Tag Archives: explore

Eiger 101 Post 7 – The City of Runners: Boston

I love to run in new places as it is often one of the very best ways to get to explore a new location and observe those little details that make it fascinating. I have already had the pleasure of running in Spain recently and so it was with excitement that I packed up my running gear once again, including the much needed cold-weather layers, and jetted off to Boston, USA. My primary purpose for a visit to the city was to speak at a Virtual Reality conference, specifically on the subject of VR in Veterinary, but I extended my stay for the week in order to explore it fully. It has long been on my list of places to visit, appealing as it does to my inner nerd, what with such prestigious landmarks as Harvard and MIT representing the epitome of geeky culture. It is, of course, also the setting for one of the premier running events of the calendar, namely the Boston Marathon. As such I knew that it was bound to be a runners’ city and I was not disappointed.
During the planning phase of the trip I looked into both suggested runs in the city, with the classic Charles River loop coming out on top, and also sought out some groups that I might be able to join for one or two runs, thus injecting a little social experience into my pavement pounding. The group that caught my attention was the Heartbreak Hill Runners, an enthusiastic and, as I soon discovered, large group of runners of all levels that meet for regular sessions, congregating out of one of the group’s several shops. The session I joined in with was their weekly Saturday morning long run, which happened to coincide nicely with my own training schedule mandated long run. Bonus! Getting out to the start point was a bit of a mission as it was located in the suburbs of Boston, specifically Newton, and for some reason the metro that morning was on super duper slow mode, with a replacement bus having to be used for part of the journey. Instead of being super early, as had been my intention, I ended up having to jog from the final metro station to the shop, although we didn’t actually set off for a little while longer.
Situated on a corner, the Heartbreak Hill Runners shop was modest in size but packed with not only an impressive array of running merchandise but was crammed with people! I had not expected there to be quite so many in attendance and was even more impressed when I was given a wristband after registering – this apparently entitled me to make use of the aid stations that were put on – and had the option to leave my bag in a secure part of the store while we all ran. All very organised indeed. After a briefing from head coach and owner Dan – most people there were in the final weeks of training for the Boston marathon – we were encouraged to shuffle outside, find our respective pacers and to get going. I was expecting just a casual small group run but what it seemed to be was a very well organised mass event – this truly did seem to be the city of runners, an impression that was further reinforced by the fact that there were clearly lots of other groups out training as well, in addition to loads of other aid stations, complete with cheering spectators and supplies. I couldn’t help smiling at the thought that even the supporters seemed to train for the Boston marathon!
The looped course took us up Heartbreak Hill, along the edge of the nearby reservoir and past Boston College, before taking in another long, steady climb and a relatively flat, fast return to the shop. Many of those running were due to do 3 hours of continuous running, meaning multiple loops. As tempted as I was to join them in this pursuit I only had a half marathon distance pencilled in and so after scaling Heartbreak Hill and reaching Boston College for the second time I about-turned and returned to the shop. Feeling buoyed by my efforts and loving the general atmosphere of the shop, the team and the whole morning I felt compelled to purchase a couple of awesome T-shirts, designed there in Boston by a couple of runners, snapped a couple of pics and even had the honour of making it onto their famous wall of mugshots 🙂
Having experienced the feeling of being a runner in Boston on a normal week I can only begin to imagine how electric the atmosphere must be for the annual marathon. Who knows: perhaps I shall be back someday to find out first-hand.

Green & Pleasant Land

The perils of running both without a map, or at least a knowledge of an area, and when that area is breathtakingly beautiful is that a fairly quick/ short ‘explore-run’ can morph into a bit more of an epic. As it was when I ventured out from my picture-postcard countryside dwelling on the outskirts of Frome, Somerset on Saturday morning for a training run of a little over an hour, before getting ready for the wedding between friends Chris and Sarah that I was due to attend.

Great Elm, SomersetSuch is the sheer natural vibrancy and beauty of this part of the UK, with it’s rolling hills, fields, grazing animals and houses straight out of Country Life magazine, coupled with the fact that the weather gods had clearly been in the best of moods, meant that every step was a feast for the senses. Living and training in a desert, for that is fundamentally what Dubai ultimately is, has it’s major advantages, from the pretty reliably awesome weather for most of the year making training outdoors an easy option, to the vibrant sporting scene and abundance of facilities, not to mention the holiday destination views and beaches, is great and the past year here has certainly taken my sporting abilities and enjoyment to a whole new level, but I don’t think anything can compete with the option of running or cycling through the English countryside at the pinnacle of Spring/ Summer when the whole world just seems to be so full of life, rich colours and the air so pure and easy to draw that it is like enjoying the finest of wines with each and every breath.

Somerset countrysideMy run took me along tree and field lined roads through some of the smaller villages fringing Frome, including the utterly charming Mells, which had a village shop and cafe that is was incredibly hard to resist stopping at. The run into Frome itself was a beneficially undulating one, with some great hill training taking place, followed by a relaxed downhill stretch into the town centre before a long, steady climb out the other side. The next decision to make was whether to turn down the road I knew led back home but which I suspected was not going to take as long as I would have liked to meet my run time target, or opt for what appeared on the face of it a parallel road. I took the latter and was almost instantly rewarded for the choice with breathtaking views of the main town creamery, river and one of the most picturesque farms I think I have ever seen. If that wasn’t enough I then saw what I was convinced was a castle on the top of the hill to discover to my delight that it was indeed a classic little castle and that someone had made a modern home of it – as far as houses go that had to be one of the most epic I have seen. Imagine growing up in a bona fida castle!!!

Wedding in SomersetAs the country road continued to wind and stretch out it started to become apparent that it was significantly longer, with no real turns toward home, than I had expected. Thankfully, just as I was starting to contemplate my options, including turning around and retracing my steps, to calling a taxi (not really an option on account of there actually being no signal and the fact that at a fundamental level I was resistant to the idea of effectively being defeated by a run), I met a local out on his bike with his dog, who kindly informed me that I was probably about 6 miles from home and provided reliable directions. With this knowledge secured I was able to pick the pace up and battle through my, by now, fierce hunger and found my way back to Great Elms, my abode and one of the most delicious and welcomed breakfasts that I think I have ever tasted. In the end the short run had morphed into a full half marathon. Great preparation for a wedding.

Run stats: 1 hr 54mins, 21.5km at an average pace of 5.3min/km