Let's get out of town, we said, 'find somewhere we don't really know and run back home from there'.
Barnes is posh. One of those moneyed suburbs that you feel like you're going to get thrown out of for not wearing a tie. The pubs advertise rugby matches, not football. Every other car is a Range Rover or even a Porsche. And as we walked from the station down to the river (where we would start from) Andy overheard a toddler waxing lyrical to his mum about what 'value for money' Jamie's Italian was. They were standing near a sign that read 'Jazz Brunch'.
Before we started, we'd taken a detour to take a look at the memorial to Marc Bolan who had crashed into a tree just off Queens Ride and died, back in 1977. Fans erected a statue to him 25 years later and in that time, it looked like they'd begun to confuse him with Anita Dobson. It was a strange little thing that shrine, with fading postcards and rain-smeared nik-naks pinned to a noticeboard and, next to the statue, a box full of old sunbleached paintings. A woman in a Renault Espace beeped her horn at us and gave the thumbs up. Glam.
But the run - the run! It was almost fun, you know. Almost. We started off by the river and immediately ended up on a long and winding muddy path where everyone else seemed to be out for a run, too. It was was interesting to be in a part of London that (even after 18 years of living here) felt like a different city entirely (albeit one where you wear your collar up and go rowing), and we kept the river on our left as we slowly but surely passed the bridges at Hammersmith, Putney, Fulham, Wandsworth, Battersea. All in all, it felt like a decent enough shift.
(Also: When Andy and I have run together before, we usually talk - or more accurately, whine - but this time we decided we'd need our mouths shut and our headphones in. Listening to podcasts helped for me. With music, I alway seem to end up with an unnatural tempo to keep up with, or I stop listening entirely and start thinking about the run itself. Spoken word requires that I listen, and so I don't have to think so much about my legs or how tired I am. Yet again, 'This American Life' proved fascinating and in parts, annoying.)
And I had no idea that there was an old Harrods Furniture Depository near Hammersmith Bridge. It's a beautiful building but ,Like with everything else, it's now flats.
An hour or so in, we took a break at the Peace Pagoda in Battersea Park and drank a cup of sugary tea under its gilded statues, before heading towards London Bridge and planning to play it by ear from there.
That cup of tea was when it started to get harder, I felt, and we ran a little slower after it. Perhaps it was because we had a better idea of where we were. More likely we were just knackered. But seeing the crappy spike of The Shard rising up above the rooftops genuinely made me think that 'oh, I know how long it is now' and the 'can't be arsed' voices in my head turned up their chatter. Also by then a lot of the buildings had gotten really, really dull - all these glass riverside properties with nobody in them - and less distracting. It was like running past a never-ending Bathstore showroom.
At Battersea Bridge, we had crossed onto the north bank of the river and run via Parliament Square, where I lost Andy in the midst of an Occupy protest. It was pretty tough to get by with the pavements clogged with those V for Vendetta masks, but once through, we crossed back over the river at Blackfriars and ran around the back of the Tate Modern (because the South Bank was stupidly busy and - again - tough to get by without having to stop and say either 'excuse me, excuse me, excuse me' or, if the mood took you, 'fucking move, would you').
An original plan had been to run all the way home but at London Bridge we knocked it on the head; tired, but also aware that we had to be careful about how far we're running when we go out. More experienced friends have said that it's easy to get carried away with it all, keep running and end up injuring yourself. So instead we bought some Yazoo chocolate milkshake (it made sense at the time) and got the train home. I was shattered - but then I should have been. We'd ended up running a few kilometres shy of a half marathon, after all.
Twelve more weeks to go now. Christ.
Distance: 12.5 miles/ 20 km.
Time: Minus that cup of tea? About 2hr15m.
Total distance (Andy): 60 miles/ 86.3km
Total distance (Elliot): 73.9 miles/ 115.8km