Best London Running Routes For Training Elevation

Written By Alex Spencer

Alex is a Mr Enthusiastic! He took on Ultra X Jordan in 2016 and loves everything adventure. Occasionally he writes pieces for Ultra X.

10 May 2020

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Let’s face it, training for a hilly ultra is difficult when living in London. The general flatness of the city makes finding elevation very tricky.

Therefore, I have scouted out some routes to help with your training. In isolation, two of these routes are quite short, but by incorporating some of them into your training, it may help you get an edge.

Crystal Palace and Dulwich Wood

This 7.5 mile/12km route surprised me. Crystal palace to me is (or was) a bit of an unknown. However, the route was visually very nice with Crystal Palace Park, Sydenham Hill Wood and Dulwich College offering stimulating distractions.

The elevation isn’t monstrous, but the 50m (164ft) of climbing in Crystal Palace Park will get the heart rate up. Hitting the trails in Sydenham Hill Wood will remind you of the many hidden gems London has to offer. As with many races, the real effort comes right at the end. The College Road section is over two miles of a slow dragging climb with an elevation of 125m (400ft). You’ll definitely be feeling this by the end.

It’s a great hill to also test your mental strength. With 41m for every km, it won’t break climbing records. But it will give your legs a good workout if incorporated into a longer South London route.

Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath

This route is a nice example of incorporating these hills and trails into a medium distance training run.

My route started on the Regent’s Canal, which gave me a nice flat warm up and the opportunity to witness some cool alternative sites of London.

Primrose Hill and Parliament Hill offer great views of the city, so make sure you stop and take them in if it’s a clear day. The main work begins around Hampstead Heath. Any route you take through the heath will offer a plethora of sporadic sharp inclines. Coupled with the best trails in central London, they offer good training for those lumpy bits you might find in a race like Ultra X 125 Azores. If you tackle them with a good speed, then you will build up that leg power needed to get you through!

This route is great for those mid-week training runs.

Dorking to Oxted (or Sevenoaks), The North Downs

Hugging the M25 on the North Downs Way, so it still counts as London – but maybe one for the weekend!

A quick train down to Dorking or Box Hill & Westhumble and then follow the trail along to either Oxted (17 miles) or to Sevenoaks (29 miles) and then a quick train back into the city.

If you are a cyclist, then there’s a chance you will have been down here going up the ZigZag road of Box Hill. This route starts by going up those hidden trails of Box Hill and then follows the North Downs Way. As you can see from the profile, it’s not overly dissimilar to the Azores race in terms of two or three huge inclines with a lot of little ones in between.

The inclines you get here are normally less than a mile long, but can be up to 100m (350ft) in height so your legs get a real burn. Then, along the tops of those main inclines are a lot of shorter sections meaning you won’t travel more than 2km without going up or down. Perfect!

Furthermore, there’s some long downhills spanning a couple of miles which will help train your stability muscles. These muscles are often the silent energy sappers, so training them is very important.

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