Since acknowledging my failure at running, I’ve decided to do something about it. As our quote of the week says: “Success is not the absence of failure; it’s the persistence through failure.” This is the first installment of the Running Diaries.

Habit forming

There were many reasons I had failed to run regularly since moving to London, but it all comes down to the fact that I wasn’t making time for running. I’d convinced myself that I had no free time, when in reality I was prioritising everything else over running, leaving no room even for a short jog around the park. Running had stopped being a part of my routine. I needed to make it a habit again.

So, what part of my routine was I willing to sacrifice? I wasn’t prepared to give up socialising, Game of Thrones, cooking tasty meals, or keeping my clients happy. But surprisingly, I wasn’t particularly attached to my crowded, repetitive commute: I decided I was going to start running home from work.

Great idea, not enough gear

It took me several weeks to put my plan into action because I didn’t have a suitable running bag. I’m trying really hard to “buy nothing new”, so I didn’t want to order one on Amazon. But as I’m a professional charity shopper, I found a great running bag in my favourite charity shop for just £10. It’s got all the straps, clasps, breathable materials and reflective strips you could possibly imagine.

 

Homeward bound

With no more excuses available to me, I carefully packed my favourite running leggings and my Half Marathon finisher’s top (so everyone at work would know I’m not an amateur) ready for my first run home. I spent an inordinate amount of time checking the route on Google Maps throughout the day.

After hurriedly changing into my running gear in the bathroom, I sheepishly returned to my desk feeling thoroughly out of place in my holey old leggings. The Ooohs and Aahhs of several colleagues when they discovered I was running all the way home caused me to feel a confusing mixture of embarrassment (please stop looking at my ugly old running clothes) and pride (yay me for being a functioning adult and finally fitting exercise into my day).

Exiting the building, I felt nervous with anticipation, which is ridiculous considering It’s about 6km door to door – a pretty average distance for a run. But it was my first time running in inner London, and I still haven’t fully shaken off my Northerner imposter syndrome, which often rushes back to me when I’m stood in the middle of a packed tube carriage, attempting to decide where to go for lunch, or trying to find my way to a new part of the city on my own.

What am I doing here in this massive city? There are too many people, why are there always so many people? Who do I think I am, running home in my activewear, like some kind of pretentious clean-living show off? But London can smell your fear. So I put on my game face, and acted like I do this all the time.

I tightened all the straps on my new bag, started my Strava, and set off. I knew the first section of the run from previously walking to Angel, so I felt confident and set a good pace. There was even enough space on the pavement for everyone. When I joined Upper Street I did some speed window shopping, and passed about eight bars that I would have loved to stop at for a pint.

At Highbury and Islington there was a human traffic jam next to the entrance to the Underground, but I successfully avoided succumbing to jogger’s rage and made it through without so much as shoving an innocent passerby under a bus. I continued north, running past the Arsenal stadium and onto the main road near our flat. Arriving home jubilantly only 15 minutes later than usual, I babbled away happily to my neighbour while I stretched on the pavement.

 

One of us

Running through a city is a completely different experience to what I’m used to. Previously, my runs were a time for solitary contemplation, heading through empty fields and footpaths, where I’d get lost in my own daydreams and often go into a trance-like state, following familiar routes on autopilot and reanimating only when my feet found their way home.

In London, every sense is on high alert – weaving between people, checking over one shoulder for traffic, anticipating where to cross the road, trying to locate the source of an enticing waft of barbecuing meat, admiring shop window displays and trying to remember the names of new bars to visit. While it doesn’t have the same relaxing, meditative qualities of past running routes, my run home makes me feel truly connected with London like nothing else has.

 

Over the first hurdle

My first run home was a great success. I didn’t get lost, I didn’t fall over, and I realised that most parts of the route home aren’t actually as intimidating as I’d imagined them to be. I’ll definitely be making running home a part of my routine. Check back soon for my next instalment of the Running Diaries, and follow my journey from failure to fitness.