Running with other people is a whole different kettle of fish to heading out for solo slogs. Nothing helps the minutes of a steady run speed by as effectively as chatting, and pushing yourself to the max during interval sessions is damned hard to do without other people there to beat/keep up with (delete as appropriate).
Traditional running clubs are undoubtedly great but, in London at least, they tend to be based in the outer reaches and require (admittedly low) membership fees. They also feel like more of a long-term commitment and can feel daunting for newbies. Fortunately there are now so many free running groups in the centre of London that you can, should you desire, run with others every day of the week without leaving Zone 1 or spending a penny.
These groups are often coached and will mix up their runs so you can try interval and hill sessions as well as fitting in your longer steady runs. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the world of running clubs without making any real commitments. Although most of them are set up by a brand, there isn’t any pressure to wear or buy the gear (although there will often be a chance to try gear for free).
Here are the best groups to try in London.
Runners Need Just Run Club
The running gear chain recently launched its Just Run Club, which sets off from from branches around the UK including ten stores in London. The runs are 5-8km long and usually take place on either a Wednesday or Thursday evening. The club is supported by running brand Brooks and Garmin, so you’ll have the chance to try out some kit and tech on the runs. And Runners Need rewards regular attendees to the Just Run Club – three runs will earn you a T-shirt and goody bag, and if you manage ten you’ll get a £10 voucher for the store. You can find the info on your local group on the Runners Need website.
Lululemon Run Club
The Canadian brand puts on free weekly runs from four London branches. Head down to Covent Garden, Spitalfields or Richmond on a Wednesday evening, or Regent’s Street on a Thursday. Lululemon also regularly runs complimentary yoga sessions – perfect if you need to loosen up those hip flexors (like us). Visit the store in question for more details on the runs, which are usually around 5K long, or follow Lululemon London on Facebook, where you’ll find weekly schedules for runs and yoga.
One of the newer groups, Adidas Runners has two main sessions in London – an evening run from London Bridge on Mondays and a morning run from Clerkenwell on Fridays. They also host one-off runs and famous athletes turn up at sessions with impressive regularity. Mary Keitany tagged along on one just days before her world record-breaking performance at the London Marathon. Sign up for more info on their Facebook group.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike has three weekly runs in London on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The Tuesday run is aimed at beginners and starts from the Nike Central store in King’s Cross. Wednesday sees an intervals session aimed at building speed over four-week cycles, which begins in Paddington. The curtain call is an all-inclusive affair which sets off from Niketown on Oxford Street. Sign up at nike.com – you’ll probably have to book a spot on the runs well in advance due to the popularity of the club.
TomTom Run Club
These once-a-week 5-7km jaunts around Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill (expect some hill sprints) are coached by Ed Kerry (therundoctor.co.uk), so it’s a great chance to get some free expert advice about your running. They start from the Great Portland St entrance to Regent’s Park at 6.25pm every Tuesday. Follow Ed Kerry on Twitter to stay up to date on the runs.
Partner chase downs was the theme of tonight’s @UKTomTom Run Club, the group did an amazing job and really pushed themselves. #ttrunclub pic.twitter.com/tZePRXv0xF
— Ed Kerry (@therundoctor) April 25, 2017
Sweatshop Running Community
Not only does Sweatshop has free running groups based in all of its stores, it’ll also give you a reward for turning up regularly to the weekly runs. The goodies get better the more you go, starting with a free T-shirt for five weeks’ attendance and topping out at a free pair of running shoes (max value £100) if you turn up 50 times. Head to sweatshop.co.uk for more info and to register.
While other groups on this list are great for training runs, parkrun offers the chance to put that training to the test with a free weekly timed 5K at 9am on Saturdays. There are almost 50 different parkruns in London (and plenty more all over the country) to choose between – start with our pick of the best parkruns in London. You have to register to get your barcode, which is scanned after each race to log your time. Sign up at parkrun.org.uk.
London City Runners
This free club puts on three runs a week that start from the Marquis of Wellington near Tower Bridge. There’s a steady 5-6km on Tuesdays, intervals or circuit training on Thursdays, and an 11km long run on Sundays. Join the club at londoncityrunners.com.
The Odlo running group only runs for 12 weeks in the summer, starting from Snow+Rock in Covent Garden every Wednesday at 7pm until 19th July. This year’s course consists of 12 coached runs (the first two have already happened) that are designed to build up your speed and endurance for a 10K event. Head to therunningbug.com for more info.
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