What can be a better way of spending the day that occurs only once every four years than doing something special at a very special place? For me 29 February has a very special meaning – exactly 5 years ago, on the last day of February, I arrived to England on a grotty winter afternoon to start a new life, with all my possessions stuffed into two oversized cases and my hopes held high.
I have to say it has been a challenging but very inspiring 5 years. I feel I have come so far that it feels like I have lived in England forever. It has been a real journey discovering new things I grew very passionate about. One of these things is running which I got into last year – it all started with just wanting to enjoy the sunshine outdoors (rare and highly treasured opportunities here in England) whilst doing some exercise.
I managed to sneak out of the office a bit earlier than normal on Wednesday to meet the Nike Running Club at the huge Nike Town store at Oxford Circus who were organising a special “Make it Count” group run to commemorate 29th February. I arrived just on time – the store was already full of happily chattering runners wearing T-Shirts that were specifically designed for the day along with a funky fluorescent vest for the dark. As I joined the queue to register, the tension in me following a tough day at work slowly dispersed and was replaced by excitement. About half an hour later, I changed into my Nike “uniform” to gear up for the run – I was told that about 300 runners turned up on the day.
We posed for a big group picture before we left the store to launch ourselves into a scenic 5k run throughout the busiest and prettiest parts of London downtown.
Even though we were forced to stop a couple of times by traffic lights and busy crossings, I really enjoyed soaking in the atmosphere – pedestrians were cheering for us as we went along, then a group of students who thought it was some kind of a race held out their hands for us to give them a high five as we whizzed past them. The route led us through some of the most spectacular sights including Trafalgar Square, The Horse Guards Palace, Buckingham Palace, The Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the Big Ben, the Millenium Bridge, then we finally arrived at the London Eye and County Hall to finish our run with loud cheering and posing for even more group photos. I have not realised until now how beautiful London is at night!
It turns out that the same day there were two other Nike programmes running as well – a basketball competition for teams of two and the whole London Eye was hired for groups to have exercise classes inside the bubbles! The whole South Bank transformed into a giant Nike territory with fluorescent green, red and blue lights.
We were led inside the spectacular County Hall to have a small reception with some music, drinks and some food on their terraced hall. I found myself casually chatting to a lot of people, some of whom I recognised from the Mo Farah running event. It was really nice to mingle with people who were as much into running as I am. The whole evening felt electric.
I left the event feeling very tired but refreshed after such a beautiful run. I hope there will be more similar events coming up – although I enjoy running on my own, it is so nice to do something different sometimes and make it a social affair!
Below is short video, which, in my opinion has managed to capture the atmosphere on the day!