Whether you are visiting London or looking for a new way to get to the office, Gary Hawke wants you to enjoy an early morning run with a difference
6.30am, Central London. As the capital begins to awaken, a small band of runners, led by licensed Run England group leader Gary Hawke, is about to set off for a 60-minute tour. Depending on the day, it could be a dip into the City of London’s Square Mile, a pinball course between Royal London and Park spaces, a circuit of historical landmarks, or one of three river routes, all ranging in distances of between 5-10k.
Originally created for tourists, Hawke has been amazed at the number of commuters and running clubs who are joining him on the current series of his early morning runs. Although devised to make the most of summer weather, Hawke runs most mornings, year round, and says that the initial Run Around London series, which cost £8 per run, may be extended.
“I mentioned the idea to my sister, and she thought it was a really good one so I set up Run Around London, and I was surprised how quickly it has become a successful business,” explains Hawke. “People want to experience running in a different way.
“It’s a lovely time of morning to run and the added motivation of seeing London from different perspectives really seems to appeal to people. I split the area into different quadrants, so that each offers something different. Most routes are cyclical and as we go along I point things out. Tourists can get up early and see attractions before the rush, and even people who live here get to see different places.”
For those who prefer to exercise at a more moderate pace, Hawke also offers Mindful Walking sessions around Highgate Wood and Queens Wood Nature Reserve, which combine the opportunity to explore life, work and relationship issues, while exercising. Anna-Cajsa Johansson describes how profound she found the experience: “It was almost surprising how private the session felt considering we were outside in a public area. I felt the soft ground and green shades of the trees added something very special. It made me reflect on how the colour green is in the middle of the visible spectrum of colour encouraging balance and harmony and how in colour therapy, colour, being the colour of the heart, it relates in to patterns and cycles of our thinking process, and is emotionally expressed in how we relate to everyone and everything.”
The benefits of exercising outside are well-documented and Hawke says early mornings are particularly energising. “Running early morning is incredible and London is timeless at that time, There’s a stillness, particularly in summer, before the capital gears into life.”
Although Hawke incorporates challenges for different levels of ability, he aims to offer a relaxed run. “Run England promotes a particular style of movement that is enjoyable. We suggest imagining a balloon floating out of the top of your head, and this allows everything to relax. Smiling as you run also reduces injury, as it keeps you in a relaxed space, and when we cool down afterwards we encourage some meditation or yoga.” A chance to change the pace of busy daily life, running or walking with an added agenda is a great way to escape the rat race.