September 22, 2019 | 77° F

LYON: Don’t forget to bring your running shoes to London

Opinions Column: London by Knight


There is so much hidden exercise that comes with living in a city like London and traveling to other cities on the weekends. Where is it hiding? Well, naturally in the walking and the stairs. Walking is usually due to the 10-minute (one-way) trip to class I make and, of course, more uplifting journeys and explorations, too. All the walking is really broken up because of that, and it only feels strenuous when its miles upon miles at a time and my tired feet just want to get home so I can sleep — the sights and the London atmosphere make it easy, though. As for the stairs, I get a lot of practice, as I'm living on the fifth floor in my building with an in-repair elevator on my side of it. All the stairs come in handy when visiting places like Paris (where I was staying was quite uphill, right by Sacré-Cœur) and Amsterdam, or when I'm just trying to get to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen from Covent Garden station during rush hour (emphasis on rush hour) on a Wednesday evening. There are 193 steps from the Underground platform to street-level at this station, and the waiting area for the elevator gets really crowded!

Because of all this, though, I (naturally!) bask in glory every time I check my iPhone's "Health" app. So many steps, and I've never climbed so many flights of stairs on a daily basis in my life — my current average, according to Apple, is 20. This is great, but walking a lot and opting for the stairs (or being forced to take the stairs) is obviously not all there is when it comes to exercising and being healthy in London or anywhere else. I knew this for certain when my friend Catherine, a fellow Rutgers student here, asked me to go on a run with her one day a week. I had brought my trusty running shoes with me to London, so I said yes.

We started on Wednesdays with a list of parks and other London runs we hoped to stride our way through. Though I am a former cross-country runner, Catherine runs much more than I have lately, and I did just a bit of shuffling toward the end of our first run through the beautiful Regent's Park. We luckily ended up finishing our run (or for me, light jog) at a luxurious bed of flowers that we found out is London's largest collection of roses, called Queen Mary's Gardens.

Though Catherine and I often return to this park for its beauty and accessibility, we've been exploring much of London due to our runs. This has been very fun for us, running and experiencing the city at the same time that we started going on runs several days a week.

We've hugged the bird-filled Serpentine at Hyde Park and ventured through the spacious area itself on one run, and on another we attempted to trace the Thames on a Saturday morning only to drown in the foot-traffic of the touristy area. Unfortunately we had to stop running for safety reasons, but because of this we were breathily able to take in a quintessential London image consisting of a foggy morning, red double-decker buses all around and the Palace of Westminster (most notably to the eye, the Elizabeth Tower). We decided to continue this journey where there would be more space — just nearby at St. James Park, and we took in the sights at a fast pace and casually strided past Buckingham Palace to Green Park where ended up finishing our run. These are all places I've been meaning to either visit or spend more time at, and running so easily and efficiently allows me to do this.

I hope that we can revisit a run by the Thames, and in this area in general. I'd like for tired Abby to pass by Westminster Abbey, and I'd like to explore as much as I can, even more than I am now, while keeping healthy in the process.

It's funny to me that when I was packing to leave, I spent some time deciding if my running shoes were worth the space they'd take up in my checked suitcase. My luggage was already destined to be robust, but this was something I went back and forth with. Would I need them? Would I actually want to run here? I felt the tiniest urge to bring them that was, I admit, partially sparked by the encouragement of a friend who had actually studied abroad in London himself, and I am now so thankful for it.

Abigail Lyon is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and theater arts. Her column, “London by Knight,” runs on alternate Thursdays.

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