Length: 4.75 km (3 miles)
When I flew into Luton, the woman at the Immigration queue asked why I would ever choose Luton itself as my final destination. As she stamped my passport, she shook her head in pity. But it was a work-trip, and Luton was indeed my home-away-from-home for a few days.
|Beautiful downtown Luton|
Many of Luton's wounds are self-inflicted. A gigantic mall was built right in the heart of town in the 1960s, which killed off the other businesses in the town center. And around the mall, boring, sterile parking-houses sprung up, blighting the surrounding neighborhoods.
But the town center is where most hotels are located, so if you find yourself in Luton, as I did, you'll start your running routes from there. Here's a route that I figured out by looking at Google Maps and finding where the nearest parks of useful size were located. I noticed that Wardown Park and People's Park were both within a short run of the center, good for a morning's jog.
So, if you're ready to see a bit more of Luton, let's go...
We'll start out in the square in front of the Luton Council building, with its tall grey tower. The council hall stands in the very heart of town, where George Street meets Manchester Street. Facing the tower, take Manchester Street, which veers off to the right side.
You'll run to the plaza at the mall entrance, where you turn right, going between the new Galaxy Cinema and the library, on Bridge Street. In just a few blocks, the street ends, where you turn left on Guildford Street, going under the railroad trestle (you have to stay on the right side of the street).
|Frederick Street, on the way to People's Park (Google StreetView)|
Frederick Street is an old-fashioned working-class English neighborhood of tiny row-houses, full of resilient, no-nonsense people. The street ends at our first park, People's Park. The park is basically a big lawn with a wooded hill at the back. Head straight across the lawn, running uphill, northwards along the path next to the apartments on the left.
|Head straight up that path to the hilltop|
|The hilltop trail in People's Park|
|Wardown Park pond from the suspension bridge|
|Wardown Park landscape|
This street is often clogged with cars in the rush hour. A water-filled ditch lines the left side of the street: this is actually the River Lea, which originates here in Luton, and flows on out to the Docklands in London.
Now you just keep running straight along New Bedford Road, and you will soon run under the railroad again and then pass the Galaxy Cinema on your left as the street becomes Manchester Street, taking you straight back to the council building again.
NOTE: I also did a great 2-hour run one evening out to Luton Hoo, an old manor house and estate southeast of town, now turned into a 5-star golfing resort (with room prices up to 900 pounds a night).
|Side view of the Hoo with formal gardens|
|Mill ponds on the River Lea on the Luton Hoo estate|