Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Best 10km Running Route in London

No doubt about it, if there was an award for the best 10k river route in Britain this would win it.

Start at Hammersmith Bridge. Plenty of bike stands next to the houseboats near The Rutland Arms if you need to cycle there.

Furnivall Gardens and Hammersmith Bridge
Run west with the river on your left, past rose-dappled Furnivall Gardens on your right then down the little passageway in front of the tiny and tempting Dove pub, the legendary birthplace of Rule Britannia. Emerge past William Morris's wisteria-dappled old house and Latymer Prep School and jog on towards the tiny crow's nest where I'm going to have my imaginary 50th birthday party.

That's Linden House, home to the London Corinthians boat club, on the right, there. It hosted BBC Breakfast News parties in the past, in the carefree days before they sent everyone packing to Salford. Salford!

Your route winds under a building outcrop then past the Old Ship pub on your right, home of Young's bitters, guest ales, pleasant Sunday lunches and occasional meetings of the ex-BBC hacks refreshments club.

Soon enough you cut a few yards inland to run past the front of a terrace of riverside cottages on your left. A couple of blue plaques reveal that a humourist you've never heard of used to live in one of them.

Ponder that as you jog west past some of the finest riverfront houses in London. This time of year House Martins light up the sky on their way to and from their nests under the eaves. Imagine how much you'd have to earn to buy one of these mansions, complete with a private Thames-side garden across the road, and run away from the thought as you head left back to the river and Chiswick Pier.

There's a lifeboat station just ahead in case you find yourself in the Thames after mulling over those house prices, and a pizza restaurant with a fabulous conservatory that I've often run past but never gone in. One day.

A few metres later the houses run out and you're jogging on a leafy footpath with Chiswick Bandstand looming. Never seen a band on it. A good Boat Race landmark, though. And your next landmark is a boathouse with its sloping launch strip. Careful, here - those eight-man boats emerge head-high on your right from nowhere.

Up a small flight of concrete steps then avoid Barnes Bridge and turn right to run parallel to the railway embankment on your left towards the extra-posh Chiswick Racquets Club on your right. I jogged past an expensively-dressed woman on her way to the tennis courts smoking a fag this morning. What's she thinking?

First on the left takes you onto a single carriageway under a railway bridge. You may have to dodge some impatient 4x4s here before returning to the verge heading towards the Thames Tradesman's boat club. Nip through their car park and you're back on the riverbank.

This is the nicest stretch of the whole route. It's like running through a country meadow with the river on your left and fragrant, waist-high wild flowers on your right. You'll wish the path never ends but it does, at another boat house at the foot of majestic Chiswick Bridge. This is the base of the elite Tideway Scullers. Current members include Alan Campbell, the Ulsterman who won the silver medal in the men's single sculls at the World Rowing Cup at Eton Dorney this weekend. Here he is on his row of honour:

Jog up the steps of the bridge and cross the river. Jog down again on you're on your way back. That's The Ship on your right, there, another good place for an al fresco Sunday lunch overlooking the swarms of afternoon rowers. And that's the big old Budweiser brewery next to the cobbles. Horrible beer but keeps a lot of people in work. Don't knock it.

More cobbles test the ankles and knees until you get to The White Hart. Yet another good place to sit under a parasol with a pint of Young's and watch the world go by. Not today, though. On you go along the muddy bit under Barnes Bridge and on to the pavement. Fabulously big views of the sweeping bend of the river, here. Look out for more House Martins gathering mud for their nests on the edge.

The Thames at Barnes
Before you know it you're back on the trail, the river hidden by the trees on your left, the air full of birdsong from the Leg of Mutton nature reserve on your right. Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Great Tit, Willow Warbler - they're all fighting to be heard but not seen. Enjoy the summer warblers while you dodge the puddles - it's nearly always a bit damp on this stretch.

The lush scenery stays the same until you reach Westminster School boat club on the right. The only other landmark is a balloon-strewn shrine to some poor soul who presumably didn't make it out of the river one day.

A couple of strides letter and the glorious green and gold Hammersmith Bridge looms large in front of you again. Jog over, being prepared to slow down for fellow runners and pedestrians on the narrow, rickety walkway, and you've nearly made it. Officially you need to jog past the Dove again to make it 10k. Or you could sack it off and pop in the Blue Anchor for one instead.

You've earned it.

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