Tuesday, 17 July 2012
Best running routes in London
I posted recently about my lack of enthusiasm for running in the city of London. However this hasn't always been the case.
There are some amazing places to go running in and around London. I got to know London by running in it, and I still believe it's the best way to really understand the size and diversity of our capital.
Here are my top five favourite routes that I've run in the five years I've been living in London.
1) Best for the views (and the hills) (and getting lost) - Hampstead Heath
This route is challenging but rewarding. Enter the Heath either from Gospel Oak or Hampstead Heath. Then follow the various paths up and down and round the varying terrain. Woodland, heath, track, grass, Hampstead Heath has it all.
My favourite part of Hampstead Heath is the little-known section across the main Spaniards Road at the top end of the Heath. Full of woodland tracks with little or no other people plus a welcoming cafe in Golders Hill Park.
Finish the run with a blast up Parliament Hill to be rewarded with that view at the top. Always smile inducing whatever the weather.
2) Best for not getting lost - Thames Path from Richmond back into the city
Join the Thames Path at Richmond and head back in towards London. Along the way you will see geese, ducks, dogs, horses, walkers, runners, rowers and even some highland cattle.
On one side is the Thames, the other is trees and greenery. Glorious. It's such a pretty route, nice and flat, and not tarmac, so a little bit easier on the joints.
Either stop at Barnes or Putney to catch a train back home, or carry on into the urban jungle through Battersea Park and along the South Bank.
3) Best for spotting celebs - Richmond Park - Wimbledon Common
I've now seen Andrew Marr, Nell McAndrew, Ben Shepherd and a variety of elite Kenyan athletes all running round Richmond Park.
Other than gawping at the other species I like to run one lap around the park then head out of the Robin Hood Gate, across the road and into Wimbledon Common.
Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common both have a few hills which, other than Hampstead Heath, can be difficult to find in London. They are also just beautiful locations to run in.
I usually run around Richmond Park, but cutting across the middle via Pen Pond has got to be one of the best feelings. Downhill all the way with Richmond Park opening up in front of you. Great any time of year.
Finish your run either with a cup of tea and a bacon buttie at the super friendly Windmill Cafe in Wimbledon Common or do a quick change and head into the posher Fox and Grapes gastro pub for Sunday lunch.
4) Best for spotting non celebs - Hyde Park - Green Park - St James Park
Start at Westminster, head up through St James Park, cross over into Green Park, up to Hyde Park Corner into Hyde Park. Do one loop of Hyde Park and head back. For a shorter run, stick to the each of the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park.
To add on extra miles, either start further up the Thames Path before crossing into St James Park, or head further North and join the canal at Paddington.
Always good for a spot of people watching, whatever time of day.
5) Best for flat peaceful running - Regent's Canal
My two favourite spots of the Regent's Canal are either joining at King's Cross and following the path West towards Little Venice, or joining at Victoria Park and heading East to the Limehouse Basin.
King's Cross-Little Venice gives you Camley Street Nature Reserve, St Pancras, the millionaire houses of Camden, Regent's Park and some giraffes at London Zoo.
Victoria Park-Limehouse gives you the greenery of the Hyde Park of the East, a more urban grit feel, the boats and cafes at the Limehouse Basin and views of Canary Wharf. Carry on down into the cobbled streets of Wapping and head back into the city via the Thames Path if you want to go longer.
So that's my top five favourite routes to run in London. I'd love to hear about other favourite routes to run from fellow runners.