The Lonely Goat Guide to Running in London

The Lonely Goat Guide to Running in London header image

At Lonely Goat Running Club, we have members all over the UK, plus an increasing number of international Goats in different countries. We decided to make the most of this massive geographic reach to pick your brains, benefit from your local knowledge, and put together a guide to running in different cities. To kick things off, we’re heading to the biggest city in the UK, with the Lonely Goat Guide to Running in London.

Whether you’re visiting London and fancy a run; have just moved there and want to get out running; or are a long-time resident, but first-time runner, this guide – made up of tips from your fellow members of the Lonely Goat ‘Herd’ – is for you!

The Thames

Wriggling its way across London is the River Thames. If you’re not sure where to run, heading to the river is a good start.

The Embankment, on the north bank of the river, is famous for the closing stages of the London Marathon. Even without the closed roads and cheering crowds of Marathon Day, it’s still a nice place to run, under the trees.

On the opposite side of the river is the South Bank – with a great views of the city’s iconic landmarks. On a sunny summer’s day, this can be heaving with crowds, requiring lots of weaving. Get the timing right (early morning, pre-rush hour, or as the day is winding down, for instance) and you can enjoy the nice wide, flat path between Tower Bridge and the London Eye.

The London Eye
Going further

Running along the river banks also makes navigation easier – as you just have to follow the river – which is helpful for people new to running in London. To increase the distance, zig-zagging between the Embankment and South Bank by crossing the various bridges can help you add extra miles.

Beyond central London, you can even follow the Thames Path way out west towards Surrey (ultimately ending up in the Cotswolds if you keep going), or east to the sea.

Regent’s Canal

The Thames isn’t the only stretch of water in London, as there are other rivers and canals to explore. The Regent’s Canal is one of the better ones of running along, and you can hop onto the towpath behind Kings Cross and St. Pancras Stations.

The Parks

If the roads are too hectic for you, head to the park!

Central parks

London has a decent amount of parkland for runners to explore, much of it forming the Royal Parks. The central Royal Parks (home to the popular Royal Parks Half Marathon) are:

  • Regent’s Park;
  • Hyde Park;
  • Kensington Gardens;
  • Green Park;
  • St. James’s Park.

Between them, these parks offer plenty of space for runners to explore. The main paths can get a little busy, but if you’re adventurous there are some fun trails to discover. If you run through Regent’s Park, you may even glimpse the giraffes in London Zoo.

One of Lonely Goat, Grant Ellis’ favourite routes around Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
Western parks

Just outside central London, to the west of the city, are the two larger Royal Parks: Bushy Park and Richmond Park, plus neighbouring Wimbledon Common.

It’s no surprise that west London is home to some of the UK’s top long distance runners (including Sir Mo Farah) as there is so much room to run in!

Richmond Park is recommended if you want some hills, while Bushy Park is good for flat PB efforts.

Northern parks

Unlike much of central London, the north of the city is a good place to find hills!

Hampstead Heath is a popular spot for runners. If you fancy a challenge, try blasting up Parliament Hill at full speed – as happens during the start of the different cross country races held here.

If that isn’t enough, have a crack at running up Swain’s Lane, which reaches gradients of 20%, averaging 8% over 900m. Unsurprisingly, it’s not uncommon to see hardcore cyclists testing themselves on this climb.

Finsbury Park and Alexandra Park are also worth visiting for a run.

Eastern parks

For some Olympic inspiration, head to the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park. Just a mile’s jog away is Victoria Park (home to a 400m athletics track).

A little further out, head to Lee Valley, Epping Forest, Hainault Forest, and the Walthamstow Wetlands.

Southern parks

Possibly the most famous of London’s southern parks, as far as runners are concerned, are Greenwich Park, St. John’s Park, and Blackheath, which are the three points from which the London Marathon starts each year.

On the southern bank of the Thames is Battersea Park (another park with a 400m athletics track). It’s not a huge area, but isn’t too far from the South Bank so can be added on to extend a run.

If you go a little further out to Petts Wood, there’s a 10K trail route you can follow, that ends close to a bakery that does great samosas!

Crystal Palace Park, Clapham Common, Brockwell Park, and South Norwood Country Park are home to good running routes, too.

Trail running

OK, compared to Dartmoor, the Peak District, Snowdonia, Ben Nevis, or the Alps, you’re not going to find much in the way of challenging terrain in London. However, for those who like to get their shoes muddy, a little trail running is possible.

A good place to start is by checking out Transport for London’s Walk London webpage, which features some of the capital’s top walking routes (which you can, of course, follow when running).

Routes such as the LOOP, Capital Ring, and Green Chain follow footpaths and bridleways and are well marked with signs.

Timing

London is a busy city. This is especially the case during rush hour, which can make running slow going. Add in waiting to cross roads, and it is easy to get frustrated. That said, pick your routes well, avoiding tourist hot spots or places busy with commuters, and it is possible to find some peace and quiet in unexpected places.

Even if you do get your timing wrong, and find you’re trying to run through a busy crowd, at least you can look at the stressed out commuters and know you’re having more fun.

London’s streets aren’t all busy, all the time

Use the Herd!

The suggestions above are just a few of the options for running in London. There are so many more places to run that the possibilities are almost endless – You can even run around the external concourse of Wembley Stadium!

If you want to try something new, or make the most of a little local knowledge, remember that there is an amazing community of Lonely Goats whose experience you can draw on. Just head into the Facebook Chat Group or our Strava Club Page to ask their advice on where to run in London.

Thanks to our contributors

Thank you to the following members of the Lonely Goat community for their suggestions: Grant Ellis and Paul Stubbington on Facebook; and @_thiscatcan_, @sammywhite97, @simonemmett_gb, @betsybrownlab, @hazreynoldss, @njranga, @mike_runs_16, @ebav313, @robisrunning, and @cpomps on Instagram.