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Cool running: East London is the new race hotspot

East London, the new racing hotspot? Photo: Josiah Mackenzie, Flickr


It was always raining, the ground was a mud pit, and your fingers were so cold you thought they might fall off any second. Ring any bells?

The  dread that comes with cross-country running isn’t forgotten easily, and it’s not difficult to see why so many people are put off running so soon.

Well here’s a spanner in the works: Running is officially cool. As you’ve probably noticed, it’s everywhere. Fashion magazines run features on it every month, run commuters are on every pavement and, well, then there’s Shoreditch.

As with just about any other trend in the last 10 years, the hipsters probably knew about it before you did. Dubstep, that street-food stall, maybe even the kind of coat you’ll want next year. But running? Not quite the scene for beards and glasses, surely.

Yet one way or another, a slow infiltration of brightly coloured trainers has made the pavements of E2 a little more glowing as the sun goes down, and these days you’re just as likely to see a running pop-up as a restaurant. Although you probably won’t have to queue as long for service.

But why is East London a new hotspot? What has made an area famous for its nightlife lace-up and hit the road?

Perhaps the presence of new, local races helped with that one. Last year saw the first ever Hackney half marathon spring up, and the year before that Nike’s We Own The Night women’s race series began its international tour in Victoria Park.

Both races use the east London vibe – WOTN incorporates lots of lights and design (it’s an evening race which goes into the dark) and Hackney boasts a ‘flat run through Hackney and the iconic Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’.

Elle Linton, a personal trainer and blogger at keepitsimpelle.com ran both races last year. As an east London local, she said the races had a direct appeal to her.

“I liked that the route took in parts of east London I’d never seen before and the Olympic park”, she says. “You get to see places you don’t see on a day-to-day basis and explore them while running.”

“Vitality Run Hackney is a fast, flat half marathon on closed roads, and Hackney is one of the greenest boroughs in London with some fantastic parks and sports facilities,” says Amy Budd, who organises the Hackney half marathon.

She also says there is “incredible spectator support – thousands of residents hit their doorsteps to support all the runners,” and Linton is inclined to agree. “The crowds and community feel was the best I’ve ever experienced,” she says.

She reasons that this is because you’re a little further away from the outside visitors to London. “I think the events in east London always feel a bit more ‘local’. You’re surrounded by a community, rather than tourists.”

East London might feel like an unfriendly coffee-drinking paradise at times, but when it comes to running, the hipster population shows support like no other.

The Shoreditch Run

You’ve read enough about how good Shoreditch and East London are for running – it’s about time you get out and try it yourself.

Here we have a 2-mile circular run around the centre of Shoreditch, taking in just a few of the best sights. Click through the gallery below to follow our run:


Written by Rosemary Stopher

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