History of running in Richmond Upon Thames

Welcome to the greenest and fittest London Borough. Did you know Richmond Upon Thames is full of running history? Below we highlight our top 10.

1 Birthplace of the London Marathon

In 1979 a group from Ranelagh Harriers running club went to New York to run the marathon. Richmond resident and Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Brasher was accompanied by his fellow Olympic medalist John Disley were convinced that London could equally host such a magnificent marathon event and so they resolved to organise one. From the Dysart Arm’s pub and later an office in Richmond Old Gate Lodge, the London Marathon was born into the worlds premier Marathon. More info

2 Birthplace of parkrun

In the autumn of 2004 an injured athlete called Paul Sinton-Hewitt decided to organise a weekly 5km time trial primarily as a way of still meeting up regularly with his running friends. A 5km course was designed in Bushy Park and on Saturday 2nd October 2004 thirteen runners and five volunteers turned up for the inaugural Bushy Park Time Trial. Paul realised it had legs and soon changed it’s name into ‘parkrun’ and has impacted the world with over 2,000 locations in 22 countries across six continents. More info 

3 Mo Farah

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, he moved to Feltham, England in 1993 and was identified at school as having great potential by his PE teacher, Alan Watkinson and went on to become to the decorated British runner of all time! Mo trained in the Borough from 1996 and trained and lived in Teddington and St Mary’s College from 2001-2018.

In 2013, Mo also launched the Richmond RUN-FEST in Kew Gardens and challenged Usain Bolt to a race over 500m. Sadly the race never happened!

More info

4 Richmond Park and the Olympics

During the 1948 Olympics a site in Richmond Park, a former military convalescent camp was specially converted to accomodation for the Olympic’s athletes and visitors.

There were other converted camps at Uxbridge and West Drayton; female competitors were housed at three colleges in the Greater London area.

The 2012 Cycling road race also did laps of Richmond Park and also went through Bushy Park. More info and a great video!

5 St Marys College (Twickenham) and elite athletes

From the 1960’s, St Mary’s started to get an elite endurance reputation as several world class athletes who studied at St Mary’s including Dave Bedford, Gordon Pirie, John Bicourt and a visiting Emil Zatopek. George Gandy who went on to be the UK National Endurance Coach, would also have been here during this period whilst he trained to be a PE teacher.

The new track has supported a large number of nations preparing for Olympic and World Championships and has been trained on by numerous world stars of athletics including Usain Bolt, Mo Farah, Vivian Cheruiyot, Sonia O’Sullivan, Jo Pavey and Nick Willis.

In addition, the St Mary’s Endurance Performance Centre has helped develop numerous Team GB internationals, all of them students, including Andrew Osagie, Steph Twell, Andy Vernon, Charlotte Purdue, Charlie Da’Vall Grice, Adelle Tracey, Elliot Giles, Andrew Baddeley and triathlon star Beth Potter.

6 Teddington / Bushy Park – The worlds training centre

Before parkrun, Teddington and Bushy Park was already connected with the world of athletics. Resident and agent called Kim McDonald found fame and fortune as a manager and agent when athletics left its amateur roots to become professional.

Kim McDonald International Management (KIM) represented many top names in the sport including Olympic gold medallists John Walker, of New Zealand, and Steve Ovett, nine-times New York Marathon winner Greta Waitz, Common-wealth champion Peter Elliott and women’s world champions Sonia O’Sullivan and Liz McColgan.

He was also a key player in the emergence of many of the top Kenyan distance runners such as the great steeple-chaser Moses Kiptanui, two-miler Daniel Komen and Olympic 1500 metres champion Noah Ngeny.

Despite Kim’s passing in 2001, the athletes kept coming to Teddington with local agency PACE Management looking after great athletes like Usain Bolt, Mo Farah and Vivian Cheruiyot. Today, elite athletes from Australia and America regularly use Teddington as a base for Europe competitions during the summer months. A great article can be found hereclick here for another article


7 Olympic Marathon Trials – Kew Gardens

Due to covid, the British Olympic Marathon Trials was held on 26 March 2021 as a trial event for British athletes to qualify for the delayed 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. It was the first time since 1980 that a dedicated marathon trial event was held, and the courses consisted of multiple laps around Kew Gardens in London. Only 40 elite athletes were invited due to the highest national covid restrictions.

The marathon events were won by Chris Thompson and Stephanie Davis, both of whom qualified for the Olympics as a result.  The results were fast with 2 Olympic Qualifying times, 1 Welsh National Record, 1 British Vet Age Group Record, 11 Home Nation Commonwealth Games Qualifying times and 11 personal bests. Watch the highlights here

Chris Thompson’s victory was extra special due it potentially being his last marathon at the age of 39 and it came in the same week of his son Theo’s birth.

8 London Olympics 2012

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew played a part in raising the Olympic spirit going into the London 2012, celebrating ‘100 days to go’ and the Olympic Torch relay ran through not only the gardens but Richmond Town Centre.

During the Olympics, the Borough also hosted the Olympic Cycling Road Time Trial that was won by Bradley Wiggins who famously posed on a thrown outside Hampton Court Palace.

9 Seb Coe Hill (Richmond Hill/Nightingale Lane)

Seb Coe used to train on Richmond Hill and Nightingale Lane before the 1984 Olympics. This famous photo went around the world and local running clubs do hill repetitions there to this day. Even The Body Coach Joe Wicks did a hill session there in 2019.

Incidentally, Petersham Meadows (in the back ground of the above photo) was saved from potential constructions by a donation from London Marathon and the help of Chris Brasher.

10 Ranelagh Harriers

In 1881 members of Ranelagh Cricket Club were looking for some activity to keep themselves fit in the winter months, so they formed Ranelagh Harriers. In 1895, Ranelagh Harriers organised a track meet at Stamford Bridge and introduced an event called the ‘Flying Squadron Race’, which was the first ever recorded relay race in the UK. More info about Ranelagh Harriers


We hoped you liked our top 10. If we’ve missed anything of note please do drop us an email at .

You may also like to look at our ‘Running in Richmond‘ in page that includes local runs, races and parkruns in Richmond Upon Thames. Click here