Review by Elise Downing.
Running and gin are two of my favourite things. Unfortunately, they don’t always go together particularly well, as I’m sure anybody who has ever attempted the sheer misery that is a hungover run can testify. When Secret Gin Run came onto my radar, I was intrigued to say the least – how much running? How much gin? Would I be mixing Gordon’s with my High5 electrolyte tabs?
To be on the safe side, and ensure I could fully keep up with any required gin consumption, I signed up for one of the ‘speedy’ sessions, which was aimed at a 10km/hour pace. I don’t think I’ve ever been in the speedy category before so this was already a big thumbs up from me.
It was a seriously beautiful evening as I made my way to Fleet Street where we were meeting in a pub (of course) to begin the run. When the sun finally decides to show its face after a long dark winter, London just comes alive, and I couldn’t think of a better way to be spending the night. It was pretty easy to spot the rest of the group, and I made a beeline for the lycra-clad folk milling around in the corner.
Bags safely stowed, we headed outside into the sunshine. We jogged down the road a little and gathered on a street corner where Alex, our guide for the night, started handing out various types of novelty headwear. (I won’t give away too much, this is a secret run after all, but rumour has it things got rather sweaty inside those hats.) I was relieved to hear that I wouldn’t have to drink gin and run at the same time. Instead, we’d be running sections of up to about a mile at a time, stopping at various key locations for snippets of history relating to gin and a few gin-based running games.
I have to admit that previously my interest in gin had mainly been reserved for mixing it with tonic and lime but it was actually really, really interesting. We stopped by Trafalgar Square to pay a visit to the King Charles I statue and hear about the part he played in bringing gin to Britain. We ran around to Soho and learned all about Mother’s Ruin. We made a very well-timed trip through St James’s Park just as the sun was setting over Buckingham Palace, which was a 10/10 magical moment. The whole thing was super interactive and we even had our very own Gin Wench, thanks to those head-pieces Alex had handed out at the beginning.
The piece de resistance of the whole thing was definitely the ingenious gin-themed running games, with my favourite being ‘Pass the Juniper Berry’. Each pair was given a paper juniper berry, one of you would run on with it whilst the other jogged behind, then when you were ready (depending how mean you were feeling) you would wave the juniper berry in the air, slow down a bit and your partner had to sprint to catch up and take the berry. We played this all along the embankment and it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had trying to run fast. I would do more speed work if it could all be like that!
With all of the history stops and games, it took about two hours to make our way around the planned 10km loop of the city and we arrived back at the pub with heads full of fun facts and feeling thirsty. We settled down in the corner and the barman bought over a tray heaving with goblets full of gin and tonic the size of my head which was the perfect rehydrating after a warm evening out. Glasses drained, we were given our goody bags which include a little bottle of fancy tonic and some deodorant (which came in very handy as I had just been convinced to go and meet some friends in another bar).
One of my favourite things about running is all the fun activities you can do with it and the Secret Gin Tour was a perfect example of this. The gin run was a perfect combination of all my favourite things but, if you aren’t a big fan of the ol’ juniper, the team at Secret London Runs lead plenty of other themed stride outs around the city. I have my eyes on the Secret Half in the East next, where you solve a murder mystery over 13.1 miles, uncovering the sordid history of the swinging sixties as you go.