Unlike taking some laps in the University Parks (where the circumference of the more manicured park might be just over a mile) or heading out to Port Meadow (where the natural landscape is rugged and vast), one of my usual runs is essentially an urban run. Up at five and out on the roads by six, Oxford is very still. As generalities go, I’m learning that the Brits do not rise early. At 6:00 a.m. the streets of the town are quiet, which makes for an easy and enjoyable run through town – there’s little need to look for cars so you can take in much of the magnificent architecture and other remarkable sights as you dash (well, I’m not sure many think of my running as a “dash”) through the historic city.
My route then typically goes something like this. From Wycliffe Hall I head south towards City Centre on Banbury Road. A quick left on Parks Road takes me past University Parks on my left. My first time in that direction I planned to run in the park, but it’s gate is locked until 8:00 a.m., so I moved on along Parks Road past Keble College on my right and then the University Museum of Natural History on my left. Heading further into the east side of town, I pass Wadham College on the left and come to Broad Street and a corner typically filled with students, locals, and tourists – the corner that includes the “student-heavy” Kings Arms pub, the world-famous Blackwell’s Book Store, the New Bodleian Library (under expansion/renovation), the Sheldonian Theatre (a ceremonial hall considered Sir Christopher Wren’ first architectural masterpiece), the Bodleian Library (one of the most significant libraries in the world, housing over 11 million books) and the popular “Bridge of Sighs” – so named because some think it resembles a similar “connective” bridge at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Italy. I pass one person walking towards me and still have not seen a vehicle.
I duck under the Bridge of Sighs, skip the narrow passage to The Turf Tavern (a bit to early for an ale), and run past William Halley’s home and observatory (of “Halley’s Comet” fame). Then, down Holywell Street and a right onto Longwall Street (tracing the east side of the old wall of the city), which dumps me out onto High Street between Queens College and Magdalen College. Crossing High Street I run down the narrow Rose Lane and weave through a gate and enter Christ Church Meadow. A quick right takes me by Merton College and then Corpus Christi College just to my right while to my left is the broad expenses of the Meadow, including the more closely-mown grass of Merton Field prepared for a cricket match and, finally, looking south one catches a glimpse of the River Thames beyond the Meadow.
Continuing along the circumference of the meadow I come to the back side of the Christ Church walls and begin to head left along the path. Continuing along and turning back towards High Street I come to the River Cherwell (which feeds into the Thames just beyond the Meadow, where the Oxford crew teams get in some early morning strokes. A half-mile “lap” around the Meadow and, just after passing the Botanical Gardens on my right, I’m squeezing back through the gate and quickly back on High Street – one of the main streets in town. Forgetting to look right when first crossing the street (remember, they drive on the wrong side of the street here), I am almost struck by an early morning university employee commuting by bike.
Still no vehicular traffic except a lone Mini Cooper as I head west on High Street towards the heart of City Centre passing by Queens College, New College and University College, which I’m told is the corner of Cornmarket and High at Carfax Tower where I turn north to head back to my dorm. A pedestrian only street, Cornmarket turns into Magdalen Street at the Tower of St. Michael (a Saxon tower built in the mid-11th century that served historically as the north gate to the city) and, as I run a few hundreds yards more, I am now on St. Giles and I pass the Martyrs Monument (more on this in a later post, but photo of Monument in the post – “Important Stuff – Part I: Weather”) and then Blackfriar’s College (a candidate for the oldest organized instructional group in Oxford) on my left. Another 1/4 mile north, bearing right where St. Giles forks, and I’m back at Wycliffe Hall. A very enjoyable 3.0 – 3.5 miles.