The best free run clubs in London: Take your training to the next level

The best things in life are free, especially when you get fit doing them
The best free running clubs in London

Traditional running clubs may have a number of benefits, but they aren’t for everyone. As well as being based in the outer areas of cities, there is a tendency for them to be more focused on training for and competing in events. For those looking for something a bit more relaxed they may not be the best option.

They also cost money to join. Usually not a lot of money, but money nonetheless – something you're unlikely to want to part with if you can avoid it. Luckily if you live in London (or many other major cities) you can avoid it, by joining one of the many running clubs that are completely free to join.

In London, most of these free running clubs are based in the centre and put on runs that are convenient for those working long hours in the city. Often they are affiliated with a running brand or shop, but you can rest assured you’re not going to be given the hard sell to buy stuff whenever you head out for a run with the group. If a brand is involved with the club you will also often get a chance to try new gear out for free on the runs if you want to.

Even though people might come from all over London to join free clubs in the centre, there is a still a community feel to them, and you’ll quickly make fast friends with people when you’re running together once or twice a week.

Having a club session to attend will also encourage you to not skip your runs, because even though it’s free, forming a regular running routine with other people makes it more likely you’ll want to turn up.

Of the many free running clubs in London here's our pick of the bunch. If you're looking to up your mileage and make some friends in the process then be sure to visit their next run. It is free after all.

London City Runners

The biggest and best free running club in the capital that doesn’t have an affiliation with a shop or brand. London City Runners put on three weekly runs from their base in Bermondsey, have regular socials and members frequently travel together to take on races at home or abroad.

Aside from the regular beginner to 5K coached programs the club puts on (which cost £50) all of London City Runners’s sessions are completely free to join. You can join for 5K, 6K or 10K on Tuesday nights, tackle an interval session on Thursdays and/or join for a long run on Sunday mornings.

From September 2019 London City Runners will also have a track session on Wednesdays at Southwark Athletics Track, which costs £3 to enter, though the session itself is still free.

To offer all of the above and still be free requires members to contribute to the club in some way, whether that’s volunteering to help out with the beginner to 5K course, or just heading to the London City Runner clubhouse after your run and spending plenty of money at the bar. That’s the most enjoyable way to contribute to the club coffers, we reckon.

The best way to get started with London City Runners is to sign up for the club’s newsletter on the website, and then turn up for a run!

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Adidas Runners

When it comes to running groups linked to a brand, they don’t get bigger or better than Adidas Runners, which has crews all over the world. Adidas Runners London is massive, with over 12,000 members on its Facebook page and four runs to join each week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings, with the Wednesday session being for women only). There are also regular workouts you can join to support your training.

The group is mostly managed via social media, largely through the Facebook page, though you’ll generally get all the info on the runs each week on the various Adidas Coach and Captain Instagram accounts as well.

Adidas Runners are often involved in the launch of new Adidas products, and you usually have the chance to try out running shoes at the sessions as well. The runs are so popular that you can’t just turn up at them – you have to sign up for them individually on the Adidas website each week. If you’re looking to join, the best place to start is by joining the Facebook group.

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Onetrack Club

The best free running clubs in London
Credit: Onetrack Club

Most free running clubs in London focus on putting on slow, social sessions so everyone can keep up, but the beauty of running on a track is that everyone can go at their own speed and still stay in the same place. Onetrack Club, which is based at the Duke of York Square track in Chelsea and runs every Monday evening, is the best free running club for anyone looking to build some speed and give track sessions a try.

All levels are welcome – running fast is relative, it’s all about putting in maximum effort, rather than the actual pace you’re going. It’s still a social affair, however, and trust us when we say that you make friends quickly when you’re blasting out tough reps together.

The sessions are led by Anthony Fletcher, head coach of the Precision Running class at Equinox gym, who will put you through your paces to help you increase your speed while also giving invaluable advice on running form and how to stay injury-free.

For more info on the club head to the website, or just turn up at a run.

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Runners Need Just Run

The running chain operates free clubs out of 20 of its stores across the country, and nine of those are found in London, mostly in the centre of the city. You can join free weekly runs at the Camden, Canary Wharf, Covent Garden, Clapham Junction, Holborn, Kings Cross, Waterloo Bridge, Leyden Street and Monument stores, with all abilities welcomed.

What sessions you’ll be doing will differ from store to store. So the Camden store takes advantage of its proximity to Primrose Hill to put on a 20-minute hill session at 7am on Friday mornings, as well as a steady 8km run around Regent’s Park on Wednesday evenings, while the Canary Wharf club has a lunchtime 5K on Wednesdays that’s convenient for those working in the skyscrapers nearby.

After three runs with the club you’ll get a goody bag and a Just Run t-shirt, and every time you log ten runs you get a £10 voucher to spend in-store. You can save those up and after 100 runs or so you’ll have enough for a new set of shoes – yours will probably be worn out by then anyway.

To get involved with the Just Run club head to the Runners Need website and select the store nearest to you to find out when they run.

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ASICS Run Club

The best free running clubs in London
Credit: ASICS Run Club / Facebook

This group is based at ASICS’s flagship store on Oxford Street and puts on two weekly runs at 7pm on Mondays and Fridays. The pace is relaxed and thanks to the central location, the runs are chockfull of London landmarks, including Buckingham Palace, the Mall and Green Park.

The ASICS Run Club membership isn’t as vast as that of Adidas Runners, so you can turn up and join in the fun without having to stress about booking a place at the regular runs in advance. The group also sometimes puts on special runs and workouts, which are flagged up on the Facebook group.

That Facebook group is the best place to get involved with the ASICS Run Club. Along with information on the sessions, you’ll find a community of running-obsessed people ready to discuss whatever you’d like to about the sport.

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So parkrun is not technically a club, but anyone who turns up regularly to their local parkrun will know that it fosters a similarly social atmosphere. Each event is completely free and staffed by a rota of volunteers, and there are always familiar faces to say hello to on the start line.

While parkrun always stress that the events are not races per se, they’re a great way to test the pace in your legs. Tracking your parkrun PB will show the progress you're making thanks to the free training runs you’re doing with all the other clubs on this list.

Parkrun events take place every Saturday at 9am and there are almost 50 different locations where you can join in the fun in London. The best parkrun to go to regularly is the one nearest your house, because travelling too far for 9am on a Saturday morning isn’t always easy, but if you do fancy some parkrun tourism there are a few standout London parkruns that are worth a visit.

The Hackney Marshes and Fulham Palace events offer PB potential thanks to their fast, flat courses, while Alexandra Palace parkrun has great views of the city – though you will have to run up some hills to enjoy those views.

If hills are your thing, or you just fancy a real challenge, then give Lloyd Park parkrun a go – take shoes that can handle the mud if you’re going in the winter. And if you fancy going to the original parkrun, it’s in Bushy Park, where over 1,000 people turn up every week to run the event.

Bushy parkrun is also where the parkrun world record was set in 2012, when Olympian Andrew Baddeley ran 13min 48sec. Good luck trying to replicate that.

Head to the parkrun website to hunt down your local event.

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