Vitality London 10,000 course guide
The Mall has a unique place in British sporting history. Back in 2003 it provided the backdrop to Paula Radcliffe’s marathon world record – a record that still stands today – and more recently it was the setting for the 2012 Olympic marathon and cycling events.
On Monday 29 May more than 10,000 runners will set off from The Mall as they cross the Start Line of the London 10,000. The race starts on the exact spot where the Olympic marathon winners Stephen Kiprotich and Tiki Gelana made history four years ago.
Flat and straight on the whole, the course follows a clockwise path through the city before returning to St James’s Park and finishing outside Buckingham Palace.
Once the gun goes off, runners head east along The Mall, speeding under Admiralty Arch and through Trafalgar Square, passing Admiral Nelson, 46 metres up on the top of his granite column.
Next they run down the long straight of the Strand, passing the 1km mark. The name of the road was recorded as long ago as 1002 – the Old English word ‘strand’ meant shore, and referred to the River Thames, which was much wider in the era before the Victoria Embankment was constructed.
On this famous road runners will pass the world-renowned Savoy Hotel. When it opened in 1889 it was the first luxury hotel in Britain and has hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne over the years. Savoy Court, the road into the hotel, is the only named street in the UK where vehicles are required to drive on the right.
Shortly afterwards runners will spot Somerset House on the right, a large Neoclassical building that has featured in many films including the 1995 classic James Bond movie GoldenEye, Love Actually and Sherlock Holmes.
Instead of passing alongside the famous old building, they will bear left onto Aldwych and pass the High Commissions of India and Australia, as well as the famous Aldwych Theatre, formerly home of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Before the 2km mark, the course passes the Royal Courts of Justice. Above the imposing Victorian Gothic building’s main doors you can see statues of Jesus, King Solomon, Alfred the Great and Moses.
A sharp turn up Chancery Lane takes runners into the borough of Camden. After passing Ede and Ravenscroft, the oldest tailors in London, runners emerge onto High Holborn and make a right turn.
Just after the 3km mark runners go over Holborn Viaduct and pass another legal landmark – the Old Bailey.
Officially called the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales, the Old Bailey is named after the street on which it stands, which followed the line of the City of London’s old fortified wall, or bailey. A shining bronze statue of Lady Justice, holding a sword and the scales of justice, sits atop the court’s dome.
Leaving legal London behind, for the time being, runners loop around the headquarters of BT, before continuing east along Cheapside into the financial heart of the capital, passing One New Change, the City of London’s only major shopping centre.
After a left turn onto King Street, one of only two new streets laid out after the Great Fire of London in 1666, runners will see the Guildhall, the ceremonial centre of the City of London. Legend has it two giants, Gog and Magog, were defeated by Brutus of Troy, who chained them to the gates of his palace on the site of Guildhall. Carvings of the giants remain in Guildhall to this day.
The next landmark is the imposing Bank of England. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world, after Sveriges Bank in Sweden. Runners then head west for the first time along Threadneedle Street. If they glance left as they turn, they should get a view of ‘the Gherkin’.
Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of London and where suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst was famously imprisoned while campaigning for women’s rights in the early 20th century, is the next famous building on the course.
The reward for reaching halfway is to run alongside the architectural masterpiece of St Paul’s Cathedral. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1720, the Baroque masterpiece was part of a major rebuilding programme after the Great Fire of London.
Runners return to familiar territory as they continue north alongside the Cathedral before the route passes the Old Bailey once more and crosses back over Holborn Viaduct to reach the 6km point.
Instead of continuing back to Camden, they now turn south down New Fetter Lane, which reconnects to the Strand at the junction with Fleet Street, the traditional home of the British national newspapers.
After passing the 7km and 8km marks along the Strand runners reach Trafalgar Square again before turning left into Whitehall, the avenue of government departments and site of Charles I’s beheading in 1649.
Once they pass Downing Street, they see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament ahead before hitting the 9km mark.
The final turn west is into Birdcage Walk, and if runners look into St James’s Park on the right they may catch a glimpse of the resident pelicans. There’s less wildlife than there used to be though – under James I’s reign camels, crocodiles and elephants all lived there.
At the end of Birdcage Walk, runners head into Spur Road to finish in front of Buckingham Palace, a fitting ending to a magnificent journey through arguably the most historic 10km route in the world.