5 years, 6 months ago
36,000 runners have bagged a bib for this year’s London Marathon on Sunday 21st April. It’s one of the world’s top running events and every year almost double the number of available places are bid for by participants from all over the planet. There are the serious front runners with records and reputations and the charity diehards in extreme costumes (because running 26 miles isn’t hard enough). There are determined plodders and a lot of, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this’ first timers. But everyone – without exception – who takes part in the London Marathon this year and every year has one thing in common: they want to run.
And even when it’s not hosting marathons, London is a city that really works for runners. So if you’re thinking of taking a break here and you like to run we think we’ve found you some routes to suit – all tried and tested by 1000’s of Marathon hopefuls before you.
GREENWICH PARK (open 7am – dusk all year round)
Where else could we start but the London Marathon Mass Race starting line, Greenwich Park? This is the oldest of the city’s eight Royal Parks and home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory and the Prime Meridian Line so a good training and tourism choice. The park is spread over 73ha and there’s a range of running routes. Plus, from the Deer Wilderness to the children’s playground, there are plenty of alternative activities for non-runners too.
Greenwich Highlights: National Maritime Museum, Royal Greenwich Observatory, The Queen’s House, Deer Wilderness, Pavilion Teahouse
BATTERSEA PARK (open 8am – dusk all year round)
From pistols at dawn to the iconic power station, Battersea is one of London’s more eccentric parks and one of the most interesting and convenient for visiting runners. Just a few miles from the city centre on the South Bank of the Thames it covers 83 ha and has several well established running routes of varying distances as well as a training track. Battersea Park discourages duelling nowadays but there’s a children’s zoo, the famous Cat & Dog Home, regular family events and some of the city’s loveliest landscaping.
Battersea Summer Secret: During the summer the park often opens well before 8am for early morning runners.
HYDE PARK (open 5am – midnight all year round)
One of the most famous parks in the world and the largest Royal Park in the centre of London, Hyde Park’s range of routes, long hours and great location mean it’s perfect for all types of running. It’s also close to many of the city’s iconic landmarks so good for sneaking in some training and avoiding holiday ‘scheduling conflicts’. Plus, Hyde Park’s home to the Serpentine Lido (open for public swimming from June to September) and the much loved Hyde Park Boating Pond is where you can ride Britain’s first Solarshuttle – yes, the sun occasionally shines in the UK.
Memorable Hyde Park Moment: In July 1969 The Rolling Stones played Hyde Park for free in front of an audience of 250-500,000 fans. This July they’re back with two dates in the park – older and wise enough to be charging for the gigs this time.
If you want to mix it up a bit, try trail running in Epping Forest. About an hour north west of the city centre, Epping used to be one of Britain’s royal hunting forests. Now it’s a playground for city mountain bikers, birders, walkers, hikers and, of course, trail runners. Legend has it that notorious highwayman Dick Turpin had his hideout here back in the day and much of the attractive wildness of Epping is still intact. Happily there’s an excellent maintenance programme in place too. So the running trails have sound surfaces and are clearly mapped for distance and difficulty. If you feel like escaping for the day and doing something completely different you should definitely think about Epping Forest.
Epping Forest Extreme: Trail running not enough for you? There’s a circular cycle route from London’s Victoria Park to Epping Forest
For London Marathon Runners the world over, Green Park is the prize. This is the finishing line. This is where they get a space blanket and a medal and stagger into the arms of adoring friends and family (the ones who didn’t think it was too early to be out on a Sunday). And if they made it the whole 26 miles from Greenwich, through the ‘wall’ and down Birdcage Walk, Green Park is probably one of the most beautiful sights they’ve ever laid eyes on.
Right opposite Buckingham Palace, Green Park is one of the city’s power parks. It’s small (only 16ha) but it’s location makes it perfect for commuter running, morning and evening running and a quick fix when time’s of the essence.
Green Park Glamour: If you want to put your tired feet up go ‘old school’ at Green Park and hire a deck chair. Feels decadent and is the stuff Instagram was made for – collapsing deckchair entanglement also a welcome holiday GIF.
That’s just five of our personal best from the dozens and dozens and dozens of great London parks that effortlessly ease your need to run into your city break.
But don’t forget, in addition to the famous and fabulous green spaces, there are countless local parks that are firm favourites with people who run around the city all the time. If you’re renting an apartment or house in London ask your host who runs where, how and why – even if they don’t know, they’re sure to know someone who does. Because London wouldn’t have one of the world’s best marathons if people weren’t passionate about running.
Featured image by squishband.