Running closes up the distances between landmarks, reveals new and interesting vistas and helps you to orientate yourself, (albeit, in my case, more often than not through the act of first getting lost). Seeing other runners on cross-city routes and sharing a knowing nod or smile also makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself; you become one in a team of many who take the same strange, slightly-sadistic, pleasure in donning their trainers and escaping along routes leading nowhere.
Going for runs in New York helped me to navigate Central Park and narrowed the gap between the East and West Side, Uptown and Midtown. It made me feel more at home in the city and allowed me to claim paths and tracks that I may not otherwise have ventured down. The Great North Run permitted me to tread new ground in Newcastle and to see a different side of a city, which I had previously only known for the Baltic and shopping!
Closer to home, my lunchtime route around London passes some of the most iconic landmarks of the city – Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, the South Bank, the Globe, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s, Trafalgar Square and The Mall – and has helped me to piece together disparate segments of the city, which before I had only accessed travelling below ground.
This week I have been able to add Edinburgh to my list of city runs, taking a jaunt up Arthur’s Seat and a jog around Holyrood Park. Although the slog up the hill was closer to a walk than a run, the view from the top (and the run back down) was certainly worth it! The remaining route uncovered some of the most beautiful views and getting out into the chilly, sunny morning set me up for a day of work and a long train journey home.
Getting out on these beautiful and varied runs has started the cogs working on a new personal challenge, (of which, more to follow), and has also been invaluable in my rehabilitation process.
I have to admit, getting back into my healthy regime post injury and America has been trickier than anticipated. There is no denying that not being able to run as far or as fast as before has hit me hard. On some runs, when my chest feels tight and my limbs start to ache, (sensations I’ve not had for some time), I’m having to consciously remind myself that I do actually like running! I’m lucky that I have such supportive running partners who are happy to go slightly slower and shorter on routes while I build my stamina back up and I know without them the process would be so much harder.
At the moment, getting my head back in the game is the biggest stumbling block. While my running companions seem to have no doubt that I’ll soon be back up to speed, I feel less certain. For the first time in a long time I feel self-conscious when I run and embarrassed that I can’t blitz a 10km in my lunch break or that my times are even more pedestrian than before.
So, I have decided to set myself a challenge to stay motivated.
I have 1 year, 1 month and 4 days until I turn 30 and in this time I want to run in at least ten new cities. These can be either in the UK or abroad, although I am setting the rule that at least 5 have to be outside of the UK. The distances are unimportant, but I have to tread new ground, map the route and capture it in at least one photograph.
I have a business trip to Frankfurt lined up in October and the marathon in Paris in 2015, so that just leaves eight more cities to find. I’m hoping that I can recruit an equally foolhardy companion or two to join me on some of the runs (don’t all jump at once!), but I’m also ready to face the challenge alone and to dedicate my annual leave to the cause.
City suggestions and volunteers are welcome and I’m looking forward to taking my trainers travelling.
Let the challenge begin!