Even though I’m an Irishman currently living in Paris, lately I’ve had London on my mind.
This year’s London Marathon a couple of weeks ago, from the couch-and-TV perspective, was highly enjoyable and enthralling to watch – the post-Boston sense of purpose, the startling water-station collision between Olympic marathon champion Tiki Gelana and wheelchair athlete Josh Cassidy, Mo Farah’s controversial ‘half-marathon’, and the dramatic finale of the men’s elite race.
Added to all that, the glorious sunshine made London and its marathon look attractive indeed.
So, last Monday morning I entered the overseas ballot for entry to the 2014 London Marathon. Fortunately, I got in just before the ballot filled up after only a couple of hours online.
Of course, I could have avoided the ballot altogether if I had only shaved 27 minutes off my finishing time at last year’s Paris Marathon. It was a bit galling to see that I’m not considered ‘good for my age’ – a standard that guarantees a London Marathon place to the better runners of all generations. Perhaps I can use that as motivation.
Now I just have to see in October if I’m one of the lucky entrants to be offered a place in the race.
Well, I must admit that I couldn’t wait. A couple of days after entering the online ballot I was in London – and just like Mo Farah I went for a run in anticipation of the 2014 marathon.
I was staying only a few minutes from Hyde Park, which was too tempting to resist. So, I got up at 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning and headed straight for a run.
It was a perfect morning for running – mild and with light sunshine that hadn’t yet worked itself up to overheat or dazzle. I entered Hyde Park from near the Albert Hall and set off towards Hyde Park Corner, with the aim of doing a lap.
At that early hour I saw only one or two other runners but the most prominent figures in the park were mounted cadets of the Household Cavalry – like me, out for an early morning trot. On my left, the interior of the park was a serene expanse of grassland and trees – you would hardly think it was at the heart of a great metropolis.
On Park Lane the red double-decker buses were more plentiful, as the morning commute began – and so also was Hyde Park seeing more runners, fitting in their training run before heading to work. Cyclists began to pop up too, combining training with commuting. Thankfully, Hyde Park has clearly-signalled ‘no cycling’ paths which saves runners and cyclists the sort of collision that did for Gelana and Cassidy in the marathon.
Along the Bayswater side of Hyde Park, happy and carefree in an uninterrupted rhythm, I was going at a strong clip. By now, almost 7:00 a.m., there were a lot more runners – and the occasional pedestrian commuter. Walking to work through Hyde Park might seem like a pleasure, except for the fact that you’re still walking to work – I’m sure plenty of tourists in Paris have come home with holiday photos of the Opera or the Louvre, only to find me in the background trudging to the office.
Around I came by Kensington Palace to finish my lap of Hyde Park in around 30 minutes. Still hungry for more running, I decided to continue with a lap of the Serpentine lake in the centre of the park. This is normally a training stronghold for London’s triathlon community, but on my morning run I saw no one near the water – only the ducks.
Some other running tourists had arrived in the park – a couple carrying cameras while they jogged. Encountering another troop of cavalry cadets beside the Serpentine, the pair of them jogged backwards right in front of the trotting horses to take pictures, with no thought of being run over should someone have shouted ‘Charge!’. (I admit, the thought crossed my mind.)
Anyway, unlike the London Marathon there were no collisions during my Hyde Park run. I enjoyed it greatly and I hope to be running in London again, preferably for the 2014 marathon to take on Mo Farah!