How to start running in Bristol: The best routes near campus to help beginners get started

If you can’t beat the running girlies, join them


Everyone seems to have entered 2024 in their running eras. While they make it look appealing, it can be daunting to hit the road for the first time and get your rusty joints in motion. Push through, for running comes with great benefits: it’s free, you can adapt it to your fitness levels, and it’s a fab way to avoid doing assignments while still feeling productive.

This is a fool-proof guide on both how to start running, not for those who casually post a 25km on Strava as a “lunchtime run”, and where to run, because there are only so many loops of the Downs I can endure.

General tips for beginners

There are endless videos on TikTok of people speaking about their “running journeys” which offer great tips. To save you from having American running girlies dominating your feed, however, the general gist of their advice is to take it slow (prepare to be humbled and overtaken by literally everyone), actually stretch before and after, and don’t feel you have to splash the cash on cute running stuff.

Find a good playlist to help you keep plodding along. I would recommend something not too hype, maybe even a podcast, which will stop you from getting carried away and realising after 300m that you cannot hold that speed. If you choose a funny podcast, embrace audibly chuckling while you run around, looking actually insane to the general public.

For people with really no idea where to start (we’ve all been there), the Couch to 5k app is really great at getting you to that 5km distance and definitely makes running feel less intimidating. If you feel like you’re not a complete beginner, you can start a couple of weeks in and tailor the level to your ability. 

Groups and challenges

Groups and challenges

The Bristol Run Series is a programme with three pathways to suit your ability, with the beginner-friendly option starting at 2.5K and building up to 10K. The programme gives you three deadlines to complete a 2.5K, a 5K and a 10K, providing a timeline for you to gradually increase your running ability at a sensible rate. You can complete these distances either at an in-person even or virtually (on your own), and the races are either free or discounted when you sign up. The Run Series itself is free. You can find more about this here. 

Run clubs

A more social way to take up running is through running clubs. Although this may seem intimidating, there are loads of clubs for all levels like the Bristol Run Club. The club hosts a couple of runs per week, usually on Thursday evenings and Sunday mornings, and splits into two groups, a beginner group running 2.5 to 3km, and a non-beginner group running 5km. This is also a great way to make new friends in a more wholesome environment, and finishing runs at various cafés means you can enjoy a coffee and a cake with new people. You can find them on Instagram @bristolrunclub.

Routes:

The route you choose will make or break a run, there is nothing worse than having to read a map at the same time as running or jogging past literally everyone you know, so make sure to plan it out before you go. Here are some routes of varying distances to give some inspo.

The Downs 8km

While it may be a trek to get there, the Downs offer flat and wide paths, although if you go at the weekend prepare to weave around toddlers, grannies, and a sea of crusty white dogs. Pembroke Road is parallel to Whiteladies but is significantly less steep, so if you want to get to the Downs without dying before you even get there, go this way. This 8km route starts and ends at Clifton Down shopping centre so you can motivate yourself through the run with the promise of a sweet treat.

Redland 3km

If you want a run around Redland, be warned you are signing yourself up for hills. If you live in this area, this quick 3km route will leave no excuses for procrastinating leaving the house.

Harbourside 5km

This 5km route is nice and flat, taking you around the floating harbour for the residents of Hotwells or the city centre. Check out some of Bristol’s prettiest sight-seeing destinations with an abundance of cafés.

Clifton 5km

Running in Clifton is good not only for a relatively flat run, but also a run which will motivate you to go to your lectures if you want to succeed in life and live somewhere like those ridiculously nice houses. This 5km route starts on Whiteladies and goes through Clifton, taking you right by the bridge so if you wanted to extend your run slightly, or just have a main character moment, then go ahead and cross that bridge.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

How to make a Bristol student fall in love with you: A step-by-step guide

Is Bristol everything we were promised? Halfway point reflections from a first year