My plan was to run 18 miles. I asked the concierge at my hotel if he had any ideas of where to run and he pointed to Hyde Park on a map. But he added, with a warning, it is a little ways to get there, about 1.8 miles. I told him that was fine and thanked him. Starting at about 6pm on a Sunday evening, the streets were packed with shoppers and tourists and cars. It was slow going and I was only able to run in short little bursts. Finally, I got to Hyde Park. It was only 1.2 miles.
Hyde Park has miles and miles of trails criss-crossing it and it's a very lovely place. I ran around it and across it a couple of times when I started feeling unmotivated and tired and bored. Hyde Park has a lot of trails, but the park itself doesn't feel very large after 45 minutes of running back and forth. I had gotten almost no sleep during the entire 10 hour overnight flight. I had gone straight from the airport to the hotel, immediately got dressed and was out the door for the run, so I was feeling tired to start with. I was thinking as I got to around mile 6 that I would be lucky to make this a 12 mile run. It was just going so slowly.
I thought I might do another lap around the park and then see how I felt. I put on my head lamp as twilight was coming on and the sun had set. I was wearing my hydration pack and long-sleeve Boston Marathon shirt. (Sorry, Coastside Running Club, it was a bit chilly to be wearing the short-sleave club shirts!) There was a really nice public restroom that was well-lit and had video cameras at the entrance; I only had to find a tree once all night.
Finally, I decided to go exploring. There are many helpful maps stationed around Hyde Park and I picked an adjacent park. I think I saw St. James's Palace that had a Queen's Guard (with the big furry hats). Moving on... I saw another street map showing that I was close to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Cool! I head off in that direction, take some photos. Things are looking good mileage-wise -- I'm up to 10. So, I decide to run down the Thames River for 2 miles, turn around and head back, and it should total to about 18 by the time I got to my hotel.
The Thames River was lovely at night with plenty of pedestrians, lovers, bicyclists, and even a few police. It felt safe even as I got into an industrial area. I was drinking pleny of water, taking a salt capsule every 45 minutes or so, and eating an energy gel every 45 minutes, too. I was feeling good and not running too fast. I stopped to use a restroom at a gas station and he replied, misunderstanding me, "restaurant?" I corrected myself, "Do you have a toilet I could use?" 'Lavatory' also would have worked, but they don't call them 'restrooms'. Business taken care of, and I was off again. I finally turned around at some small park.
At mile 16, I suddenly felt a blister and it hurt. I don't often get painful blisters, but for some reason my left little toe got pushed against the next toe and had already lost a layer of skin. It was red, raw, and angry. It took 3 stops to get it taken care of, but I was lucky that I could transfer a bandaid from one of my big toes. (I sometimes put bandaids on my big black toenails, getting tired of explaining them to guests at our house.) The pain went away and I was comfortable again by mile 18.
Feeling good, I get to a corner of Hyde Park that I thought I recognized and I only had 1.2 miles left to go. So, it should be 19.2 for the night which was longer than planned, but fine. Around mile 20, thinking I was very close to home, I stopped at a convenience store and bought some food for dinner -- a box of healthy cereal, soy milk, and two bananas. Everything just fit into my running backpack. Yay. I continue on.
I start thinking that I don't quite recognize where I'm at. I keep looking for a street sign to verify that I am really on Oxford St., but dang it, I could not find any. They just don't do street signs here like they do in California. I stop and ask someone. He looks at my map that I was carrying and points to a spot in the air about six inches off of the side of the map in the wrong direction of where I wanted to be. Doh! He asked where I was going... I said "Great Marlborough St. eventually, but if you could get me to Oxford St., that would be great." Oh, man, how did I do this? I had somehow wrapped around Hyde Park instead of going straight. The guy thought it might just be 3 miles away. I thanked him and continued.
I still felt fine and was drinking plenty of water and not running too fast. I would have liked another Gu, but I had eaten all 5 that I had brought. Another 15 or 20 minutes later, I still don't see Hyde Park and I had taken a "short cut" to get there. Fortunately, I hadn't gotten off track yet and another helpful pedestrian pointed me in the right direction.
I came across an Underground Station (subway) and probably would have used it except I couldn't see a way to pay the fare of 4 GBP ($8) except by coin or credit card and I only had cash. It turns out that the machine takes the paper bills but with an unusually wide slot that wasn't labeled; I thought it was for a pass card of some kind. I saw that my destination was only 3 stops away, so I continued. I ran out of water but the night was cool and I felt fine. Finally... I made it to my hotel, feeling good and tired, but not particularly sore. 25.6 miles in about 4 hours 18 minutes of running. That doesn't count the bathroom stops and the grocery store stop.
Today, I felt great and did plenty of walking. It's a confidence booster that I was able to cover that distance pretty easily. Let's hope the rest of the week goes well and I don't get lost any more!