New York, post-Sandy, was like a broken hearted friend. There were bright and resilient parts where the atmosphere was tough and excited, then you’d pass through a part of the city where there was still no power and it was like intruding on a private and raw pain. You wanted to make it better and just BE there until they were ok.
I stayed in Brooklyn with Jessie Zapo where there was power, people and parties. Probably a little too much for Grandma Mei. Lower and midtown Manhattan were worst hit by the hurricane and when I cycled through LES (Lower East Side) on Friday morning with Jessie and Anna it was like passing through a scene from a zombie movie. It was eerily quiet; stores closed, barely any pedestrians, a few cars and no traffic lights. If people were driving, the cars moved slowly and cautiously.
That being said, if you know New Yorkers, you know that the storm, if anything, hardened the city spirit and the community was strengthened by the common struggle. Hundreds of people were crossing the bridges over into Brooklyn to buy groceries and charge their phones and the restaurants in Brooklyn on Thursday night were packed and noisy as though it was a Saturday night. And then, of course, Bridge Runners always bring party vibes. You’d never have known that Frankenstorm had just vacated the island.
Even before I left London to fly to the States, I’d been following the news reports and Instagram updates to see how the city was faring after the storm. For a while, I could only see blackout party photos and tweets and my friends out running in the dark in Manhattan. It seemed like genuine fun. There were screenshots of news reports with runners passing behind the correspondents, clearly not budging from their training schedules for the upcoming Sunday NYC marathon because of a bit of wind and rain. Someone even posted a photo of a man doing tricks on a jet ski behind a news correspondent reporting on the storm’s damage.
Then I saw the reports in the days following that covered the aftermath of the storm. Cars were submerged in water on flooded streets and there were burnt houses after an uncontrollable fire. Thousands were evacuated and without water and electricity. Parts of New York City were suddenly thrown into darkness and cycling through Williamsburg on Thursday night, looking over the water to Manhattan, the city skyline was silhouetted against the light from the moon and moonlit clouds behind it. It was surreal. Hands down, it was one of the weirdest experiences of my life because even before I’d ever travelled to America, the lights of New York City were so familiar to me through countless movies and tv shows filmed in the city.
My friends in New York are hardcore and resilient and, despite the struggle, showed Charlie, Bangs, Shameek, Darkz and I a brilliant time. We ate good, we ran (and cycled) good and we partied good.
I’ve dipped in and out of running since summer because I often lose patience for how rubbish I am at it. I never seem to be able to obtain that runners’ high, but it’s people like those whom I travelled to NYC with and the Bridge Runners that keep me wanting to try. Every few weeks I suddenly get a burst of motivation and I find myself in Lycra and running trainers and I work up a sweat pounding London pavement. I saw a physio in September who established that my left leg is shorter than my right as my left side is generally weaker and less developed. This is the reason why I’ve been getting pains in my lower back and legs, especially as my calves are very developed but the muscles in my feet have lost flexibility and my core strength has gone to pot since I stopped ballet five years ago.
So since this makes it a little harder to run regularly without injuring myself again and again (and again), I generally just don’t. But then, as I’ve been running for about a year, when I don’t run I’m very conscious that my heart rate is rarely given a chance to race. So I bought a bike and try to do at least 20 miles a week.
I packed my running kit for NYC but had something rattling in my lungs and everyone knows you shouldn’t exert yourself when you have a chest infection and respiratory problems. The running for the Rebel Run was left to those who are good at it and I tagged along on Jessie’s cruiser. In fact, because the subway was mostly out of use and because I’m not a baller and I can’t afford cabs to take me everywhere, I went everywhere on Jessie’s bike. In two days I racked up 45 miles cycling in Brooklyn, cycling over bridges in and out of the city, from Lower East Side to Midtown and back, from store to store and from one location to a restaurant, etc etc. (FYI, the bridges are WAY steeper on the Brooklyn side and the Willy B will WIPE YOU OUT if you’re not ready for it). I actually fell asleep at dinner after the second day because my body was like “jet lag and 45 miles don’t make sense, you twat”.
When we found out the marathon was cancelled, we were gutted. Runners take other runners seriously, so cheering is literally the best thing you can do if you’re not running the race. I love cheering. I’m really loud and you’ll definitely hear me. I’ll probably wave a banner or a cowbell at you too. It sounds really fucking annoying, but when you’re running a long distance race, people that cheer by the side of the road really pull you though it. The louder, the better. If you’re like me, you’ll go through parts of the race where you want to suffer it alone, but conversely, there’ll be other parts where you really need company and some stranger cracking their voice to scream the name on your race bib is such a heartwarming thing. We were out in NYC to do just that and we felt terrible for all the thousands of runners who have trained for months to be able to run 26.2 miles. We thought it was going to go ahead - it seemed so certain. We couldn’t question the decision to cancel it though. Logistically, siphoning tens of thousands of runners through parts of the city where there had been flooding and no power didn’t make sense. Also, when hundreds of people had lost their houses and people had died, it seemed immoral to stage a marathon when relief was needed to help the disadvantaged get back on their feet. If anything, leaving the decision so late was the most controversial issue. I kind of get it. I mean, the ING NYC marathon pulls in around $300 million every year, mainly because of the people travelling into the state to run or to support the runners. That’s money the city needs after a natural disaster, but it’s still not SAFE.
Anyway, with no marathon, the Bridge Runners got together with the Orchard Street Runners and staged a 13.1 mile race on Sunday over three of the bridges, ending at Bowery Stadium on the LES. Race entry was bottles of water and cans of food and any charitable items that runners could bring.
I had a great time this past weekend, hanging with friends, making new ones, meeting MIA and speaking to New Yorkers about their city. Occasions such as this give you great opportunities to learn more about the people we share time with and society itself. It gives you the chance to learn new perspectives and to strengthen your own character as you see the resilience of those around you.
Thank you to the Bridge Runners for these lessons and opportunities. I love all of the experiences I’ve been privileged enough to have come across through meeting you all and your company is some of the best in the world. There’s no two ways about it.
Thank you also to Sasha for being a lady who looks after ladies. That’s important and an often under-appreciated attribute to be in possession of. It was a pleasure to spend time with you.
Thanks to Darkz and Shameek for always running and always being excited about everything. It reminds me to take my head out of the clouds and put my feet in my running shoes.
Thank you lastly, but not leastly, to Charlie and Bangs for being who you are and helping me to be who I am.
LDN Calling - BRIDGE THE GAP
I feel like I’ve been living my life on hyperdrive since mid-June. Subsequently, I’m SHATTERED and I now have a cold. Which BLOWS.
After two whirlwind weeks in New York City, I returned to London for another Bridge The Gap summit-type-international-meeting-of-runners-to-party-and-run-and-party thing. Absolutely wild and absolutely brilliant.
Last time, in Berlin, six crews congregated, ran a half marathon and danced all night in a party hosted by Run Dem Crew DJs. Nike really looked after us with a VIP spot for pre- and post-race chilling and the bar for the after-party.
This time, Bridge The Gap II – LDN Calling – involved more running and partying than Berlin, and made coming home to rainy London with post-holiday blues, a LOT easier to deal with.
I arrived home from NYC on Friday afternoon, ate, showered and dressed before cycling to Shoreditch to meet the Run Dem family and the international crews at the Hoxton Hotel. Seeing people like insanely cool Yue Wu (who I had last seen in Paris in April) and cheeky Jay Smith from the Paris Running Club and the Bridge Runners (who I’d seen less than 24 hours previously) in my home city was stupidly exciting and the atmosphere was literally buzzing.
Ten crews from ten cities rolled through for LDN Calling: London Run Dem Crew, New York Bridge Runners, She Runs LA, Berlin Graviteam, Paris Running Club, Athletics Far East Japan, Red Snakes Milano, Amsterdam Patta Running Team, Mexico Kanan Running Team and Russia Mosvka River Runners.
Chop and Charlie’s itinerary started with a run around Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Tower Bridge, before running along the South Bank to the grafitti tunnel at Leake Street where the teams stencilled the walls and competed in a drag race, sprinting, using Nike SPARQ parachutes. Props to Miss Harmony, representing the beautiful She Runs LA crew for leading the women and to Shameek from Run Dem Crew for smashing the men’s finals.
Boris bike X Leake Street
Crews X Leake Street
Yue, Sophie & Jay - Paris Running Club
All the girls from the crews!
Club founders. Alero - LA, Jay - Paris, Charlie - London, Coach Saes - NYC
Drag race trophy.
3 X Crew Love.
Mei X Boris Bike (taken from Heron Preston’s Instagram - @HeronPreston)
I’m still riding out this injury so I didn’t run, I just grabbed a Boris bike and cycled with the crews. But I did dance. A lot. Quest Love was DJing at Village Underground that night and the Bridge Runners, true to style, were the last to leave the dance floor.
The next morning, Charlie led the crews through East London to a studio in Stratford where signs were made for Cheer Dem Crew to hold for Sunday’s race. More drinks, more food, more vibes. Nike 1948 London hosted a barbeque for us that evening, and Charlie screened the RDC Youngers preview video from Ewan Spencer and Ed Skrein’s RDC Anthem video. Sharmadean’s party at Alibi that night had 30+ international visitors filling the dance floor, dancing hard and drinking hard, with some people (LIKE CEDRIC HERNANDEZ, infamous Bridge Runner, #thatshirtidontlike) only getting 2 hours sleep before his 10k race.
Paris go HARD!
Yue & I with honorary AZN Keith.
RDC Younger Olivier & Yue
Sami, Yue, me, Troy and Olivier. RDC X PRC.
No running, but LOTS of dancing. My shins ached for DAYS. Might as well have tried to run!
Skinny, Sami, Troy.
Being Coach Saes - COUNTS.
I met the crews after their race at the Nike+ FuelFest, hitching a ride with the Bridge Runners from Waterloo and rolling on to Battersea Power Station. Nike outdid themselves with an amazing venue with great food and a well-stocked bar. 2000 invited guests had Nike+ fuel bands to sync together and, while we partied to Magnetic Man and Tinie Tempah with the best set coming from Zane Lowe, our fuel points were counted on huge screens. Our running crews were wild, making it a real party. I’m pretty sure we racked up at least 100,000 points between us in the 3 hours we were there before we rolled onto the after-after-party where we really made it count (PUN ABUSE! SORRY!).
Ready to fuel up with beautiful Hanne.
Luke gets all the love!
Athletics Far East. Badass AZNS.
Troublemaker Troy! Von Majik.
Big love for mentor Bangs <3
The weekend was wild, 3 parties in a row and busy days, but not the end of the late nights. Luckily (or not), I was still running on NYC time (5 hours behind), so the 5am bed times weren’t hurting but the 7am alarm clock really was. Monday and Tuesday night saw my flat crammed with Bridge Runners, suitcases and Nike trainers (not all mine, I promise!) as the NYC crew crashed at mine.
Cocktails for the Bridge Runners, tea for Grandma Mei.
On Tuesday afternoon, we checked out the Damien Hirst exhibition at the Tate Modern and walked to 1948 to catch an emotional housekeeping at RDC. Charlie awarded the many Nike British 10K medals (check the video from Jerome that I reblogged before). I love Charlie’s medal nights, because you get the chance to learn of amazing achievements of members of your crew. That night was no exception and I spent at least 15 minutes in a steady stream of tears, mostly a result of seeing the RDC Youngers’ success rewarded, especially Darkz and P Casso. Charlie Dark is more than a mentor to a lot of people, including myself, yet he speaks of each individual with so much respect and admiration. That is something that I really value about him. I never feel more special than after Charlie’s just told the room that my medal means something to him, or after a half an hour life and career talk in his kitchen after a painful morning run or after Run Dem when he says I’m on the right track. It means something, you know?
RDC Youngers and Keith (taken from RDC)
Keith & Jessie
Coach Saes & ‘Bridge Mom’ (according to Keith) Jessie.
I can totally see how Mike Saes keeps his crew tight too. Having met him briefly in Berlin, I was glad to spend a few afternoons and evenings at his studio in NYC, accompanied by John Law, chilling and, basically, learning. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we have a similar perspective in regards to running (except that he’s been running for years and I haven’t, and he’s actually good at it, whereas I still struggle with anything further than a mile). Neither of us like early morning runs (who does?!) and we both prefer to run with people as opposed to a solo slog through the city. I still find it hilarious that the founder of this whole urban running culture spent 2 nights with Jeggi and Cedric on my sofa and front room floor while badass Jessie Zapo and Crystal passed out with me in my room. Between Jessie and Coach Saes, the Bridge Runners are well looked after, and I wouldn’t trade the time I spent with them in NYC and London this past week.
My favourite photos of the week from RDC, by Tom Hull. Jay Smith of Paris Running Club above and below, Darkz, Dre and Femi right behind Charlie Dark at the 7K mark at the 10K race. Gunfingers. GO HARD OR GO HOME.
What I love about Bridge The Gap is the opportunity we are given to travel and meet like-minded people from around the world, and make things like races fun things to do. These things weren’t really on my radar before now. I mean, since when has a race been fun?! I have had the chance to talk to some great people this week and been given great advice from experienced runners such as Knox Robinson. The planning that went into LDN Calling is much appreciated because last weekend was unbeatable and I really, really, REALLY can’t wait till Amsterdam now!
Thanks Charlie. Thanks Chop.
When Mubi went to New York…
Bridge Runner John Law hooked up with Run Dem Crew man Mubi, and they shopped, partied and FaceTimed until Mubs had to come back to London.
These are two of my favourite running people. I wonder how much they miss each other… Needless to say, Mubi failed on the #BRINGTHEWHASIAN mission.
Jeggi and Peigh. Pre-RunDemCrew link up a few weeks ago. Two very special people in my running life.
Peigh is one hell of an inspiration, running a half marathon every month and I’ve known him since I was about 14. The love only grows stronger.
Jeggi is Jeggi. Jeggi is amazing and my cup of tea. From San Diego via Bridge Runners New York, to London’s Run Dem Crew, this dude has gained speeds I can only dream of right now. I could spend hours listening to this dude talk.
Sunday 8th April - train to Paris…
(Sorry this is late, I forgot that I wrote it)…
A week after my first half marathon in Berlin I’m on a train back in Europe, with someone for whom running has quite vastly changed their life and perspective in the last three years for the better. My life is coloured by friends, some of them relatively new, who share the same view and this has definitely had a positive impact on the way that I view running and fitness. I also feel that it’s largely due to a big turn within the fashion and beauty industries where there has been a subconscious (or maybe not) shift from female attractiveness derived from the skinny and hungry looks to the well-toned physiques I now see everywhere. Looking and being genuinely healthy is tres fashionable now. Who knew?! Having said that, because I’m not modelling so much anymore and my interests have always been in casual trends, sportswear and beautiful people, maybe this isn’t so circumstantial…
Regardless, my point is that my perspective has changed over the past few months and I find myself wanting to move and be active. I want to tone up and be able to run miles without passing out. I have no interest in dieting in order to stay a certain size, but I do believe that just because you’re slim, it doesn’t mean you’re healthy and I would much rather have nice arms - firm, not massive, obvz - than triceps the consistency of Angel Delight. I don’t eat (a lot of) junk food, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink. I’m pretty boring actually. My vices are cake, dessert, tea and biscuits. I’m a really cheap date. Unless we’re eating steak, in which case I like good quality, beautiful cuts of medium-rare meat, if that’s alright with you.
This might just be my half-marathon high talking. I still haven’t come down yet and I kind of wanted to leave this post to be written when I was grounded and back to my usual grumpy self. I’m not entirely sure why, but I have had a week of wanting to run and be surrounded by runners. I haven’t actually DONE any running - I should probably make that clear, because I’m sure that means something - but where there’s a will, there’s a way. I work for a company that does everything it can to make things better for the athlete, professional or not, and this has been a very large contributing factor in my attitude to running. Add to this the past few weeks with Run Dem and Bangs and I’ve realised that running is very likely to remain a prevalent activity in my life, for the next few months at the very least, whether I work for Cadbury’s or the Prime Minister.
There is nothing like running a half marathon (except for maybe a whole marathon, but I’ve never done one of those, and my pain threshold is pretty pathetic so comparing my half-mara experiences to other peoples’ marathon stories kind of just sounds the same). Firstly, I can now finally see why people do these things for fun. When I say ‘fun’, I just mean that they do it without having a barrel pressed between their shoulder blades, forcing them to move (except I do now know people who do this kind of thing for fun). The sense of achievement you feel when you (finally) cross the finish line is incomparable. The achievement only really appears to me in waves as the predominant feeling for me was relief, but it’s the sense that I’ve done a whole three miles on foot without hijacking someone’s car (and believe me, in certain areas of Berlin I was often reminded of Jason Bourne and wanted to parkour over a few taxis onto a tram) that makes me think wow, I just did a half-marathon and I only cried once (technically the other three times were post-race).
The nervous energy that built up last Sunday morning had me nearly losing my nut when I couldn’t find the bar where Run Dem Crew were holding fort, pre-race, with the Bridge Runners, NBRO, Graviteam, Precinct 5, RC8K, Harbour Runners and the Paris Running Club guys. I was scared I would miss Charlie’s Run Dem mantra, which delivers a dose of adrenaline to my bloodstream and fire to my resilience. It was a packed bar and the vibes were electric. My nerves were soothed and the smiles and hugs made my pre-race prep a whole lot easier. Waiting in the pens with my brother, Marcus and John from the NY Bridge Runners was a laugh. Rachel, Dani and Christiana were just behind and I ended up dancing because I felt so restless and nervous. It felt like a very serious and badly themed carnival.
The race started well. I managed over two miles before I slowed down to walk, a personal best. Nothing remotely glamorous, but a private victory. I then ran and walked my way through the city. Making sure I was running past all the drum bands banging out battle beats. If I wasn’t running, I was dancing - I was adamant that I would make some parts of the journey fun.
It didn’t take long for me to get bored. The constant stream of inappropriate jokes from Chris helped immensely though – as did the tea, which I thought was beer at first sight. That tea, in fact, was like a syrupy hug at times. Loaded with honey and lemon, it got the bad taste out of my mouth and distracted me for a minute or two each time I slowed down for a re-up.
So, basically, I ran and walked the race. I was doing 12 minute miles on average so I did alright. I got to 12.5 miles and cried though. I couldn’t help it. I knew the finish line was close and it made me feel a sudden burst of confused emotions that were expressed through awful and embarrassing childlike tears. I had to cover my face. I was so pissed off that I was STILL on the road and that it had taken so long. I was very aware that I was testing my brother’s patience and I was trying not to let him down. I was also aware that I had very nearly finished a whole race without giving up. I was watching finished and happy racers walking back along the pavements. I was tired. I was embarrassed. I was looking forward to hugs from everyone. I was annoyed that I didn’t train hard enough, that I couldn’t commit (for whatever reasons). I was overwhelmed by the new experience and the sheer relief that it was nearly over. There was so MUCH running through my mind that I cried very loudly for about a minute. And then I was fine. I literally just needed the physical cathartic release in order to break free from the bad mood and sprint.
Then my brother pointed out a big white archway, which I was pretty sure was just a sponsorship thingy, but I pegged it anyway. I even picked up speed when two guys stretched big plastic streamers across the road and I sprinted through them because I thought it was the finish line and then nearly doubled and pummelled their faces when I realised that they were being idiots as it wasn’t the finish line.
I rounded the final corner and saw the real end in sight. My brother pulled out his phone and moved ahead to film me finishing the race. I ran. I saw Candice screaming madly from the sideline, waving a Run Dem Crew cowbell, with a wide berth around her. She was bursting ear drums of other supporters and I nearly burst into fresh tears when she yelled my name (God, I’m PATHETIC!). I went over the finish line with my arms waving triumphantly (haphazardly) in the air and then immediately started crying again. The lady who gave me my medal hugged me, slightly overwhelmed by my overwhelmedness. Poor thing, I think I scared her.
Bar Babette was rammed when I walked back in to grab my bag. A million faces smiled at me and a spabillion arms grabbed me and hugged me. I got upstairs to see Charlie and thank him for getting me to the start line and over the finish line and ended up crying again. I definitely scared Charlie, Mark and Wayne and had to explain they were happy tears. I sat down to stretch and saw Bangs climbing over RDC runners to get to me. I cried again. Then Orsi came over and she cried too. There’s a drought in the UK because Orsi and I took all the water and cried it all over Berlin. We’re sorry.
I spent the afternoon trying and failing to relax and then spent the night dancing until my running-related knee pain became a dancing-related one, then took myself home. If you want to know what happened at the after party, ask someone else – this post is already of mammoth proportions. All I’ll say is that I sweated more in the club than I did on the streets that morning. Half-marathons are hard yo, but challenge me to dance all night at an after-party and I’ll win every medal there is. My marathons are on the dancefloor.
I ran a half marathon in Berlin one week and cycled 10 miles through Paris the next. This week has been GOLDEN. I’m loving my new attitude to MOVEMENT.
Unofficial, small scale, Bridge Runner - Run Dem Crew - Paris Running Club link up.
First half marathon done. After party done. Muscles recovered. New friends made. Old relationships strengthened. For all that were worried, my mashed up trainers have now been rescued (Johnson’s baby wipes are the truth).
Thank you Run Dem Crew. Thank you New York Bridge Runners. Thank you Copenhagen NBRO. Thank you Paris Run Club. Thank you Berlin Graviteam. Thank you Amsterdam Precinct5. Thank you Zurich RC8K. Thank you Hong Kong Harbour Runners. Thank you to every individual who ever offered a word of support or shared a joke with me about my progress. These past two weeks have been a whirlwind of experiences I’m in no hurry to forget. Thank you Nike Running. Your support and hospitality made the Berlin Half Marathon 2012 and my weekend in Germany one of the best times of my life.
P.S. I signed up for the Amsterdam Half Marathon, October 21st. I want to be able to run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours and 30 minutes and then party hard with this international family. This blog won’t end with Berlin, so for those of you who asked or wondered if I’d keep writing and running, I’m happy to say that I’m here to stay.