10 photo taking, sightseeing miles. It was super crowded by the Eye and across Tower Bridge as I took the very long way from my hotel to Buckingham Palace via a version of the Thames Path above. Couldn’t get Strava to work properly offline, but it was easy enough to follow the riverside paths. London is a great running city.
  • Sunday: no running, but sightseeing took in 12.38 miles, so I’m not calling that a rest day!

Week of 8.19

Some of this fell under Saturday and Sunday, above, but it’s still insane to look at. When I left for London I’d walked about 238K steps on the month, run 30 miles and run walked 112. I ran/walked 89.31 miles, ran 20.56 miles in the UK. Most insanely? 204, 202 fitbit steps! There’s a chance for my third 500K step month. I was 13 miles off my 700 miles on the year pace when I left and less than five off when I got back. What did that look like? Note: some of these links are more London sightseeing than running photos. Assume I’m forgiven 😀

  • Monday: my only true rest day. I’d booked a day trip to Stonehenge, Glastonbury and Winchester (which turned into Avebury) and there was a lot of driving. It also left really early and wrapped with dinner with two wonderful friends. Fell asleep before I could hit my step goal, hysterical compared to the other days
  • Tuesday: back in London and a short-ish morning run on the Thames before ten more miles of walking exploring Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the British Museum.
  • Wednesday: traveled to Birmingham to meet Liz! We met through Bookcrossing shortly after I joined in 2005 and just missed one another in Iceland last February, but the stars aligned and we planned a visit while I was in the UK. I got a little of my typical first meeting jitters, but those were gone as soon as we met at the train station and as long as we were awake, we didn’t shut up for the entirety of my visit. So amazing when someone is just as fun live as online. No running today, but we explored architecturally fascinating Birmingham and I got to see Dippy! Dinosaurs turn me from 38 to 3. We also walked some of the canals Liz ran along during her race a couple weeks back. The day finished in both book swapping and running form when we had a lovely curry with running bookworms. So much fun.
as we took off down the block
Post-run selfie!
  • Thursday: we got to run together! Cool, drizzly, refreshing run. Liz took me on a tour of her area, which I’d seen through her blog and a photography project which she’s participated in for five years. Great to see it in 3D. I had a good laugh though, Liz was way better about pausing her watch to cross streets, etc. and I’ve mostly just written that off as slow downs. Yet Strava gave me a better pace than it did her. Strava, you’re drunk. Here’s Liz’s wrap, which also includes our run. When I first started blogging about running it was just a diary for myself, then I either linked Liz or she found it and started reading. She introduced me to the Runners’ Bookshelf where I met Wendy, who introduced me to this linkup.  Life is good! I also now have a buff from Liz’s running club, so cool. Over the years we’ve had various discussions on American v. British English terms for things. When she first mentioned a buff, I had no idea what it was. Turned out it was less American v. British and more running English. Oh the jargon, although that really isn’t one.

After running, we headed to explore Stratford-Upon-Avon (where else could two book lovers go?!) Rejuvenated after the train ride back to London, I decided to take advantage of St. Paul’s summer late hours and was treated to an amazing sunset. 6 AM run, gorgeous sunset. Why yes I am trying to pack in all the sightseeing!

  • Friday: last full day in London and the only part of it that I’m willing to call a rest day is the boat ride to Greenwich after doing the Tower of London. Or possibly the 15m squiz back to my hotel to charge my phone before heading to Tate Modern and dinner with a friend who I worked with in Japan 17 years ago. Another 11 miles walking day. See what I mean? Not a rest day.
  • Saturday: knew I had to leave for the airport around 10:30 so I headed out for a farewell run of London. It was a beautiful 60 and crisp. Had to abandon my usual shade running for warmth until I warmed up. It was in three parts (1,2,3) as I also did a few pre-flight errands. Wasn’t long run mileage, but better than nothing and helped me be tired enough to doze on the long flight home. Thanks to AA rebooking I was able to get a direct flight home and was tucked in bed before original connection was to take off. Life is good sometimes.
stocked smoothie fridge
oh hello beautiful East River. I missed you!
  • Sunday: I was actually not up too early time zone wise, but arranged for grocery delivery between 6 and 8AM. Why the urgency? I had no creamer for my coffee. Wasn’t supposed to be an issue as with planned connection I’d have overnighted at mom’s.  Since I was up and it was beautiful, I decided to go for a run to shake out the legs. It also looked to be the last good outdoor running day as it’s to be in the 90s all week. Yuck. The run was OK (I was tired) until my water bottle fell. I thought I hadn’t fastened the top loop. Nope, bottom came undone. I guess it’s to be expected with the weight of a 20 oz bottle bouncing up and down. When I looked up my orders, I realized I bought it on August 24, so it’s older than I thought. Time to find a new one and maybe make peace with icky, dirty reusable bottles. Any favorite hydration belts? Can’t use a backpack as they’re not allowed in NYRR races, which are most of what I do. Also, think the straw would gross me out too much. I ran a little more but had nothing left in me, so met mom for brunch got some girly girl things done and came home to crash.
farewell fair belt!

All in all an amazing trip, and great exercise week. I came home weighing less than when I left, and so many memories. More TK. Although I didn’t end up booking a running tour due to my schedule, I’d recommend London as an active vacation spot. England marked the 4th country outside the US that I’ve run in, 2nd outdoors.

Total 10M Training Mileage, July 31 to date: 55.77 miles.

Review: Michael McEwan’s Running the Smoke

There are a lot of books I’m supposed to be reading: library books and NetGalley queue, to name two sources. I also needed to buy a new book like I needed a hole in the head, but then the London Marathon came around, a conversation bubbled up on The Runners’ Bookshelf and I fell into this book. Liz had the privilege of reading it while en route to London to spectate

Michael McEwan’s Running the Smoke

What an amazing read.

I think what I loved about this book falls into two tracks: that it was a collection of runners’ stories rather than one runner’s story of his/her London training & race and that those featured ran the gamut from world class runners and athletes in other sports to every day people who found meaningful reasons to run the London Marathon. While the elites are always amazing, I can definitely relate more to the everyday runners.

I can’t even begin to pick a favorite as these were all amazing, but the ones that resonated with me the most were:

  • Dick Beardsley & Inge Simonsen’s finish line sportsmanship after running a very close race. Neither man should have lost, and neither did. I think it particularly resonated with me due to Desi Linden & Shalane Flanagan’s sportsmanship in Boston last week.
  • Claude Umuhire’s stories of survival were amazing. The Rwandan genocide is one of those news events that I remember watching unfold on the news and like Sarajevo, it comes back to me when reading. His subsequent struggles with homelessness were just heartbreaking, yet he and the other 25 runners featured here really fought to overcome their challenges.
  • Similarly, I’m in awe of how Jo-ann Ellis and Kannan Ganga ran in memory of their son and partner, respectively, after each passed away due to cancer.  It’s one thing to run with artificial limbs as Jamie Andrew did after his mountaineering accident, but another to run with such a large and fresh hole in the heart. But what a way to honor those gone
  • I loved the sillies, from Lloyd Scott’s deep-sea diving suit to John Farnworth’s football free styling. Not everyone needs a Reason to run, and this was a nice counter to some of the heartbreaking stories that McEwan told so well.
  • 7/7 survivor Jill Tyrrell was perhaps the perfect culmination. Like 9/11 (and later Boston in 2013), 7/7 defined London not in it being a victim of an attack, but for its resiliency. For Tyrrell personally, but all of these runners overcame something, or many somethings to survive and thrive. Almost fitting that Tyrrell and other 7/7 victims were among the first adults treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital since the Blitz, another time London had been under siege.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Although I know that “fancy dress” means costume, my mental picture of these runners was still in a fancy dress, even men running in deep-sea diving suits. Now that would be a sight.
  • I love that these were all edited together in one “voice” and style. One of my pet peeves about International/US editions of books is when they don’t stick in one format. Either do pounds/kilos/stone and color/colour. Don’t mix and match, it’s too confusing and jarring. I have more patience for distances varying as those do even in one country.
  • For whatever reason, I always interpreted “fell pregnant” to mean an accidental pregnancy. It took me a few stories to read it’s the same as US English’s “got pregnant” yet seems so much more elegant.

A really wonderful book, and one I’d wholeheartedly recommend whether or not you have any interest in running in general, or the London Marathon specifically. It’s not exactly a guide to London in the same way Liz Robbins’ A Race Like No Other is to NYC, but it certainly feeds the travel itch.

I’m going to regret asking this due to the size of Mt. TBR, but what other running reads have you enjoyed? If you’re looking for further recommendations, Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home’s Book Club and The Runners’ Bookshelf never let me down.