Desperately Seeking Tarmac – A Few Thoughts on City Running

Now we’re getting into the end of February, the trails around me have been under a thick blanket of snow for a good three months now and as such my weekly distances have dropped off dramatically. I’m putting in some lung-busting efforts running along the snowshoe hiking trails, often in deep powder, but the pace is slow and its not perfect training for my next goal, which is the Paris Marathon just over 6 weeks away.

I’ve been lucky enough to travel on business to a few cities lately though and take the opportunity to run on flat, sea-level pavement to put some quality KMs under my belt. I thought I’d share a few experiences.

I lived here for a decade so know it well. There are huge numbers of green spaces to run in, including the Royal Parks, Hampstead Heath etc, but nothing beats an early morning run along the river. There are few pedestrians and not much traffic around before 7.30am, and you get some stunning views as the sun comes up.

The London skyline from Waterloo bridge. The London Eye on the left, Big Ben in the middle.

My hotel was somewhere in Kensington and I got a little lost heading towards the river, but once on the Thames its great to run along the embankment to the north, and then along the southern pedestrianised Thames Path.

This was supposed to be a rest week but I had such fun running in the (relative) warmth, and it felt so quick that I ran a bit further than needed.

I’ve been to this beautiful city a few times this winter, and although its desperately cold at times, its a great place to run. On Margaret Island, an island sitting in the Danube, there is a 5.5km springy purpose-built running track that circles the entire island. Its great to run on, doesn’t get (very) iced up, and is easy on the knees because there is some shock absorption built in.

One of the many beautiful views of Budapest, from Margaret Island in the Danube.

 This place seems to be the Central Park of Budapest, and it wasn’t clear if there was a ‘direction etiquette’ but anti-clockwise worked for me! Despite the cold there were still quite a few runners out there, although my Hungarian colleagues tell me it is absolutely heaving in the summer.


The City of Light is where I’ll be running a proper marathon in April, my first road marathon for about 4 years and I’m keen to see if I can turn in a decent time. Since I’d done a fairly hard run the day before in London, I took it easy here. Bitterly cold winds and snow flurries put a dent in the view, but it was still quite an experience running under the Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower on a bitterly cold, snowy morning.

As beautiful as Paris is, I was actually quite disappointed with the run along the Seine. I started at Issy-les-Moulineux, in the south-west and ran up towards the Eiffel Tower. However, most of the run seemed to consist of picking my way through a cement factory, bus depots passing nightclub boats moored up. The run on the other side was an exercise in dodging traffic.

Since I only had chance to do 10km, I had to keep the route simple. Next time I’ll look for somewhere a bit more inspiring to pass through.

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