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Isle of Dogs

The Greenwich Foot Tunnel
For a couple of years in the late 1980s, I had begun working for a new employer in London while still living at Chappel in Essex, a little over an hour's drive north east of London.  My new employer had two offices in London where I needed to spend time, one at Watford in north London, and the other in Docklands, a new development on the Isle of Dogs.  The giant Canary Wharf project in Docklands was in financial trouble and the whole development had pretty much stalled at the time.  My memory of the place at the time was of bleak isolated business parks, wintry rain squalls, the wide brown Thames River, empty blocks and vast wastelands.

The old Royal Naval College at Greenwich with Greenwich
Park including the Royal Observatory in the background
Because it was a long commute and prone to traffic chaos in peak hour, I developed the habit of leaving home soon after 5:00am and driving to the office in Docklands from where I would go for my morning run.  Although it was an apparently forbidding place for a run, my regular 10.5km run was full of interest and contrasts that remain clear in my memory.

The early kilometres were across the Isle of Dogs through narrow streets that were a mixture of poorer residential and businesses until I reached a large wasteland that has since been developed into Mudchute Park.  Here I ran along dirt and grass trails across the vast wasteland to reach the new Islands Garden railway station and the Greenwich Foot Tunnel and joined the foot commuters crossing under the Thames.  The Tunnel was a highlight of the run, with a spiral staircase at either end of about 100 steps and the tunnel itself nearly 400 metres long.  I can remember striding out along the tunnel, dodging round pedestrians, and then running up the staircase at the end, taking the steps two at a time and trying to maintain my momentum.

The modern day Isle of Dogs
At the Greenwich end of the Tunnel it was like entering a new world, or maybe old world, characterised by the stately buildings of the old Royal Naval College and Museums, wide pedestrian walkways and the famous Cutty Sark tea clipper dating from 1869.  My route passed by these scenic highlights and entered the famous Greenwich Park, home of the historic Greenwich Observatory.  I ran a lap along the paths inside of the park, which included a significant hill from which there were views north across the Thames, and then returned to the Tunnel and retraced my steps to the office.  There I would quickly have a shower, some toast for breakfast and start my day's work.  Unfortunately, in those days there was only one road route into out of the Isle of Dogs, so to avoid traffic jams I often stayed late at the office, occasionally wondering whether I should just sleep in there overnight to save the commute.

I visited the Isle of Dogs in 2012 while attending the London Olympics, and the place has been completely transformed into a vibrant business centre.

My right knee is still proving difficult to flex quickly and awkward to walk on, so I decided to have another day off training.  I will try walking a few kilometres tomorrow to gauge how much it has improved.