Monday, 12 August 2013

Run #2: Hyde Park double circular and Serpentine

Start: High Street Kensington Station
End: High Street Kensington Station
Distance: Approximately 15km
I live in East London and do my best to scout out running routes near home, but when the sun comes out the manicured parks, quiet residential streets and manor house-flanked avenues of West London are simply too inviting too resist.

One of my all time favourite runs in the capital starts and finishes outside High Street Kensington tube station and even though it’s no easy feat, stretching almost ten miles, it’s a gentle route, largely flat aside from a few undulations, with some water stations on the way and plenty of shade for those sunny summer afternoons.

Start by turning right out of the station onto High Street Kensington and navigating through the inevitable masses to the corner of Kensington Gardens. Rather than cut up to the palace though, remain on the lower tow path, which traces along the bottom edge of the park, past some beautiful flower beds and fragrant bushes before spitting you out at the foot of the grand Albert Memorial and the iconic Royal Albert Hall.

Continue along to the corner of the gardens before crossing the road into Hyde Park. Here veer onto the dirt track which serves the Royal Horse Artillery but is ideal for running on as it is gentler on the knees, hips and shins than the tarmac we usually run on in the city.

Follow it all the way round to Hyde Park corner before turning north and running parallel to Park Lane up to Marble Arch - the end of London’s iconic Bond Street. If you were to continue running and simply cover the periphery of the park, you’d clock up a solid 8 kilometres, but my preferred route is to turn onto the north side of The Serpentine when you reach Lancaster Gate.

Track the water past a bushy overgrown field and back underneath the main road before passing the pedallo station, a cafe and an ice cream stand. Stick to the shores of the water all the way round and you’re bound to see all kinds of birds and even a squirrel or two. Watch out for the Diana Princess of Wales memorial just past the Lido, as well as a charming statue of Peter Pan – yet another tourist favourite.

By the time you get back to Lancaster Gate you’ll have covered about 9km so have a few sips of water at the next drinking fountain to keep hydrated before heading back across to Marble Arch. The track is slightly downhill on the way back, so this is a good place to up your tempo or do some intervals if you’ve got the energy.

When you get back into Kensington Gardens, one option is to continue back to High Street Kensington directly, but I prefer to add a few last miles on by cutting up Broad Walk. You probably want to take it slow, as its steeper than it looks (especially now that you’ve already got about 12k under your belt) but it is a beautiful avenue providing a nice view over the Round Pond, Kensington Palace and the Orangery.

At the top of the park, turn left along Bayswater Road and continue along there a few hundred meters until you reach Kensington Palace Gardens, dubbed “billionaires row” by the locals. When you see it you’ll know why.
Slow down to a gentle jog as you finish off the last mile and briefly turn into the park for some stretches to prevent any day-after soreness. The area also has plenty of eateries and cafes for post-work out snacks. Why not try Crussh for a refreshing smoothie or Wholefoods for a piece of cake or homemade pie to restore those calories? If you’ve not earned it then I don’t know who has...  

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