Running with other people is a whole different kettle of fish to heading out for solo slogs. Nothing helps the minutes of a steady run speed by as effectively as chatting, and pushing yourself to the max during interval sessions is damned hard to do without other people there to beat/keep up with (delete as appropriate).
Traditional running clubs are undoubtedly great but, in London at least, they tend to be based in the outer reaches and require (admittedly low) membership fees. They also feel like more of a long-term commitment and can feel daunting for newbies. Fortunately there are now so many free running groups in the centre of London that you can, should you desire, run with others every day of the week without leaving Zone 1 or spending a penny.
These groups are often coached and will mix up their runs so you can try interval sessions and hill training as well as fitting in your longer steady runs. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to the world of running clubs without making any real commitments. Although most of them are set up by a brand, there isn’t any pressure to wear or buy the gear (although there will often be a chance to try gear for free).
Here are the best groups to try in London.
London City Runners
This club guides new runners through a repeating ten-week couch-to-5K course (£50; the next block starts on July 16th) but also puts on three free runs a week. On Tuesday you can run 5K, 6K or 10K, then there’s an intervals session on Thursday, and the week is rounded off with a long run on Sunday. All the meets currently start and end at various locations on Druid Street in Bermondsey, but London City Runners are crowdfunding the refurbishment on their very own clubhouse/café-bar near Tower Bridge in July 2018 that will not only host all their runs but also act as a base for runners from all over London and beyond to meet and discuss the sport they love. If you want to discuss the best running routes, compare injuries and show off your favourite gear, this will be the place to do it. Join the club at londoncityrunners.com.
Run Like Hells
A run that finishes with an immediate reward in the shape of a free beer. Every Wednesday there’s a 40-minute run starting and finishing at the Camden Town Brewery (home of Hells lager). You can see all the details on the regular and special runs on the Camden Town Brewery website.
The Running Works Run Club
There are three group runs a week from this independent running store near Aldgate, and there’s also a track session at Mile End Stadium on Tuesday evenings for speedsters. The sessions are mixed in their aims and intensity, with the plan for each week posted on the Running Works Run Club Facebook group, but all abilities are welcome.
The Adidas Runners club holds four regular weekly sessions in London. A Tuesday evening run tends to stay south of the river, while a Thursday one keeps north. There are also two women’s runs each week – one on a Wednesday evening and a longer run on Saturday mornings. There’s also the chance to meet famous athletes at the occasional special run: last year Mary Keitany joined an Adidas Runners session just days before her world record-breaking performance at the London Marathon. Sign up for more info on the club’s Facebook group.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike has three weekly runs in London on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Monday’s run is an all-inclusive affair which sets off from Niketown on Oxford Street. The Tuesday run is aimed at beginners and starts from the Nike Central store in King’s Cross, while Wednesday is an intervals session aimed at building speed, held at various locations. Sign up at nike.com – you’ll probably have to book a spot on the runs well in advance due to the popularity of the club.
Runners Need Just Run Club
The running gear chain recently launched its Just Run Club, which sets off from from branches around the UK including ten stores in London. The runs are 5-8km long and usually take place on either a Wednesday or Thursday evening. The club is supported by running brand Brooks and Garmin, so you’ll have the chance to try out some kit and tech on the runs. And Runners Need rewards regular attendees to the Just Run Club – three runs will earn you a T-shirt and goody bag, and if you manage ten you’ll get a £10 voucher for the store. You can find the info on your local group on the Runners Need website.
While other groups on this list are great for training runs, parkrun offers the chance to put that training to the test with a free weekly timed 5K at 9am on Saturdays. There are almost 50 different parkruns in London (and plenty more all over the country) to choose between – start with our pick of the best parkruns in London. You have to register to get your barcode, which is scanned after each race to log your time. Sign up at parkrun.org.uk.