Running and Swimming in London

I planned on posting this earlier, but then my body completely melted down and gave me two big middle fingers for running it into the ground. Needless to say, I couldn’t do more than hit play on episodes of “New Girl,” which isn’t half bad considering I have finally found  a TV character that most resembles my true self. No, not Schmidt. But better late than never…

As I mentioned in my earlier post, London surprised me.

UntitledIt’s not just a major urban metro filled with history, but it’s focus on expansive green spaces and parks puts New York City, Los Angeles and many of the major U.S. cities that I’ve visited to shame.

Sure New York has Central Park, but that’s pretty much the extent of large parks within the city to run in and around. I didn’t get a chance to visit even the top five, but the few that I did run in left me wondering, “Whoa, when is this park going to end?”

From zoos to open water swimming, fountains and spectacular sunrises, every turn I took led to the discovery of something new. Listed below are a few of the parks and pools that I visited and hopefully they’re helpful if you are ever across the pond.

UntitledSt. James’ Park: The first and smallest of the parks I ran through, but I’m leaving it on the list because of one specific spot, in the middle of the bridge, where you can watch the sun rise over the London eye and it was simply beautiful.

UntitledLondon 2012 Aquatics Centre: London recently reopened the Queen Elizabeth’s Park and all of the buildings that athletes competed in for the London 2012 Olympics and made them accessible to the public. It’s a 30 minute or so ride on the tube from central London, but it well worth it when you get to swim in the 50m beauty.

UntitledVictoria Park: Just a short jog away for the London 2012 Aquatics Center is Victoria Park, which seemed to go on, and on, and on. From football games, to super hero themed cycling groups, this park was perfection for flat running with great people watching.

UntitledMarshall Street Leisure Centre: Don’t expect luxury when you stumble upon this place in Soho, but the 1930’s, full marble, 30m pool was recently refurbished and is worth the drop-in fee for the unique experience. (Oh and don’t try to take a photo, you will promptly be whistled at and told, “NO PHOTOS!”)

UntitledThe Regent’s Park: One of the smaller parks on the list, yet still large enough to have the world’s first zoo in it. No need to purchase a zoo pass, because you’re run will take you by the giraffes (who just happened to be out and eating when I ran by). It also has a dirt track in case you’re that dedicated.

UntitledHyde Park: One word: huge. No, no, another word: amazing. This is what I would equate to a Central Park. It’s one of the largest parks in London and has everything from open water swimming, boating, cycling, tennis, horse riding, and more. I knew I was in London when I was running on the flat paved path, right next to an large dirt path for horses and their oh-so-proper looking riders (I have no idea what the correct language is for that sport). Go when it’s sunny to relax, but go during sunrise for spectacular views.

Untitled Untitled Untitled UntitledHampstead Heath: A bit further from central London, but still a runnable distance. I ran to the park when I was physically feeling the worst, but it brought so much discovery and joy. I couldn’t believe I was in London as the greenery made me feel like I was in Portland.  There’s trail running, art, historic homes, an all-weather track, and so much more. Definitely a must visit.

I also kept hearing about Richmond Park being one of the best, but the hour plus journey didn’t work with my schedule. I hope this helps anyone else who is thinking about a trip to London.

Any other recommendations for other travelers or locals?

Enjoy and happy running!

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26 Responses to Running and Swimming in London

  1. Cathryn says:

    Clearly I loved this post! Yay for London. I miss it.

    The only thing I’d add is that you should aim to finish your run at Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath (the last pic) because there’s a wonderful courtyard cafe there which is just gorgeous! Or just north of the heath (literally half a mile from Kenwood) is an amazing old pub called the Spaniard’s, which is also pretty special.

    So glad you enjoyed your time there!

  2. This makes me want to go to london even if to do nothing other than go running a few times, visit the giraffes, then fly home.

  3. Thanks for this. I’m leaving for london on Saturday and now I have a few ideas of where to run. :)

  4. Becca says:

    I’m going to London next month so this is helpful! Last time I went I wasn’t yet a runner. :)

  5. charlotte says:

    i’m a London based reader, so nice to see you enjoyed it! richmond park is lovely (my home area) and you can run for miles along the towpath (River thames path), plus into Wimbledon Common which is huge. Wish I could say i’ve run all these places, but it does make for good biking too! I’m so impressed by your dedication on a busy work trip too – inspiring stuff.

  6. Abby says:

    Glad you’re feeling better!
    And that’s awesome you were able to still run and swim so often while working away. It can be tough to fit it all in!
    How fun would it be to join the super hero themed cycling groups once in a while?!

  7. Nicole says:

    So cool that you took the time to go out of your way to run and swim in awesome places! If I was working that much I may have just defaulted to the closest of each.

    Glad you are feeling better!

  8. super freaking cool. I didn’t realize that about London and now I want to go! :) Hope the body has stopped giving you the bird

  9. Who knew London had all that green space!! Looks like an awesome trip!

  10. Beautiful parks! I’m just impressed by your training dedication on such a busy work trip. I usually run during work trips, but mine are only a week long! I can’t imagine maintaining that schedule for much longer. Feel better!

  11. It’s so pretty! Looks like you got some good runs in while exploring the city! I’d love visit there again.

  12. I LOVE this post! I was in London a few weeks ago, but couldn’t fit all my running gear into my one piece of carry-on luggage. :( But now I know where to go during my next trip!

  13. Love that RUN photo! I’ve never run around London but I know exactly what you mean about green areas in the city – I’m from Dublin and we have the Phoneix park which is also big enough to house a zoo! Your photos are fab!

  14. Nelly says:

    Those are some awesome pics – that is really cool that you got to swim in the London Aquatic center pool! When I was there for the 2012 Olympics I tried to run almost every day, there are so many good parks in London, you seemed to cover them all. My favorite is probably Regents Park, I just love all the hedges, flowers and plants around the park. Hampstead Heath looks awesome as well. If I could pick any big city in the world to live in, I’d pick London or Melbourne – because both are phenomenal for runners.

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