Running the London tube lines – Part 5 The Northern Line

Posted: December 21, 2016 in London underground, running, running tube lines, ultra marathons, ultra running


Northern Line

Total distance run: 21.3 miles

Time taken: 3 hours 45 minutes

So in case you’re late to the party, I’ve been running the London tube lines. For fun. Well, and to keep fit, and because there’s probably going to be some sense of achievement when I’ve run them all and because I kinda wanted to see what was going on at Theydon Bois and so forth. But mostly for fun. Running the London Underground network might seem like quite a thing to do, and as I was now discovering, it was. Quite a thing.

So far I’d run the entire length of the Victoria Line, the Bakerloo Line and the  Circle Line¹. Not insignificant runs, for sure, and at just under 17 miles, the Circle Line run had been a good day out. But now it was time to start taking down the big ones. From here on in runs were going to be 20miles and more. And just like Christopher Walken says in True Romance while gradually beating Dennis Hopper to death, “This is as good as it gets, and it aint gonna get this good again.”

The Northern Line, like several of the tube lines, is actually more than one line, branching off to end at two separate destinations.img_4036 I chose to begin at Edgeware rather than High Barnet, partly because I think it meant a slightly shorter run, but also because I wanted to see that part of town. I’ve worked in roughly that ‘hood for many years, but I rarely leave the office. It felt like it would be good to get to know the place. And there was a little family history to check out too. Around 70 years ago my dad had lived in Burnt Oak briefly, as a consequence of the upheaval and transience that accompanied the chaos of war on the home front. So my first stop was a little terraced street that probably didn’t look all that different than it had in 1942.

There wasn’t much else to hang around for in this part of town, and my next destination was the Grahame Park housing estate, a sprawling collection of 1970s clapboard houses and low-rise concrete blocks, built on the site of what was once Hendon Aerodrome. I’d wanted to run through here as it was notorious at the school where I worked as being home to the institution’s more ‘challenging’ students. And from the tales that circulated around the schoolyard, running through it was going to be a better option than walking through it². It was actually surprisingly pretty, the clapboard houses giving a sort of New England feel to the place.

As I emerged from Grahame Park into Collindale the scenery changed again and I was in the middle of a full blown gentrification: upscale flats and expensively landscaped public spaces. It was one of the most fascinating parts of my tube runs, to see how rapidly the city changed, from urban squalor to swanky millionaire pads in a heartbeat.

I made my way across the north circular at Brent Cross and after a short period where I wasn’t entirely sure where I was, I soon popped out into Golders Green. From here I was fairly confident of the route, at least until I crossed the river. I stopped for an expresso in GG to give me the necessary boost to run up the hill to the top of Hampstead Heath. From there it was a long straight run down through Belsize Park, Chalk Farm, Camden, Mornington Crescent³, another brief stop, this time for a cheeseburger at Warren St. McD’s, down Charing Cross Road and over the river at Embankment at around mile 12. I ‘d ventured into south London on a couple of the previous tube line runs and I knew my knowledge of the geography was a little shaky. Of course I had Google Maps, but whenever I can I like to rely on my wolf-like navigational powers. And so it wasn’t long before I as lost again. Honestly, I swear they change all the roads around down here every few weeks.

I think it also had something to do with the effects of the run; by the time I hit Stockwell  I was struggling. I’d left it too long in between fluid stops and I was paying the price. It was only around mile 14 but I definitely hit a wall of some kind. I was having trouble picking my feet up and nearly went down, snagged on a dodgy paving stone, a couple of times. It was still another 6-7 miles before the end of the line. But a shot of Joe and handful of my go-to snack for the long runs, Shot Bloks, at the tiny little café in Stockwell tube station and the world suddenly seemed a kinder, more forgiving place. There is no doubt that one of the key joys of city running is that you’re never far away from an espresso and some kind of food. And if you can hold out long enough that food can usually be whatever you like and not just some grainy muesli bar. I was on the look out for tacos. Not only were my fuel levels back up but as luck would have it, or maybe the running gods, as I set off on the long road to Morden, I got Taylor Swift on my iPod shuffle, who, it turns out, I totally love!

Aimg_4039nd it was a long road, down through Clapham and into Tooting (there’s another good example of how quickly the feel of the place can change), a right turn at Collier’s Wood tube and the last mile around retail parks, roundabouts, past South Wimbledon station and the final slow climb up Morden Road to Morden tube station, last stop on the Northern line. When I tried to buy a bottle of Lucozade Sport and a banana with plastic the man in the shop began to shake his head and point at the ‘minimum purchase with card £10’ sign, but he stopped, smiled and said, “Okay, you look like you’ve come a long way”.


¹Can you technically run the length of a circle? Doesn’t sound quite right, but you KWIM.

²I don’t want to exaggerate the level of criminality in the area but over the years that I’ve taken field trips with my sociology students to look at examples of  crime prevention through environmental design on the estate, we have run across a police raid on a block of flats in full swing (the kids thought I’d set it up!), a still burning moped in the local park and a decidedly unsettling man carrying a large sword.

³Although as I’d previously agreed on playing reverse diagonals (Zatopek variation), technically of course I should have gone via Somers Town).

  1. I love this… it needs more attention from the running mags, its such a great idea!

  2. […] Running the London tube lines – Part 5 The Northern Line […]

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