When I first moved to London I thought that trail running and this city simply don’t go together. No mountains, no hills, no trails just super-flat parks, roads and a lot of concrete. Well tough sh*t, Lenka – your trail running career will hit rock bottom…I said to myself. A few runs and my ‘getting-lost’ adventures later and I changed my mind – it turned out that London isn’t that bad at all…Okay you will never ever be able to compare “English Alps” to the French, Swiss or Italian ones but hey – we need to work with what we’ve got. Right?!
Fortunately I’ve moved to the North and so I can be mostly found running up and down the Alps of North London. I still make the odd running trip to the City but that’s only for special occasions.
So if you’ve just moved here, want to swap roads for trails or you’re after some inspiration where to go for your next Sunday trail run this post is for you. Here are my top favourite trail running spots in North London.
Alexandra Palace Park
This is the Col of the London’s Cols and my favourite place in the whole London. It amazes me how many people (a lot of Londoners too) don’t know this place and have never been here. Seriously, where have you lived people? If you’re one of them you’re missing out big time. Get your ‘things’ together, there is a life and some cool places outside Zone 2!
Ally Pally hill, the best hill in London has always been good to me. We’ve been through a lot together – tons of climbs and downs always trying to beat each other. True BFFs! It’s My Church, my sacred place where I go to train but also meditate, re-charge and re-focus.
No matter how bad you feel, a run in Ally Pally does always heal!
Morning run in Ally Pally with this view…
Basically one run in here and you’ll be ready to take over the World again – Thank you ally Pall! If you need to bring your hill work to the next level, you should be here yesterday. Alexandra Palace park offers a variety of trails, you can run up to the palace which will give you a long hill. At the bottom of the park you will find a long stretch perfect for speed work. I use it instead of athletic track as the stretch is quite long and you can easily do 400m/800m/1600m laps.
Both trail paths and pavements. You can pick which way up you go – easy, hard or … (your choice)
Hill reps, hill reps and again hill reps
Nearest Tube station
Wood green or Bounds Green (both Piccadilly line) or train – Alexandra Palace
Whether it’s day or night, you get the best views of London! It’s also only a short walk from Muswell hill where you can get yourself a nice post-run flat white (see some cafes here).
Take some change and you can treat yourself to a coffee or s beer right at the top Bar or in a pretty little Italian cafe. If you go here on Sunday you can get some fresh veg and fruit for your post-run smoothie at the Farmer’s Market.
A little forest inside of London, that’s how I call it. Highgate Wood is 28 hectares of ancient woodland with the Sports ground (football pitch and cricket field) in the middle. It’s nicely connected with Ally Pally so you can do some longer runs crossing both parks. The only downside is that it closes at 7:30pm ish (safety reasons). It can be pretty dark in there during the winter season so it’s better to schedule your AM run here.
Today I went to Church…again! And I liked it. A lot. I go there very often, 4-5 times a week. Sometimes more, sometimes even twice a day. I’m not Catholic nor a follower of any other religion but I love going to Church. The Church is OUTSIDE, outside where I run. What’s yours? #running #trail #trailrunning #motivation #MyChurch #outside #ourdoors #OutdoorChurch #ultra #motivation A photo posted by RUNNING | Blogger | Digital (@lenkaistvanova) on
Again, you can do nice a loop inside – a shorter (1K) or a bigger (2K) one with a few tiny hills. Plus if you combine it with a run through Ally Pally you’ll get a nice 10K under your belt. You can also add a few strength exercises to your run – a couple of those ‘outdoor gym’ machines will wait for you by the cricket pitch.
Tempo runs (loops), easy runs or as a part of a long run (Ally Pally – Highgate Wood – Hampstead Heath)
Nearest Tube station
Highgate Underground station (Northern Line) or Bus routes 43, 134 and 263
The Viewing Platform – it’s not actually in the wood but on the way there (between Ally Pally and Highgate Wood). The best gem is well maintained toilet especially when you need #2.
Another great place for some trail running and not only that is Hampstead Heat. The location (only 4miles from the City), the views and the highest points in London make this park one of the best loved green spaces. It’s real magic lies in the numerous sports pitches, playgrounds, athletic track and trails! No doubt that The Heath is regarded as the home of cross-country running in Britain. You can pretty much lose yourself in the countless little muddy paths, hills and trails.
Want to do a long non-boring run? No problem, start at Ally Pally, go through the Woods of Highgate and finish it with some laps around Hampstead Heath.
Muddy trails, hills, National Cross Country courses
Everything from speed sessions at the track, hill reps of Parliament Hill to easy long trail runs
Nearest Tube station
Hampstead Heath (overground) or Hampstead (Northern)
Open air swimming ponds (open 365 days a year) and my life-safer – water fountain just under the Parliament Hill 😉
The map of Hampstead Heath,
Last but definitely not least! Trent Park is my little gem on its own which I only explored it a few months ago. Stupid me! It’s an island of beautiful meadows, enchanting brooks, exquisite lakes, ancient woodland. The best thing is that it’s very rural and wild (as much as it can be in London). Apart from trail running you can indulge yourself in go-aping, horse riding or golfing. If you run around the whole park you can easily log around 3 to 4 miles which is not bad.
It’s great for long runs especially if you don’t live too far away. It usually takes me 40 minutes to get there and then 30 minutes to go back. Top that with a few laps around it and you’ll get a nice 3 hour run. If you ever run out of water or when you forget it at home you can run safe and sound as this little water fountain will safe your life…
A video posted by RUNNING | Blogger | Digital (@lenkaistvanova) on
Fairly flat trails
Long trail runs – I usually do a few loops around
Nearest Tube station
Cockfosters or Oakwood (both Piccadilly line)
The whole park itself and the above showed Water fountain!
Trailscape Series – NORTH
If you want to take your North London trail running to the next step, here’s your chance as Trailscape series are back! Rail to Trail series (or Trailscape) offers 4 easily accessible trail runs, all within an hour by train of London! The 4 locations are Newport, Cuxton, Ashurst and Wendover yeah they’re all within a stone’s throw of London. And that’s not all – the races’ start lines are only short walk from train station and you won’t need to book a taxi or catch another train or bus to actually get to the race.
Where do you run in London? What’s your favourite trail running location?