You really see a lot more of a city when you get lost. In fact that's how Columbus discovered America, and how 20% of movie meet-cutes happen. When my shoes were laced and my chrono set, I felt less like an American in London and more like a runner looking to knock out some miles. A painful stiffness in my neck, undoubtably from the awkward rest of a hostel bunk bed, and my chronic travelers dehydration (beer > water), told me immediately that the the run would be short. I just wanted to do two or three miles. I reminded myself that I could run as short or as long as I wanted. I was on vacation.
My beloved hostel sat on the south side of the Thames, very near the Westminster bridge which dead ended at Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. As I rambled over the bridge with my short strides and soft footfalls, I imagined that this view - the iconic tower and the seat of the government- was a part of my daily run.
Bridge after bridge criss-cross the Thames like stripes across the back of a snake. From south to north, east and then south again, I ran. Navigational signs pepper the city, mostly at the locations of the bike share stations, known to some locals as "Boris" bikes for the mayor who procured them. I slowed to check the signs often and geared myself toward the Globe Theatre and the Tate Modern museum. As I approached the eerie smokestack that interrupts the south bank skyline from the converted warehouse that serves as the city's modern art haven, I burst out in laughter recalling my sister and I perusing its exhibits, realizing how much we didn't "get" modern art, on her visit to London while I studied here.
I ran along the cobbled streets surrounding the Globe, and peered through the metal gates in front decorated with tiny sculptures of Shakespeare's greatest characters.
Figuring I could just weave my way back through the neighborhoods, rather than returning to the riverfront walk, turned out to be an error in judgement. Up and down and around tiny twisty streets, trying to move myself west, trying to avoid moving south, I ran. Eventually, when I finally approached my hostel, 6 miles later, I felt like I could do anything.