3 GORGEOUS AUTUMN RUNS IN LONDON
About this time of year when autumn sweeps into town I realise that London is actually a gorgeous place to live.
Personally I feel that I’m never done exploring London, and this is definitely the best season for it. Whether it’s under a clear blue sky or into a bracing breeze, there’s really nothing better than discovering new streets or green spaces on a run, with the leaves swirling down.
Now that summer’s over the paths are quiet, the parks are empty and spacious again, and there’s still plenty of daylight for discovering the city. So we’ve picked out three of our favourite Autumn runs to get you started.
1. Park Run. Victoria Park, along the towpath to the Olympic Stadium.
Victoria Park in east London is massive. It’s ideal for both a short run or getting in your training miles, and if it’s not on your list yet, it should be. A full loop of the park is roughly 2.5 miles, but there are plenty of smaller circuits and detours to try out. Handily, it has drinking fountains dotted around so you can rehydrate during longer runs.
Victoria Park is spacious and formal, with immense tree-lined avenues that seem to go on forever and views over dreamlike-huge stretches of grass. From the southern side you can get to the Hertford Union canal, whose quiet towpath shoots east for about a mile to the River Lea and beyond that, the Olympic Stadium.
If this route sounds like your kind of thing, join in our Autumn 10k run from Old St Tube to the Olympic Stadium on Saturday 28th October. Details here.
2. Urban Run: Embankment
If you’re one of those people who thinks central London is un-runnable, think again. Wide tree-lined pavements, river views, a row of grand historic buildings on one side and iconic London landmarks on the other — the Embankment has all this to offer. Blackfriars Underground station is a perfect access point for a one-mile easy stretch along the Thames, with the Houses of Parliament appearing in the distance at the end. With the summer tourist rush more or less over, the pavements are pretty clear, so you can just soak up the views and enjoy the river breeze.
When I ran this recently as a short out-and-back run, I decided to loop around in Victoria Embankment Gardens just before Westminster, and discovered a signed ‘fitness route’. This takes runners through some of the manicured park spaces on the north side of the Embankment road — well worth exploring if you’re looking for a leafier option.
For a longer run, cut north-west to avoid the tourists around Westminster by heading up Northumberland Ave to Trafalgar Square. Then it’s just a quick crossing to the start of the Mall and its parks, where there’s room to shift up your pace or just put in some easy miles.
3. Trail Run. Hampstead Heath
You don’t have to head out of London to find some great Autumn trail running. Hampstead Heath is a perfect trail experience that you can get completely lost in — full of great little hill climbs to get the most out of your work-out, not to mention distant glimpses of the City or Canary Wharf appearing here and there as you emerge from the trees.
When I went to run in Hampstead Heath this week, I pretty much had the place to myself. I spent my time getting nicely lost, just following wherever the trails led. Once I branched off from the entrance path, I was soon running through oak and beech woods, along dirt tracks — perfect terrain for enjoying the climbs and descents — and suddenly breaking through to grassy clearings.
Those woodland paths are a bit labyrinthine. But, if you do find your way up to Parliament Hill Fields you’ll be rewarded by one of the best views in London, with the city laid out at your feet. I guarantee that you won’t stop there for long, though — this is really one of those places where, as a runner, you’re always thinking, ‘Just a bit more’…
By Elizabeth Mason, Keen Runner & Writer