It’s Trim Up North: The UK Locations With the Most Runners
Written By: SportsShoes
Following gym closures and Covid-19 restrictions across Europe, it’s clear that an increasing number of people have been hitting the pavements or trail and running to boost their fitness this year.
But while we know the UK as a whole has been enjoying running now more than ever, we found ourselves curious - how do those running figures differ from city to city?
Because the folks here at SportsShoes.com love a bit of healthy competition, we thought we’d have a dig through the figures to discover which UK city or town takes the running crown. We started by analysing the data from running app MapMyRun, to reveal which city has the largest number of runners. We then crunched the numbers to account for population changes (fitness is all about being fair!) and are now able to reveal the big results.
Not content to do things by halves, we also took a look at the same data for the whole of Europe, to discover which European countries and locations logged the most MapMyRun routes. Read on to find out more.
Top running UK cities:
So, does London lead our league board? Is Southampton striding towards success? Or is Reading racing ahead?
Surprisingly, London didn’t even make the top 10 of our UK list. Instead, it’s the north of the UK that really dominates the list, with two major Scottish cities featuring and Edinburgh topping the list in first place. Meanwhile the likes of Hull, Manchester, Leeds and Birkenhead all feature in the top 10, showing that, whether it’s the northern pride stirring up a drive for fitness and competitiveness, or the gorgeous landscapes and fresh air, the people of the UK’s north are the nation’s running champs.
Southern cities do still feature on the list, with Bristol, Reading and Southend-on-Sea in the top 10, and Cardiff, the one Welsh city to make the list, takes an honourable fourth place.
1. Edinburgh – 763 routes logged per 10k people
Well, the numbers don’t lie, the Scots can be proud that it’s Edinburgh that leads the list. Anyone who has visited could be surprised by this, as the city’s hills can seem an intimidating feature. But, with the majority of the city’s landmarks and architectural highlights all within around a 4-5 mile journey, running is a great way of soaking up the best sights the city has to offer. Edinburgh is also close to the sea, with excellent coastal running opportunities, and the Water of Leith Walkway provides a fabulous canal-side run over 12 miles through the heart of the city.
2. Kingston Upon Hull – 693 routes logged per 10k people
Packed with running clubs and host to a range of events from the Hull 10K to the Humber Bridge Half Marathon, the area around Hull is a playground for runners, and over 21,700 running routes have been logged in the city. With a mixture of hilly paths, disused railway lines, riverside trails and fantastic views of the Humber Estuary this East Yorkshire city is a fantastic gateway to a wealth of excellent running opportunities.
3. Bristol – 492 routes logged per 10k people
The first southern city on the list, Bristol is a buzzing hotspot with a host of fantastic running routes, so it’s understandable why so many of its residents are logging routes in the area. While events like the Great Bristol 10k may not have been taking place this year, locals will have been able to enjoy this gorgeous route which runs from the city centre, along the Harbourside, through the incredible backdrop of the Avon Gorge and under the iconic Clifton Suspension Bridge before looping back to the centre. With so many wonderful sights and views in one small area, we can see how fitness fans enjoy running here.
4. Cardiff – 491 routes logged per 10k people
As Wales’ first (and only) city to feature on the top 10 list, Cardiff’s coastal location, city parks and countryside trails means it’s well suited for both city and trail runners. With two Parkrun locations, pretty seafront routes such as Barry Island and Cardiff Bay, longer stretches such as the Taff Trail and off-road options such as the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway and Castell Coch woodlands, there are plenty of options for runners of all styles.
5. Reading – 461 routes logged per 10k people
This Berkshire city may seem like a surprise entry at number 5, but with riverside runs, as well as plenty of beautiful parkland and gardens, there are plenty of routes to keep runners on their toes in Reading. The city is also the end location of the Kennet and Avon Canal, which winds 87 miles to link Reading with Bristol, offering a long stretch of beautiful waterway that runners love to explore.
6. Manchester – 409 routes logged per 10k people
Manchester is so proud of its running routes, it even offers Sightrunning Tours for tourists hoping to take in the city’s landmarks, hidden gems and city secrets, while also clocking up some running miles. The city is also home to several running events, including a marathon, the Great Manchester 10k Run and over 20 Parkrun locations, each with a unique setting that runners love. Close to the city centre are serene parklands, waterways and footpaths, so there are excellent options here for runners of all styles.
7. Leeds – 389 routes logged per 10k people
There are some excellent loop routes through Leeds city centre, as well as some fantastic routes along the canals here, meaning the residents here have plenty of interesting routes to keep them interested. Whether it’s a short jog around the city’s Burley Park or a half marathon route that circles the whole city, there are options for all skill levels to enjoy without having to travel too far from the centre.
8. Glasgow – 384 routes logged per 10k people
Glaswegians are spoiled for choice for spots to run in the city – there’s a mix of flat and undulating roads, an attractive riverside and a wealth of scenic parks to explore while staying in shape. The banks of the River Clyde in particular offer a popular route, with flat pathways running for around 8 miles all the way to the nearby town of Cambuslang.
9. Birkenhead – 309 routes logged per 10k people
It’s impressive that Birkenhead features in the top 10 UK areas with the most runners, although located just across the river from Liverpool and boasting waterfront stretches along the River Mersea and the Irish Sea, there’s an abundance of excellent paths and trails to run here.
10. Southend-on-Sea – 256 routes logged per 10k people.
With a pier that stretches for 1.3 miles, and a beautiful seafront promenade, Southend automatically has some very gorgeous running routes that take in the sea air. Most of the popular routes here take in the Esplanade along the sea, looping round back through the Cliff Gardens, taking in gorgeous views across the Thames Estuary.
Top running countries in Europe:
Just for fun, we thought we’d extend the friendly competition beyond the borders of the UK and into the rest of Europe, to see how our runner figures rated against the rest of the continent. Interestingly it was our immediate neighbours Ireland who had the highest number of routed logged in the whole of Europe, with a whopping 1,401 running routes logged per 10,000 people. This is more than double the number of its second closest competitor, the UK. Germany and France followed in third and fourth respectively.
Central and northern Europe make up the bulk of our top 10, with France, Italy and Greece the only Mediterranean countries featured.
1. Ireland – 1,401 routes logged per 10k people
The Emerald Isla took home the gold in our Europe-wide review of runners. The beautiful landscapes and coastline offer a wealth of stunning trails and spaces that have inspired the most runners to log their routes. Dublin is the most popular location for runners, followed by Belfast and Cork.
2. United Kingdom – 628 routes logged per 10k people
Just across the sea from Ireland, the UK is second on our list for having the most runners logging routes. Edinburgh in Scotland came out top from UK destinations, followed by Kingston upon Hull and Bristol.
3. Germany – 264 routes logged per 10k people
For a country synonymous with beer, sausages and buzzing cities, Germany also takes its running pretty seriously. Famed for its excellent hiking, the country therefore has a huge number of fantastic trails that can be used as running routes. While you may have expected bustling cities like Berlin or Munich to top the list, it’s actually Hamburg-Nord, Bonn and Wuppertal that had the most running routes logged for their population size.
4. France – 207 routes logged per 10k people
There are few surprises when it comes to the area of France with the largest running communities – Paris takes the top spot. Coastal Nice comes in second place, while the UNESCO World Heritage Site Lyon comes in third.
5. Belgium – 204 routes logged per 10k people
In Belgium it was the city of Brussels that was most popular with runners, and many of the city’s landmarks and highlights can be explored within a 10k run around the centre. Antwerp came second on the list and Ghent was in third place.
6. Italy – 195 routes logged per 10k people
It may be most famous for its annual Fashion Week, but thanks to its seasonal climate and fantastic courses, Milan also proved to be the most popular Italian location for runners logging their routes. Florence and Bologna took second and third place.
7. Switzerland – 162 routes logged per 10k people
Renowned for its incredible scenery and with the Alps a major feature, Switzerland came in seventh on the list. Geneva, Basel and Zurich were the most popular destinations in the country for runners logging routes.
8. Netherlands – 107 routes logged per 10k people
The smallest country on our top 10 list (at just 1% smaller than Switzerland), Utrecht, Amsterdam and The Hague were the Netherlands destinations that logged the most routes in relation to their population size.
9. Czech Republic – 96 routes logged per 10k people
Home to northern forests, history and wonderful weather in the south, Czech Republic is also a great spot for the running. Brno had the most routes logged for its population, with Prague and Ostrava also featuring highly.
10. Greece – 87 routes logged per 10k people
Home of the marathon that has been embraced internationally, we’d expected to see Greece make the top 10. Athens. As the site of the world’s very first marathon, it’s clear to see why Athens saw the highest number of logged runs, while Pireas and Thessaloniki also proved popular.
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