Unofficial London Half Marathon

It’s been a busy but interesting weekend in London with The Wife.  We were greeted by @richinvitc and @nowmrssills on Friday night after a relatively trouble-free journey, who were cooking a beef pie.  It was delicious and set the tone of our weekend of catching up.  We started Saturday with some merguez sausage sandwiches, fine produce of Bakers Butchers that we had exported to London.

The sky was blue but the wind was working for Jack Frost, biting at our faces.  The lake in Battersea Park was frozen and the ducks were having bemused fun under the watchful eyes of a couple of herons.  We walked up to Sloane Square and then on to Knightsbrige to get the bus to Covent Garden.  After a quick stop in a shop or two we were back on our merry way down to the Embankment and then onward to the Tate Modern.

After a spot of lunch we took in some of the exhibitions before heading on to our next form of transport – the Thames Clipper down to Greenwich.  It was the first time I’d been on the river and it was great to see so many of the landmarks from a different perspective.  Once we were back on land it was time to get another perspective – we hiked our way up to Greenwich observatory to take in the view across London before the sun set.

As we wandered our way back down into Greenwich some friendly squirrels came out from the undergrowth to say hello.  Or actually, beg for food!  One came right up to me but when it realised I had no food decided to try The Wife.  It was brash – it climbed her leg almost to her hip until it realised that she too had no food and scarpered!

We had plenty of time before dinner so we had a couple of cheeky drinks in some of the Greenwich establishments.  Having noticed that Newcastle United failed to show up for their game at White Hart Lane I was keen to get to The Old Brewery for our meal.

The Old Brewery is a bar and restaurant found in the old Royal Naval College and is run by Meantime Brewery.  The service and food was delightful, and all the menu choices come with notes on beers that compliment.  The only two shames were they’d run out of the Meantime Prague Dark beer and we were all too full after starters and mains to taste the desserts.  If you’re anywhere near Greenwich I heartily recommend a visit to the Old Brewery.

Our return trip on the boat offered a third different perspective on London.  The fourth would be seen after a good night’s sleep.

This morning it was an early start to ensure a long run could be fitted in, especially after I missed an interval session this week!  Rich was up for joining me so once he got the gammon on the go we were off into Battersea Park.  Most of the snow has gone but there were some still some dodgy patches following the arctic conditions of Saturday.  We did a lap round the perimetre of the park and then a loop round the ponds to clock up 5km and having said goodbye to Rich, I made my way back through the park to cross Chelsea Bridge to continue my run along the Thames.

I had in mind that 11km would take me to 950km on my running challenge for Maggie’s and that I had missed a 5km session this week so I was looking at doing at least 16km but also wanted to cover as much of the Thames and the sights as I could.  In the back of my mind I wondered if I could beat my current record distance of 18km.  Maybe even stretch to the 21km of a half marathon?

I won’t go into every little detail but I wanted to cover a couple of things that were interesting.

I’d lost sight of the Thames as I approached Vauxhall Bridge so decided I would cross the river here and make my way to South Bank.  As I turned the corner it first looked like roadworks, but then there were too many Police.  And there were people wrapped up warm in in casual clothes but with walkie talkies.  Then I spotted a big, black, brand new Jag with a couple of Police cars with blue lights flashing and a huddle of people and TV cameras.

Why was David Cameron doing an interview outside the home of the Secret Intelligence Service, or MI6 as you might know it?

So I decided to pause and ask a walkie talkie man what was going on.  He answered with the obvious “We’re filming.”  So I asked “Anything in particular?” to which I got the response “James Bond.”  Awesome!  I jogged on with goosebumps and tried to see if I could see anyone famous but alas couldn’t see much from my side of the bridge.  Spurred on by the thought of “Skyfall” – the new James Bond film – and being able to say “I saw them film this bit” much to the annoyance of whoever I’m with at the time, I plodded on at a controlled pace.

The many bridges over the Thames provide temptation to curtail one’s run but I wanted to see how far I could get and my target was to cross back over at 13km, which would mean I would be on for a half marathon.  I wasn’t brave enough to head as far as the Millennium Bridge at the Tate or Southwark Bridge so crossed North on Blackfriars bridge at 12km before heading back West via Cleopatra’s Needle and Westminster.

Having cut over the river short of 13km meant I needed to do another lap of Battersea Park to reach the half marathon distance but now I was looking at the time – I couldn’t believe it: I had a chance of hitting a 2 hour half marathon on the first time I had run the distance since 2006!  I knew, as @marathon_pat reminded me, that it wouldn’t really count as a PB but that didn’t matter – this was a massive run, the unofficial London Half Marathon!

The last kilometre was hard!  My legs were heavy, my joints aching and my shoulders tight.  I gritted my teeth and managed to keep the legs going and hit 21km at 2:00:11!

A great run was followed up by another delicious meal before saying our goodbyes to Gemma, Rich and London and heading home.  The legs are a bit stiff and I’m not looking forward to tomorrow but it’s worth it.  I’ve reached another milestone in my year of running and what a way to mark 6 weeks to the climax of my challenge!

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