French Bloke Runs

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Tag: Thames

The Muslim Runner and other regulars

Some time ago, I talked about the regulars I meet in my morning runs, and how it compares to regulars in a pub. Well, like with pubs, I don’t go to just one and I meet other regulars on my other everyday route: the one I do rollerblading (yes, I’m unfaithful to running).

Rollerblade in London photo by IanVisits

Rollerblade in London (it’s not me) photo by IanVisits

Unfortunately, on this route there aren’t many other rollerbladers – I only met 3 or 4 others since a year and a half I’m going from Greenwich to Farringdon on eight wheels – and I think I’m the only one doing it several times a week.

Look at me bragging! I actually didn’t start blading to earn bragging rights, but only because I’ve loved it for more than twenty years. But I realised it looks somewhat cool and quite often there are people turning their heads and children shouting their surprise and admiration, which kinds of pumps me up when it happens. Kudos to all children I can inspire!

Don’t get me wrong, I also get a lot of abuse, especially from drivers who are pissed off that I use cycle lanes (why they care, I don’t know) or the road. I once even received a string of insults from a Spanish cyclist on a Boris Bike who said I was dangerous because I was too slow ; how ironic when you know that cyclists on Boris Bikes are notoriously dangerous in London and thatI go faster than them more often than not. But cyclists are generally supportive, especially since I wear protective, reflective and hi-vis gear like them.

Apart from the lovers (gonna love) and the haters (gonna hate), there are other people I come across very regularly. Most mornings, I can see the Muslim Runner going the other way. I have a lot of respect for him (especially since I run myself) because he’s quite old, he’s always running with some kind of a large tunic and he’s always there, on the Thames Path.

There’s the big bearded and tattooed cyclist (I should say biker) whom I cross almost systematically under the greenwich foot tunnel. It’s funny, because he looks like such a rebel but he’s wearing a bright yellow hi-vis vest and he’s very kind – he always holds the lift’s doors and has friendly words. I like this contrast.

You should know that I meet Santa Claus quite often as well. This one has a bright yellow hi-vis jacket rather than a big red coat, he’s riding a Brompton folding bike rather than a sleigh, and he’s fitter, but the long white beard is exactly the same so I’m sure it’s him. Shame I don’t have a picture to show you, I should think of taking one when I skate through Greenwich University.

Along the Thames, in Sir McDougall Gardens, there’s the Tai Chi Lady. She’s an asian granny who was also there every morning, repeating very slow and precise martial arts movements, but I haven’t seen her since last fall. I hope it’s only because it was too cold and that I’ll see her again soon.

Finally, there’s the occasional fox that I cross if I’m lucky. I love seeing them, they’re beautiful animals and surprisingly numerous in London! I’ve even heard there’s a lady-fox and her cubs somewhere on my route, by I’ve never managed to see them…

Rollerblade morning commute

I feel lazy this week, so I’ll just show you a video I made last year. I’ve already mentioned that I sometimes go to work on rollerblades (less and less, since I run more and more). So I asked Draculito to lend me his GoPro and here’s the result:

I think this is a pretty awesome commute and I always love doing it !

Sunrises are underrated

You know that during the week, I usually run in the morning (that’s when I cross paths with other regulars). This means that since November, I’ve been running during night time three times a week. Although, I kinda like the eerie atmosphere and the uncanny feeling of owning the city, running in the dark becomes gruelling after 4 months.

Luckily, the Sun has finally decided to show up earlier since a couple of weeks, and I’ve been lucky enough to see some pretty awesome sunrises over the Thames. I love the atmosphere at this moment, seeing the sky lighting up is like seeing a face lighting up when someone sad gradually changes their frown into a smile. In some regards, they’re even better than sunsets because you feel privileged: the city is really peaceful and very few people get to see them. Besides, physics of the atmosphere make the temperature drop slightly before sunrise, so sunrises give you actual goosebumps!

Sunrise in London

Sunrise in London – Photo by Marcus Holland-Moritz

A strange side effect of the change in light is that the first couple of times, I did not recognise some of the places I’ve been running in for 4 months and I even missed a turn once! Actually, seeing a particular area during daytime helped me understand why I saw so many cats (and even a fox once!) in this place: this block is a dump! The bins are always half-spilt on the streets and the frontyards are never cleaned… Don’t worry, the rest of the Thames Path is great and I still love running it.

I would definitely not change my running habits from morning times to evening: not only am I privileged and I now get to see sunrises, but it also give me a dose of energy for the whole morning (admittedly, I sometimes doze off after lunch). Anyway, running in the evening makes it hard for me to get to sleep.

The Polite Runner and other regulars

Streets are like pubs, when you visit them often enough, you become a regular. In both cases, it’s a bit scary and worrying for your health (if you run that much you should start worrying for your mental health). And being a regular yourself, you start knowing the other regulars.

Most mornings of week days, I cross paths with the Polite Runner. I don’t know him personally, but I know I’ll see him on the Thames Path sometimes around 6:40am on my training days. I usually see his headlamp from afar (it’s still dark this time of the year). It’s a good thing I always cross him when I’m either warming up or on an easy run, because I still have full breathing capacity when he says ‘morning’, so I can pretend I’m polite too and reply ‘morning’ without choking.

There’s also the Beefy Lady who’s training almost every morning with her coach. I’ve never seen her run, but she’s got heavy-looking dumbbells and she does pretty hard exercises. I like to think that she’s a weightlifter or that she has a strength act in a circus.

There’s often a very tall and strong guy who’s always wearing a bright yellow hi-vis shirt. I imagine him as one of these hated “lycra” cyclists going to his City job (or more likely Canary Wharf) as Senior Bullshit Manager or as Director of Bollocks. Shit, I’m almost describing myself, except I’m not as tall and strong as he is, and I’m rollerblading rather than cycling. So hopefully I’m not as much a bullshitter as he is.

In a pub, you also meet the occasional patrons. It’s the same thing in the street. Once, there was this dad telling his little girl: “look how fast the man runs” while I was running intervals. Great way to give you a boost!

I also remember this walker-by who didn’t look like much, but who gave me one of my biggest confidence boost. It was back in the day, when I was still running heel-strike and I hated running. I must have looked like I was suffering a lot (which was clearly the case) because when I passed him, he told me in a calm and soothing voice: “You’re doing well, you’re doing well”. And this gave me the willpower to finish my run despite the suffering. Kind Mystery Man, if you read me, thank you.

More recently, I met a not-so-polite driver. This twat came out of his alleyway too fast, nearly hit me, and started cursing at me although I was the one who stopped to avoid the tragedy. I innocently said hello with a two finger salute, I don’t know why but he seemed upset. The poor sod went berserk and tried to drive after me but never managed to catch me despite his frenetic accelerating and braking whilst bumping in the curb. I just ignored the idiot and went my way. Luckily, I met the Polite Runner just a minute after, we exchanged our short greetings and it was enough to make me forget the sad episode I’d just lived.

What about you? Do you meet quirky regulars on your runs?

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