Struggling to keep your running up now the nights are drawing in? We know what it's like. In the summer months you couldn't wait to pull on your trainers and run through the parks, but now lacing up and pounding the pavements doesn't seem so appealing.
There is an answer to this winter lethargy — join a club and you'll be running happy all year round. There are hundreds to choose from across the capital and they're a great option at this time of year for a number of reasons.
First: safety in numbers. In a club you don't need to worry about running solo in the dark; these people know all the best routes for winter months, including which parks are open and well-lit. You're also more likely to get your backside out of the door if you're meeting others for a run. And, best of all, you'll make new mates.
Joining a club may seem daunting at first, but don't worry. Everyone thinks they're going to come last before they turn up (only one of them ever does). And while some of the more 'serious' groups eat marathons for breakfast, most attract runners of all abilities. There's generally a back marker too, so no one gets left behind.
We've rounded up six of the best fun and friendly run club options, perfect for beginners and intermediate runners. Plus, they're totally free.
Sweatshop Running Community (SRC)
One of the UK's most popular running shops, every Sweatshop store offers free, entry-level group runs — and there are 10 stores to choose from in London. Most shops offer a 5k run and many of the bigger stores have longer runs too. All you need to do is register on the website to join and turn up at the allotted time.
Runners also get a loyalty card, so the more you run, the more freebies you get — ranging from an Adidas SRC technical t-shirt all the way up to a pair of trainers.
Nike+ Run Club
Nike offer a variety of different run sessions so whether you're doing your first mile or your 100th marathon, they've got you covered. There are women-only runs, 5-10k social group runs, speed runs for those looking to up the tempo, sessions for complete beginners, strength training and high-intensity interval workouts for runners — and they've got an app for the times you want to go it alone.
Sessions leave from Niketown in Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, King's Road, Westfield Stratford and White City stores. Sign up online for sessions.
Asics Running Club
Leaving from the Oxford Street store and taking place in nearby Hyde Park, the ASICS Running Club provides two options; Monday evening sessions are aimed at beginners and the run is usually between 5-7k. On Wednesdays they have a running bootcamp, where you'll warm up with a quick run, then work your way through a number of strength work and drills designed to benefit your running.
There are lockers and showers on site, just arrive a bit before the run — both sessions start at 6.30pm — to register.
Struggling to fit running in around your normal working hours? Go at midnight! Every month these guys host a 10k run around London landmarks, complete with music blaring from speakers, dancing and the odd drink or two when they head to a club after. Seriously, it's loads of fun.
They also organise regular weekly group runs and exercise bootcamps. Keep your eye on their Facebook page for details.
Based at the London Marathon Store near Liverpool Street, the 26ers is aimed at helping you train for a marathon — 26.2 miles, hence the name. That said, there are beginner 5k runs on Wednesday lunchtimes and evenings, as well as four other runs throughout the week.
The best bit about these runs has to be the swanky surroundings. There are lockers, showers and changing facilities, and you can trial a pair of adidas Boost on your run whenever you fancy.
Seven of the Runner's Need stores in London — King's Cross, Canary Wharf, Clapham Junction, Southwark Bridge, Camden, Stripe St and Waterloo Bridge — offer free run clubs and with some sessions at lunchtimes, some early morning and others evening. Pretty good for fitting round other commitments.
Contact your local store to find out when they run and turn up for the session. Runs vary from 5k upwards with some stores, like Camden, having specific training sessions. 7am hills anyone?
Know of any more great free run clubs we've missed? Let us know in the comments below.