I have been here too long; I am blinded to the supposed merits – the geography, the history, the culture, the landmarks – of our capital city. I have become over-familiar. I have watched her pick her nose and break wind, eat with her mouth open and snore loudly in bed. London and I are trying to make it work, but our relationship has reached that inexorable stage of stagnation. We tiptoe around a seemingly inevitable destiny: break-up. I am casting envious glances to seductive others: Bristol, Edinburgh, even Inverness.
You see, I am no longer fearful when I run through Brixton at night; I no longer joke about Wombles on Wimbledon Common; I no longer excitedly think and marvel, there's The Shard, because The Shard is everywhere.
Here I am, complacent and drained of love.
A typical club run with Herne Hill Harriers. There are eight of us, effortlessly ghosting through south London streets on another Sunday morning. We leave Tooting Bec Common behind, run a lap of Brockwell Park, then a lap of Dulwich Park, then a lap of Peckham Rye Common. I have run in these places a hundred times. Just a run. Another run. Miles - nothing more. We march onward to Nunhead and Forest Hill. London and I are civil today, but our differences are merely dormant.
As we runners progress along Forest Hill Road, we peel off to the right. The Scotland-inspired street we enter – Canonbie Road – is a ribbon of asphalt that rears to the sky like a mountain. A sign advises of an 18 per cent incline; it looks and feels nearer one-in-three. We shuffle upwards in a line, running for a mere 40 seconds on extended calf muscles until we reach the zenith.
Cresting the summit, Canonbie Road, running north and west, disappears beneath our feet, plunging towards lately-visited Dulwich. A grey haze that characterised our early miles is gone; the sun shines from a blue winter sky.
We pause. Below, London shimmers like an ethereal Turner canvas, like a film set after the special effects have been added. The vista is unreal. London is all there: the arch of Wembley, the dome of St Paul’s, the skyscrapers of the Isle of Dogs, the rotating Eye and – of course – The Shard. London’s imperfections, its rough edges, are smooth. Tranquillity and stillness pervades. Something does stir, however: a feeling. Here is London, adorned in new lingerie, her eyes on me, taunting her beholder, waiting to be re-discovered. The feeling is a memory. A memory of lost love – lost love kindled.
London and me? We are trying again.
Jonny Muir is an English teacher, writer and adventure author whose books include Heights of Madness, Isles at the Edge of the Sea and The UK's County Tops. He has been a runner for 20 years and is a member of the Bob Graham Club. @MuirJonny www.heightsofmadness.com