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Two days after my riot-run and I am primed for my LSD. In the morning I have nine miles to fuel for and run before midday. I eat cereal, toast, a banana and sit down for a couple of hours. Rain begins to fall. I never like stepping out into it, but love running in it once I am warm and calm – too long though, and the soles of your feet begin to wear away inside your shoes. I hope my feet don’t get too wet too quickly. London is still recovering after its nights of rioting so I head towards Peckham (where there have been riots) and adjacent Dulwich, Lady Thatcher’s old constituency, where there haven’t. But there is something wrong. By the time I reach the bottom of my road (about a hundred metres) my legs feel like they are running on some stability-testing fairground ride. I am breathing heavily. I turn the corner and outside the Riley’s snooker hall on the wide pavement there are sizeable dollops of horse shit. It is hard to think of a landscape less suitable for horse riding than the raging noise, metal and concrete of this junction. But here they must have been, crowd controlling Lewisham’s bottom feeders. Within half a mile I am beginning to think that I might be sick. In fact, for all the full stops in the rest of this post read thus: ‘and I still feel that I am about to puke’. I struggle through the first mile, convinced that the heaviness of my lungs and heart will pass at any moment .(. – and I still feel like I am about to puke).
The weight of whatever it is sticks to me, hangs on me. I fight. I could cut this run to four miles, and sneak in this nine tomorrow, at some point – though I don’t know when. No, you came out for nine, that’s what you’ll do. Bing, mile three. Some boarded up shops and estate agents off Peckham Rye, but I’m not interested. Mile four. I feel like I am carrying a cannonball on my stomach. I am carrying water, which I HATE having to do, but I cannot drink any of it, feeling more stuffed than during post-prandial games on Christmas Day. So I have to carry the full bottle and I can hardly breathe my heart is beating so hard.
Into Dulwich and there are no signs of riot damage. I pass a bright blue and old-fashioned drop-crossbar ladies’ pushbike chained to a lamppost. It has had its front wheel stolen – I hubristically wonder if this is as bad as it got, here. But Dulwich has two things to say in return. One, no – and I know this because twenty yards on I can see a big queue outside a shop. The high street is deserted except for this. As I get closer, I see that it is not housewives queueing for rations in the 1940s, they are waiting their turn at the local locksmiths. Two, revenge. Leaving Dulwich and heading south, there is a huge hill. All of the miles so far have been run slower than 10 minutes. I climb this hill so slowly that I might have walked up it, backwards, at a faster pace. How have I got so far and held my breakfast down? The scene is suddenly offset by the sight of Enid Blyton’s house. It all seems so far away from the endless summer of her vision of England. Climb. Climb. Climb. I pass the Horniman Museum, a name that always makes me snigger for puerile reasons. Left, my head tells me this must be north. The sun in the sky is only a dim memory behind this thick concrete of cloud (and still I …). The hill cannot possibly continue further up, any higher and I will be through the cloud cover. Then, ahh, Mrs Jordan’s house. I always knew she was hidden away around here somewhere. Mrs Jordan was an actress in the early nineteenth century, and was the mistress of William IV, one of the two incompetent kings fathered by George III. The thought strikes me, could it be this horni-man that the museum is named for. My spirits obviously easing. The road slants away from me, slowly. It is a blissful sight. I am over an hour into the run, and although the nausea eases, it does not subside entirely. Now it is only helped by the slow and easeful pace aided by the curve down to Forest Hill.
This is the worst run I have done that did not end in, or was cut short by, injury. I made numerous mistakes. I ate too much. I went out too quickly. I ignored the fact that I was struggling. I was putting unnecessary strain on my heart. I could have brought on an asthma attack. Less fuel, more fun. But the most basic rule that I ignored was that the run was supposed to be an LSD. There is nothing about the concept of Long, Slow, Distance that fits with it being done in a hurry, being done in even a slightly curtailed timeframe. Instead, what I had done was fusion running. I had taken a Michelin starred dish of delightful LSD and remixed it as fast food. Of course the result was utterly nauseous.
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