The London Winter Run
A review of the London Winter Run (2019 edition)

As I'm sitting inside with a broken ankle, there's nothing new to share with readers:

No new routes

No new gear.

I'm not even ready for rehab yet.

What do we do when there's nothing new?

We do throwbacks.

Today we throwback to February 2019, and the Cancer Research UK London Winter Run

The Race

The Cancer Research UK London Winter Run is a 10k race held every year in London - I ran it in 2019, and it was on the first weekend in February. I get the impression that it's on that weekend every year, but refuse to promise anything.

After gathering in Trafalgar Square, you run east into the City of London, nearly reaching the Gherkin before turning back and finishing right in front of the Prime Minister's house.

London Winter Run route map

You can check out my race on Strava here.

Why this is a great race

  • It's in central London, and the streets are closed - run past landmarks, on streets where it's typically too busy with cars and people to run safely
  • It's a huge race. Perfect if you love running with thousands of people
  • It supports Cancer Research UK, a deserving charity
  • Great crowd support, including mascots and bands by the side of the road
  • Pretty flat and fast - uphill segments can't seriously be called hills, and only one turn that I would term "tight"

Why this might not be your race

  • It's a huge race - maybe you don't love running with thousands of people
  • Poor organisation at the start. Runners are meant to start at varying times based on their expected race time, but this was not controlled in any way, and there were plenty of 10k walkers at the very front of the first wave. Expect to dodge people at the start
  • Apparently not recognised/accredited by UK Athletics - your results won't appear on Power of 10
  • Weather might be a problem. It was a beautiful (but cold) day for me in 2019, but the 2020 edition was cancelled due to high winds, and it's the time of year where snow and ice are possibilities in London

Verdict

This is a race I enjoyed very much - I set a PB on the day (since eclipsed), and I love big city races with closed roads and big crowds. It's pretty rare for a 10k to be such a race, so this is pretty special amongst 10ks.

I'd say it's a good course for a personal best, but that would depend on what constitutes a "personal best". If it's for yourself, this is a good place to manage it - you'll find yourself on a flat course, on a cool day, with people cheering you on. But if you want it to show up as an official PB, you'll have to look elsewhere.

With that said, this is probably the worst race that I'm aware of that closes down central London. The disorganisation at the start was shocking, and if you're shooting for a good time, expect to spend a lot of early energy avoiding people who start at the front, sprint the first 50-100m, and then walk.

Seriously.

It also manages to be right in the centre of London, but minimise the scenery.

These things can only be so bad - this race starts in Trafalgar Square, goes past St Paul's Cathedral (twice), and ends on Whitehall; that's a lot to pack into ten kilometres. But it also completely avoids the embankment/riverside, the Mall, any parks, any bridges, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, ... I'm pretty sure this route is the answer for "least scenic way to travel 10km while starting in Trafalgar Square and ending at Whitehall without pacing back-and-forth between the two".

But this is a rare race for the Londoner - a 10k that closes down the centre of the city and lets you run the roads. There are only two of these, and while this one is the inferior choice, it's the only race you'll find (of any distance) that allows this during the winter.

Overall, I think this race was worthwhile. It's an ideal race for a novice runner who would love some crowd support to get them through 10k. More experienced runners looking for a good performance will likely find the start a travesty and disappointment when the result is not recognised by the governing body - but it's still a good day out if you can look past these things.

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