If you're anything like me, you'll spend the winter wishing it was sunny so you can go out running in more pleasant conditions. And then summer arrives and suddenly there are all these other exciting things going on that you don't want to miss out on. Usually involving gin. I've vowed to make this summer different, so I've picked out some fitness challenges to keep us all on track.
1. Run the Capital Ring - yes, all of it.
The Capital Ring is a 78 mile circular 'walk' round the Edge of London, taking in a myriad of spectacular London sights, including the Thames Barrier, Eltham Palace , Abney Park Cemetery, Syon Park and the Grand Union Canal. Why not run all of it?! Whatever your level, you could break it down and cover a part of the route each Saturday, for example, or go in for the kill and make it into your own ultra challenge over a weekend. Or something inbetween. The tfl walking website breaks down your run into 15 manageable chunks, and the route is nicely signposted all the way round. It's the perfect blend of exploring a new area, but not having to worry about checking your map the whole time. I think I'm going to break it into five sections, beginning with an 11 mile run and building up my distance each week. How are you going to break it up?
2. Try a Virtual Race
As a running tour guide, I spend a fair bit of my time talking to runners. About running. And EVERYONE I speak to seems to be virtual racing - particularly the cumulative runs where you pledge to run a certain distance in a month or year. They're convenient, keep you motivated, earn you a shiny new medal at the end, and often contain a charity contribution too. What's not to love?! I've got my eye on the Flamin-GO July challenge with Virtual Runner UK in aid of Group B Strep Support - a really great cause. And if you don't fancy that race, they've got loads of other options too. I've also heard great things about the Run the Solar System Virtual 10k race by the British Science Association- starting at the sun, the accompanying audio guides you through the solar system as you race. It's free too, or £15 with the medal pack. See you at Neptune!
3. Run 17 miles from Trafalgar Square without crossing a road.
In a 2015 Londonist article, Victor Keegan set about a challenge - how far can you run from Trafalgar Square without crossing a road? 17 miles it turned out! No more waiting for the green man, just set off, keep running and see lovely London at its finest. If you set your watch, these miles could count for your virtual challenge!
4. Run a Half Marathon AND Solve a Murder on the 1st July
Exercise your body and your mind with our Secret Half in the North! On 1st July, travel back to 1873 and solve a murder over a 13 mile course. After a briefing with a fellow sleuth, you and your team will get a map and head out to the streets to find clues, interrogate suspects and interview witnesses. 13 miles goes by so much quicker when you have murder on your mind!
5. Do the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge
24 miles and 1585 metres of ascent over 3 mountains with breathtaking views the whole way round. The challenge? To complete it in 12 hours. 3 friends and I completed it as a self-organised group, but there are lots of organised challenges you can join too if you're worried about getting lost. Just recovered from a broken leg, I thought it might be fun to set my poor friends the 8-hour challenge instead. We managed 8 hours 19 minutes, barely stopping for lunch or the loo - "why walk down the hills when you can run?" I shrilled! It's tempting to go back and chase that 8 hour ceiling as we faced severe downpours in our first couple of hours, slowing us down considerably. And speaking of rain, it's worth going in the summer to give you the best chance of good weather - but it is the north, so no promises! Find out more on the Three Peaks Website. - Londoners can get the train to Horton-in-Ribblesdale - we stayed in a lovely pub called the Crown which provided a delicious post-walk/run meal.
6. See how far you can run in an hour - with Adidas City Runners on 17th June
I love the concept of a race where you don't get a time at the end, but a distance! In this closed road event, you run round an awesome course in the City of London and see how far you can get in an hour. I'm particularly excited about the history-rich route, taking in St Paul's, Mansion House, St Mary Le Bow Church, Guildhall and the Bank of England! Better get in quick though, you can only enter Adidas City Runs 1 hour for a couple more days. I'd be all over this if I weren't giving a birthday present running tour nearby!
7. Try a RunThrough!
Known for their friendly organizers, excellent cheer-squads and all-inclusive attitude, RunThrough organise a series of 5k,10k and half marathon races throughout the summer! There are 11 London-based races in July alone! Reasonably priced at around £20 for a 5k or 10k, with a medal and chip timing included, I only hear fabulous things about these races. When I have a slow week on tours, I'll be heading down to one!
8. Chase the Guard!
Ever stood at Buckingham Palace waiting for the Changing of the Guard and wondered what all the fuss is about? That's because you've been doing it all wrong! The guard actually need changing at 3 different 'palaces' and they originate from two different barracks. On our Chasing of the Guards 5k running tour we run between all those places to catch all the ceremonies and action at exactly the right time! This amazing ceremony takes place four times a week - join a group tour any Sunday or Wednesday this summer, or book a private tour on Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Sunday!
9. Nail your 5k PB at Parkrun
Maybe you think this is a cop out - because everyone knows about Parkrun! But isn't it amazing that at 9am on a Saturday morning, pretty much every green space in London (and even more across the world) has a fleet of runners lined up to run 5k?! Confession time - I've only completed one Parkrun - I was so pleased with my time that I never went back for fear I would't be able to match it. Especially now I'm competing against my pre-broken-leg time. But that's the wrong attitude, Vanessa! A weekly 5k on Saturday mornings at your maximum pace is good for weight management, increasing your speed of longer runs, and keeping you out of the pub on Friday nights. Add to that the fact that it's free, you can join in almost wherever you are in the world (no excuses!), and is family and buggy-running friendly - I, for one, pledge to be a regular this summer.
10. Get Muddy
There's nothing like the onset of an obstacle (be it barbed wire, a lake swim or a soapy slide) to break up a run! If I could run one of these every morning before starting work, I 100% would. My biggest advice is to sign up for an earlier wave and sprint to the front at the beginning of the race so that you miss the queues at the obstacles! You don't need to keep up that pace for the whole run, but sometimes the adrenaline gets too much...My favourites are Spartan Race UK (I had a Season Pass in one of their years in the UK at a very reasonable price, but they are now much more expensive), Rat Race UK (we've just missed Rat Race Dirty Weekend which is awesome, but you could spend your summer getting ready for Men's Health Survival of the Fittest in October - I've competed a couple of times and loved it) and the Gauntlet Games (ran it last year and had the best time). This year I'm running Rough Runner for the first time on 8-9th September in Finsbury Park - I can't wait.
11. Join the #werunthis London group for Runner's Heal Charity
Join this all-abilities-welcome group of runners at the Hyde Park Bandstand at 10am on the first Sunday of each month. They run 6 miles at conversational pace and the best bit - buy the #werunthis t-shirt and you'll provide a month of school meals for Kenyan children with the Runner's Heal charity. But there's no obligation to buy a shirt to join this sociable bunch! If you'd like to know more, contact @mylondonpassion on Instagram or just turn up on the first Sunday of each month.