How I enjoy running in urban areas — by Rachel

Rachel has completed a number of running challenges with us here at Diabetes UK, including currently taking part in our Run26 challenge. In doing so, she’s developed an appreciation for something she previously didn’t have an appetite for — running in an urban environment. And she’s kindly agreed to share what she enjoys about it

A lot of people, understandably, don’t think of running in a city as being particularly enjoyable. The traffic, the noise, the busy pavements and constantly stopping at traffic lights does put some people off. Running in an urban environment does throw up a few challenges that perhaps a coastal or country run wouldn’t. However, there are positives to it if you think a little differently, which I’ve tried to do recently.

So these are my favourite things about running in my city:-

  1. There are running groups and clubs everywhere
    There’s loads of stats that say if you’re part of a team you stick to exercise. I joined Good Gym to get myself into city running, where we’d do 5km runs and do some volunteering in the local community at the same time which I really enjoyed, and kept me going back. There are more professional groups too, loads of free groups and park runs around every corner. It’s nice to have different options.
  2. Variety
    It can be annoying having to stop for a traffic light – but it’s also a chance to take a quick breather. You just have to look at it a little differently. Fartlek and interval training are a lot easier in a city where there are loads of obvious stop points such as cars and lights. Most cities also have several parks to run in, and in London there is the Thames Path along the river which stretches along endless miles. Mixing running between parks on the grass, and runs on pavements and roads, is great way to avoid getting in to a monotonous routine.
  3. You see your city in a new light
    When I started training for the marathon I used to run home once a week, which was a good six miles. After two runs I’d learnt the route off by heart and it’s amazing to think you could navigate the city without draining your phone battery on a route planning app. I found so many amazing things in my city by experiencing it through running – I found a local city farm just a mile from my house that I’d never noticed before. I ran to the Thames barrier, and regularly ran along the river which is beautiful, and I rarely visited otherwise. Google maps will have nothing on you after a few weeks of exploring with your runs.
  4. Appreciating landmarks again
    There’s a clarity that you get from running that allows you to appreciate things you usually take for granted.  For me, it was Tower Bridge, Hyde Park and Greenwich Observatory are all really beautiful but I’d stopped appreciating them. I started using landmarks as a motivator or checkpoints on my longer running routes. Wherever you live, there’s interesting architecture that most of us take for granted, and running offers us the chance to appreciate them again.
  5. Urban areas are like gyms
    There’s no shortage of stairs, steps, ramps, bollards and corners in most cities to use to your advantage. I used to sprint up stairs to build stamina, and I have no doubt that weaving between people helped improve my agility and core strength. You just have to embrace a bit of chaos sometimes, it’s all good fun. Incorporating running into your commute into or from work also kills two birds with one healthy stone.

Don’t get me wrong, I still love getting out to the more rural countryside, but running in the city is something I now love to do. And there are loads of places to stop if you get short on a long run. Perfect.

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