May 13

Capital Ring Run

This post plans to serve two purposes.

One to help readers who may be planning to run the Capital Ring in the future and secondly to share some of the lighter moments of our recent assault on the Capital Ring on 5th & 6th May 2012.

Part a: Choosing the route

This wasnt necessarily straight forward as there was 4 of us (Jamie, James, Steve and David) starting and some of us  lived in different parts of London. Added to the fact that we were hoping to factor people joining us and knowing that starting at a point near a tube station would help we plumped for Highgate Station Tube where we gathered at 11:00am for our first photo

Jamie kindly used his Garmin course planner and loosely punched in the same details as this map here:


We all had garmin watches and Endemondo on smart phones to track our whereabouts, time and distance

Part B: Plan for Capital Ring:

As this was a training run for the Cotswold 100 we wanted to split the Capital run into two legs but mentally we wanted a shorter day 2. We planned to carry some stuff with us but rely upon there being an abundance of shops for refreshments. The weather was unpredictable so we were all with rain coats and spare tops. Even in May it was cold and gloves were a great help for those with cold bones.

Day 1: Highgate to Balham (42 miles 7hrs 55 mins)

First leg takes you down a fantastic tree-lined pathway, Finsbury Park, double reservoirs of Seven Sisters, Clissold Park,  through Stoke Newington village of deli’s and great coffee shops, men with amazing rolo hats, Springfield Park towards Lea Valley and the canal path. This section is well sign posted with the now familiar Green Capital ring signs and the posts with mileage to some of the main Capital Ring landmarks. (There are some good shops and loo stops in this section – dont rely on the next section if you want them)

Second leg is once again a beautiful run down the canal past Hackney Marshes and on to the start of the Olympic stadium site and the “Greenway”. As the Olympics are almost upon us it wasnt surprising that our canal route was closed and we had to find all alternative way. This was when it started to become apparent just how useful the Garmin map download was because as soon as you veered off course the map told you and you could track when you were running parallel to it or close to finding in again. The first “grim” section came when you leave the Olympic park and head further down the Greenway past Plaistow and beyond. I’d read another Capital Run post where someone had done this stretch at night. Firstly I dont know how they lived but secondly every few hundred yards there is a gate which are closed after 7pm every eve and they would have had to scale each one of these – very brave. There are a couple of lighter moments around Beckton through parks but its still not too scenic or fun until you get to the Woolwich foot tunnel. Once again its a bit of a mare following signs around here so be careful, especially where you seem to run down the side of a dis-used track next to the river and in the tunnel it feels like no-ones been down there for 30 years.

Over the river you will find a lovely toilet (use it wisely) and plenty of cheap and cheerful shops. Once again if you ignore these you may find that you travel the next 8-10 miles without anything unless you deviate from the ring!

One thing to note as you travel through the parks of Charlton and Woolwich is that there are a few killer hills in there – nothing too epic but if like us you maintain a walking only policy then you suddenly start to realise that your predicted 6-6:30 finish is going to be tested.

Second thing to note is that there is an absence of decent places to get food. We did pass through a park with a place selling carb-loaded chips and espresso but we thought (Jamie did!!) that we’d kick-on. Big mistake. First case of ‘le bonk’ definitely took effect about 5 miles later and was only saved through massive Soreen loading. We eventually found a rotten store in Mottingham where sugary lucazade stuff was consumed in volumes and we cracked on towards Crystal Palace.

Here we met our first true friendly faces of the day in the form of Mrs Holmes a.k.a Chevs and Jamie’s daughters plus Bailey le pup. Chevs has been the most amazing supporter/crew member on our long runs and once gain she came laden with chicken sandwiches, glorious sausage rolls and more sugary wonderment (plus some ibuprofen!!!).

Final stretch took us from Streatham through to Balham where we finished Day 1 with a skip and some well deserved (but obviously not too professional) pints of wheat water @ the Bedford

Day 2: Balham to Highgate 38 miles (7hrs 45 mins)

Waking up on Day 2 there were some obvious aches and pains but a huge tumbler of honeyed porridge with a sprinkling of Ibuprofen seemed enough and we headed back to Balham in some fine drizzle to be met by friends Chuggs, Jimmy & Steve all eager to do one leg and no more :)

The Balham to Richmond river via Wimbledon and Richmond Parks is the most beautiful stretch by a long-shot – its just perfect running conditions, scenery and the first 13 miles with great (rude) banter were effortless. Below you can see that we even stopped off for fabulous treats along the river @ Richmond – happy days. We said goodbye to the guys and conveniently met our big buddy Darren who planned to run all the way to the end with us.

Once you leave Richmond its stiff upper lip time as the beautiful park ways and unspoilt views are  dumped for the uglier side of London. Its all a mental state we runners know but there comes a point when the banter subsides and you’re faced with the grim reality of buckling down and grinding out some miles at which point the fact that you’re crossing the A40 and crawlng through Greenford doesnt make it any easier.

Anyway we knew we had more friends up ahead and feeling like a foody pick-me-up we decided to stop at the next available place. Well was it a miracle or a curse but the next thing we spotted were those golden arches and without much persuasion we were sat inside tucking into some more diet unfriendly burgers and frites.


Tim pictured above hadnt actually run any miles at this point so making him and family hit McDonalds first thing was  cruelty beyond words. Anyway on we trotted through other odd streets before another highlight of the ring – Harrow-on-the-Hill was ahead. Being a Sunday most things were deathly quiet but Harrow was buzzing with boys dressed in full gowns and rugby matches about to kick-off. From here there are some pleasant parks to run through before making your way towards North London.

I had read on another runners blog that Finchley and surrounding areas were the worst sign-posted sections of the ring and he was right. We also made our first and most calamitous map-reading error. You have to remember that up to this point we had been religiously using Jamie’s downloaded map on his Garmin and everytime we veered off it would say something like ‘off-course’ and everytime we would dutifully do as we were told. But on this occasion we ignored it and yes we got it horribly wrong. When you’re feeling whacked and you know how many miles you’ve roughly got left you don want to be adding 2-3 miles on top. Anyway we pulled it together and sites were set for Highgate Village.

The last 8 miles were really tough. Some of the steepest climbs are in this section and we also waded through swamp land and our feet were drenched (not a good thing but at least we were at the right end of the 80 miles for the blisters). As you run parallel to the North Circular/A1 it is amazing that there are still green-ways to run along. By now we could smell the end. Just the oddity of running through East Finchley St which actually is officially part of the Capital Ring and then a very cruel 2 mile loop at the end when you know for certain that you could ignore the ring do  right and get back to Highgate St and probably avoid that last steep climb.

Nearly another epic 8 hours. You really do need to factor in 2-4 hours on the Capital Ring just for faffing, map reading, adjusting your kits, dreaming of better stocked corner shops….but it was over.

Just another chance to join our wives and children in the Woodsman pub but this time we were all very weary.

Great epic journey. Biggest advice would be to do this with friends and if you’re doing it in one go I salute you.