Looking for a new running experience? Here's my review of the Pullman Art Run...
I’ve been itching to run in a real-life race for almost a year now. I’m really missing the shared sense of achievement, the celebratory lunch afterwards and, most importantly, having my route planned out for me. Virtual races have been an utter joy during a horrible year and a half, but I find it really stressful having to work out my mileage and clock up the extra distance with the same tedious loops of my local streets.
So, I treated myself to a change of scene and took on the Pullman Art Run. It’s not quite a pakrun, but this solo adventure was a fantastic way to put some spring back into my running shoes.
A 5K route that takes you on a tour of some of St Pancras’ most interesting art installations, the Art Run is a hidden benefit of staying at the Pullman Hotel, not widely advertised to customers – a sort of ‘secret menu’ item, if you like. But it’s as simple as asking for the map on arrival, and you’ll have everything you need to take on a brilliant running challenge.
Escape to the city
Firstly, it was fantastic just to see some new horizons. I visited the Pullman St Pancras hotel in mid-May, just as lockdown restrictions had started to lift, so it was lovely to escape to London and enjoy some freedom.
After some mandatory carb-loading at Dishoom, I settled into my room and enjoyed the incredible views over the city. It was so lovely to feel connected again, and to see things start to come back to life. London was buzzing with energy, but the hotel’s rules on mask-wearing and social distancing made me feel safe and comfortable.
Sweet dreams are made of this
As we all well know, getting a good night’s sleep before a run is vital. Sometimes being in a new place can be detrimental to that, but my bed at the Pullman was SO cosy that I slept like a log. I had plenty of space to stretch out, barely noticed any noises outside and found the blackout blinds to be a godsend. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to take on my 5K.
Before I set out, I had a little scan of my map to make sure I knew roughly where I was going. It’s a really lovely thing – beautifully designed with the art pieces clearly marked out to help guide you. I am, however, a totally useless navigator, so I probably could have done with sticking the route into Google Maps so I had an idea of street names before I reached the starting point. But if you’re more familiar with the St Pancras area, and you’re less Directionally Challenged than I am (a completely made-up phrase that I’m coining right here, right now), then you should be absolutely fine.
I was surprised to find that St Pancras was relatively quiet on a Sunday morning, and I didn’t find myself having to weave between pedestrians muttering my apologies as I’d feared. The route begins in a residential area that allowed me to take my time and enjoy the sights, like Stephen Tomlin’s impressive Virginia Woolf bust nestled in Tavistock Square.
As I headed up to King’s Cross things became a little busier, but by that time I was a few kilometres in and starting to get into the swing of things. I tend to run rurally when I’m at home, and it was a welcome change seeing brunchers and shoppers pottering around London on a slow morning as I ran by. If you’re into modern art, this is also where things got interesting – I particularly loved Eva Rothschild’s My World and Your World sculpture in the Lewis Cubitt Park.
As I started closing the loop and heading back to the Pullman, I found myself in St Pancras Gardens where my map instructed me to get my phone out to view an augmented reality installation by Koo Jeong A – a clever concept that was unlike anything I’d seen before. You can download the app you’ll need through a QR code on the map, so it’s nice and easy to find, too.
Home and dry
Once I was back at the hotel, buoyant with my new-found art expertise and my post-run smugness, I enjoyed a hot, powerful shower and stretched out in my room. I’d been far too excitable on my run and spent so long taking pictures that I’d missed my opportunity for breakfast, but I’d highly recommend taking advantage of it if you can. The bar is beautifully decorated and has plenty of options, from a classic fry up (definitely what I opt for after a run) to delicious-looking granola, fruit and yoghurt bowls (probably what I’m supposed to opt for after a run).
I thoroughly enjoyed a change of scene, and the Pullman Art Run provided the perfect setting. This isn’t the run to aim for a PB or take on a huge challenge, but it’s a wonderful reminder of why running is a joy. I really enjoyed exploring, took my time to learn more about the art I discovered along the way and found 5K the ideal distance to do this. You don’t need to be an expert to benefit from the well-selected art pieces, either – there’s nothing pretentious about this experience.
If you want to boost your running mojo but aren’t ready for mass events yet, this solo adventure is the perfect place to start.
Thanks to the Pullman St Pancras, in association with Art Night, for providing this opportunity. Another art run is also available in Liverpool. This is not a paid promotion but was a gifted experience. All photography credited to Douglas Evans.