The RunThrough Races London Runners Guide

Heard of the RunThrough races? If there’s anything I know a fair bit about as a runner, it’s the London race scene. And although there may be hundreds of races across the capital put on by dozens of different race organisers, none dominate quite like the RunThrough races behemoth.

As a London resident, I’ve been doing RunThrough races for the past four years or so and they’ve become a standard part of most of my weekend and Wednesday evenings. I haven’t actually counted how many they put on these days, but trust me, its a lot. And they’re not just in London anymore, the team has events popping up all over the country.

Why is it so popular? Well, there’s many reasons. The community, the convenience, the fact that signing up for a race means that you’re making a commitment to getting out there. For me, it’s something that means I put effort into my running. I don’t run every race like I’m trying to get a PB, that would be asking for injury, but I do push harder than I would on a normal training run.

I also just really like the RunThrough vibe. It’s a great mix of club athletes, newbies, people having fun and everything in-between.

In this guide, I’m going to run through a heap of the RunThrough events in case you’re planning on doing one and you want some pointers on what to expect. Race frequency is based on my knowledge of the events.

RunThrough often adds new events throughout the year so the number of events can vary.

RunThrough Races: Greenwich Park 5k/10k

Greenwich Park is probably my favourite of all the RunThrough races. Yes, it’s by far one of the toughest courses you’ll find across the capital, with a killer 500m long hill (that you have to do three times in the 10k), but as far as beautiful locations go, you’re not going to beat it. Especially when you get to the top.

The other thing I love about Greenwich is that even though you have to climb that hill, you know that you’ve got about 2k of enjoyable flats and downhill afterwards. Mentally that’s a nice feeling and once you start thinking about the positives the hill isn’t quite so bad.

Distances: 5k | 10k

Laps: 1.5 (5k) | 3 (10k)

Frequency: Fairly often throughout the year. Maybe once every couple of months.

Difficulty: 4/5

Tip: The toilets are located on the way up the hill. If you’re heading up that way to the start nip in first as it’s a bit of a walk back and can get busy towards the start of the race.

RunThrough Races: Finsbury Park

I’m a big fan of Finsbury Park, firstly because it’s one of the less frequent RunThrough events but also because there’s a really nice long section for about 2k that seems to go really quickly.

There is one fairly big hill about a kilometre in, but overall it does feel like you get a lot more declines that you do inclines throughout the race. The Park is also one of London’s lesser know outdoor spaces, so it’s well worth a visit.

Distances: 5k | 10k | Half Marathon

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k) | 8 (Half Marathon)

Frequency: Not very often, maybe three or four a year at most.

Difficulty: 2/5

Tip: If you can maintain your pace on the hill then you can ramp up the speed on the long declines and aim for a quick time. It’s really not that long a climb and you get a lot of nice kilometres in this race.

RunThrough Races: Olympic Park

The Olympic Park is the workhorse of the RunThrough calendar and is by far the most frequent of any of the events throughout the year.

It’s an incredible location and, as you can probably expect from the fact that the Olympics was held there, it’s extremely well designed for running. By that I mean the paths and wide-open space are perfect for a race. It’s also largely flat, depending on what route you end up doing – it can change throughout the year depending on what building or events are going on at the Park.

The 2.5 loop is great for anyone aiming for a PB or focussing on speed training as it’s very easy to monitor how fast you’re going. The park is also a really nice location to run. It’s not scenic in the Greenwich Park sense, but there’s a lot going on to look at.

Due to the fact that there’s lighting and absolutely no roads on the course, it’s also the location of the Chase the Moon events; the Wednesday evening runs that take place in winter.

Distances: 5k | 10k

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k)

Frequency: There are loads of them. Sometimes three or more a month.

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: The race starts and ends at The Last Drop cafe/bar, which makes it a great race for spectators. They also do really nice coffee.

RunThrough Races: Crystal Palace

The Crystal Palace race is an awesome route that takes in the impressive and winding park. It’s not a fast race due to a load of hills and lots of twisting and turning, but it’s by far one of the most enjoyable in the race calendar.

For those living south it’s a welcome treat to have one so close, for people like me who live over east it’s a nice chance to see another part of London that feels more like you’re in the countryside that in the city.

Distances: 5k | 10k | Half Marathon

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k) | 8 (Half Marathon)

Frequency: Not that many. Four or five a year.

Difficulty: 4/5

Tip: About 500m into the race there’s a really tight path that’s on a fairly steep incline. It can get really congested so if you’re aiming for a fast time make sure you get further ahead.

RunThrough Races: Lee Valley Velopark

The Velopark race is probably the strangest race that RunThrough do and it’s definitely an acquired taste. The event is more like a mini running festival where participants make their way around the one-mile cycling track built for the Olympics.

The range of races runs from one mile to half marathon distance and it’s a great family run where spectators or finishers can potter about the little race village and watch the runners as they go round.

For runners who do a handful of races a year and want them to be memorable experiences, it’s not the most inspiring event. But if you’re looking for a race as part of your training plan or are new to running and want to take on an event where you feel safe in the knowledge that you’re always a mile or less from the finish line, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy a relaxed race.

In terms of elevation, it’s a lot harder than you might think with constant undulation across the full mile course. Good for training, not a great one for a PB.

Distances: 1 Mile | 5k | 10k | 10 Mile | Half Marathon

Laps: One mile = One lap

Frequency: Really frequent. Normally every month.

Difficulty: 2/5

Tip: The toilets can get quite busy. So get there early.

RunThrough Races: Brixton

I just did this one for the first time in over a year and I forgot how difficult it is. There’s a long section that feel likes a constant ascent for over a kilometre and one really steep 300m climb towards the end of the course. The downhills feel significantly smaller in comparison.

The park itself is really nice to run in through and has some great views as you make you’re way around. It can get a bit tight in places though so make sure you’re in the right starting location.

Distances: 10k

Laps: 3

Frequency: Only two or three a year

Difficulty: 4/5

Tip: Don’t underestimate the hills. Find a pace that you can handle as it really hurts by lap three.

RunThrough Races: Victoria Park

Another RunThrough classic and one that is enormously popular every time they put the event on. The race takes in the larger part of the park and is one of the busiest RunThrough events.

I’ve done this race loads of times now as I live down the road. For me, it’s one of the toughest as there are some really long straights that seem to go on for ages. The plus side is that the paths are really wide and there’s very little elevation. It’s a race that’s famous for people trying to get PBs.

Oh yeah, Will Ferrel ran it last year as well. Although I’ve not been able to find out how fast he did it.

Distances: 5k | 10k | Half Marathon

Laps: 1.3 (5k) | 3 (10k) | 6.5 (Half Marathon)

Frequency: There’s normally one a month

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: Due to the different start points and slightly deviating courses it can get a bit confusing in some parts. So make sure you read the course information and listen to the marshals when they shout instructions at you.

RunThrough Races: Hyde Park

As you’d expect the Hyde Park race is one of the most scenic that RunThough puts on. The course has changed a bit over the years but it’s by far one of the nicest races you’ll find in London.

There are some slight hills and the paths can get quite busy, so it can be tricky if you’re aiming for a fast time. It’s also probably the nicest location for the summer Chase the Sun series of races.

Distances: 5k | 10k

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k)

Frequency: Fairly often. more so in the summer. Maybe five or six a year.

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: The toilets need a 20p coin to use. A RunThrough marshall will be stood outside handing them out to runners.

RunThrough Races: Wimbledon Half

One of the few half marathon only events that RunThrough host, Wimbledon is a beautiful but quite tricky race around one of my favourite running locations in London.

Unlike most RunThrough races, Wimbledon Common’s paths are almost trails, so when it’s wet you can expect it to get pretty muddy. When it’s dry you need to watch out for tree branches underfoot. It can get quite hilly in places too.

It is however, a beautiful course that feels like you’re in a forest instead of one of London’s parks.

Distances: Half Marathon

Laps: 2

Frequency: Only a couple per year

Difficulty: 4/5

Tip: The race village can be quite tricky to get to so make sure you plan your route well. Often on Sundays transport is down which can make it a bit of a mission.

RunThrough Races: Battersea Park

Battersea Park is one of London’s most impressive smaller parks, full of all sorts of impressive landmarks, sports facilities and nice little coffee shops. It’s also completely flat, so it makes for a great PB race.

Although the scenery is great, the four-lap route can get a bit repetitive, so it’s definitely a race to get your head down and focus on speed. I’ve done it many times and got some of my fastest 10k times on the course.

Distances: 5k | 10k

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k)

Frequency: six or so a year

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: There’s a noticeable curve in the road throughout the course so aim to get into the centre of it so you’re not running around at an angle. It’s not good for the ankles.

RunThrough Races: Alexandra Palace

Alexandra Palace is probably the least frequent of all the RunThrough events. I’ve actually only done it once and I really enjoyed it but it is really tough.

The winding path at the start is a steep climb all the way to the top of the park and it instantly takes it out of you within the first couple of kilometres. After that, there’s an amazing view and a lovely incline and flat back to the start.

If you get the chance, make sure you give it a go as it offers a rare opportunity for some of the most impressive race scenery you’ll find in London.

Distances: 10k

Laps: 3

Frequency: Very rare. Maybe once a year.

Difficulty: 5/5

Tip: The start village is actually a fairly tough uphill walk. So account for the extra time and effort when you head over.

RunThrough Races: Regent’s Park

Regent’s Park, like Battersea, is a fairly flat course that offers a great opportunity for a bit of PB hunting. The park is also an incredible open space that twists and turns around massive chunks of woodland.

The paths aren’t the widest, so expect some congestion in parts but the range of scenery you get to pass, from lakes to a long stretch that goes past London Zoo, makes for a lovely race spot.

Unlike many of the other events, there’s also only one lap per 5k. So if you’re not a fan of repetitive routes, it’s one of the better options.

Distances: 5k | 10K

Laps: 1 (5k) | 2 (10k)

Frequency: Three or four a year

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: The path just after the start line is really thin, so unless you want to overtake on the grass (often muddy in winter), make sure you’re up the front.

RunThrough Races: Clapham Common

Clapham Common is one of the smaller parks that RunThrough host races, it’s also one of the busiest, so you can expect a lot people walking around during the race, which can be tricky if you’re aiming for speed.

The other thing to note is that a lot of it is on grass or mud trails. In the summer that’s generally fine but it can get a bit muddy if it’s been raining.

For me, the best time to do the Clapham Common race is during one of the Chase the Sun events as it’s a great little route to enjoy in the summer, followed by a trip to a pub in Clapham.

Distances: 5k | 10k

Laps: 2 (5k) | 4 (10k)

Frequency: More frequent in the summer evening series. Maybe four or so a year.

Difficulty: 1/5

Tip: Watch out for dogs. Clapham Common is full of them and there’s many a time I’ve almost had to leap over one.

To see the full list of RunThrough events happening throughout the year, including all of those events outside of London (that I haven’t done yet) click on the website here.

All images used in this article are via the RunThrough Facebook page.