Friday, 20 July 2012

Run of the Week - Hampstead Half!

As more and more people are taking on the challenge of the full marathon distance I thought I would put together a regular run of the week covering varying lengths and sessions. This week it is a long run of about the right distance for this time of year for those Autumn marathoners.

Bit of a sting in the tail with this one though - namely hills! Starting and finishing at Gospel Oak car park where you'll find a train station, a cafe selling suitably greasy post run fare and toilets not far into the route on the Heath.

So here it is - Hampstead Half - a scenic, challenging 13 mile long run... 

Heading out on the Heath following the path up to the right hand side of the playing fields you are running along the first 100m of the National Cross Country Championship route, regularly held at Parliament Hill. Imagine nearly 2000 of the country's best runners heading out for 12km of pain and feel safe in the knowledge that you'll be out for nearly twice that distance today.

When you intersect with the next metaled path, turn right and then left at the water fountain. Follow the path into the Heath passing three lakes on your right hand side, turning right up a sharp climb after Highgate Pond. It is said that swimmers often hear footsteps of unseen walkers at the ponds, said to be the ghosts of the many suicide victims of the Victorian Era - pick up the pace guys.

At the top of the hill turn left and follow the track until it climbs with Kenwood House on your left. Eventually following the linked map you will double back on yourself following a metaled path back down the hill looking for a hidden turning up a trail path on your right.

This is where the fun kicks in - half a mile of genuine trail running that feels more like running in the Adirondacks than London. Follow the path until it drops through a car park and down the hill looking, again, for a hidden path heading 'off road' on your right hand side. Climbing steeply uphill stay light on your feel as your dodge roots, branches and badgers eventually looking for a right turn to cross the main road into Sandy Heath. Now it is time to let loose running down hill gently and on through a playing field before reaching the far corner of the heath and find the path which turns West towards Golders Green. 

Follow the path and road for about a mile, looking for Hampstead Way on the right. After about 1/4 mile you'll cross a main road into West Heath, avoiding ice cream temptations but perhaps stopping to use the toilets and water fountain at the cafe. Continuing to follow the main path in Westerly direction as it drops gently downhill you'll loop around the back of some tennis courts before heading to trees and trails again. Follow the path taking the obvious right turns until you see West Heath Road. Staying on the Heath itself push on up hill with the road on your right and just as your legs start to burn and you start to curse ever reading this blog you'll reach the pond and junction at Whitestone Walk.  Follow the main road to the right and then first left and start to enjoy running again as you head down hill on the pavement for about a mile, eventually passing Hampstead Heath Station on your left.

Don't be distracted by the temptations of beer or pastry items as you head through town turning right up Pond Street to lock in for more hill technique training, eventually heading over Haverstock Hill and on to Fitzjohns Avenue where you'll turn left and follow the main road past Swiss Cottage and on to Regents Park.

Following the Outer Circle to the right before entering the park and following the path that heads towards 'The Hub' - the building that looks like a UFO that failed to take off. Turn right at the first path intersection and then first left and follow this path as it winds its way around the park, eventually turning left on 'The Broadwalk' and first right after the 'Honest Sausage Cafe' - not one for runners I don't think. Continue on a small loop as you double back on yourself returning towards the haven of processed meat before veering off to the right and following the path that runs behind London Zoo, all the time thinking how odd it is to be running alongside giraffes and with monkey calls whilst in the middle of the biggest city in Europe.

Turn first right out of the park and on into Primrose Hill. By this point you will be missing hills so head up to the top of Primrose Hill, stopping to take in the view. Drop down out of the park and follow the main road through Primrose Hill itself, dodging big cars and celebrities and crossing the railway line and on down towards Chalk Farm Station, straight over Camden High Street on to Prince of Wales Road where you will turn right and first left on to Malden Road. Follow Malden Road up to the main set of traffic lights turning right and first left through a residential street and on at the end over the railway line and back onto Parliament Hill.

By now you'll be a hardened fell runner so instead of taking the short cut to the finish turn left and follow the path around then right up one last lung busting climb, and one last stunning view of London before turning right and following the steep downhill path back to the start.

Well done guys!

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As an althetics coach, personal trainer and sports conditioning expert my job is to help everyone achieve their goals. This is a collection of my thoughts on training and the world of sport and health and fitness.