Running Routes: East London
London is a city in perpetual flux, but few parts of the capital have changed so much in the past decade as the East End. Areas such as Hackney, Dalston and Stoke Newington – once run-down corners of the city – are now a bustle of bicycles, pushchairs, coffee shops and brunch locations.
Some say the area has lost its charm, but in truth it has just become more diverse. The grit is still there, but now it’s broken up by splashes of colour and economic vibrancy. It’s also safer and there’s plenty more to look at than ever before.
This is one of the largest parks in the East End, and it’s a perfect destination for runners. Bordered by Bethnal Green and Bow to the south, Hackney to the west and Clapton to the north and east, it has more than 80 hectares of open space, a boating lake and a great café. Runners can stick to the path that snakes around the outside, or even stop at an 800-metre running track in the south east of the space for a few extra laps or faster sessions.
The park is divided in two by Grove Road. The smaller western part contains the lake and is good for running a few short laps. The larger section to the east is where you can really stretch your legs and pound the pathways. Those looking to extend their run by another mile could add a loop around Well Street Common, which sits just outside the boundaries of Victoria Park at the junction with Gascoyne Road.
A similar, slightly larger add-on can be found at the north corner of Victoria Park – exit from the north gate, cross Wick Road and head north to find Mabley Green and Wick Woodland, two further areas of East London green space.
The Grand Union Canal
Victoria Park is skirted on two sides by the Grand Union Canal, a stretch of waterway that runs through north and east London and leads out to the River Lea. Barges putter up and down the canal and more and more people now live on the water here in houseboats, dodging the ever-rising rents of the East End. The canal is popular with runners and makes an ideal way to get to and from Victoria Park, but also stands as an enjoyable running destination in its own right.
The Grand Union is open to foot traffic for the entire length of its route through East London, from Islington, through Hoxton and Shoreditch, De Beauvoir Town and Dalston, past the end of the ever-fashionable Broadway Market, and on into Victoria Park. The towpath can get a little busy at weekends with bicycles, push chairs and runners, especially through Dalston and Hoxton, but early morning and evening, plus during the week it’s often more quiet.
East of Victoria Park, the canal gets quieter still, and then terminates at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, where it hits the River Lea. From there, runners can head south along the towpath of the Lea, which will lead them out to Leamouth and eventually to the Isle of Dogs and the River Thames at the Docklands. Head north and the Lea will take you up through a quieter part of the East End and eventually on to Walthamstow.
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park
When London was awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, a huge part of Stratford in East London was razed to make way for the Olympic Stadium, the Aquatics Centre and the Lee Valley VeloPark. All of this remains, now surrounded by more than 200 hectares of landscaped green space, pathways and wetland nature areas.
As is often the case with such areas in the years immediately after the Games, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park can feel a little windswept and empty – it’s vast and there’s not a huge amount there – but that makes it a good spot for a long, serious run. The park is crisscrossed by the River Lea as well as the City Mill River and the Waterworks River. Footbridges offer plenty of access across each of these though the railway lines at the south and east of the park are maddeningly hard to transverse. Still, for those looking for solitude amongst the immense memories of London 2012, this is the place.
For something more social, 10k runs are organized on the first Saturday of every month. The course starts in the east of the park, south of the velodrome, at 9:30am. The race is open to all and there are prizes for the top five male and female finishers, plus a medal and a goody bag for all who take part. Entrance fee is £17. More info here.
You can search for running routes from Holiday Inn hotels in London and other local Holiday Inn destinations here: http://restandrun.holidayinn.com/route-search/