/

/

Run in London - Canary Wharf tour, making of

To create urbirun tour, I sometimes have hard times … Sure. I do research, I spend hours on maps, I travel, and I run … And if urbirun guarantees you the best route and the best views, it does not guarantee the weather … nor the stomach …

In short, suddenly when you’re in London to prepare tours, you have to go, never mind how British the weather is…

So I ran… and you’ll find out why I had to run really fast, I’d say, as fast as I could, considering the circumstances …

Arrived in London at the end of a rainy morning of March, 24 hours after the expected arrival, due to winter air delays, I have 2 urbirun routes to validate during the weekend. No time to put the 2 feet in the same running shoe…

Short stop to put running gear on at the place we were staying, and I left early in the afternoon, on a subway heading to Canary Wharf.

Canary Wharf is an ultra-modern business district, which has resurfaced on the former docks of what used to be the busiest port in the world, after almost 30 years of almost abandonment, following the displacement of the port further east, after the construction of the Thames Dam in order to reduce the effects of tides in the city. Between 1996 and 2006, the active population in the neighborhood was multiplied by 9 …

And so, it is in the middle of a beautiful set of buildings that I leave a very modern subway station, all glass …

Still it’s raining and it’s really cold … But hey, it’s London, and it’s the first weekend of March, what did I expect…

The buildings grew on the docks, between channels and basins of the port. So I run along South Dock, towards Blackwall Basin, and I arrive at Poplar Dock Marina, where I can see many of these very narrow and elongated barges, typical of the British canals. The former surrounding sheds have been converted into housing, and I run on a pretty promenade, without cars, without noise, and without anyone in fact … It is very quiet, desert.



But for sure, it’s a not a weather to go outside, except for a runner, of course … And I do not feel great, not so fit. I feel weak and tired, but it will pass, I know it happens sometimes, to me as to each of you, isn’t it?…

urbirun guides me through the Isle of Dogs to the banks of the Thames. On the opposite bank of the brownish river, I see in the haze the structure of the O2 Arena. I run along the Thames on a pedestrian promenade, that goes almost all around the Isle of Dogs. It’s really a great place for running, but the wind, the rain and even the ice pellets at times make the experience moderately pleasant, and I look at the brown waters of the river, trying to convince myself that I will soon be under it…

And indeed, after 2km on this promenade, I reach a small tower where the audioguide lets me choose between the standard version or the short version of the route. I pick the standard tour, and I follow the instructions: I enter the tower, and I go down a spiral staircase to the entrance of a tunnel. Or rather a tube, inaugurated in 1902, to connect Canary Wharf to Greenwich. 400m long (1/4 of a mile), it’s a straight pipe, that runs under the river… I am under the water, but it’s the driest place of the day… I enjoy this accalmy and the beautiful perspective of this unusual construction, and I am sure that I will not often have the opportunity to run under a river…



I come out on the south bank of the Thames, in Greenwich, near a historic three-master ship, the Cutty Shark built in 1869. She is the last remaining of the famous Tea Clippers ships, and she broke the world speed record in 1871, returning from China to London in 107 days…

And I think that a tea would do me good. I feel more and more weak and cold… but since I’m soaked, the best is to continue to finish the tour as soon as possible, and go back to take a hot shower and put on dry clothes.

I climb the small hill of Greenwich, along a broad avenue lined with trees, and I arrive at the Royal Observatory of Greenwich, which was for a long time the reference place to determine the time around the world. It is no longer now, and the building has become a museum on the wall of which one can see all the stallions of distances: foot, yard, etc…

The Observatory is at the top of the hill overlooking a large park, and offers a beautiful view of the Docklands and the East End… except today, as I enjoy a beautiful view of the mist… I run down through the park, and I reach the Queens House, that King James I had built at the beginning of the 17th century as a summer residence for his wife Anne of Denmark, entirely in classical renaissance style. I enter the Queen’s House Park, run under a colonnade, and come out through the main gate as a distinguished guest.

The route then takes me around the next block, making me bypass the University of Greenwich and the Royal Naval College, which for centuries trained the British naval officers. All of these buildings have been arranged so that from the Queens House you can still see the Thames. The Naval School was transferred to the south coast, and its old buildings now house the National Marine Museum, and even the uniform that Admiral Nelson wore when he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Trafalgar.

Back on the banks of the Thames, I still do not feel better, and I look forward to being briefly safe in the tunnel. I cross the river, as fast as I can, and that’s not fast at all, northbound…

Then I continue along the Promenade around the Isle of Dogs, stomach bulk, shivering, I try to go as fast as possible, hoping not to have… well, short, signs remind me that it’s even forbidden for dogs to do it here, so I’m going to try to restrain myself … I’m alreadypreparing the sentence I would say if someone surprises me crouching at the foot of a tree, because I will not be able to hold… I let me guide, hoping to quickly encounter a pub or any kind of toilets. But it’s a very quiet residential area… and nothing is in sight…

It’s when I feel totally hopeless  that I see the Hubbub Bar & Kitchen. I rush to it, and luckily, right inside, I’m in front of the bathroom door… I get into it shivering… and I save my honor for only a sec… Alleluia … I tremble, I am frozen and exhausted. I know now that I have the gastroenteritis of the year, but I have to continue… 2–3 kilometers to go to the closest underground station …

I run along the Milwall Outer Dock Basin and then the Milwall Inner Dock, whose docks are still embellished with some old cranes. I cross the basin by the Glengall Bridge an old Dutch style tilting bridge guarded by two beautiful towers. Renovated in 1990, this bridge is a star of the boat chase that can be seen in the James Bond movie The World is not enough.

I keed running painfully in the rain, and facing such a wind that my cap flies twice as I am going back to the South Dock. I feel in a frozen hell… I cross the elegant footbridge of South Quay without taking the time to appreciate the structure, and I get into the station like a zombie …

The underground return trip bis a long, shivering prayer for my stomach to resist until the arrival. It does. Back in the apartment, I shower, shaking as hell, and slip into bed … where I will not come out occasionally, to bring a hell of life to my lover… for the next 36 hours…

But I can enjoy the next hours deep in bed, to remind me this run and considering that despite these health issues, it’s a really very very nice route.. And do not worry, if you run it, I promise you that it will be much more pleasant for you than for me …

NB : You can find this tour here, and there are other tours in London and in many other cities
 

Top of the page