Jo Pavey is an unbelievable woman.
She has raced at the last five Olympic Games and the 45-year-old mother of two now has her sights set on Japan 2020.
If anyone is going to inspire you to get off the sofa and do some exercise this Easter weekend – it’s Jo.
And with the London Marathon just around the corner, now is the perfect time to dust off the trainers and get back into running. Or, if you’re already deep in to your marathon training, maybe you’re after a change of scenery as you start to taper off.
London is largely a concrete jungle – but there is hidden beauty, greenery and rolling hills that are perfect for runners, you just have to find them.
Dodging the worst pollution spots, the cars and the crowds can be tricky in London, luckily Jo has given us her top tips on where to run in the city.
South West London
‘Between 2001 and 2011 I lived in Teddington in South West London. I moved here for logistical reasons, but it was also because the running is so good in this part of London,’ Jo tells Metro.co.uk.
‘In fact, many people don’t realise just how great London is for running.
‘I specifically moved house to be as close as possible to Bushy Park. There are various running routes I used during my time in London.
‘For a long run of 15km or longer, I would often combine Bushy Park and Richmond Park.
‘I would start at the Laurel Road Gate, close to my house, and do a lap of Bushy, but leave the park at the end of Chestnut Avenue and head through Teddington, cross the Thames at Teddington Lock and then head via Ham Common into Richmond Park for a lap.
‘I would enter Richmond Park via Ham Gate and do a full lap and then head back out and over Teddington Lock and back to my house.
‘Another run I enjoyed was to combine Hampton Court Park with Bushy Park.
‘Bushy Park is great if you want to run on the flat and Richmond is better if you want to incorporate some hills.
‘Look out for the Parakeets – they’re there all year round – but give any red deer stags a wide berth during the rutting season, which is September – October.’
North East London
‘Hampstead Heath is a lovely place to run in this part of London,’ says Jo.
‘Parliament Hill is often the host to big cross country races and it’s amazing to have this terrain combined with views right across the city.
‘I love running here and whenever I’m in this part of London I try and get a run in.
‘I normally enter Hampstead Heath near the Parliament Hill Athletics Track. You can then head around the perimeter of the park but it’s also nice to vary the route and head along some of the many paths that criss cross the park.
‘I have also done a hill session here before and it’s a fantastic setting with the extensive views across London including Canary Wharf, the Shard and St Pauls Cathedral.
‘Hampstead Heath has trails through open fields, woodland and there are lots of up and downs along the way. You can also link this run with a detour into Highgate Woods.
‘Another brilliant area for running in North East London is Epping Forest. This is an extensive woodland near Loughton. It’s in Essex but lies inside the M25.
‘At nearly 6000 acres there are many routes to choose from. The forest is only about two miles or so wide, but twelve miles in length and so it allows you to run a long loop.
‘Even though it’s a forest there are also areas of open grassland.
‘As well as runners you’ll see lots of horse riders and mountain bikers.’
‘Hyde Park is a great place to get a run in if you’re in central London. Most of the routes are tarmac, but it’s a nice little loop if you want to escape the pavements.
‘The park is slightly sloping, but there no steep hills. For your shorter, sharper efforts, I would go for the two-mile loop of the Serpentine.
‘Victoria Park is quite a busy park but a nice run. It’s just under 5K a loop, so you can get a short 5K run done here, or do a couple of loops to go further. It’s very picturesque with the Chinese Pagoda, boating lake, etc. It’s also pretty flat.
‘I have run the Regent Canal a few times. It’s a nice peaceful run and I love running along waterways. The best starting point is probably near Limehouse Station. You can run up to about 15K here.’
North West London
‘Dollis Valley Green Walk is an amazing long run route to follow if you are training for bigger events such as the London Marathon.
‘If you follow it to the book, it will be a simple case following the walk route, (look for the green discs and the wooden finger posts). By doing this you will experience a great combination of woods, fields, great views and the added bonus of seeing some cute farm animals.
‘Golders Hill Park is another great location for shorter efforts, I have run here a few times as part of my visits to Hampstead.
‘Given its location, perhaps unsurprisingly there are quite a few small climbs that will get your heart rate going.
‘It is roughly a two-mile effort around the perimeter and can easily be built up to 5K if you add a sprint through the middle of the park. There is also a free zoo which is great if you’re running here with your kids.’
The London Marathon is on Sunday 28 April.