Get out into the countryside, make the most of the summer weather and run your little hearts out with these scenic running routes all within easy reach of London town. Got a favourite we haven’t mentioned? We’d love to hear it so tweet us or pop it in the comments box below.
Shady forests, picturesque lakes, historic dwellings, dramatic coastline, stunning wildlife… and one MASSIVE chuffing hill, these routes – all recommended by keen runners and easily accessed from London – must be one of the best ways to spend a Sunday. Just think of the country pub lunch you’ll earn.
By the lake
Where: Virginia Water, Windsor Great Park, Surrey
How to get there: Virginia Water is on the mainline to Waterloo, which also passes through Staines, Richmond and Clapham Junction, or just off the M25 if you’re travelling by car.
Recommended by: Kathleen Walker. Kat is a physiotherapist and keen runner who trained at Virginia Water as a junior athlete.
Virginia Water is a beautiful area in Windsor Great Park with a manmade lake and small waterfall surrounded by sculpted gardens and woodland. There are plenty of paths, which are mostly traffic free, so it’s nice and safe for runners. As a junior athlete I ran at Virginia Water every Sunday and our coach always managed to invent different sessions for us to do within the parks. We would warm up through the woods or around the lake (which if you start and finish in Savill Gardens is around 6 miles) and do hill reps or hill circuits around some of the more wooded areas. There are even sand hills if you want a tougher session or polo pitches for something a bit flatter. It’s a beautiful place to run and safe to go off exploring – a serene place just outside the city.”
Hill training heaven
Where: Box Hill, Surrey
How to get there: A regular service to Box Hill & Westhumble station runs from London Victoria with a journey time of 45 minutes. If you’re travelling by car the M25 is nearby.
Recommended by: Robbie Britton, Team GB ultra marathon runner, distance coach and Box Hill regular. His motto is ‘Pain is inevitable, suffering is just part of the fun’ – just saying. www.robbiebritton.co.uk Robbie is trekking across the Antarctic in 2014. Nutter. www.south2014.com
Box Hill, part of the North Downs and the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is a bit of an institution for Britain’s cyclists (it featured on the 2012 Olympic route) but they’ve tried to keep it a secret from us runners for years! There are several ways up to the top of Box Hill, although none quite as vertical as the infamous steps.
The ‘nicest’ incline though is probably the Burford Spur, which starts next to the cyclist’s beloved Zig Zag road, has the gentlest incline and is very near to the facilities and parking at Ryka’s cafe on Old London Road. Starting with a set of uphill sprints to get the heart racing you can then get the 0.5 mile steady hill reps going up and down a few times, hill training being the best way to train all the right muscles and make you stronger, whatever you’re training for!
The hill tops out at about 224m, making it the third highest point in the South East of England and there are trails and hills all over the Box Hill estate. If they’re not enough for you then the 153 mile North Downs Way gives you endless scope for adventure stretching from Farnham all the way to Dover.”
For more info visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk
Through the forest
Where: Epping Forest, High Beach, Essex
How to get there: Epping Forest Visitor Centre is located between Epping and Loughton. If you’re going by car it can be accessed by the M25 (junction 26), or M11 (junction 7). Alternatively, jump on the Central Line and get the tube to Loughton, Theydon Bois or Epping.
Recommended by: Georgina Spenceley, a health and fitness coach and sports therapist from Harlow, Essex. A runner and triathlete, Georgina often visits Epping Forest with her local running club and cycle group. Check out her health and fitness blog Fitcetera here.
Epping Forest is a gorgeous place to run – it’s home to muntjac and fallow deer as well as rabbits, foxes and badgers, if you’re lucky enough to spot them. The bridle paths are well used by runners, horse riders, cyclists and walkers and there are plenty of opportunities to test your fitness with steep inclines if you fancy tackling them. Our running club always meet near High Beach visitor centre, there’s a tea hut serving tea and cake for post-run refreshment so it’s a popular place for runners and cyclists. There are endless choices for routes anywhere from just a couple of miles to 12-13 miles or more – the forest spans around 6,000 acres. A few routes are available from the City of London website, which are marked with signposts en route, but sometimes the best way to run is by exploration.”
The home of Jane Austen
Where: Alton, Hampshire
How to get there: Trains run from London Waterloo to Alton station two times an hour – one on Sundays. Journey time is around 1hr 10 minutes.
Recommended by: Jan Littlewood, a keen trail runner and hiker Jan lives in London half of the year and Hong Kong the other where he writes books about hiking.
I get a lot of my running routes from hiking books and can wholeheartedly recommend the Time Out Books of Country Walks Volume 1 and Volume 2. They provide really interesting routes to the north, south, east and west of London and are great if you don’t have time to explore or search for a new route on a map. They also have a walking club website, which has loads of free walks available for download that you can use as running routes.
The 12.7 mile Alton circular route in Hampshire is one of my favourites. It’s really varied with fields, cute churches, common land and woodland. There’s a village half way through if you want to stop for lunch or refill with water and it passes through Chawton near the end, which is where Jane Austen lived for the last eight years of her life. If you want you can visit her house. There are loads of places to eat and drink in Alton once you’ve finished so you can make a whole day of it. And if it seems a bit far, there’s a shorter route option finishing in Chawton.”
You’ll find a link to the walk route, directions and information here and can also download it straight to a GPS device.
By the seaside
Where: Seaford, East Sussex
How to get there: Trains from London Victoria take about 1 hr 30mins to Seaford, changing at Lewes.
Recommended by: Jan Littlewood again. He’s very good at getting on trains and running somewhere beautiful.
This route is a little bit further away but it’s worth it. Bloody amazing views, incredibly dramatic. Running along the famous steep white cliffs (don’t go too close to the edges) you can go all the way past Beachy Head to Eastbourne and catch the train home direct to London Victoria from there. It’s 13.8 miles to Eastbourne but the number 12 bus runs regularly between the towns so you can make your run as short as you like and then hop on a bus. It’s not a flat route but it’s great for running as the grass is a bit like soft carpet. I have only ever done this run in great weather but I imagine it can get pretty windy up there so it’s probably best for a nice day, if it’s sunny you could even stop off for a swim.”
To download the Seaford to Eastbourne route map, directions and information click here.
One last one from Jan – he’s got all the routes!
Where: Coulsdon South, Croydon
How to get there: Technically still in London, Coulsdon South is in zone 6 so you can use your Oyster. Trains run on the Brighton mainline from London Bridge and usually take less than 30 minutes.
Recommended by: Trail runner extraordinaire Jan Littlewood – he took the pictures for his routes too!
Coulsdon South is a great place to just go and get lost. There are grazing commons with old breed cattle on them, lush green valleys, wooded paths and nice pubs. Large green open spaces including Farthing Downs, Kenley Common, Coulsdon Common (and many others) are all close, linking London and the Surrey countryside. It’s really easy to just run around and explore the paths. To get to the green bits from Coulsdon South station go down the stairs at the end of platform 2 and walk between the fences for 50m. At the pavement turn left and then after about 100m turn right and follow the road up the hill (Do not follow the wider left branch of the road). After about 200m you hit the green areas and can just have fun. There is also a nice pub –The Fox – which is pretty much in the middle of the Common and a great place to eat/rest/get pissed afterwards.”
For more information and a map of Farthing Downs click here.
Sorry this is a bit Londoncentric. If you have a favourite running route to add, whether it’s easily accessible from London or Outer Mongolia tweet us, comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org