Greenwich Park is one of the nicest spots in London. It is not, however, a place that many people would describe as easy to get to for 10am on a Sunday morning. On any Sunday morning, let alone one where 40,000 people are also trying to get there for the start of the London Marathon.
In some ways the greatest challenge for London Marathon runners comes before the starting gun even fires. No amount of planning can prepare you for the atmosphere of barely contained panic as tens of thousands put their blind trust in the capital’s transport network to get to the start line.
But keep the faith – and plan ahead. To make the experience as pain-free as possible, make sure you give yourself as much time as possible to complete the journey… and heed these five bits of advice.
1. Keep Your Race Number Handy
Race-day travel is free for runners who flash their race number on the Underground, Overground, buses, TfL Rail, DLR and the relevant Southeastern trains to get you to the start line. There will be crowds at many stations on the main routes to the start so don’t delay everyone by having to dig your number out of the depths of your bag every time it’s needed.
2. Know The Best Station For Your Start
If you’re heading to the Red Start you should aim for Greenwich (DLR and National Rail) or Maze Hill (National Rail) station. Cutty Sark DLR is also reasonably close to the Red Start.
Maze Hill is also the best bet for Green Start runners, while Blue Start or Good For Age runners should head to Blackheath (National Rail).
3. Red Start Runners Rejoice – The DLR Strike Has Been Postponed
Praise be – the DLR strike over the weekend has been called off. That means it’s much easier not only to get to the Expo, but also to get to the Red Start, because the DLR serves both Greenwich and Cutty Sark stations. You can also get to Greenwich using National Rail trains from London Bridge and Cannon Street.
4. Greenwich Park Is Bigger Than You Think
Think your journey is over when you reach the gates of Greenwich Park? Think again. It’s about half a mile to the start area from the gate nearest Greenwich station and – we really hate to tell you this – it’s uphill and once you reach the start area, you need to walk around to drop off your bag and (almost certainly) find a toilet. Basically, there’s a good amount of walking to be done before the running, so leave yourself time to do it, because having to jog up the hill from Greenwich station because you’re running late is not the best way to start your race.
5. Pack Your Final Instructions Booklet
One key item on race day is the final instructions booklet you will have received at the Expo. It gives you all the travel info you need so you’re not reliant on 3G and 4G networks that are prone to slowing to a snail’s pace whenever big crowds converge. The booklet contains maps of the start areas, train timetables and general advice for getting to where you need to be to start on time. Bring it with you. In fact, pack it in your bag right now.