Monday, 12 August 2013

Run #1: Southbank and City Sunriser



START: Aldgate Station

END: Aldgate Station

DISTANCE: Approximately 5.2km

I've run in many cities but few have offered the diversity of London. From the grassy tree-strewn meadows of Hampstead Heath, to the concrete jungle that is Canary Wharf. The routes might not always be breathtakingly aesthetic, but bored you are unlikely to ever be.

Aldgate Station, nestled in between Fenchurch and Liverpool Street Station may not be your obvious choice for the starting point of an early morning weekend run. At best you might think it’s counterintuitive to start your workout in a part of the city that all but shuts down on a Friday night, at worst you probably think it’s downright depressing. But bear with me.

Cross Aldgate High Street and turn into either Mansell Street or Minories and a few nasty crossings, cheap gyms, abandoned kebab shops and failing pubs later, you'll find yourself on the edge of the St.Katherine's Docks area and en route to crossing Tower Bridge, arguably one of London's most iconic landmark's.

During the week the bridge is almost always jammed with traffic and mobbed with camera wielding tourist desperately snapping away at their fellow travelers against a backdrop of the steely rods of the bridge or the imposing cityscape of high-risers downstream. But on weekends, providing you've laced up early enough, you'll have it practically to yourself.

Get to the middle, by which time you will have clocked up your first kilometer, and you will have an uninterrupted view of  Canary Wharf on your left and the splendid array or buildings and landmarks that make up the Southbank on your right. Behind you on your right, the Tower of London is a stark reminder or the richness of this city’s history, while further upstream St. Paul's Cathedral stand proud, seemingly overseeing the vast expanse of the city the way the monarchs of this country for centuries have done.

Take a sharp left down a winding staircase and onto the banks of the river. Be careful though, these steps can be wet and slippery if it’s just rained so this is not a place to up your average mileage per minute.

Turn left again when you get to the bottom and passing below the bridge you will find yourself trotting past a an unexpected grassy area where you might see a few keen athletes battling through redeye PT session and urban yogis practicing their sun salutations.

Take note of City Hall, the mayoral office, and spare a thought for Boris Johnson – not a runner as far as I know, but least a keen cyclist - before heading towards the newest jewel on London's skyline - The Shard.

Granted it’s somewhat of a "marmite construct" - you either hate it or love it - but when the morning sun shines on it in just the right way, and the rays reflect and refract at all different angles you must admit that it’s a sight worth slowing down for.
Passing under London Bridge, your route will skirt Borough Market. One of my personal favourites in the capital this market claims to date back to 1014 and was first mentioned in 1276. If you’re already feeling a bit wobbly, or have a sweet tooth to rival mine, treat yourself to a quick stroll around and a nibble of cake, cookie, or bread to power you through the second half of your run. Famous regular traders include Artisan Bakers DeGustibus, Furness Fish & Game Supplies, Peter Gott and Sillfield Farm, and the Spanish company Brindisa.

Once you’ve managed to tear yourself away from the delicacies, head back down to the river and continue along it until you hit the “wobbly” or Millennium Bridge. No matter how early you get there tourists will have ceased this place so consider crossing it a real-life obstacle course and try not to injure anyone in the process.

Again, admire the view from the middle of the bridge if crowds permit (by which time you will have clocked your third kilometer) before heading up the steps to St. Paul’s Cathedral.


Up close, I think that this is one of 17th century landmark is one of London’s most imposing. Run around it if you like, admiring Christopher Wren’s Baroque finesse, but watch out for the pigeons, yet more tourists and angry cab drivers. Traffic is usually busy around here. 

Cross through the churchyard and turn into Cheapside. Bustling during the week, you should have a pretty clear run on the weekend, aside from the odd one or two stumbling home from a big night out and of course – the inevitable stray tourist.



Pass the Bank of England and turn up the tempo a few notches as you turn into Fenchurch Street and come full circle at just over 5.2km.
I suppose the next thing I should be penning is a guide to post-run breakfast venues in the City. Better get researching…

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