Let’s face it: London is epic. It doesn’t matter what you’re into, the passions you pursue or which neighborhood you live in, London is epic. But it becomes an even more incredible place for those who run. Packed full of iconic sights, endless parks and pavements to pound, London has a route for every kind of runner.
There are winding trails that let you escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and leg-burning hill climbs that end with epic views of London’s skyline, riverside runs and parks with the perfect laps, this city has it all. So whether you’re trying to improve your 5K time, training for a half marathon, want to build your general fitness or have the iconic London marathon in your sights, these running routes are the perfect way to mix up your training.
Westminster to Tower Bridge
Stepping out of the tube station, head along the Embankment on the north side of the river for one of the most sight-spoiled running routes of any city on earth; a route that passes underneath some of the most famous bridges in London, passed buildings like St Paul’s Cathedral and all the way to the 950-year-old Tower of London. Then, once you’re there, head over Tower Bridge and onto the fully-pedestrianized home stretch where you get to jog past Shakespeare’s Globe, the Tate Modern and the London Eye, before using Westminster Bridge to cross the Thames once more.
Best for: this 10km riverside loop is for those wanting an iconic route
Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill
Tightening your laces at Regent’s Park tube stage, being overly cautious to cross the truly mad Marylebone Road, it’s time to escape the mayhem and enter the mid-city serenity that is Regent’s Park. Taking in the flower-packed gardens along the southern side of the park and toward the growl of lions as you head toward London Zoo. Once there, it’s time to leave Regent’s Park behind you and take on the quad-burning stretch up Primrose Hill, pushing yourself to finish strong as you reach the highest summit where the views are worth that sweat-soaked selfie. Then it’s just a matter of catching your breath heading back through the parks to your tube station finish line.
Best for: beginners in need of a short and scenic 5K loop that you can easily extend
Hampton Court to Barnes
One of the best routes in West London, running from Hampton Court to Barnes is the perfect pre-marathon training run. Simply jump on the overground to Hampton Court Station and then join the Thames Towpath, past the beautiful houses that line the river, all the way back to Barnes Bridge, almost exactly 13.1 miles from where you started. But the best part about this route is the distance you clock is up to you. Stop at the half-marathon mark, continue into London a little further or stop at one of Richmond’s famous cafés for a freshly ground coffee and a cheeky pastry. The choice is yours.
Best for: those wanting the perfect half-marathon or marathon training run
The Parkland Walk
One of London's top-tier hidden gems, this urban trail was once a railway line connecting Finsbury Park and Alexander Palace. Nowadays, though, this disused line has become London’s longest linear nature reserve and the perfect trail for those wanting a far-from-technical run. Stretching 4km in total, kick off your run at the Oxford Road Gate in Finsbury Park, cross the bridge and follow the path as it winds its way towards Highgate, where you’ll be met with a pretty short road section. Once you’re over that, get back onto the old railway line and follow it all the way to Alexandra Palace; a finish line with views across London. It’s what Sunday runs dream of being.
Best for: those looking for an urban trail run to escape the London grind
Dulwich Park Loop
For those exploring London life south of the river, there’s nowhere better for a quick 5K than Dulwich Park. Nestled amongst two of London’s most epic green spaces – Brockwell Park and Peckham Rye Common – the Dulwich Park loop is almost bang-on a mile, with three and a bit laps bringing you to the 5K mark in what is a flat, fast and ideal for anyone looking to set a new PB. And if you want to give your knees a break from that hard tarmac, simply head along the woodland trail that runs alongside the park’s path.
Best for: anyone training for their first 5K or 10K running race
Up Hill To Hampstead Heath
Sometimes, it’s better to get the hardest part out the way first, which is exactly what this run requires. Kicking things off with the leg-burning climbing straight up Parliament Hill, you’ll be met with the famously spectacular panoramic views of London. All of it. Then, with your breath caught and a summit selfie saved to your camera roll, it’s time to jog your way along the northern paths, through the woodlands and toward Kenwood House, an 18th-century mansion that is a must-explore destination. From here, which path you take back to the starting line of Hampstead Heath overground is your choice, but a quick cool down in one of the natural lakes that pockmark the heath is definitely worth it, weather depending.
Best for: those wanting a 5K (or more) sunrise/sunset run with a view
St James’ Park to Hyde Park
Tightening your laces in St James’ Park, a centuries old green space full of history, this running route is packed full of London’s most iconic sights. Heading up The Mall, your first stretch of road running will be toward the magnificent Buckingham Palace, the golden gates glimmering in front of you. Then, after a quick bow-slash-curtsy, it’s time to enter Green Park and head along the flower-lined paths until you reach the northwest corner, under the Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park where the views just keep getting better. Running alongside the Serpentine lake, past the swans and swimmers, this run takes you to another royal residency, this time the incredibly impressive Kensington Palace, where you’ll find your tube station finish line.
Best for: a 6km Sunday run through three of London’s Royal Parks
The last place on our whistle-stop tour of London’s best running routes is the iconic Wimbledon Common in South-West London, and possibly the perfect destination for any runner wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of inner city life without leaving Zone 3. Covering 460 hectares, this patch of open space offers a little something for every kind of runner. There are gentle trails for those looking to pound something other than pavements, winding paths to, woodland routes, endless fields and even muddy tracks should that be your thing. Whichever route you choose to run, Wimbledon Common will transport you million miles from London as you put in the miles.
Best for: those wanting their first taste of trail running with a distance you can choose
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