Have you ever had a Guinness in Dublin, Mexican food in Mexico, or Sushi in Tokyo? I can say yes to the first two and no to the third. I once went to a nice restaurant in Paris, but I was alone in a room full of romantically minded Parisian couples, and felt really self conscious. So I ordered a pizza, which was a real bad move, because I then felt even more self conscious. So I don't know how French food stacks up in Paris. But I do know the Mona Lisa is quite small.
What's my point? Hype. Sure, the Guinness in Dublin had sort of an "I'm home" feel to it (being that my last name is Mahoney), but the Mexican food in Mexico was awful. Neither experience was life changing as things like this are oftentimes hyped up to be.
About 10 years ago I lived in London for about six months. This was an "on" period of my life time on again/off again habit of running. So I was excited by the chance to run in Hyde Park or along the Thames.
I never made it.
Instead I started running home from work in Acton to my flat in Chiswick. Acton and Chiswick are West London suburbs much closer to Heathrow then Central London. People live here, work here, shop here. They live their lives here. There's no British Museum, London Bridge, or Parliament Building out this far. Kew Gardens was close by, but that's about it.
It was a great place to live.
I don't remember many of the street names. I just remember I ran from the office through an industrial estate, went under a tunnel, ran through a really nice neighborhood, took a right on Chiswick High Street, ran some more, crossed under the M4 Motorway, and then I was home. It was maybe 4 miles.
Who needed Hyde Park? I would stop halfway and fill up my backpack with groceries, and then continue on. I loved the sound of the District Line tube trains moving along the elevated tracks along one stretch of road. I'd run by the pubs and look in to see what football game they had tuned in on the television. I was an outsider with a yank accent and a habit of forgetting which way to look when I crossed the street, but for some reason, running here made me feel included.
I've run a few of the "classics" I suppose - along the Charles River in Boston, The Sea Wall in Vancouver, Central Park in New York. Good runs, all of them. But something about this normal everyday suburban London route was awesome. I remember it very vividly. I finally got the chance to run along the Thames last year. It was nice. But to be honest, I ran it only because I didn't have time to visit Chiswick.
Be Here Now. That's the name of the 3rd album by Oasis, which was recorded at Abbey Road. I'm not sure exactly what they meant by the title, but I always felt that it was their "London" album in sound and attitude. At least in title, it fits perfectly with how I feel about London, specifically with respect to my running adventures. I was thousands of miles from home, but I found a new little corner of the world that through running I was able to call home.
And I lived in the moment.