At approximately 345 feet above sea level, on the outskirts of the village Kemble, the river Thames begins its 215 mile journey into the North Sea. Somewhat surprisingly the only evidence demarcating the start of the river is a large stone under a tree in the corner of a field full of cows. Not a drop of water in sight! This remote location served as the start of my 182 mile run along the Thames Path, which officially begins at the “stone” and ends at the Thames Barrier in London.
My plan was to complete the 182 miles distance over six consecutive days of running with overnight stops at Tadpole Bridge, Abingdon, Reading, Maidenhead and Kingston upon Thames. Running the equivalent of six ultra-marathons in six days was definitely a journey into the unknown for me. However, with the abundance of beautiful landmarks along the river there was a lot of incentive to keep pushing on to the next waypoint. Probably more important though, given the warm weather, were the various pubs along the river that fuelled me with water and an ice cold Coke!
Over the 6 days of running I passed through each of the 45 locks scattered along the length of the river. The first of these was St. Johns lock, located near Lechlade, and also where I got to see the statue of Father Thames. All of the locks are immaculately maintained and most are operated by a lock keeper. As the river and associated boat traffic increase so too does the sophistication of the lock system with most of them, after Oxford, only requiring a push of a button to open and close.
As my run neared London the size of the properties seemed to grow in proportion to the river with some extremely impressive houses between Henley-on-Thames and Windsor, this was also coincidentally my favourite section of the path. One of the highlights of my run was passing through Henley as crews from around the world were preparing for the Royal Regatta. It provided a great distraction from my tired legs to watch the crews train along the one and a quarter mile stretch from Temple Island to just in front of Henley Bridge.
Entering Central London was most definitely a stark contrast with the rural environment at the source of the river. The path was bustling with tourists which made it difficult to walk, let alone run! Although it was exhausting weaving through the crowds with my aching muscles and blistered feet I was appreciative of some of London’s major attractions. This included passing within touching distance of the towering Shard skyscraper, a truly impressive engineering feat. After 6 days of running there was no better sight for my sore eyes than that of the Thames Barrier which marked the end of my challenge. Although there was not a single person around when I arrived I still felt tremendously happy and relieved to finish an amazing journey along the river. So, whether you decide to run or take a gentle stroll the Thames Path provides a perfect opportunity to view some of England’s most beautiful scenery.
On Saturday the 24th of August from 3:00 – 5:00 pm I will be having a small exhibition in Buckland Memorial Hall displaying some of the photos from my run of the Thames Path. In addition there will be a raffle where you could win a Nikon digital camera, 3 month membership to The First Drop gym, Thames Path guide books and a voucher for a professional sports massage with Karen Miller. All money raised will be donated to the National Trails team who maintain and improve the Thames Path.
The sign at the start reminding me just how far it was to go...
About a mile from the start I came across the first sign of water. I also found these boots left on the bridge which was a little worrying!
Over the first and second day there was a lot of running through fields.
There are many beautiful bridges that span the River Thames but this was the first major one (located in Lechlade).
Training for the Royal Henley Regatta. Temple Island is where the races start.
I came across some impressive artwork underneath a bridge near Windsor.
Goring on Thames - beautiful!
I was so happy and relieved to reach the last of the locks.
I don't think anyone would argue with me that this is the most famous bridge spanning the River Thames. Such a contrast to the rickety wooden foot bridges at the start.
And this marked the end of my run. I felt so privileged to have been able to complete this amazing experience.
I had to look at these for many hours each day. It was definitely a love-hate relationship. People often ask me what I think about when I run long distances. I would like to say something inspiring and motivational but to be perfectly honest for the last one or two hours of running all I think and dream about is the amazing sensation of getting to take off my shoes!