How London Taught Me To Run | Eclectic Cake: How London Taught Me To Run

Saturday, 21 March 2015

How London Taught Me To Run

Over three years ago, bribed with a post-run trip to the pub, I – nervous, super self conscious and convinced the group I was with would leave me behind – took my first running steps in London. It took only a few more to know I’d been wasting my miles by running the same suburban route over and over.

Taking a rest opposite the Houses of Parliament

I guess it was fear that had held me to routine. The city seemed so big and busy, and I certainly didn't want to be spotted shuffling along, red-faced and struggling for breath. And I would definitely get lost…How on earth would I get home if I got lost?! I was, of course, fine. Better than fine, in fact. That first run opened my eyes to a whole world I'd not seen on my sad little loop and it’s thanks to this community that my running has gone from strength to strength.

It turns out, London was the perfect place to learn to run.

Running the Mall

No matter where you wonder, you’ll see runners whizzing along London’s streets, parks, pavements and trails. There are hundreds, probably thousands of these laced-up, fluro, urban  plodders. And the more you look for them, the more you’ll see, so becoming just one more barely turned heads. Fellow runners who did notice me, no matter my ability, simply applauded my efforts with a smile or knowing head nod. 

The track at Paddington Recreation Grounds

There was the matter of the millions of other people who grace the streets but, despite wearing enough reflective gear to power a lighthouse, too-busy-to-notice commuters and map-wielding tourists didn’t even see me, providing I managed to dodge out of their way. No one was looking at my first few attempts and I was so glad. 

The view from Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath

Any newcomer would be fooled into thinking that running is a solo sport but I’ve never felt so much a member of a team as I have whilst running. An enthusiastic bunch, runners welcome anyone who appreciates their pursuits. The proof is in the ever-growing list of city running clubs. No matter if you’re fast or slow, experienced or new, serious, silly, male, female, younger, older, geeky, cool, North, South, East or West, there’s a group for you. London’s running groups are as diverse as the people who live and work here.

Northala Fields, Northolt

In my first few months of city running, I waddled with a whole host of different groups. It gave me the chance to see why others run and learn what type of runner I was (chatty and not very time-conscious but easily encouraged to go long, if you were wondering). Connecting with like-minded people, means you make friends and then make friends with their friends, until you have a whole network of runners to support, encourage and lead you astray. Three years later, you’ll be planning ‘holidays’ together that involve running, eating and very little else.

Hyde Park in the morning

It’s not just the groups that offer variety, London’s running terrain is surprisingly diverse. Stick to central London, and you have miles of fast, firm pavement to enjoy. Wonder into one of the Royal Parks and you’ll be welcomed with gravely trails and endless green. Feeling fast and you can hunt out one of the many tracks. Escape to the edges and you’ll even find a few muddy trails and hills to climb. I’m now an absolute trail convert, who would’ve thought I’d find out in one of the busiest cities in the world. Discovering each surface within such a small space was a great introduction to different types of running without having to travel too far. And if you do find yourself out of juice, simply hop on the tube – you’re never too far from home.

The London Eye at night

London is beautiful. I feel very lucky to be able to regularly run here and often find myself being a tourist – deliberately getting lost and always looking up – take a different turn and you’ll immediately be met with something you’ve never seen before. This endless source of distraction is great for learning to run further. Count icons not miles and you’ll soon find you’ve covered more ground than you thought possible. Plus, the bragging photos will look amazing!

Find out more about running in London with the Runner's Guide.


  1. Definitely looks like a beautiful place to run!

    1. When it's good, it's absolutely stunning to run in London!