Off-Road Running Routes near Cambridge
Cambridge is not known for its mountains, so training for a sky-running event is going to require some lateral thinking. But if you’re just looking to get away from the traffic and breathe fresh air, there are plenty of country footpaths to explore, not all of which require slogging across muddy fields or battling through overgrown nettles.
Here are a few good options, for anyone looking to get off road (you can download the GPX files from the plotaroute website):
Wandlebury and the Roman Road from Magog Down
Just over 10km, with a few minor inclines (i.e. hilly by Cambridge standards). Park at Magog Down car park (£3, but if you visit often you can pay £15/yr to get a parking permit). Short sections can be muddy in winter, and parts of the Roman Road are a bit uneven but that’s all good for proprioception and ankle strengthening, right? Lots of trees so it’s especially lovely in autumn, and there’s plenty of bird life to distract you if that’s your thing. The out-and-back section of the Roman Road can be extended or shortened to suit.
Post-run refreshments: there is sometimes a pop-up coffee stand at Wandlebury, or the Gog Farm shop has a cafe (temporarily substituted with a food truck, due to social distancing restrictions).
River Cam towpath
Probably the most frequented off-road route for Cambridge-city dwellers. Start anywhere convenient along the river and follow the tow-path northwards. The main crossing point is Bait’s Bite Lock, or if you’re feeling in need of more distance, you can add another 8km and cross at Bottisham Lock. The lock crossings and footbridges will provide your only elevation of the day, but nevertheless a mostly scenic route with opportunities to spot not only Cambridge’s famously aggressive swans but also herons, terns, swallows and cormorants. If you feel frisky, you can race the various rowing crews that will be out training.
The longer route is here: https://www.plotaroute.com/route/1323756?units=km
Post-run refreshments: take your pick of Cambridge coffee-shops, depending on your start point.
If you have transport, another option is to head out to the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate, 10 miles south-west of the city. Access to the grounds is free, though there is a small charge for parking for non-members. This 7km route initially heads away from the estate through a wood, then you head up a short but steep hill and swing round back through more undulating woodland, eventually emerging west of the House for a final downhill gallop back to the car park. There are plenty of options to extend the route, and for those in marathon training and looking for a properly long route, consider starting in Cambridge itself and following the Harcamlow Way from the west edge of the city all the way out and back.
Post-run refreshments: Stables Cafe in the Stable Block or Farm Cafe at the Home Farm