Wednesday, 6 July 2011

the art of running without pictures

one sunday morning last july my friend anna came over for brunch and on a whim we decided to work up an appetite by going for a run. the last time i had run was 7 years earlier and even then i lacked conviction. that sunday morning in july i was out of shape, but we continued to meet up for conversation and runs around haggerston park.

haggerston park was created in 1956 on the site of derelict housing, an old tile factory and gas works. something about the park feels slightly older though, and i always assumed it was laid out in the 1930's. the area of the park i ran in is surrounded by a wall, which gives it an intimate and timeless feel. the people who come to the park seem to have a purpose, they are there to exercise, walk their dogs and occasionally to shoot up. there is less of the sauntering that goes on in nearby london fields.

summer drew to a close, anna left london and i was still running only 2 or 3 rounds of the park at a time. then came along my friend flip, who works for the nhs (that beautiful thing the tory government is trying to disassemble). flip is fit, she runs effortlessly and although she managed to build up her routine without it she recommended the nhs couch to 5k podcast.

the podcast does exactly what it says on the box: it takes you from your couch to running 5k or 30 minutes continuously. someone called laura talks you through every podcast, accompanied by the best soundtrack the nhs could buy. laura's voice is soothing and calm and without her i may not be running now.

haggerston park started getting small and soon flip, laura and i found ourselves running around london fields. london fields' claim to fame is its mention in the song being a dickhead's cool, and although there are still plenty of dickheads there, if you're nimble enough they are easily avoided. however when it comes to parks and running size does matter and since finishing the nhs podcasts i have graduated to victoria park.

victoria park was created in the 1840's after 30,000 people petitioned queen victoria for a park in the area. the park was supposed to increase the quality of life of the local working class population. to call myself working-class would be a stretch, but a loop of the park is about 6km, and the effect on the quality of my life is larger still. the increase in my lung capacity has been accompanied by an expansion of the space i have to think in.

and after listening to 9 weeks of nhs classics perhaps the biggest reward is to run to your own playlists. my current list looks something like this:
  • the seed - the roots
  • i saw her standing there - the beatles
  • my sharona - the knack
  • where is love - eldridge holmes (featuring the lyrics: here i am, but where is love?)
  • e-pro - beck
  • kom in de cockpit - spinvis
  • this charming man - the smiths
  • don't mess with my man - irma thomas
  • warsaw - joy division
  • i need a dollar - aloe blacc
  • paarse overall - het klein orkest
  • via con me - paolo conte
  • wolf like me - tv on the radio
  • isla de encanta - pixies
  • i wanna be your man - the rolling stones
  • lapdance featuring lee harvey - n.e.r.d.
  • posters - jack & jeffrey lewis
  • dom, lomp en famous - the opposites featuring diwa
  • evil - interpol
  • seven nation army - the white stripes
when i was very little my best friend's mothers played paolo conte. run, dance, eat; there is very little you cannot do to his voice.