The Sea Views
I still can’t really get over how brilliant it is to be able to get up in the morning and go for a run and, instead of trudging along grey London streets wondering how much carbon monoxide I’m breathing in, to be out on a cliff overlooking the sea within minutes. There’s something about the sea which is inspiring, quite apart from the fresh air and views and the fact that as long as you are running along the sea edge you can go for miles without having to cross a road.
The undercliff walk
If I was going to invent a perfect running location, what would I ask for? No vehicles, good surface, no roads to cross, plenty of space to pass other runners, nice views, and toilets and cafes regularly spaced along it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the Undercliff Walk. Just under 3 miles long (which I agree is not especially long, but a 6-mile round run is not bad, and this route is ideal for intervals) it runs from Brighton Marina to Saltdean and is bordered on one side by impressive cliffs and on the other, of course, by beach and sea. This makes it a beautiful location to run in regardless of the weather and, while it may well be cold and windswept at times, the robust wall means you are at least protected from the sea in all but the very worst weather. There are a couple of locations along it where there are public toilets which, let’s face it, is always useful, as well as more than one cafe. There are also plenty of spots where you can access the top of the cliff above, and get back onto the main road, if you want to make this part of a longer run.
It really is a unique location and a genuine pleasure to run along.
Being stuck as it is between the South Downs and the sea, Brighton has some pretty serious hills. Immediately behind my flat I can easily get over 100m of ascent in only about 1.5km. It makes it very easy to chuck in some hill sprints at the end of a run, or plan a nice rolling route that really tests my endurance. As you know, I’m a fan of using hills to vary your running and build extra fitness without having to go faster or longer.
Of course, Brighton is not the only place with hills, but it is very nice to be able to find such a variety of elevation, making it easy to plan a route that is just as demanding as you need it to be for whatever training you are doing.
The South Downs
When I was living in London I used to love getting a train out of town and running along one of the nearby trails – Ridgeway, North Downs Way or South Downs Way being the closest. All of them, though, ended up being over an hour on the train which would make a trip require basically a whole day, and a fair bit of planning. Brighton, on the other hand, is literally a matter of 3-4 miles from the South Downs Way, a long and spectacular trail that runs all the way from Eastbourne to Winchester (itself a very very pretty town and a fun place to end a run).
It’s not just the South Downs Way, though. The whole South Downs is a National Park, and it literally starts where Brighton ends – there are plenty of smaller trails and footpaths, hills to run up, forests to run in, and so on. It’s not particularly isolated or rugged but it is pretty and varied and makes for a thoroughly pleasant break from pounding the streets.