I started going for (semi-serious) runs when I was living in London, yes I tried running before, in Moscow, and then in Los Angeles, because Victoria’s Secret, LA edition active wear was so difficult to resist. Did you know they do region specific underwear? No, this isn’t sponsored by VS.
London was different for me. It is in London when I first felt my self-worth and decided that I needed to look after my health too, whilst not neglecting my pub visits of course. I have lived at nine different addresses in my time in London, but I think Glen Albyn Road in SW19 was my favourite (and longest, two beautiful years). It was, I believe, a council housing estate, a building which has four floors, if I am not mistaken, they were flats, ours was on the third floor. Sometimes, when my flatmates and I were having a quiet drink in the main room (with some of my music loving flatmate from Somerset and some of his music, so not so quiet), if I was at the balcony, I could see the Wimbledon Central Tennis Court. Life was good, so of course, I wanted to naturally improve it.
My runs started in early autumn, when it was getting cold. I would wear my sports clothes, take my iPod shuffle with me, leave my mobile phone in my room, leave the house and I was out in Glen Albyn Road, making my way onto Victoria Drive, and then I would turn right onto the longest street in the world (that’s how it felt anyway), Church Road. I did my warm-up exercises at home, and when I was in Church Road and cranking up some running music in my iPod, I was ready to get serious. The trees still had their leaves on them, the 39 bus was slowly overtaking me whilst I was picking up speed on the Wimbledon pavements. I would usually make some stops to take a few pictures of my surroundings as I never took them for granted. On the left side of the road people were still practicing tennis, some played golf, if I had to come closer and look through the green leafy fence, I could also see the Wimbledon lake glistening in the rare autumn sun, welcoming the coming sunset.
Church road is very steep when it nears Wimbledon village, when you’ve run past all the tennis courts on your right, you would see the Dairy Walk passage, which I never entered and I still wonder what lies at the end of that path. At this point I would just walk up the road, not run, always forgetting when I needed to make that left turn. Then I would see all the cute little coffee shops of the village, as well as some unknown but extremely expensive designer shops, where you would probably see people, the likes of Kate Middleton, now the Duchess of Kent, rummaging lazily in the few railings of outfits that were worth seeing the Queen in. Pudding* at Buckingham Palace anyone?
I would see the Dog & Fox pub that has been a neighbourhood icon since 1800s, and that’s how I knew I was in the High Street, and was now going down the road, not up, running again, past all the chain shops that tried to look like they belonged in Victorian England blending in with the building facades. I saw Starbucks, and Pizza Express (which is pronounced “pizzarexpress” if you’re a true Brit), past Cafe Nero and charity shops, and a couple of English banks, towards Cath Kidston at the roundabout, which I never quite understood. Cath Kidston has never took a warm place in my heart, although it was supposed to, as it was (and is) so quintessentially British.
Wimbledon Hill Road houses lots of beautiful buildings and estates, in which I always wanted to live, and was even considering moving into when I’m older. I never knew how much older, and whether I would find the money to move into these beauties, with my kids going to the best grammar schools in London, with my husband wearing a smart business suit for his work somewhere in the City**. Oh yes, I actually had thoughts like that in my head, I am not just writing it for the sake of it. I was silly and such a hopeless romantic. Some would say an idiot.
So I was running downhill towards Alexandra, a nice pub that has a good pub garden on the roof in the summer months, something of a Wimbledon institution too, but, honestly, there are better places to go for a drink in here. I would usually reach the Alexandra and turn back, leaving behind me Wimbledon Tube Station, as well as the Tramlink, that I only used maybe twice, Centre Court shopping centre where I bought my first amino acids for workouts, Wimbledon police station, where I registered with my latest London address at SW19, a Tesco’s, Marks & Spencer’s, TK Maxx and Uniqlo, and other coffee shops and craft stores and simple stores which make London London. In Wimbledon I always loved London for what it was and for what it wasn’t – so British and so wonderfully international, so afternoon tea and so chicken curry for dinner, so village-y and so cosmopolitan. I loved every bit of it and I still do.
Thanks for reading x
My running playlist back then included (and still does):
Pendulum – Watercolour, Immunize and Witchcraft. If you run with a relative speed like me, these songs work better with our breathing.
*Pudding – just another name for “dessert”
**The City or the City of London – is a name of the original business district in London.