For some time I have been trying to work out an interesting way to create a blog piece about my keen interest in running using photography and music.
I took my ancient Fujica stills camera with me on a ten mile run along a favourite north London route. Using 35mm fuji colour film, I took three photographs at each mile point and mapped it using the Runkeeper app on my iPhone.
It’s a chilly overcast Saturday morning. I exit the house with a new playlist in my ears and immediately I’m stressing over how awkward I feel carrying this heavy forty-year-old camera. Our little corner of N10 is at the foot of a long incline which means I’m also dealing with already protesting legs and a twinge from my old achilles tendon injury. On long runs it’s the first and last miles that are the hardest.
I pass the red and white hoardings of Wilton Community Church and turn right into Creighton Avenue. With Fortismere School on my left and wintry Coldfall Wood on my right I soon find my progress impeded by the dug-up pavement and have to run in the road in order to continue.
Having negotiated the roadworks, I take in the neo-gothic stylings of East Finchley Baptist Church then turn left into the High Road. Continuing down past the wonderful Alan’s Records, several charity shops and the world famous Phoenix Cinema, I soon reach East Finchley underground station. It’s famous archer silhouetted against the pale February sky.
Passing under the railway bridge I turn right into The Bishops Avenue with it’s gated mansions, many lying empty – some even falling into dereliction. Carabella, Tudor House, The Eaves. The sort of road that the cast of The Only Way Is Essex, footballers or east end gangsters might aspire to live in.
Now in my stride and climbing all the time, The Bishops Avenue leads me into to Hampstead Lane and the perimeter of Kenwood House with Hampstead Heath beyond. I’m running uphill towards The Spaniards Inn (Mentioned in Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers) where I encounter a large group of fellow runners heading towards me. They’re clearly some sort of running club, the type I always mean to join but never do. We nod and smile at each other in that sheepish ‘What are we like!’ sort of way.
I have now entered my favourite, and highest, part of the run. Along Spaniards Road which forms the flatter tree-lined edge of the Heath. It takes me towards Jack Straws Castle where I turn right into North End Way and begin my descent towards Golders Green. The pedestrian part of the road becomes a densely wooded track. It’s particularly lovely in Summer but today the trees are mostly bare, fallen leaves still carpet the path and the thin sunlight is struggling to break through the Winter gloom.
Exiting the woodland further downhill past The Old Bull and Bush Pub, I continue freewheeling towards the busy Golders Green roundabout where the bus station reminds me of long 1980s coach journeys from Liverpool. I negotiate the several crossings, take in the clock-tower memorial – flowers ever present at its base – and run past old-school Wallers Menswear (where I always want to stop and browse) even more charity shops and the Israeli book shop in whose window I once spotted a volume about Liverpool FC written entirely in Hebrew.
I turn right into the brilliantly named Hoop Lane and sense that I’m at the beginnings of another incline. Running would be great if there were no hills.
It feels like quite a religious part of London. There’s the square tower of St Edwards Church on the left and, futher along on the right, the imposing crematorium and synagogue overlooking the quiet expanse of the Jewish cemetery. In the near distance stands the white spire of St. Judes. Hoop Lane is restful and quietly upmarket, like a gentle English village. A charming little roundabout leads on to Meadway, an equally well turned out avenue of immaculate timeless cottages and trim hedges. Leafy even in the middle of Winter. The affluent heart of Hampstead Garden Suburb.
I turn left and run the length of Kingsley Way, the end of which bridges a hidden stream known as Mutton Brook. I then cross busy Lyttleton Road – the A1 – and begin ascending the long steep hill that is Ossulton Way. It’s a tough climb and my legs are feeling it. I plough on past side roads with names like Hill Top and Brim Hill until at last I’m at the summit and turning right. The smell of fried breakfasts emanating from Doctor Hunger Cafe on the corner is driving me mad. Ignoring my rumbling stomach I proceed along East End Road and back towards East Finchley.
After crossing the railway bridge with it’s view along the Northern Line I turn left into the busy High Road. I’m now running back on myself. I pass the splendid Black Gull Bookshop and take a right back into Creighton Avenue where I’m nearly knocked over by an Ocado Van whilst negotiating the now familiar roadworks.
Creighton Avenue rises steeply to give way to Coppetts Road where I avoid the urge to turn left towards home and Instead turn right into Tetherdown. This leads me up and past the local Synagogue and the United Reform Church on to Fortis Green Road and its row of specialist retailers. Something for everyone: A Cheesemonger, A Bike Shop, the Childrens Bookshop and the mighty Odeon Cinema. The Saturday families are out in force and I find myself skipping between bikes, buggies and scooters.
I trot over the zebra crossing and into bustling Muswell Hill Broadway. On my left is another church but this time it’s one that has been tackily converted into an O’Neills pub. The views of London glimpsed down the hill to my right never fail to thrill me and the aroma of fresh bread from the Bakery is delicious.
Stepping through the crowded bus stop I turn on to the quieter tree-lined Queens Avenue, take a right into Kings then turn in to Tetherdown and suddenly I’m heading down the home straight towards a mug of tea and a hot shower.
It’s these final hard yards of a long run where I reflect on why I do this.
On a cold winters morning it’s easier to stay in bed or to sit slumped in front of the internet. I choose to go running, however, because it has become vital to my physical and mental wellbeing. It makes me feel alive, healthy, young, happy and sharp. It clears my head and helps me deal with the stresses, strains and insecurities of modern life.
In many ways, running has saved me.
Full Runkeeper map here
The Chase Alan Reeves
Thank You The Pale Fountains
Timeless Melody The La’s
Nice Weather for Ducks Lemon Jelly
You Took The Words Meat Loaf
L-O-V-E Love Joss Stone
Angel Eyes Roxy Music
Smells Like Teen Spirit Paul Anka
Treason Teardrop Explodes
My Baby Just Cares For Me Nina Simone
Luck Be A Lady Frank Sinatra
Feel Like Makin’ Love Bad Company
Aint It A Shame Major Lance
Help Yourself Tom Jones
Like A Prayer Madonna
A Design for Life Manic Street Preachers
Bottle Rocket The Go Team