Rachel Stringer and Armana Rai on their post-lockdown running plans
The UK went into lockdown due to the current Coronavirus pandemic on Monday the 23rd of March 2020. Almost everything as we know it was put on hold, but for us in the UK we were given one great privilege, we were allowed to exercise outdoors once per day.
For many of us this meant one thing: we could still run.
We have both been running for years, so for us to be able to continue with something we love doing despite so much being taken away and changing around us, was a great blessing. It also reaffirmed the belief that we both have, that running is a sport for everyone. We have both seen so many people start running or take up running again and get in touch with us asking us questions ranging from what clothes to wear, to where are you favourite places to run, which got us thinking, where are our favourite places to run…? Right now we are isolating in two very different areas, one of us in rural Norfolk and one of us in the epicentre of the coronavirus crisis in the UK, London. Post lockdown we are lusting over running further than our home postcodes and we wanted to share some of these places with you…
Rachel’s post-lockdown running routes:
Mount Snowdon, Wales
After being confined to your home for the best part of 50 days there is going to be something special about getting in your car and driving somewhere, anywhere for an epic run. For me, when lockdown is lifted in Wales, that would be heading West and tackling the second highest peak in the UK, Mount Snowdon. 1,085 meters above sea level and with an elevation gain of 3000 odd feet this will be a run that challenges and inspires you. The heavy legs will feel well worth it when you witness the views at the summit. If you start at Llanberis and run up and down you’re set for a run of around 8 and a half miles, worth the trip.
Blickling Hill, Norfolk
Lockdown in the UK also meant that all of the National Trust properties were shut too. One that is local to my family home in Norfolk is Blickling Estate. With over 4,600 acres of woodland, meadows and paths all situated with the backdrop of Blickling Hall to explore, you can’t help but feel like you are on a mini adventure when on a run around Blickling. If you fancy a trip on a Saturday the local Park Run starts and finishes from the main car park at the usual time of 9am. After which you can go on a long cool down of the grounds and maybe finish off with a picnic around the lake.
Holkham Beach, North Norfolk
North Norfolk for me is one of the most underrated parts of the UK. When newspapers and magazines throw around articles showing off the UKs best beaches, they rarely mention the North Norfolk coastline which is surprising if you ask me. Holkham is a beach which I grew up running on. The beach is set in front of the Holkham Hall estate and is situated at the end of a very long driveway called, Lady Anne’s Drive. Once at the end of the drive you reach an idyllic boardwalk which takes you through a pine forest and opens up onto a vast stretch of golden sand. To your left you can run either on the beach or through the pine forest and you will end up in another popular seaside town, Wells Next The Sea, or to your right you can run for miles on the sand and undulating dunes eventually ending up in ‘Chelsea on Sea’, Burnham Market. Don’t count your miles on this run, just enjoy the scenery but if you do want an even longer run, you can head away from the beach and into the grassy grounds of the impressive Holkham Estate where you can run amongst the deer who graze there too.
An ultra marathon abroad
The British lockdown has given me a lot of time to lust over far flung ultra-marathon races and one which is now firmly on my bucket list is the Ultra Trail Cape Town which is run annually at the end of the year. This year’s race weekend is scheduled to run on 28 and 29 of November. Having spent some time in Cape Town 10 years ago I am super keen to go back. To have the excuse of an ultra in one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet at the start of the British winter is one massive draw, but the fact that the races themselves are routed to traverse some amazing landmarks such as sections of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the upper slopes of Kristenbosch Nature Reserve and Devil’s Peak to name just a few, is an even bigger dram for me. Once borders are re-opened and flights have some normality to them I will be booking an overseas race, that is for sure.
Armana’s post-lockdown run routes:
Richmond Park, Richmond upon Thames, London
Richmond Park, a national nature reserve covering 2,500 acres, provides the perfect route for those long runs. There is a 7-mile loop around the inside boundary of the park, which can easily be lengthened with some extra trails inside the park or outside it by running down the beautiful Thames path. When lockdown came into force, it meant we could no longer drive to the park to get those Sunday morning miles in, something which has become a ritual of mine! It’s definitely worth heading out to Richmond to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful landscape! Plus, you can stop at Pembroke Lodge for a coffee in the park after your run and take in the most beautiful views of London…. But do be careful: there are around 600 deer that run free in the park!
Virginia Water Lake, Surrey
Again, one that most people need to drive to and then run around! Virginia Water Lake on the southern edge of Windsor Great Park provides a 4-mile loop which can easily be extended. Plus, you can even run to see if the Queen is in at Windsor Castle (if the Royal Standard is flying it means she’s at home). Filled with walkers, families and runners, it is really a place where the outdoors is enjoyed by everyone. A coffee shop is located next to the car park, which overlooks the beautiful lake. Or, if you fancy brunch, just head down the road to Sunningdale or Ascot high street and check out Fego. The perfect Sunday…
Thames Path, London
The path along the River Thames is one of the best places to escape the London traffic and the bustling streets. You can join the path at so many different points and it is perfect for mid-week runs, running commutes and for those long Sunday runs! For those who love to be by the water, this is the run route for you! However, the path is not wide by any means, so during lockdown to ensure we maintain social distancing, this is one spot I‘ve had to avoid, but I cannot wait to be back! A personal favourite run is to take the Thames path from Richmond and run all the way into central London before jumping on the train back home.
New York City
Think big, think NYC. Skyscrapers, iconic bridges, large crowds with electric, contagious energy. For me, there’s nothing quite like running across the five bridges that feature in the New York City Marathon as well as seeing that familiar movie-set skyline standing tall in the distance. The New York City Marathon takes you on a journey through all five boroughs of the city – The Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island – it’s the perfect sightseeing marathon. This World Marathon Major course finishes in one of the city’s must-see attractions, Central Park. It had always been on my bucket list to run in New York, so it was a dream come true to find myself crossing the finishing line in Central Park with the masses. It was a total pinch-me moment! It might not be a perfect PB course (those bridges are long – the first bridge, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, has a one mile incline to start things off and no one quite realises how hilly the avenues of Manhattan are), but I cannot wait to be able to run this race again. As soon as we’re allowed to fly and enter the US, this is a race I must repeat!
Armana and Rachel host the running podcast, ‘Keep Running’ which is available to listen to here or on all your usual podcast apps.