After all of the hiking in the Lake District and exhausting fun of it, I needed to get back into the running groove while on my English vacation. I wanted to not just as preparation for my upcoming races at the Dumbo Double Dare but because I’ve found that running can be a great way to explore a new place while traveling. So on Wednesday morning, I headed out for a long run starting in the Wandsworth area of London, heading over to Battersea, crossing the Chelsea Bridge into Kensington and Chelsea, and looping through the neighborhoods of Sloane Square and Knightsbridge on my way back. I covered 9.5 miles running and another mile or so of warming up and cooling down, and got to see familiar London sights and new places along the way. I also picked up 10 tips for running in London to share with you all (plenty are applicable to any new city you want to go run-sploring in!)
1. Bring your phone.
This one might seem obvious, but I typically don’t run with my phone at home, since I like to be unplugged and enjoy my “me time” on the run. It’s wise to tote it along though, because you never know when you’re going to need directions because you have no clue where you ended up, and it’s handy for taking photos too! I am terrible at selfies but when in London…
2. Take a look at a “real map” too.
Seriously, do it before you go. Even if you have your phone, getting a general sense of the area is always a good idea. The paper map I obtained of the area where I’m staying with a friend has been incredibly helpful. You may remember more than you think after a good look, and you’ll be able to “follow your nose” instead of stopping constantly. Although some stops are good, so you should also…
3. Stop and smell the roses.
Remember not to focus so much on running and your route that you forget to take it all in. You’re in a new place and there is so much to see!
4. Feel free to photograph the journey.
I really enjoy taking pictures of both sights and signs. The sights are great to remember, but so are the signs, because they can help you re-create your route later on. It’s really cool to be able to look at that map afterwards and see the places you went. On the flip side, you might want to put the phone away and just focus on taking it all in – but I like to do a few runs each way when I’m traveling.
5. Be aware of local running etiquette.
Most runners know the basics, but I realized while hiking that there’s something pretty crucial that differs in England. Since they drive on the left, it also makes sense that they would walk and run on the left. As should you! Also, the signs here to keep you on the path (which bends behind buildings where there is construction) are not as intuitive for an American. Instead of following the direction the arrow is pointing, many of the horizontal signs face you and you’re supposed to go straight at them. But only sometimes – other times you follow the arrow. I got confused as to when to go which way a time or two. Luckily the path markers in Battersea Park were more typical.
6. Enter a race.
This can be a great way to enjoy the local running scene. I’m excited to run the Hyde Park 10K on Sunday, August 23 with my friends as my first British race! I know one thing – there won’t be any mile markers, just kilometers 😉
7. Bring money.
You never know when you might end up thirsty or hungry and in need of refreshment, or suddenly blistered and begging for a Band-Aid. Better safe than sorry in a new place! And also, many of the public restrooms in London and other parts of England charge a fee of 20-40 pence. While some are free, you’ll be glad to have some loose change if nature calls and the only nearby facilities are pay-to-enter.
8. Bring a travel card just in case.
Pretty similar to the above – just a smart idea. If you end up running further than you expected, you might want to take public transportation back to wherever you’re staying. I didn’t, but I easily could have – I almost ran further into South Kensington.
9. Explore everywhere.
I always try to make sure to take in the little details of new places even if I’m flying by on fast feet. Like I said before, stopping to smell the roses is part of the fun of run-sploring. You never know what you’ll notice.
10. Shake it out and have fun!
The most important thing of all. Run-sploring is about both the run and the exploring, and while the tips above are essential to keep you safe and to make the most of your visit, they don’t really make a difference if you’re not enjoying being out and on the go 🙂
Do you like to explore new places by running on vacation?
Any other tips to share, whether for London or another city?