Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Teach First Challenge 10k Run 2012

Teach First is "an independent charity with a mission to address educational disadvantage by transforming exceptional graduates into inspirational, effective teachers and leaders in all fields". And as part of its 10-year anniversary, a 10k Run, its first ever, was held this past Sunday, 23rd September 2012.

I had signed up for the event a couple of weeks before I got to London, and I was just excited to be part of it. I left my apartment around 7.20am that morning and made my way to the London Bridge tube to head to Waterloo. Registration was at the Royal Festival Hall on the Southbank, the first time I had ever been there, really.

I had anticipated a bit of a problem since I did not get my race pack earlier (they had mailed it to my apartment but I never got it), but all was sorted in a jiffy as I was given the timing chip and run t-shirt (cotton!)

Although the number of participants was first advertised as 3,000 people, the post-event email actually said there were only around 1,300 runners that morning with many pullouts. No matter, it was still a fun atmosphere on a chilly morning nevertheless.

After dropping off my bag, I then made my way to the nearby bridge where the group warmup was being done. The Southbank of course has various iconic landmarks including the Royal Festival Hall itself and the London Eye.

Runners were then segregated into the expected finish time, although I doubt everyone was being 100% honest. Hehe.

I was feeling rather good before the run, despite not having the proper pre-race preparations; good sleep, energy food etc. But I HAVE been running almost every other day and getting used to colder temperatures, so I was kind of confident of clocking a good time.

The route itself was rather interesting. And pretty strange. As advertised, it was mainly flat throughout, but as you can see below, we went past several bridges along the Thames which also meant we had to go up and down stairs, and in and out of tunnels.

We also had to negotiate narrow paths and back lanes, not really ideal for big events, but it was OK for this one, I guess. The weather was good on us as well. It was cloudy throughout with a bit of sun and the temperature was around 10c (but it did rain just as we finished the run).

The first water station came at the 6km mark (VERY late if it was a typical Malaysian event), but it was fine for that morning. I maintained a good pace throughout and finished with a 10km personal best of 64mins. Hurrah!

Overall, a well-organised event with good atmosphere and a very friendly feel. The medal's not bad either : ) On a personal note, hope I can maintain or improve on this pace when I get back to hot and humid Malaysia!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Greenwich Peninsula

Unlike the past two weekends, I decided just to stay in London and explore somewhere closer to where I'm staying. And the tube station of choice was North Greenwich, just four stops away from London Bridge.

The main attraction was of course the o2 Arena. I knew that it was an indoor arena for events, but I didn't know how big the whole place was and that you could spend hours lepaking there. Anyway, I caught sight of the magnificent structure just as I got out of the station. It helped that the weather on Saturday was still bright and beautiful, so it was a perfect day for photo-taking...

One of the main attractions of the o2 now is the "Up at the o2" where visitors could walk up on the dome and enjoy a spectacular 360 views of London. Yup, I was definitely interested in it, but the queue was pretty long and was told later that it would be better to book online first.

And here are some of the indoor views...

Some of the world's major stars including Bon Jovi and Britney Spears have performed here,  and it's also used for sporting events. As you can see, there are various restaurants and bars here, and also a cinema complex. I managed to catch a movie there as well as visiting the Britain's Museum of Popular Music featuring the Bob Marley Exhibition and the British Music Experience.

But the most spectacular views for me were when I stepped out again to walk along the Thames. The highlight was definitely the cable cars in the clouds...

Definitely it was a nice and relaxing day out. Would have been perfect if I had the fam around...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The iPhone 5 Has Arrived!

I am still in two minds on whether I'll be picking up one soon, but I did have to check out what it was like on the first day of the iPhone 5 release. So after school today, I made my way to the Apple Store at Regent Street.

According to the London Evening Standard, 1,300 people had lined up before dawn to get their paws on the phone, a record queue for the flagship store! Check out what it was like around 5.30pm earlier today.

Yup, the queue to pay was reeeeally long...

I also made my way to the Apple Store in Covent Garden. It wasn't as busy at 8pm, but according to the same report above, hundreds had camped outside including one man who had waited for seven days and 15 hours!

So ok ok, here are pics of the new iPhone, finally...

And this is how it compares to the iPhone 4, size-wise.

Obviously I can't do a proper full review, but just as advertised, the new iPhone does feel lighter and fits well into my grip. As for prices, the unlocked sets cost £529 (16GB), £599 (32G) and £699 (64GB).

I must say though that the few people who directly stood next to me, had this to say: "Not much difference, eh?" Haha!


Monday, September 17, 2012

Brighton Rocks!

So, my original thought was to make a trip down to Portsmouth (seriously! and I don't even know why), until my bro-in-law Ari suggested that I gave Brighton a go instead. And so last Sunday, I just did that.  It's pretty convenient and cheap, I must say...

I took a train from London Bridge station which is about a 20-min walk from my apartment and the return ticket was GBP10. The journey took just a little over an hour but the bummer part was that I basically had to stand the whole time. So make sure you stand by the platform really early and be ruthless about getting a seat. Haha.

Upon arrival at the Brighton Station, I picked up a couple of brochures including one on the hop-on-hop-off bus which was to be my main mode of transportation. But before that, I just went with the flow and followed the crowd down the hill and towards the seaside.

And really, when I finally got to the beach, I was just blown away by the beauty and vibe of it all. My expectation was on a smaller scale, so it was a really pleasant surprise.

This was a proper seaside town alright. And the Sunday that I was there, an estimated 200,000 people were also there as summer made a comeback with temperatures up to 28 degrees celcius. Unlike other resorts famous for its white sandy beaches, Brighton is known for its unique pebble beach. And coming back to my earlier point of cheap and convenient, the ticket for the hop-on-hop-off bus was only GBP10, so really, you can have a decent time here for as low as GBP30. Anyway, enjoy my snaps of the sights around town.

I was also well-impressed by the Marina which was a hive of activities. But seeing how I only had a few hours there, I grudgingly had to skip that particular area.

BUT I did get down at the final stop near Brighton Pier. And what a sight that was. With the Brighton Eye standing high and mighty amidst all the revelry, it's made even more awesome by the presence of hundreds of big bikers. Indeed it was a strange but interesting mix of big bikers, singles and families crowding the beach, eating fish and chips and taking their kits off for a swim (hehe).

After that, it was time to do some shopping at The Lanes, as well as people-watching; I mean, Brighton's a really colourful place, literally and metaphorically (look it up yourself).

And boy was I glad that I decided to stop by and visit the Royal Pavilion, as it turned out to be the most magnificent building I've ever been in. Built by King George IV, the mixture of Chinese, Indian and English influences basically made for a bizarre splendour not seen elsewhere. Unfortunately, photography inside the Pavilion is prohibited, but I did buy a guide book, if you're interested :)

After the Royal Pavilion, I had a quick dinner (kebab, of course), and headed back to London. Brighton's not a place you go for a short visit, so I'd recommend at least a one night stay there. But my first nine-hour visit there was awesomely a memorable one.

P.S.: No, I was nowhere near the nude beach


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