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Back in town and running with hounds

Regardless of the excitement and novelty of travelling abroad, it’s always wonderful to get home — to familiar sights, sounds and smells, family and friends, and the rapturous welcome of dogs, if you own some.

Report by Rosie Mitchell
Overnight flights, however, invariably leave the economy class passenger feeling like chewed string. The biggest joke is when the captain cheerfully wishes you good morning — at about 4am, after torturous discomfort and practically zero sleep — and says “we trust you had a pleasant night’s rest”! On this occasion I woke up from what was at most a couple of broken hours’ sleep to find myself in such a bizarre position, my hip was so stiff and sore I could hardly walk! I limped off the plane groaning with each step and thankfully found my way to an airport massage facility (good thinking!) where a wonderful masseuse restored the ability to walk before boarding the Harare flight!

By early evening, the dogs, delighted by the pack leader’s return, were circling hopefully, dropping every hint they could conjure, after two weeks’ deprivation from their most preferred pursuit! Chewed string I remained, but joyfully obliged them the following night, glad to have a dose of the evening Zimbabwean bush, with its characteristic smells, so different from overseas.

Speaking of running, back to London, and our last week in England. Having walked a great deal, as one does there, it often being far faster than getting from A to B by car or public transport, I had begun to get antsy for a run, for which there just hadn’t been a spare moment, so had the joy of running round that great metropolis, partly for its own sake, partly, just to get around. I really don’t like the underground, besides which, by my calculations it’s usually much quicker to use one’s pegs, enjoying the sights along the way! Running such famous roads as Regent and Oxford Streets, Harley, Fleet and Baker’s Streets, cannot fail to arouse a frisson of excitement and a strong sense of the human history locked into those well-worn paving stones, old buildings, archways, windows and doorways that in so many cases, still self-evidently date from an era long gone.

About Parkrun

Founded in 2004 in London, Richmond’s Bushy Park, Parkrun is truly taking the running, health-seeking world by storm, a brilliant idea, and great way to motivate people of all ages, fitness levels and abilities, to give running a try. Of course, had we known we’d be in England (this was a rather last-minute trip due to delays in visa processing times resulting from the Olympics) we might have managed to secure a place for England’s largest half marathon, and quite possibly the best attended in the world — The Great North. 100 000 runners applied this year, of whom 55 000 got places! This takes participants along a festive, well-supported route from Newcastle to South Shields, and had already filled up nine months ago.

More and more people taking out their running shoes

The global running craze continues to gather momentum and I was amazed by the plethora of running events across the UK, when considering the possibility of squeezing one in. Going online yielded hundreds of events in September — various road races, marathons, half marathons, trail runs, cross country runs and a species of run new to me — the “Parkrun” which involves a weekly 5 k timed run in a park or greenbelt with no entry fee, organised by volunteers.
In the end, none of the events that attracted me, were do-able given our phenomenally packed schedule and large numbers of people looked up, but I was fully content with my gallops round London, including Regent’s Park, along with walking huge distances and managing to avoid public transport entirely, apart from getting to the airport to fly home.

With just six days in London in which to see so many people, along with working and running personal errands, throwing two small parties was the answer.
These predominantly Zimbabwean gatherings re-united not just ourselves with attendees, but also, attendees with each other, or forged new friendships among them, and were tremendously enjoyable.

Migrating from the second, in Regent’s Park, to a pub when it got too cold, we occupied the Allsop Arms for seven solid hours, with much merriment. Last to arrive, as others prepared to leave, following teaching commitments and longish journey, was concert pianist Coady Green, well-known to many Zimbabweans via both Hifa and the Bulawayo Music Festival.

This was a wonderful reunion, and we spent the remainder of our last London evening walking its streets till nearly 2am with him. A Saturday night, the streets were buzzing with excited crowds and activity. We took our last looks at Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Oxford Street, going home down quaint winding alleys, and Soho, and Chinatown, tracking down geocaches along the way.  An Australian, Coady has lived in London seven years, knows it well, and loves it — though he professed to love Zimbabwe even more. He will without doubt be back soon enough to perform for us again.
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