Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Top 5 Running Hotspots in London (for this runner!)

I've been based mostly in London these last few weeks, which means more time than usual wading through crowds and chaos. And not just when I run. So I thought it would be a good time to write about my top 5 running hotspots--traffic hotspots, that is!

These are places in London that are busy year round, but absolutely crazy during peak seasons. You should avoid them at all costs but if you absolutely can't (or like me, naively think you can make it to the other side alive) then dive in with caution. And remember you're likely to miss out on your magic mile PB or struggle to hit your target pace if you do!

One small disclaimer--London is a big place and these are based only on places where I run, mostly along the Southbank which is near to where I live, and Piccadilly Circus, where I used to work. I'm sure there are a lot more hotspots (and some even more treacherous) than the ones in my top 5.

So, counting back from 5:

5. Hyde Park Corner, crossing from Constitutional Hill to Wellington Arch. Okay, not the worst in terms of crowds although there are always tourists around...but if you *just miss* the traffic light, you will be stuck for ages! You'll have to wait not once but TWICE, because the first crossing just takes you halfway, and then you need to wait again for traffic coming from the other direction. I'm not advocating risking your life, but do cross if you it's clear and you have ample time. And if not, don't forget to stop your watch!

4. St. James' Park, the entrance near Buckingham Palace. If you run around Green Park and then decide to go into St. James' Park (or vice versa), you have to cross The Mall.  The crossing nearest the fountain is one many runners use. The traffic light's not too bad and you can usually sneak across, but the entrance to the park is not very wide and filled with tourists. And to make matters worse, it's a downhill slope towards the pond. Just remember not to go in too fast and veer right, away from the crowds.

3. Thames Path Walk, behind London Bridge Hospital. Going West on the Southbank just before you come to London Bridge, there is a pathway just behind London Bridge Hospital that narrows before you either go straight and up the stairs to London Bridge, or left towards Southwark Cathedral. It's tough to go around people because there's just no room, and the sharp 90 degree turns means lots of chances for near-collisions. My one and only collision happened here!

2. Clink Street, from Southwark Cathedral to the Clink Prison Museum. Narrow with twists and turns, and always packed with tourists and regular commuters. Sights like the Golden Hind and Winchester Palace mean people also mull around in big groups. To top it off, cobblestones might add to the quaintness of the street but they are a runner's worst nightmare! They are really uneven in some spots, so challenging to run on and even worse when in rains. Navigating through the crowds AND having to watch your step always makes it tricky! Plus, LOTS of vans park to make deliveries here to the nearby restaurant, making things extra crazy.

1. The London Eye, in particular the area from Westminster Bridge to the London Eye. The chaos starts with all the random street performs as you approach the London Eye from the East side. But the real fun begins right when you hit the Eye itself. Crowds queuing up, people buying tickets, lots of large families, the London Aquarium and McDonald's, more tourists heading down from Westminster Bridge towards the Eye...the list goes on and on. And everyone moving so very slowly, looking around but not around them. At peak times this is the one place on the Southbank where I have to stop and walk. Definitely avoid!

So there you have it, my top 5 running hotspots in London. Run through them with caution! :) It's worth mentioning that if you get up early enough you can avoid a lot of the madness. (Early is always tough for me....)

So tell me, what are your top running hotspots? Either in London, Brighton or wherever you are!


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