The best places to run in London
Life in an urban metropolis such as London might seem crazily busy at times due to the crowded road system, the noise of transport under and above ground, and the streets teeming with people, so you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s not the best place to slip on the trainers and go for a run. To some extent this might be true; after all, if having to break your stride and pace to cross a busy road or to make way for an oncoming throng of commuters isn’t your idea of a clearly-defined training regime, then trying to run in the capital could quickly become frustrating. But luckily, with over 25,000 acres of parkland in London, there are ample opportunities to escape the hubbub to a relaxing green oasis where you can exercise in relative peace and quiet – and they're right on your doorstep.
Located centrally between Oxford Street, Knightsbridge and Notting Hill, Hyde Park offers over 140 acres of flat running space, making it particularly suitable for novices, those with restricted mobility, or even office workers looking for some lunchtime exercise. Easily accessible from at least five Underground stations, Hyde Park is a maze of footpaths and grassy areas; runners are welcome to use both. A circuit of the park is approximately 8 miles in length, though with plenty of diversions possible, including extending into the neighbouring Kensington Gardens, runners can shorten or lengthen the distances as they wish.
For a shorter circuit head to Regent’s Park, where a perimeter run comes in at 5 kilometres. With plenty of intersecting footpaths, it’s an ideal park to explore on foot and ideal for designing your own route (a handy map is also available to guide you if the park is unfamiliar). Regent’s Park is also one of the most picturesque of the Royal Parks and therefore makes for a pleasant, eye-catching venue, hence the popularity of the park among runners.
The Thames Path
Opened towards the end of the 20th century, the Thames Path is a national trail that takes you alongside London’s most iconic sights, and beyond, measuring 180 miles in total. As a fairly flat course it’s ideal for runners of all ages and abilities as you can choose where to join and when to leave, and in places you’ll find it pretty quiet (though not in the central section between the Thames Barrier and Richmond, where the route can become somewhat crowded as camera-wielding tourists add their presence). The path doesn’t always follow the exact course of the river so be prepared to veer onto side streets occasionally, particularly in the outer suburbs, but of course the beauty of this location is you can run upstream, cross over at an available bridge, and run back to your starting point; delightfully simple. For a distance of approximately 8 kilometres, head from Waterloo to Tower Bridge, cross the Thames and head back. With many of the city’s urban developments on view, it’s a mesmerising run, especially at sunset when the crowds have diminished.
In the north of the capital, the stunning Hampstead Heath offers greater challenge for more advanced runners than the city centre parks, mainly due to the wide variation in landscapes (think woodland, scrubland, formal gardens and fields) and the uneven terrain. With over 790 acres of open access, and plenty of undulating ground for runners who enjoy the challenge of sudden uphill slopes, there is ample freedom for the outdoor runner, although some established routes between 2 and 5 kilometres are a great starting point for newcomers (a starters’ guide is also available). The outstanding views over the capital make a great place, and excuse, to pause for refreshments.
If the idea of established routes doesn’t appeal compared to the right to roam at your leisure, Wimbledon Common’s extensive bridleways through leafy forests could be your cup of tea, although the designated 5 kilometre circular route is also a good choice. Head to the Grade II listed windmill for the starting point.
Living and working in London need not be a constraint on your passion for running and fitness; with a huge choice of venues offering contrasting routes, London can offer runners of all ages and abilities a scenic setting to pursue their training schedule.