I love the mixture of exhaustion, exhilaration and satisfaction that hits me just after I finish a long run, followed by a steaming cup of coffee, a hot shower and something delicious to eat. But sometimes, for various reasons, my long runs don’t end this way – frustration, pain, disinterest and/or a number of other not-exactly positive feelings replace my post-run high, and I spend the rest of the day feeling a bit disappointed.

This morning, for instance, was a slight disaster. I needed to do 11 miles off-road at an easy pace, and had planned on heading to Richmond park since it’s a lovely path and perfect for a run of that length. Unfortunately, the trains were a mess and it would take ages to get there, and so I suggested to my boyfriend, who was running too, that we go somewhere more convenient like Hampstead Heath or Hyde/Green park. Straightforward and easy, which was what I had in mind after a long week.

E, who is very much into trail running, suggested that we go on an “adventure” instead. An adventure? No thanks, not really up for that today. But then he sent me a link to Epping Forest, along with beautiful images of leafy trails. It’s close, he told me, we just have to go to East London and the entrance is five minutes from the tube.

Trail running in East London? Seriously?!

Yeah, I don’t think so. I’ve been way out on the central line to East London, and there certainly isn’t anything that looks like THAT anywhere close to THERE. But E was really into checking it out and somehow made me believe that we would step off the train and into a trail running oasis. The pictures did look lovely (probably because they were all taken in the summer and of parts of the forest that were way up north, outside of London, which only occurred to me later on…). Plus, the sun was shining and given that I live in southeast London, Epping Forest didn’t seem THAT far away…

So I reluctantly agreed and we headed to London Bridge Station to begin our “adventure.” Too bad there are no “after” photos…









Cut to us arriving at Leytonstone station (Mistake number one – Going to Leytonstone) 45 minutes later, with dark clouds looming, a not so friendly wind blowing and definitely no forest in sight. We seemed to have gone to the one part of the city where the sun wasn’t shining – perhaps fitting given our location in the heart of East London??

Hey E, so where is this Epping Forest?

He consulted his trusty iphone to guide us (Mistake number two – Asking E for directions – when will I learn?!).

It’s just this way! [10 minute walk through sketchy neighborhood, 5 minute run on a patch of grass which dead ended into a massive highway]. Oh wait, we just went in the wrong direction, sorry! [Rain starts]. I think it’s over here! [I ask directions from the one random person out and about]. Here we are. [Bleak open field – no trails, or trees, in sight] Hm, this doesn’t look like the photos! [We start running straight ahead, attempting unsuccessfully to navigate around the mud and litter]. I guess we just go to the right? [Another dead end, an abandoned shopping cart half sucked into the mud]. I think we can get around it! [Duck through prickly bushes – ouch! – leap over puddle, hit an even larger sea of mud with another highway in the distance]. Sorry, I’m just going to follow you from now on! Where should we go? [Silence, arms folded.] Maybe we should try running under that highway to see if the forest continues over there?

NO, I’m DONE with this EFFING Forest!

After 20 minutes of stop-and-go miserable muddy running in what was probably the ugliest place I’ve ever seen, it was time to cut our losses, find the nearest tube station and go home. I’m not a quitter – but this wasn’t a run! He felt bad for dragging me out there without having properly researched the area, but it wasn’t entirely his fault – had the weather not been so terrible, perhaps we would have persevered and reached some beautiful parts of Epping Forest, which I’ve been told DO exist. I bet there is some great trail running in these parts, particularly in a different season when the trails are leafy green and a bit more solid, rather than rivers of mud as they were on this Sunday in January! But we should have known better…what were we (was he) thinking?!

We finally found a tube station, waited forever for a train, changed trains, and eventually made it back to my area feeling frustrated, cold and tired. I still had at least 7M left to run, but the will to run had completely passed. It was an awful, empty feeling – I wanted my time and motivation back! I wanted that post-run high, my coffee, my indulgent meal!

I was quite close to giving up and going home, but I decided I wouldn’t let this slight bump defeat me – instead I would run out the frustration, salvage the whole endeavor, log in the miles! And so I forced myself (and E – as punishment!) to finish the run with four extremely tedious laps on the grass around Southwark park – the longest 7 miles ever, but at least when I got home, I didn’t feel like our four-hour fiasco was a total lost cause.

So I didn’t exactly have the leisurely long run that I look forward to on most weekends – but I somehow pieced together an 11 mile run, enjoyed my coffee, hot shower and delicious meal, and then rewarded myself with a nice long nap, a great movie and plenty of chocolate (which E brought over as a peace offering – it worked).

As for Epping Forest – I think I’ll be going back once it looks more like this: