Let’s be honest, for those who would like to start a new regime of physical activity, the thought of running in a city can be daunting and unnerving. After all, unlike the open countryside with its fresh air and endless paths through fields and meadows, cities are busy places with people and vehicles at every turn. But there are many city dwellers and work commuters who have made running in the urban environment work for them in new and exciting ways. If you think running is just about putting one foot in front of the other, over and over, until you collapse exhausted in a dripping heap, prepare to be inspired.
London fitness tours
Unexpected London is a newish venture (they started in 2017) which among other experiences, offers a unique fitness tour service. The idea is to blend exercise with art, culture, lifestyle, music, in a manner which is fun and refreshing. Participants can join a group which is led by an experienced fitness instructor – described as a hybrid of a personal trainer and a local guide. The areas on offer currently include Canary Wharf to Greenwich, Brixton, Richmond Park, Regent’s Canal and Little Venice, and several others. Each experience has a different vibe, with some focusing on music and art, and others on wildlife and tranquillity.
Unexpected London shows there is a demand for activities which combine wellness with personal enrichment. Given the often time-poor nature of professionals in our cities, this innovative type of service will undoubtedly continue to thrive and expand in the coming years.
Elite-level training for the more ambitious runner
If you are in or around the St Pancras area of London, and you are keen to give your fitness a boost, Pullman Hotel St Pancras has linked up with Track Life LDN to host a monthly ‘athlete-inspired’ running session provided by professional running coaches, Rory Knight and Omar Mansour. While admittedly, this might not suit the beginner, this does offer those who are looking to up their running game by receiving elite level training focusing on coordination, speed, power, and reflexes, after which the group will go on a 3km run through London. If you are keen to book a session, email your name and telephone number to H5309-SL@accor.com (no joining fee is required).
Design your own running route
Another exciting way to experience running in a city, especially if you are keen to explore new areas is to design your own route. One way to do this is to use a use an ‘app’ which can tailor routes for specific activity types. Kamoot, for example, will work out a safe running route for you, whether from A to B, in a loop, or in any other way. The route can then be uploaded to a mobile phone (or watch with GPS functionality), meaning that you can simply follow your route on a map, allowing you to focus on the scenery and experience in the knowledge that you will get back to your starting point in your allotted time; ideal if you are running during a lunch break and have to get back for a meeting.
It’s not all roads and pavements
To the uninitiated eye, London and other cities may appear to be a sea of buildings, roads, and pavements, but look beyond this, and you will discover a world of running-friendly areas which can feel a world away from the hustle and bustle. Whether it be running by the canal, around a royal park or garden, along the river, through woodland, and country parks, you will find many of these in our cities. For those in London, a great resource to use is the Runners Guide to London, an online resource and book providing routes of varying distances in and around the best running hotspots. No matter your location, there will be no shortage of options for you to try. Take, for example, the 5-mile Greenway footpath in East London which is actually the raised embankment of the Northern Outfall Sewer (don’t let this put you off), providing a wonderful opportunity to explore this area of the city. And If you are north of London, you can run along the 4-mile railway line from Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace.
Making running a social occasion
For those more keen to run with others, consider finding a running group on Meetup.com. This is especially useful for beginner runners for whom motivation and encouragement can often be lacking. There is no lack of clubs across each area of our cities, with some being solely for women, others with a more social focus, and those designed for beginners. There are probably even ones that end up at a local drinking establishment.
Ultimately, if you are considering running as a complete beginner, you have had time off from running, or if you are a seasoned amateur athlete, there are a range of new and exciting ways to get active which are not solely about fitness. Running can be combined with culture, art, conversation, discovery, relaxation and other experiences to enrich our experience. If you are one to eat a sandwich at lunchtime while surfing the web, but you have been looking for ways to maximise your time in new and uplifting ways, we hope some of these ideas inspire you. Just put on your running shoes, step outside, and place one foot in front of the other, you might be surprised what awaits you.
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