I love ANY opportunity to run somewhere new. So when my husband said he had a meeting in London this week, I jumped at the excuse to head to the city. Despite living in the UK my entire life, I’ve actually spent more time in New York than London. But hey, there’s nothing like being a tourist in your own country!
The Royal Parks
When in London, where better to start a run than Hyde Park?
My first mile crossed the long water before heading past the Princess Diana memorial fountain. I then followed the serpentine, the venue for the triathlon swim at the 2012 Olympics. Huge shout out to the Brownlee brothers! Running towards Hyde Park corner, I past the rose garden which is so pretty and quaintly english by comparison to the rest of the park. I was even lucky enough to see the horses parading back from the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace as I crossed to Green Park.
I followed Constitution Hill through Green Park directly to Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Memorial. I’m not convinced it really qualifies as a hill though. I mean, ‘Constitution barely detected slope’ might be a more accurate name, although I admit it’s a bit less catchy.
The main problem with running around Buckingham Palace is that there are people. A lot of people. All meandering around. There are also a lot of police. Two of which posed for a photograph with some tourists as I ran by. After they’d taken the picture, one of the officers reached out his hand and said ‘that’ll be 85 euro please!’ The ladies face was a picture. Clearly not everyone gets the British sense of humour.
I left Buckingham Palace via The Mall. Anyone who has ever run, or watched the London Marathon will be familiar with it providing the iconic backdrop to the spectacular finish. It’s coloured red with iron oxide pigment to look like a red carpet sweeping up to Buckingham palace. I’m wondering if we should go for the same effect when we get our driveway redone in a few months, but I’m not sure it would be quite so impressive! My road is also distinctly lacking in crowns on top of the lamp posts. Though now I come to think about it, there might have been a baseball cap stuck on one once.
St James’s Park
Pelicans, and not the crossing variety, is what I always associate with St James’s Park. I remember sitting next to one on a bench as a child and being absolutely petrified. I mean, these things have a wingspan ranging between 226-360cm. And don’t even get me started on the size of that beak. The Blue Bridge is a particular highlight of St James’s Park. It has a great view of Horse Guards, Big Ben and the London Eye in the distance. I love the convergence of old and new, side by side.
Leaving the parks, I ran in front of Westminster Abbey, around Parliament Square and past the Houses of Parliament, underneath Big Ben to Westminster Bridge. And all in 0.3 of a mile. Now that’s some efficient sight seeing! There’s currently a lot of renovation around this area. In fact Big Ben itself is surrounded by scaffolding and has been strangely silent since August 2017. The longest it hasn’t bonged for, in its 157 year history. Due to the masses, and timing of the traffic lights I ran down the edge of the road as I crossed Westminster Bridge which was particularly exhilarating.
The South Bank
I arrived at the South bank 3 miles into my run, and followed The Queen’s Walk pathway. I wonder if the Queen has ever walked her own pathway. If not, she’s definitely missing out. The Southbank has a really laid back vibe, especially on such a sunny day. It’s basically full of entertainment and restaurants, with people lounged out of the grassy areas.
You can’t really miss the London Eye, now the world’s fourth biggest ferris wheel. That’s the problem with being original. Other people copy your ideas, but have to go one better. Fun fact, the eye has 32 capsules, one for each of the London Boroughs, but they are numbered 1-33, with no 13 for superstitious reasons. Human beings really are funny creatures.
My favourite part of the South Bank is actually further towards Tower Bridge, but by this point I was conscious that every mile I added would mean an extra mile to get back. So instead, I followed the Thames as far as Waterloo bridge and then decided I’d better cross and head back into the City.
Despite being quite touristy, I adore Covent garden. It’s very boutiquey, very pretty and an instagram dream. The main reason I love it though, is the vast selection of independent, specialist eateries. You can find anything from gelato to pies and from fine french cuisine to Lebanese bakeries. At the moment it even has a pop up ‘avobar’ with some of the most ridiculously pretty avocados you will ever see. The atmosphere is buzzing and there’s often some
slightly dodgy street entertainment. Being there just makes you feel happy.
Food Tip: I am a secret cookie fiend. So while I was waiting for my husband to finish his meeting, I may have been tempted by Ben’s cookies. I went for a praline and milk chocolate one and it was so fresh that it was still warm and gooey from the oven. A little piece of heaven!
After Covent Garden, I didn’t really have a plan. My inner Sat Nav (anyone who knows me is laughing right now. I can get lost in my own house) was telling me I needed to keep heading North West. So for a while I alternated turning right then left to head in that general direction. Which is how I accidentally stumbled on China Town.
Now, by this point it was lunch time and although I’m not a huge fan of Chinese take away, the smell was pretty enticing. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have any money on me. I did enjoy the army of lucky gold cats waving at me as I passed each window though!
Back to the Hyde Park via Marble Arch
Until I stumbled on Regent and then Oxford Street, I spent most of this section with absolutely no idea where I was. The best part about winging it in this fashion is that you often find some hidden little gems. Golden Square was one of them. The surrounding roads were crammed full of delicious looking coffee shops and bakeries that I definitely need to spend some more time exploring.
Food Tip: Soho Grind is a hipster espresso bar on Beak Street. It looked so good that later in the day I returned to get a cappuccino. They also do their own espresso martinis which I was dying to try. Another day!
I was quite lucky that neither Oxford nor Regent street were too busy as I think this might have turned out to be a bit of a nightmare. Regent Street is looking particularly great at the minute with the sun shining and the strings of union jacks stretching across. I practically followed this bus for the last half mile until I got back to Hyde Park via Marble Arch (kind of like a smaller Arc De Triomphe).
And there you have it, just over 6.5 miles of London at its best. So here’s my confession. 31 years of living in the UK and until now I’ve never once run so much as a step in London (6 rejections from London Marathon ballot haven’t helped this statistic, but that’s a story for another day!) I loved every minute of this run. Yes bits of it were touristy, but hey, I was quite happy being one of them.
I’m heading to London a bit more over the next few months so I’d love to know any tips you have for either your favourite places to run, or any food recommendations.