Archive for November, 2016

It was raining. The temperature had dropped a good 10 degrees since the previous day. It was only just after 5.30 but it was already as dark as it was going to get. And I’d been planning to go for a run. Hmm.

run-in-rainIt’s very easy when faced with this kind of scenario just to give the whole thing a swerve and choose the glass of wine and Masterchef option. It’s an option I have taken many, many times. But this time, I chose the run. And this is how I turned a miserable cold wet evening run into, well, a distinctly more bearable cold wet evening run.

Tip 1: There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes. We’ve all heard this old saw before, and while it’s clearly wrong, there definitely is bad weather; I was looking out the door at some world class shitty weather, there is a valuable lesson in there too. I’ve got pretty good at judging the right combination of clothing for the conditions over the years. For cold and wet you need:

  1. Warm, long sleeved base layer. This is usually enough but might need t-shirt over the top.
  2. Waterproof jacket. These are amazing. First time I ran in the rain in one of these I almost wanted to run exclusively in the rain just to experience the joy of not getting soaked. Almost.
  3. Shorts not leggings. Legs don’t really get wet. And like it or not, men just tend to look weird in leggings.
  4. Hat and gloves: Thin running gloves. Some type of beanie style hat¹.

Tip 2: The right music. It was good luck rather than good judgement, but the moment I set off I got Dreams by Fleetwood Mac popping up on my trusty iPod shuffle. This transported me to a sun-drenched road in Laurel Canyon on an August morning in the mid 1970s. Surprising the magnitude of the effect. You can pick the era that most reminds you of sunny summer days².

Tip 3: Positive re-framing. The idea is to think of future runs. After a run in really appalling weather, you’ll be able to tell yourself that future runs just aren’t going to be as bad. You can even try and run in the worst weather you can find just to set your bench mark . Now the awfulness of this run becomes the counterweight to other potentially bad runs.

Tip 4: Embrace the misery. Suck it up. Remember what Nietzsche says: what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger. Or if you’d rather be inspired by something less aggressively übermensch, Dorothy Parker, who when asked if she liked writing replied that no, she didn’t like writing but she liked having written. Cheers, Dot. Now get out there; it’s only water!

¹Word of advice, if it’s a woollen hat, don’t put it in the washing machine. I did this with my hat and it took on a rather peculiar shape which when worn now makes my head take on a rather peculiar shape. I now borrow my wife’s hat.

²The other song that instantly came to mind for this was one-hit-wonder Owen Paul’s Favourite Waste Of Time. Doubtless you will have your own ideas.

Advertisements

The Victoria Linetube-map

Total distance run: 14.5 miles

Time taken: 2hrs 25 mins

I am planning to run the London Underground. Not in a Transport for London kinda way you understand, but  in a trainers on feet and iPod shuffle in ears kinda way. I’m not the first person to try this (these guys have done it too) but I couldn’t find that much info about people who have. So if you’re thinking of taking it on, or if you’re just interested in some dude running through various parts of this great city of ours and writing about what he saw along the way, read on, my friend.

The Victoria line seemed like an obvious place to start; only a little more than a half marathon, it wasn’t too challenging (some of the lines, I had discovered, are really, really long) and it was one of the lines that runs through my part of town in north London. It was only a short hop to get to my starting point of Walthamstow Central.

It was a glorious Sunday morning, with the sun high in the sky and not a cloud on the horizon. I knew the route fairly well and was sure that once I’d made it through the Badlands of Waltham Forest, to somewhere around say the Badlands of Seven Sisters, I’d  be able to get myself all the way down to Brixton without having to spend much time on Google Maps.

Things did not begin well.

walthamstowI emerged from the underground into Walthamstow Central bus station and looked for what I thought was the road I needed  to get me to my second stop, Blackhorse Road, but… nothing looked quite how it had on my phone five minutes earlier. I crossed over the road and back again. I consulted the many maps indicating exactly where I was, but then I couldn’t find the actual roads. Less than five minutes in to my new venture and I was already freakin’ lost.  This did not bode well.

Eventually I found my bearings thanks to a helpful old lady who’d spotted my confusion and offered her local knowledge

Walthamstow is rather pretty. A little like a lively rural town, with teashops and hanging baskets outside the pubs and an air of quiet sophistication. Which was somewhat misleading because within a few minutes I’d left all that behind and found myself running along a grimy industrial corridor with a of canal of toxic effluent on one side and the imminent danger of being flattened by lorries thundering past on the other, lorries whose drivers were clearly not expecting to see any kind of pedestrians and had consequently taken the position that running one over could not reasonably be blamed on them.

But it was barely ten minutes to Blackhorse Road and from there about the same to the transport hub of Tottenham Hale. None of this part of the route was pretty. But then pretty was not necessarily what I was after. I was keen to see the parts of the city that would otherwise have remained merely dots on the tube map. To be honest, I wasn’t going to be heading back here with the family for a day out any time soon, but running through it was great. It was exactly what I’d been hoping for.

For the next section I was back in familiar territory, running down past Finsbury Park and then along the hidden pathway by the railway line, coming out by Arsenal tube station. At Highbury and Islington I stopped in at Costa Coffee for a macchiato and a bacon roll. One hour down, six miles done.

From here it was a route right through the centre of town. Kings Cross, no longer the dilapidated, crime-ridden location of a thousand “your mum…” jokes of the days when I’d lived there in the early 90s, now a stunning development of arts centres, restaurants and beautifully designed public space. Euston, Warren Street, Oxford Circus and Green Park where I stopped to refuel, this time just a Lucozade Sport from Boots¹. I basked in the sunshine of Green Park and dodged the hoards of chirpy foreigners in front of Buck House before heading done the long road that led past Victoria to the river. And it really felt long. I was at mile 12 by this time and starting to feel it.  But the site of Vauxhall Cross up ahead spurred me on; the British Intelligence Service was not built on an attitude of quitting just because your feet were starting to hurt a bit, oh no. Once across the river I was back in uncharted waters; I live in north London, we don’t venture this far south unless there’s a compelling reason. But rather than stop to check Google Maps I trusted my wolf-like navigational instincts and ran on into the unknown. This was in part due to a desire not to be set upon by a gang of thirteen year old hood-rats, beaten to the floor and robbed,  a fate more than likely to be befall anyone in this part of town seen in possession of any item of value, who is not themselves in a gang or obviously armed.²

Keeping my wits about me I ran on through the surprisingly charming, wide leafy boulevards of Kennington and Stockwell, taking a left turn at Stockwell tube. A mile further and I was on Brixton High Street. 14.5 miles, 2 hours 25 mins and the first line was done.brixton

¹Not entirely sure the bacon roll at mile 6 had been a good move.

²Authorial postulate.

 

 

coffee-repIt’s no secret that I spend a lot of time in coffee bars. I write in them, I stop off for a quick espresso during long runs, I eavesdrop the conversations of random weirdos. And I like the indies and I like the big guys, but rarely does one place get everything right: great coffee, happy staff, nice décor, good food and so on.

I think Coffee Republic gets the closest.  I reviewed the Finchley branch a while back, but just a few weeks ago we got one in Muswell Hill. They’re competing against the big three¹  all within a few hundred yards and they win on most counts. Starbucks usually feels spacious and Californian², Costa has the best coffee and Nero has the nicest food but has ridiculous opening hours (6pm? Really? You’re kicking me out at 6pm? So, like, I’ve got to go home now?³)  Coffee Republic has good coffee, the politest and most affable staff and the food is really good. It’s just variations on the panini kind of thing, but I haven’t hit a bad sandwich yet. This one img_4121281 was the ham hock and mustard, the least exciting I’ve had so far and still really tasty. The Muswell Hill branch doesn’t have the bare brickwork and stripped wood NYC feel of the Finchley branch  and tbh the lighting’s a little brutal, but it’s still my no.1  choice in the N10 ‘hood right now. Go take a look, if only for the charming barista crew!

¹That’s Nero, Costa and ‘Bucks not Woodrow Wilson, David Lloyd George and Georges Clemenceau, the key players at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, in case there was some confusion.

²I know they’re from Seattle, I’m just saying it feels Californian.

³And they can be a little, you know, brusque about it too!

 

As I mentioned recently I’m taking Allthemacchs in a different direction for a little while. I’m going to be posting about my running and in particular about my plan to run all the tube lines on the London Underground. tube-map

I’m not going to abandon writing about coffee bars, in fact my next post will be about the new branch of the fabulous Coffee Republic (here’s a previous post about the Finchley branch) that’s just opened in Muswell Hill.

But there will be more posts about running.

If like me you like to run and if like me you live in a big city (or a small city I guess; I’m thinking maybe Brighton? Bath?) then I hope I can share some tips for running the urban trails. Over the years I’ve run many organised races, ParkRuns, 10kms, marathons and even an ultramarathon, but recently I’ve been looking for something a little more… bespoke.

And to be honest, cheaper and with less people around. Call me a grouch but I really like running on my own.

The idea started a little while back when me and my good friend, Sticky decided to run the length of Broadway in New York City, which, it turned out is pretty much exactly a half marathon. I like the idea of combining running with sight seeing; you can stop off for a coffee or a taco or to watch some buskers or whatever. It all just seems like a more relaxed deal that the organised race thing. I’d been quite inspired by reading a couple of books by ultramarathon superman @DeanKarnazes who likes to do crazy shit like run all night long then order take out pizza to be delivered to wherever he happens to be when he hits mile twenty, so he’s got the fuel to run home again.

Exploring other cities seemed obvious, but what about my own backyard? Of course I’ve run around London for years, but tbh I usually stick to the same routes. The London Underground seemed like the perfect challenge ¹  .

Okay, maybe not perfect; a cursory glance at the tube map and a few minutes on Wikipedia revealed that some of these lines are really, really long. Ultra marathon distances. But, you know, that’s the nature of a challenge I guess; it should have some measure of er.. challenge in it.

I searched around and found very little in the way of help and advice. There were certainly a few people who’d done it, mostly raising fantastic amounts of money for charity, this guy, and these guys, but considering how many people run in London, I was surprised there was so little out there.

So now I’m doing it too².

Next post: It begins: The Victoria Line.

Anybody else had a go at running the London Underground?

Or have you got any other interesting running projects?

 ¹ I guess I should be absolutely clear here to avoid a misunderstanding, but I’m talking about running the tube lines above ground.

²Although not for charity. Huge respect for people that do; I have done so for marathons I’ve run in the past but I just find the whole business to be a massive pain in the arse. If you’re inspired by my endeavours, maybe just go and drop a fiver in some homeless dude’s hat or something.