I love running in Ghent. It is completely flat, so encouraging for beginners and people aiming for personal bests. There is a rowing lake with a 5km track around the outside called Watersportsbaan. This connects with a nature reserve called Blaarmeersen on an 8km loop (with an artificial sandy beach to play volleyball, or swim in afterwards). To extend your route, there are gorgeous paths following the Leie River out into the countryside or through the historic city centre. If that isn’t enough, there is another nature reserve, full of wader birds and canals, called Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen, surrounded by a 10k loop. I will be running my first marathon in Ghent in March 2022. Beer, waffles and chocolate after, alguien?
In Nice, Provence, I really enjoyed joining the local joggers running along what is one of the most beautiful streets in the world – the Promenade des Anglais. You have the fresh salty sea breezes filling your lungs, the sun bouncing off the white-kissed waves of the Med, and the beautiful belle epoque buildings flanking the running route. The road stretches from the airport to the castle, so some stretches are quieter than others, but the best part is from the Hotel Negresco to the old port – feel free to grab some fresh mussels and a glass of wine on the beach at the Plage Beau Rivage as a reward.
My Berkshire village of East Ilsley on the A34 offers direct access to Britain’s oldest “road”, the Ridgeway, with a huge variety of runs. My favourite, a 5km roughly circular route, rewards effort with 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. It is best tackled clockwise, with a steepish start and gentler return to the village duck pond. Part of the route runs in parallel with the Gallops, where I’m sometimes lucky enough to run alongside training racehorses. More constant companions are the red kites soaring above. Every season brings delights: autumnal mist inversions, winter frosts, spring wheat ripening to summer fields of gold.
Wendover offers more than 30 miles of public paths and bridleways, and some of the best are to be found in Wendover Woods. My favourite route up to the woods is via Hogtrough Lane followed by an undulating route through the woods to the highest point. Wendover Woods is a stunning place to run in all weathers, and the muddy season is particularly fun. Eso dicho, you shouldn’t miss it when it snows or when the bluebells are in bloom. There are Saturday-morning parkruns, a 10k, half marathons, marathons, ultras and my favourite – an evening run with a headtorch lighting the way.
Having undertaken a “lockdown move” in 2020 from Cheshire to the low hills of north-east Wales, it has been wonderful to finally begin to explore the many trails that are now accessible to us. The Offa’s Dyke path, which runs from Prestatyn to Chepstow, provides stunning scenery, sometimes brutal ascents and is just perfect to focus on the run. The sections of trail I like the most include the ascents of Moel Famau and the section from Llangollen to Bodfari, where there is an excellent pub (The Dinorben Arms) to refuel and rehydrate in comfort. Perfect.
My favourite route is in Protaras, Cyprus. There is a path that runs from Fig Tree bay to Polyxenia beach and you have wonderful views of the bays and beaches while running. The gorgeous clear seas and sandy beaches make it very pleasant. The best time to go is early morning when the sun isn’t blazing and the paths aren’t too busy with holidaymakers.
los Pentland hills near Edinburgh are a wonderful running resource. Sólo 20 minutes south of the city, they offer varied terrain, from flat, reservoir-side runs to more challenging hilly routes. Year round, they impress, offering snowy trails in winter and wonderful sunsets in the summer. Start from Flotterstone and take yourself uphill via Turnhouse and Carnethy, or opt for a more leisurely route to Glencorse reservoir. If you’re feeling very adventurous, sign up to the Pentland skyline race, which takes place every October.
Wenallt Woods (Coed y Wenallt), Cardiff, is a truly amazing place to run. Hills and mud, streams to cross, fallen trees to hurdle, rocks to navigate – it is never dull. The huge array of paths means there is plenty of choice when it comes to length of route. You’ll feel connected to nature running here, too – this is ancient woodland with good biodiversity and a range of plants. The light and colours are magical, and the views over the Bristol Channel as the sun is rising are exquisite. Y, if you’re lucky, you won’t see a single other person. Total exhilaration! Arbennig iawn!
The positive, or negative, aspect of living in Boston is the lack of hills, but within minutes of putting on trail shoes and leaving the house I am on the sea bank of the River Haven. It’s a superb run with the river on one side and marshes on the other, with a soundtrack of the thousands of brent geese who spend winter here. If the tide is in, you can enjoy the ships making their way up the river to the port. The halfway point is reached where the Haven exits into the Wash, a remote, ever-changing landscape of mudflats and marsh. Head down and back along the river. The best head-clearing 10 millas, whatever the weather.
Sheffield delights with a run through Ecclesall Woods. Between the busy streets of Ecclesall and Abbeydale Road the woodland is an oasis in the city, bringing the opportunity to breathe as you run through the wonderful greenery. Here you will find 142 hectáreas (350 hectáreas) of mature, semi-natural deciduous woodland and more than 15km of routes through a beautiful landscape. There is something for everyone. Some of the longer routes can take you west all the way into the Peak District, past brooks and swaying trees.