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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Read­ing Time: 4 minutes

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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