Two years ago I was walking down University Avenue in Toronto when I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my left foot. All of a sudden, I was unable to walk. I had to hobble down to the curb to hail a taxi, something I would never do being only 10 minutes away from home. It happened to be the day before I was heading to a conference, one that requires a lot of walking. I was going for work and I just couldn’t bring myself to cancel my trip. That was the start of what ended up being a miserable few months. I found out after the conference that I had stress fractures. Not only in my left foot, but also in my right one. Likely compensating during the conference pushed that right foot injury over the edge. I’m going through this introduction because it also meant time away from running. While apparently you can run on stress fractures, you shouldn’t. I took this advice very seriously and combined with other factors I stayed away from running over nearly two years with just some sporadic runs during this recent year. One was a 5k in hackney marshes, and more recently I ran a 5k Santa dash.
It is now time to get serious about running again, and what better way than to use my local park as the backdrop. I’ve written about my favourite Toronto running route in a previous post. It is only fitting that the next run I write about is my new favourite London running route through Victoria Park. The waterfront trail in Toronto is where I first started running around 2007, and it is always going to be special to me. In fact, whenever I am home in Toronto I try to make a point of going for a run there. Rain, snow or shine. I’ve come to appreciate even more how beautiful the lake is and how lucky Torontonians are with the sunny weather. London has a lot more rain than shine, but luckily the park makes up for that a lot.
London running route: Victoria Park
Just like the Toronto waterfront trail, Victoria park is also special to me. It is the first place I went for a run in London and it is close to my house. The park is an oasis of green in the middle of East London and offers 86.18 hectares of open space.
One lap around the park runs you nearly 5km, so doing two laps around the park adds up to a healthy 10km run easily. Some days my route is just the one circle around the park, and other times I switch it up by exploring some of the paths that criss-cross through the green space. The running route you see in the image above mostly uses the periphery of Victoria Park with some loops on the west end of it.
I always start by running west past the lake, looping to the north-east and back again. Sometimes I add some laps around the lake as well when I want to up my mileage. Yesterday was such a day and my first 12km+ run in a long time. Although the first half hour was mostly warming up (=walking).
Looping around the lake it fun because of the swans, ducks, and other water fowl living there. The baby swans look like they are almost all grown up! This is a fool-proof running route: stick to the outside of the park and you can never get lost. In fact, the paths are easy to navigate to chances of getting lost are minimal while you can still mix up your run by exploring different directions in the park.
Another reason to love this East London running route is the fact that the park has two cafes. One of which is my favourite place for brunch, the Pavillion. I haven’t yet gone after a run, but I can’t think of a better way to celebrate a long weekend run than over poached eggs and a cappuccino.
One thing that is very different about London running compared to other places in the world is the reaction you get from other runners. In London, people do not smile or wave at fellow runners like they do in Canada or even the Netherlands. Having started in Toronto, and being used to even a small nod or smile from a fellow runner passing me in the opposite direction, I can’t help but notice this is entirely lacking in all Londoners. It’s too bad. The smile or nod makes you feel like you are part of a pack, a group of people who know what it’s like to be a runner and acknowledge you as part of that ‘family’. Sometimes I try to make eye contact with someone and shoot them a smile anyways. The reactions so far are blank stares, but who knows perhaps I can one day make a fellow Londoner crack a smile back.
Getting to Victoria Park
My preferred way of traveling in London is by bike, but you can reach Victoria park by tube and bus as well. Nearby tube stops are Bethnal Green or Mile End, and Hackney Wick overground is also close by.