5 PM: Twilight paints the London sky gold and powder blue. I walk west on Euston Road admiring the sunset; its beauty captivating my wandering mind. In the distance, Euston Station bustles with an influx of people entering and exiting the city. The narrow walkways force people to tread on the Euston Square Gardens, hiding the greenery beneath an army of shoes.
As I draw nearer, the confused traffic of individuals surrounds me. I feel compelled to match their frantic pace. The pubs and taverns attract me with their warmth, but the liveliness of the crowds overcomes me. I march with them, and the city becomes a blur amidst the people passing by in a sudden rush of energy.
This energy excites my senses, numbs my mind, and crushes my spirit.
In London there is always something to do, and with only so many hours in the day, people scramble toward the next task. This constant necessity to be somewhere else rather than in this current moment produces a false vitality that pushes Londonís inhabitants onward, never stopping. It is artificial. It is human-made. It is suffocating.
A sharp turn into Gordon Street releases me from the procession. The dirty brown buildings overlooking Taviton Street welcome me home. I slowly climb the seven staircases leading to my room and, jet lagged and overcome with torpor, fall onto my bed.
5 AM: I awake with an urge to refuel. Not with food, but with experience; not for my body, but for my spirit. Six miles should do.
Warily I step out into the cold and begin jogging westward. Euston Road is deserted. I expect a red bus or black cab to pass, forcing me back to reality, reminding me that I am in a city. But none drive by, and only flashing advertisements keep me company before I reach my destination: Regentís Park.
In the daylight, Regentís Park brims with the same energy that overflows onto the streets, climbs as high as the Shard, and seeps down through the Tube stations. Despite its calmness, it is often filled with people delaying the inevitable meeting, checking their watches until their next engagement tears them away from solace. But in the few hours before dawn Regentís Park possesses a new energy of its own, unsullied by noise or presence.
I feel this energy after realizing that I am alone. Silence swallows the sound of my footsteps and breathing. The unpopulated fields reveal a private refuge hidden in plain sight. It is unbelievable at first. More than ever I am aware of my surroundings, waiting for an encounter to occur. But from the Avenue Gardens to the Boating Lake to Primrose Hill I run in solitude.
As I ascend Primrose Hill, an unexplainable ecstasy fills my limbs until it no longer hurts to push harder and enduring Londonís busyness seems justified in exchange for this one moment. This outpour of emotion reminds me that the spirit may die, but it always revives, like a hill it slopes and rises, and it is worth sacrificing for this sensation.
The sight of the London Eye in the distant skyline reminds me that I am in the midst of civilization. Descending the hill, I catch sight of another runner crossing Prince Albertís Road. My venture through Queen Maryís Gardens is met with stares from early rising tourists, their camera flashes creating light where there should be darkness.
As I exit the park and embrace the congestion of Euston Road, I fall back into the humdrum of the world. Roaring engines hush the sound of my thoughts, interspersed people steal space on the sidewalks, and towering buildings hide in the fog. Eastward the sun shows signs of rising. It is the start of a new day, yet I feel like it is the beginning of a cycle.
There is no end to the cyclic death and rebirth of the human spirit in London.
~Thomas Garcia '16
© 2014 Princeton Traveler