wow, just the title’s a mouthful!
When I got the email about the Automattic’s WorldWide WordPress 5K, I thought it was an awesome idea! I hate running, give me weights any day, but I like to work on my weaknesses (or I like to think I do!) and I thought I’d give it a whirl.
The rules were simples:
1. run 5k
2. between 23 and 29 April 2012
3. post it
I gave it some thought, and realised that I could either go for a good time, or I could have a beautiful run in central London where I’d be hampered in my time by tourists, traffic, pedestrians and photo-opportunities. Of the two, I decided to go for the latter, and chose a route that went right through central London.
I figured as long as I did it in sub-30 I’d be happy, because I knew I’d have to dodge the tourists which would inevitably be dotting the footpaths, and I’d also have to stop and take some pics!
Here’s the run-down of how it went.
I started off on Strand, just east of Trafalgar Square.
It was the wildest, wettest, windiest day in a wild, wet, windy week, so I set off at a good brisk pace to try and warm up!
I tootled past Savoy Street, the only street in London where cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. It’s ’cause that way passengers could get out without getting wet, way back in the day. It’s been able to stay that way because the road is actually private property so it isn’t subject to the national road rules.
Next was the Aldwych, on the eastern extreme of Theatre Land and just on the boundary between the City and the West End (for non-Londoners, we have a city within a city here – the City (capital C) is a square mile to the east of central London, which was previously walled and which is subject to the bylaws of the City of London. The rest of us live in plain ole London!).
Then it was on to legal London, past St Mary-le-Strand and St Clement Danes, the two “island churches”. St Mary-le-Strand is the first, and it’s been there since 1714, although there has been a St-Mary-le-Strand near the site on-and-off since 1222! It’s the official church of the WRNS and it’s absolutely stunning, though personally I prefer St Clement Danes. That’s even older, having been built in 1682 by Sir Christopher Wren, although it was nearly destroyed by fire during the Blitz and had to be rebuilt in the 1950s.
It’s the central church of the Royal Airforce, but my favorite thing about it is the bells – they’re absolutely beautiful and happily right by the court which means I get to hear them a lot. It claims to be the St Clement’s from the nursery rhyme, but it’s got competition in that since at least one other also claims that title!
Next stop – the Royal Courts of Justice.
These are the civil courts (aside from the Court of Criminal Appeal which also lives in the building) and I used to get to spend loads of time here. However, the Rolls Building recently opened up round the corner, and now the Commercial and Mercantile Courts, which is where I mainly work, moved over. Sadly that means that I don’t get to spend as much time here any more, but it’s still my favorite building in London.
Once I’d past the RCJ – which is so big that it crosses two postcodes and straddles the West End and the City – I was down onto Fleet Street, which used to be our centre of journalism. Actually, all the journalists have moved out now and it’s mostly legal London these days, but there are reminders everywhere of its heritage.
I also cheekily ducked down an alley as I passed Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese – an inn/public house has been on the site since the 13th century, but the present building was built in the 17th century, after the Great Fire of 1666 burned down the one before. I have to say I’ve been there for a few – er – quiet ones, and the atmosphere takes some beating! It’s also made for people as short as me, which I find a fabulous novelty.
As I came back out of the alley where the Cheshire Cheese sits, I got to run down Fleet Street with this rather splendid view:
Definitely inspiring, but I took a bit of a detour just before I reached St Paul’s Cathedral to visit the Central Criminal Court, or, as it’s better known:
This is where criminal trials are held (the bigger national cases are heard here, together with our own London criminal trials), and it’s a beautiful building. It’s got a bit of a chequered history though – it’s done time as a prison as well as a court, and public hangings outside it were totally common until 1868.
The statue on top’s also a bit controversial – obviously it’s Justice, complete with scales and sword. However, she isn’t blindfolded, which causes traditionalists to get a bit sweaty.
Going to the end of Old Bailey, I did a quick loop round the block and ended up at St Paul’s.
I absolutely love the story of how St Paul’s came to be constructed as it was. It’s a Wren church (like so many of them are, that boy did a whole lotta building), and Wren was determined to have a dome on it. However, in Protestant England in the 17th century, domes were considered strictly Catholic (the horror!) and English churches weren’t to be defiled by such dreadfully Papish decoration.
Since he wasn’t getting his plans approved, Wren submitted – on about his third go – a more traditional protestant, cross-shaped church to be erected on the site, and everyone was happy. He commenced work on the building, getting all the builders to work in a sort of scatter-gun kind of fashion, so that no-one knew what anyone else was doing. Finally, when work was so far along that it couldn’t be undone without hideous expense, he calmly admitted that he’d never intended the cross-shaped church to go ahead. The only way to use the building work which had been done was … to put a dome on top! Heheheheh. I feel I would’ve liked Wren a lot.
Anyway, it was time to turn round again and head back down Ludgate Hill towards Blackfriars. I looked longingly at Blackfriars tube station …
… but continued on to the Victoria Embankment, from where I had the following view over to South Bank.
I giggled to myself as I saw the Oxo Tower (probably looking slightly mentally deranged) – Wren wasn’t the only one to rebel, and when the Oxo Tower was built, it was illegal to advertise on the side of one’s building. Oxo managed to get round that with a rather unusual design …
I ran along the Embankment, considering for a moment helping myself out by hopping onto a Boris Bike – that’s how we roll in London.
I rejected the temptation, knowing that I was about to enter into the Middle Temple (made famous by The DaVinci Code, but also somewhere I spend an awful lot of time because that’s one of the four inns of court where the barristers hang. They’re a brainy bunch round there in Middle Temple and we use their fountain of knowledge a lot!
I had to bypass the Temple itself as it was gated off, being Sunday. But I got to go up these pretty awesome stairs … imagine how many people have walked up and down these over the years. I think the clue’s in the shape of them …
After a quick run up Essex Street, past a bunch more barristers’ chambers, I ended up back on Strand, battling with the narrow streets, roadworks, umrellas and hordes of people (most of whom looked at me in horror, and who can blame them? They were wearing wellies, winter coats and waterproof hats, I was wearing really quite shorts and a sleeveless running vest. I’m sure I would’ve been committed if they’d dared to come near).
I passed the old Alwych Station, which is a disused train station on the Piccadilly Line. There are loads of these old ghost stations throughout London – sometimes you catch a glimpse of them as you hurtle past in a tube and it’s always a bit unnerving!
This one isn’t a true ghost station though, as trains don’t pass through. It’s had a fantastic history, even though it’s always been a bit of a bust as a station – it housed the Elgin Marbles during WWII, together with a whole bunch of people during air-raids, since it worked double-time as an air-raid shelter. These days, although it hasn’t been in use since 1994, it has a real live running train (actually a Northern Line train) which just lives on the line so that it can be used for films.
Finally, after a brisk jog back up Strand, I was back at work where I’d started out. I managed to do it – including taking pics and retying my shoelaces 1 billion times – in 29:32 so I was happy with that. It’s not my best time by a long way but I don’t usually stop to take 30 pictures on the way!
To celebrate, I treated myself to a lovely filter coffee from Starbucks, which I cuddled all the way home on the tube. Still wearing my shorts and running vest, though at least I added a hoodie (which probably increased my chances of being arrested and/or forcibly added to the loony bin by 100-fold actually, who wears short shorts and a hoodie?!).
And that was it! The Automattics 5k 2012 was over for me. I’m already looking forward to next year!