Ever close your eyes and think of England? This summer, hundreds of athletes headed to London to realize their Olympic dreams. But you don’t have to qualify for the Games to enjoy a world-class running experience. Here’s your guide to the city’s finest running routes that showcase London at her loveliest.
THE ROYAL PARKS
Former hunting grounds of the monarchy, the Royal Gardens are nestled in the heart of London. These eight connected public parks—now open to nobility and commoners alike—are a pleasant retreat from the hustle and bustle of the capital’s streets. Run early to watch the famous London fog begin to lift, or venture out on a summer evening when the parks are filled with workers enjoying the late-day sun.
A circuit around two of the most beautiful gardens—Hyde Park and Kensington—is about four miles. Start at Speaker’s Corner at the Marble Arch end of the park and enjoy the lively debates from protesters and orators before heading clockwise toward Kensington Palace. The ornate gardens in the palace’s grounds soon turn into the Victorian splendor of the Albert Memorial, with spires that shine in black and gold. You can finish the loop or extend your run by delving into the parkland’s 625 acres of criss crossed paths.
Hyde Park will be hosting the Olympic Triathlon this summer. To get in the spirit of the Games, take a dip in the open-air Serpentine Pond. Complete your own triathlon by renting a bike at Barclays Cycle Hire, £1 for 24 hours (tfl.gov.uk).
Another way to make the most of the Gardens is enjoying an outing with the Serpentine Running Club (serpentine.org.uk). The Serpies have over 2,000 members of all ages and abilities. Based at the corner of Hyde Park, their signature event is a Wednesday night run. Non-members can drop by for £1 and enjoy the short 4.3-mile run or the longer 7.2-mile route, which runs past Buckingham Palace. Serpies are a friendly bunch and runs often conclude in a local pub for a restorative pint.