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For city runners looking to progress from tarmac to trail, professional trail runner Joscelin Lowden shares where in London you can enjoy running on natural terrain.

Trail running continues to be an ever-growing fitness trend for 2016, with Google search interest around the term dramatically increasing by 54% in the last 5 years, and sales data from SportsShoes.com showing a 62% increase in demand for trail products over the last 12 months.

Professional trail runner, Joscelin Lowden, has the low-down on where you can run in London on natural terrain...

Hampstead Heath
With grassland and woods, the Heath is an amazing place to get a mixture of different terrains and to really feel like you are out in the countryside. The trails through the woods are so much fun to run on; you can wind your way up and down through the trees on soft trails for miles. The views from the top of Parliament Hill looking over London are amazing too. If you like to mix trail with paved surfaces, the lakes at the bottom are a nice option, especially if you want to avoid the hills.

Regents Park & Primrose Hill
Despite being so close to the centre of the city, Regents Park actually feels less “inner-city” than Hyde or Green Park. There is a good trail that runs round the outside on a mix of soft trail, grass and paved paths. I love running along the north side and looking in on the camels and giraffes in London Zoo! You can extend your run to take in Primrose Hill as well, which has excellent trails and beautiful views once up high.

Wimbledon Common 
There is so much space at Wimbledon Common to run around, again with a mix of woody trails, paths and bridleways across the common. There is a circular run of about 7km, and if you want to run further there are plenty more kilometres to be found in the variety of surrounding open fields and woodland. Wimbledon is a great spot to go for coffee or lunch after.
 
Clissold Park & Finsbury Park
There is a soft woodchip path that runs round the edge of Clissold Park. Whilst it's not huge (about 1.8km round) it's a good loop to run before heading up either through the West Reservoir or straight up to Finsbury Park. Here you can either follow the road round or stick to grass and trails on the edge. On the west side of Finsbury Park there is a nice trail that follows an old railway line, which has now turned to woodland,  that you can follow up to Alexandra Palace.” 

Richmond Park
Although it takes me a while to get there, Richmond Park is one of my favourite places to run. I drive down and plan a circular run back to the car, before usually heading to a pub for lunch to make a bit of a day of it. The outer ring of the park is about 11km and is absolutely stunning, with views of deer to keep you entertained on the way. There are loads of paths through the park or you can follow the road round. There's a good mix of flat and gentle inclines and it feels like you are miles away from the city.” 

TIPS ON FINDING RUNNING ROUTES IN LONDON
When looking for routes I tend to Google local London running clubs as they put a fair bit of route information on their websites about the runs they do. I also look on a map and find a decent sized park, then go to Strava and search runs that other people have completed in that particular park. The walking routes around London, like the Capital Ring can give good trail ideas too.

 

Joscelin Lowden runs at Lewes AC and trains on the trails and parks in London as well as the South Downs.  She loves cross country in winter and swears by the Asics GT range. Her goal for spring is to run a sub 1:24 half marathon, leading to her 2017 goal of a sub 3 hour full marathon. Tweet your London trail and running questions to Joscelin on https://twitter.com/joscelinlowden 

Why should you hit the trails:

Variety
Many runners turn to trails when they become fed up with pounding the same long stretches of road. Trail runs change spectacularly each day you run them thanks to the impact different weather and light has on the great outdoors. 

Physical improvements
Trail running provides your body with a new physical challenge, your endurance and stamina will build quickly and you’ll develop your core balance muscles, condition your inner and outer thigh muscles and strengthen your feet and ankles. 

Mental benefits
A survey of 4,904 runners recently revealed that 88% of trail runners find that trail running helps to combat negative emotions, with the majority finding that it helps to release ‘stress’ and ‘melancholy’.  

Green exercise
Trail running is considered ‘green exercise’, as it takes place in a natural environment. Connecting with nature has been proven to have a whole heap of benefits, from helping your body produce more virus and tumour fighting white blood cells and giving your brain a break from overstimulation in an ever-increasing digital world, to helping you be more creative.


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