Finding a city’s secret spots can only really happen at human speed. In this series, World Running Guide, we’ll provide information to help you discover your next destination through the eyes (or rather, feet) of a runner.
The 19th century golden towers transport all those who zoom past to another time. In a world of glowing screens, sometimes all it takes is an upward gaze to carry you elsewhere. The feeling of grass under your shoes is a welcome one as you swerve around picnickers and children playing under a weeping beech tree. Every corner, a new market, theater, trail, stream or piece of history greets you. Welcome to London.
On Your Mark
Photo by Mate Fulop, courtesy of Midnight Runners’ Facebook page
It is no secret that London remains one of the running capitals of the world. With almost 80 running clubs, beautiful parks, almost 200 races per year, iconic landmarks, and various terrains, London is pretty much every runner’s dream. The Britain metropolis made the top of Runner’s World UK’s list and according to Livestrong.com, Hyde Park is the #1 place to run in the world. With Brits running 32,891 times per week and 166,028 miles in that time, there’s no denying London caught the racing bug.
Fair warning: running in England’s capital during this time of year would be unpleasant, to say the least. If you’re willing to brave cold weather (40°F) and lots of rain, then the city is yours for the taking. If not, wait until summer when you can enjoy the sun (yes, London does get sun) and all the open attractions. September is also a popular month to see the parks glazed in golden glory and festivals swarm the streets.
Photo by ritesh3, CC-BY
Routes in London range from weaving through fountains in Regent Park, to climbing the steep trail up Parliament Hill, to flying beside traffic along the Thames River. Long story short, the city’s versatility is one of its most appealing qualities.
If checking off those legendary towers and picturesque bridges is your chief goal, then try the River Thames Sightseeing Tour. The waterfront road run is 5.9 miles of checking off that London bucket list. You’ll pass the Tower of London, Big Ben, House of Parliament and Tower Bridge. Another attraction-filled route is the Tour of Southwark. These 9.8 miles will guide you through the Kennington and Southwark Parks along with glimpses of Westminster Abbey, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye.
Looking for an offbeat path? Hampstead Heath is a 3.6-mile trail that runs (no pun intended) away from the chaos of the city. Dirt paths will carry you up Parliament Hill and will reward you with a sweeping view of London. This route is great for hill workouts if you need an extra challenge. A track, swimming pool and pond are additional treats.
You’ve probably heard of Regent and Hyde Park, but maybe not this one. Hampton Court Park is filled with tree-covered trails and roaming wild deer. The five-mile loop offers a breath of fresh air from a bustling capital. Oh, and the Hampton Court Palace is quite the spectacle, too.
Photo courtesy of the WMN RUN Facebook page
As previously stated, London has almost 80 running clubs. You know what that means: There’s no excuse for not finding a new friend with which to endure the challenges faced when discovering a new city.
“The city is our playground. The streets belong to us,” is plastered on Midnight Runners’ website. If that doesn’t pump you up, I don’t know what will. This group of go-getters often meets when stars are overhead and takes London by storm. For those who can’t seem to find any time during the day to exercise, these runners are ready to party with you. Oh, and every Tuesday night, MR hosts a 10K Music Boot Camp Run. So now there’s really no excuse for you.
Never Stop London replaces concrete sidewalks and iron railings with boulders, trails and snowcapped mountains. In addition to running, this group consistently rock climbs, snowboards, and adventures beyond industrial London. Every Tuesday night at 6:15, the experts will coach you through Mountain Athletic, prepping you for your next outdoor adventure.
Men typically comprise the bulk of endurance sports. WMN RUN has made it its mission to change that, and it looks like they have. In 2015, the group took 52 women to Race the Stones, an ultra race. Due to their participation, the male to female ratio went from 2014’s 80:20 to 61:39. Now that’s girl power. Open to all levels, the club runs 10Ks every Wednesday and long runs on the weekend.
For every kind of runner and explorer, London offers an abundance of opportunity. Whether you run past Big Ben for the first time and gaze up in wonder, or jaunt through the peaceful gardens of Hampton Court Palace, every sight and slope is a treasure to behold.
The South Downs Way 100
Can’t Miss: The view from Parliament Hill
McGee Nall is a freelance writer based out of Athens, Georgia. She was probably eating Nilla wafers and Nutella while writing this.