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Hyde Park

Hyde Park, London.

In October 1987, I started a new job, the first day of which saw my family and I on a plane to London from Melbourne.  Temporarily, my new company rented accommodation in South Kensington where we lived for three months, our five-month old baby sleeping on a small mattress behind the sofa in the tiny apartment.

We were close to Hyde Park, and my morning run became a double circuit of the historic park.  It was an interesting time to arrive in England, just two weeks after the Great Storm of 1987, which felled an estimated 15 million trees across the country.  Hyde Park had suffered greatly and walking around the park the weekend after our arrival, was both awe-inspiring, to see what nature was capable of, and saddening, to see so many gracious old trees upended.

Broad Walk, Hyde Park.

Fortunately for my running, the main paths were soon cleared, especially since it was winter and my morning runs were in darkness.  There was some lighting in the park, but not very much, and generally I just had to trust that if I stayed in the middle of the path, I wouldn't encounter any obstacles.  Occasionally, I would meet a runner or walker coming the other way, and a couple of times last-second evasive action had to be taken.  It was in the era before headlamps, and I never carried lights, or worried about light-coloured clothing.

As you would expect in a London winter, there were plenty of cold, foggy and/or drizzly, mornings but strangely they are the ones for which I'm most nostalgic.  That weather, darkness, London, and running, are inextricably linked in my memory.

Hyde Park at night.

The 14km course was relatively flat, and at the time I was quite fit, so usually ran it in around one hour.  The run to the Park along the broad Exhibition Road, passed between the historic Natural History and Victoria & Albert Museums.  It was very gradually uphill, and that always helped me warm up.  By the time I got to Hyde Park, I was rolling and always worked hard on the gradual climb up Broad Walk to Kensington Palace, and then, after cruising along the northern side parallel to Bayswater Road to Speakers Corner, would stretch out down the eastern edge of the Park next to Park Lane.  Occasionally, I would see horse guards exercising on South Carriage Drive in the early light before turning out of the Park and heading home.  In later years, when I no longer lived in the UK, I would always try and get in one run around Hyde Park whenever visiting London for work.

After yesterday's exertion, I walked an easy 5km today.  My right Achilles tendon is still sore, but I'm hopeful it will have improved enough to run tomorrow.