This weekend, an ultra running event took place. A concept so extreme that only a handful of people have ever finished it, and a documentary has even been made about it*. No, not the Barkley Marathon (though that did take place this weekend and spoiler alert: there were no finishers). No, this race took place through the mean streets of London. 150-odd miles of them.

The London Peaks race is the creation of Rick Pearson of Runners World. For a while he did a podcast series where he walked to the highest point of each London borough with an interesting local resident, chatting about the locale and other interesting stuff. But just walking these peaks wasn’t enough for Rick. No, he had a dream. A dream of running between every single one of them, peak to peak, in one day. It’s entirely possible Rick eats a bit too much cheese before bedtime.

Nevertheless, he assembled a crack team of runners, did some military-level planning and assigned the teams – including myself and Adharanand – to our particular legs. The idea was to start at the stroke of midnight on Friday and finish by the same time Saturday. The baton in the relay was a particularly fetching bum bag, in which a phone was running Strava Beacon, so that anyone could track us all in real time, and a map of the entire route (above) was created.

And so, my alarm was set for 3.20am on Saturday morning, in order to rendezvous with Adharanand and be in place in plenty of time to receive the bum bag-baton in the middle of Wimbledon Common (handover point at the Big Alp – and no, I didn’t make that up) and take it to our handover in the middle of Richmond Park. Now, this is very much my local area and my usual routes, but running in the pitch black with a head torch is definitely not the usual way I do it. Not when the only other people on the streets are still heading home from a big Friday night out. And the only other living things in the park are deer and rabbits. However, despite attempted leporine interference, one slightly-turned ankle and a couple of mud-slides, we made it to our handover. And then, obviously, ran the long way home, as the sun rose over Richmond Park. Still, we were back at mine in time for 7am pancakes, having run 12 miles already.

The rest of the day was then spent in a bit of a sleep-deprived blur, trying to rest, watching the amazing world half marathon championships from Valencia and tracking the Strava beacon before eventually heading out across London for leg two, through the mean streets of Shoreditch/Hackney. Which I think might mark the second ever time I’ve spent a Saturday night in Shoreditch. Receiving the baton this time from friends (Susie Chan and Cat Simpson, both ultra runners extraordinaire) there was time for brief hugs and greeitngs, and we were off again. Oddly, despite my legs feeling like lead in the morning, I felt absolutely fine in the evening and we flew (ok, ran a bit faster than I expected) past quite a lot of surprised and/or drunk people. One shouted “[expletive deleted for Monday morning sensitivities] weirdos!” at us. Four miles later, we handed over that bag again at the majestic peak that is the Seven Sisters Road, and – of course – went to the pub. After getting rainbow bagels from the Happening Bagel company thanks to a top tip – thanks Matt!

So, apologies for the long debrief, but that was a LOT of fun. Having done not much since Seville but pootle around slightly aimlessly, it was fantastic to be part of an event, particularly one so well organised and with a brilliant gang of people. And – of course – set a FKT. Or possibly an OKT. You can read more about it on Runners World, including stats on the the highest of high points (The Beckton Alps! Westerham Heights!) and the, well, lowest of peaks (our own handover at Tower Hamlets, topping off at an altitude sickness-inducing 15m). There are already rumours of teams assembling to try and topple out time of 20 hours and 16 mins.

And now, finally, over to you. How was your weekend running? Anyone do the first London Landmarks half? Or, of course, Valencia? [Warning: Asta rant incoming]

  • well, there will be one. Probably.

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