Running the London tube lines – Part 4: The Circle Line

Posted: December 11, 2016 in London underground, running, running tube lines, ultra running, Writing

 

tube-mapThe Circle Line
Total distance run: 16.5 miles
Time taken: 2 hours 56 minutes

‘Thanks for coming, but you’ve just missed it,’ said my neighbour a little breathlessly as I jogged towards her at the foot of Broadgate Tower in the heart of London’s financial quarter.

‘Damn. Did I? That’s a shame. Damn,’ I shook my head, slowing up until I came to a stop in front of her, her husband and daughter. I decided to come clean. ‘Sorry, missed what?’

‘I just abseiled down the side of that.’ She pointed up to the top of the 33 floors of the building high above us.

‘Fuck me. Really? Well done.’

‘Isn’t that why you’re here?’

It wasn’t. Now she said it I recalled the email I’d received a week or so before informing me of this feat of ridiculous bravery in aid of charity. I’d been suitably impressed  at the time but to be honest had quite forgotten about it. Total coincidence then that I happened to begin my circle line run moments after my neighbour had hurled herself down the 165 metres of sheer skyscraper. Small world, huh?

I began the circle line run at Moorgate. moorgateThe third of my London underground runs and at an estimated 16 miles I figured on around about 3 hours. Once I’d waved goodbye to the neighbours I continued on through the City, admiring the public art in the form of huge angular sculptures, and the glass and steel canyons that rose up around me. I love running through this part of London at the weekend; it’s often virtually deserted and feels like being allowed to mess about in the office after everyone else has gone home. There’s a beautiful mixture of old and new, as the 18th and 19th centuries rub up against the 21st, every square inch of space pounced upon and swallowed up.

It wasn’t long before the shiny new buildings began to lose ground to the old and battered ones around Middlesex Street, home of Petticoat Lane market, and the heart of London’s old east end. This was the area once known to its residents, (my grandparents and dad amongst them) as the tenterground, a reference to its roots in the textile industry of the 19th century and the frames or “tenters” used for drying dyed cloth¹. It’s a part of the city well worth a leisurely stroll around to spot the hidden history of London’s immigrants through the ages.

But today I had places to be. Even if that was technically just to get back to where I started.

I ran past Aldgate² tube station and down to Tower Hill. The route turning West then took me along the north bank of the Thames, which is a little trickier to navigate than the south bank. For some years now there’s been a continuous path along the southern edge of the river, allowing you to run for miles without interruption. Not so to the north. From mile 2 to  mile 4 I was dodging up and down paths and alleyways as I tried to stick as close to the river as I could. There were pedestrian walkways that suddenly ended with aggressive spiked gates belonging to some bank or other private corporation who think it’s okay to keep people from accessing the best parts of the city. Well, it’s not okay! Give us back our river path you mercenary fucks³.

By the time I got to Blackfriars it got a little easier and I ran along the embankment towards the Houses of Parliament and then along Victoria Street, past Victoria Station and barely getting lost at all, ending up at Sloan Square. I stopped for a quick espresso on the King’s Road before turning north once more as the circle line begins to make it’s way back around to where I’d started from. Over the years I have seen many famous people on the King’s Road: Kylie Minogue, Bob Geldof, Dolph Lundgren. Today was no exception and I passed a very grumpy looking Professor Brian Cox⁴.

The next moment, as so often occurs on my runs through London, I was transported back to days of youthful shenanigans. This time I found myself following the route that I used to cycle at two in the morning, drunk on tequila, from my Mexican girlfriend’s flat in Chelsea to the nearest all night shop by South Kensington tube to buy cigarettes; it’s a miracle any of us make it past our twenties!

As I made my way up through Kensington I ran along Launceston Road which I’m claiming to be the prettiest street in London. From  Notting Hill it was a right turn and I was heading back eastwards with a little jiggle to get up to the northwest corner of the circle line at Edgeware Road. From then on it was an uneventful and traffic heavy four miles or so along Marylebone Road, Euston Road and Farringdon Road and back to Moorgate, a shade under three hours on the road.

Next time out I was  going to be taking on one of the monsters: Northern Line here I come!

 

¹And from whence we get the phrase to be on tenterhooks.

²’Aldgate East, all git out’ as my east end dad used to say.

³I’m a big fan of the place hacking movement, the idea that the city shouldn’t be closed off to the people who live in it and that a no entry sign or a locked gate should be viewed as a challenge not an impediment.

⁴I mentioned this later to a friend, Brian Cox’s grumpy expression, who replied, ‘No, dude, he was probably just thinking really hard about the universe.’

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  1. […] Running the London tube lines – Part 4: The Circle Line […]

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