Parkrun!

Am cataloging my parkrun adventure as I try (slowly) to work my way up to 50, 100 and beyond parkruns. I am enjoying the tourism aspects mostly, so will be reviewing the runs as I do them and republishing as I do.

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  • ALEXANDRA PALACE (LONDON)
  • BROCKWELL (LONDON)
  • BUSHY (THE ORIGINAL – HAMPTON WICK)
  • CLAPHAM COMMON (LONDON)
  • DURHAM
  • FINSBURY (LONDON)
  • FULHAM PALACE (LONDON)
  • GLADSTONE (LONDON)
  • GREENPOINT (CAPE TOWN) (SA)
  • HACKNEY MARSHES (LONDON)
  • HAMPSTEAD HEATH (LONDON)
  • HARROW ON THE HILL (LONDON)
  • HIGHBURY FIELDS (LONDON)
  • HOVE PROMENADE (BRIGHTON)
  • MILE END (LONDON)
  • PENNINGTON FLASH (LEIGH, MANCHESTER)
  • SOUTHWARK (LONDON)
  • WOODHOUSE MOOR (LEEDS)

Current Tourist Quotient – a measure of how loath a tourist is to repeat a parkrun. Either (number of different venues)/(total number of runs) or (number of different venues – 1)/(total number of runs – 1). The closer the number is to 1 the more you love tourism, or the more your hate running the same venue over and over again. Given the number of times I ran HH I will need to literally never run it again to get a decent quotient.

For me this is currently 18/46 = 0.391

Alexandra Palace 32:10

A new one for me. It was hot. It was quite hilly. And looking back it was a strange mix of well organised, and disorganised. To clarify that, they have the great little button box for the timing tokens, arrows, etc, nice little funnel, plenty of scanners, but there is no bag drop, no tarp they laid down. And so people are dumping bags in bushes, and hanging them from trees. What happens when it rains?

The course is a mixed bag and I was not feeling on top of my game (hence the slow time). It starts on a wide tarmac path and then takes a sharp left down a steep gravel descent and onto a mud path worn into the extremities of the grassy area. It then takes a left up a dog leg path and then a steep dirt incline to pass by the start, before the steepest include up to the next tier up from the start. At this level you have about a KM flat(ish) before a sharp left and a fast descent back to the original path. The inclines are gradual, other than at the change of tiers, and the descents are steeper. You do this twice.

It was a friendly bunch. And a varied bunch. Plenty of kids, dogs, buggies. Lots of young runners, and elderly ladies and gents. It was a good one. I will need to go back when in better shape. Not all that busy though. So if you are a fast runner, there is a chance to get a good placing. Me? I didn’t like dumping my bag in a bush, or the dog shit I ended up treading in to retrieve it.

Brockwell Park 25:58

Jenni Morris’ local run. Long climbs and descents but nothing too steep. Start by the lido and head around the extremities of the park, around an anticlockwise loop and then down to the gates before hitting the lido and repeating a second lap. When I ran it I had only run Hampstead Heath for a year, and I had only run that ten times. Brockwell immediately became my Parkrun PB, by nearly 3 minutes. I have now closed the gap between Hampstead Heath and Brockwell, but the difference is still a minute. Personally I do not find this one to be welcoming, social or even any good at communication. No one speaks. There is no banter, cakes, costumes on the holidays, or social presence (Flickr etc). It is just a local 5K and no more which means it doesn’t really feel like part of the Parkrun family.

Bushy 27.28

Bushy Park is the granddaddy of them all. And when you arrive and look around you can see how a simple idea became a national and soon to be global phenomenon. 1400 people turned up on a cold January day. 1400! The first timer talk was bigger than some parkruns.

As I waited at the start, a 50 yard wide row of runners that looked more like the beginning of a battle scene from a movie, a volunteer volunteering for the 500th time held aloft a speaker John Cusack style as the RD Norman Collier’d his way through the briefing. And then… charge! It was that movie scene. And I was part of an army charging at pace toward the enemy.
Charge!!!
The enemy in this case being a single lap around the extremities of the park over path and grass supported ably by fifty (count them) enthusiastic volunteers. 50! Of course it should be overcrowded but it didn’t feel that way. Despite the wide start narrowing to a footpath you could comfortably run your own race without getting too penned in. I did see a guy cheat. He arrived late and was cycling towards us at about the 1KM mark. But, rather than cycle to the start and then catch up, and he could have done this as the tail walkers finished over the hour mark, he chained his bike up and just joined us a kilometre in. But for the rest of the race he was behind me. You run an anti clockwise figure 8 around the park and there is quite a bit of support from the families of the runners. The deer keep well away. And then you see the finish, and the famous double funnel.
You get counted either into the left or right funnel,  and these aren’t you usual 15 yards of tape either. These run for a good 50 yards, are L shaped and wide. I guess they put 50 in one side then 50 in the other then 50 in the other and so on. You actually have to keep running in the left lane as it’s on the outside. You have to run to catch up with the previous 50 too and here people get out of order. I was very aware of my position as I crossed the line and attempted to stop my watch.
It takes quite a while for the lines to go down and for you to get your timing barcode. A guy behind me said he measured it at 4.30. No idea what he was racing as I measured 5.07 including the start of the funnel. And then you have an army of helpers to scan you or take your timing barcode before you invade a tiny kiosk cafe that probably does so much business on a Saturday morning the owner spends the rest of the week on his private Caribbean island.
Despite it looking like organised chaos it is an amazing feat of organisation as they got my time spot on.
You forget this is just a parkrun at times, especially as it takes those who drove longer to get out of the park than it did for them to run it. It is grand and on an epic scale. It has to be experienced once, and runners from as far afield as Poland, Leicester and the Isle of Wight came over for that. It is after all THE Parkrun. It would have only been made better by my lungs feeling good, I stopped 3 times, and walked once, my time being right and Paul Sinton-Hewitt being at his creation to start it.

Clapham 27.11

A very fat 2 lap run around the outer edge of Clapham Common and man, did I feel old? It is a part of London where young professionals live and you could see that with the demographic. A lot of young people, a lot of fresh out of university types, and a lot of Australians. John Berkow too, if you are into that kind of thing.  It is mostly on a muddy path, with a little bit on asphalt. It would be horrendous in places in the Winter but a definite PB opportunity in the Summer. So I will probably come back next year. The end was a bit of a clusterfuck maybe because so many people took part and therefore people were still bunched up at the end as they hit the finish funnel. At one point there was a crowd trying to get into the  funnel and had stopped to queue to get in. If the times came out right it would be a miracle. And this is maybe because this is a relatively new run, only it’s 27th running. It will get better with time. If going there get the train to Clapham South as the common is a good 15 min plus walk away. Bag drop on tarp. And an opportunity for a decent time.

Durham 25:55

This was supposed to be a fast one but, in the end, became by PB by only 3 seconds. Part of the Durham University sports facilities, it was painted in my mind as being a quick one, starting and finishing on the running track. Unfortunately when I turned up, it was the start of the academic year and the track was being dug up and replaced. My lightning quick massive PB was curtailed by a start and finish on grass, and the route itself being across muddy fields, soggy with recent rainfall. And that is how I remember it. I was wearing roads, and the run was mostly on muddy fields, that you loop twice, crossing a stream via a bridge near the start finish (the only elevation). I should go back at some point, as the track start and finish would make a lot of a difference.

Finsbury 26.25

Christmas day with a few celebs including former labour leader Ed Miliband this one was a little tough for me despite my form. TFL was down for the day and so it was a 4 mile walk in the cold to get there, then the parkrun and a 4 mile walk back. The course itself had definite PB potential but not today as my lungs were not up for it.

It starts atop the park next to the cafe. The finish is actually 20 yards away so your bag drop is  around the corner. It starts in a taped off area by the gate and you run on the road not the path for the most part. This is actually great as it is nice and wide (2 lanes for a large chunk of the race) and people can spread out. Starts with a long downhill, a sharp left and then a long slow incline. At the top of the incline you run downhill again, swapping from the road to the path and a sharp left onto the only hill. It is a baby compared to Hampstead but switching your legs from downhill abandonment to uphill motoring is a burn. Up the Jack and Jill and around the cafe, along by the althletics track, around past the finish, then along and down to the start and the big hill down for the second lap.

I walked for 15 on the second lap at the incline and half of the steep hill on the first. So I do have a good minute to take off this time. Oh, an despite asking Santa for a PB I didn’t get one but I did beat the local celeb.

Fulham Palace 29.18

A 3 lapper that is part along the Thames, and includes a lumpy bit of grass next to Craven Cottage. A few hundred take part there is a decent sized crew of volunteers, as you would expect. The lead pack are pretty fast club runners and I had heard on previous weeks they can be a bit aggressive, swearing at the rest of the runners as they tried to get by. I didn’t see this but they do come through at a rate of knots and could get caught up in the herd.

Gladstone Park 28:02

 It was quite difficult this one. Much hillier than Brockwell but not as a steep as Hampstead Heath. It was very wet underfoot and the water pooled in several places that meant runners had to choose between going through it and getting soaked, or chancing the slippery mud either side of the path and going over. I did one and then the other on a two lap run that starts and finishes at its lowest point, by the café. A demographically different bunch for me as it was a small run, probably the smallest I have encountered to date, with a lot of kids, a lot of elderly runners, a blind runner and his guide, and a few dogs on leashes. Three laps again, or 2 and a bit laps, as you run up a hill away from the café, cross a bridge then climb again, turning at the top of the hill to run along its height before dropping down and then onto mud, before a long arcing downhill on the extremity of the park that bends around and then climbs again to the second hill. For those on the second lap you turn at the bridge and climb the second hill again. For those on the final lap you cross the bridge, having run through the pool of water or mud, and then run down and cross the mud to the finishing funnel at the café. Was only my third run of the month, and I found it very tough indeed.

Greenpoint, Cape Town 28.03

Whilst I am loving my Parkrun tourism this one is special. A mere 12,520KM from my home event at Hampstead Heath it was interesting to see how they do things differently in Cape Town. For a start the start is not the end so there is no bag drop and I was glad I didn’t take a hoodie as planned. If I had I would have had to carry it on what was by far my hottest PR to date. So hot someone had passed out within the first 1500m. Instead of a bag drop and, as many people park up then just run there is a box for people to drop their car keys,  guarded by a volunteer. When I arrived the first thing I noticed was that everyone was sheltering under the trees. And this wasn’t the UK and hiding from the rain, it was 8am and baking hot already without a cloud in the sky. The RD begged for volunteers. It seemed that there were not enough. He had to reiterate the rules a few times as there were a lot of tourists and he mentioned that there are often cancellations due to being based by the stadia. As for the run it is a messy route along the road a bit for a there and back, underpass then out of the park and around the outside of the park on the pavement. Back into the park by fountains, a longish there and back to the lighthouse and then back by the start and to the finish at the cricket ground. Could be fast if you can handle the heat but know the route. This is the published route on the website but it was changed to have a shorter run along the main road for the there and back at the start, and finished at Greenpoint cricket ground.

Course Description

  • Start at the pavement beside Vlei Road, next to new Athletic Track parking area. Clearly marked red brick paving, towards mountain.
  • Turn left to follow paved pedestrian route before Helen Suzman Blvd. Towards McDonalds.
  • Follow signs and paved green arrows directly to elevated traffic circle
  • Keep right between pillars directly under elevated traffic circle
  • Take left branch paved fan walk to main road, closest to station ramp
  • Keep right up to Main road fanwalk, along wall and pillars beside parking area.
  • Along Main road pedestrian fanwalk.
  • Turn-Around at marker.
  • Keep right along fence, next to western bypass/Helen Suzman,back down under elevated traffic circle
  • Keep right directly under elevated traffic circle, between pillars
  • Follow council marked paved green arrows toward Athletic track, McDonalds on right
  • Follow council marked green arrows diagonally across open area, to between Athletics track on left, and Stadium on right, joining bicycle route
  • Cross Vlei Road and rejoin bicycle route
  • Cross Stephan Way as per council park route
  • Turn left to follow circuit at Bay road. Along fence with golf course and park on left. Straight on past the park entrances.
  • Turn left at Bill Peters Drive, keep along wall of Police station
  • Cross entrance to Swiss Club and TaeKwonDo Dojo as marked on council park route
  • Keep along fence/ wall to park on left to re-enter park
  • Turn left on paved path by fountain
  • Straight down toward lighthouse, out the west gate.
  • Turn-around at lamp-pole outside the gate before the road
  • Keep left on main wide straight, over wooden bridge, straight up and out east gate.
  • Finish to the right after gate.

Hackney Marshes 28.39

Off the back of the Serpent Trail Ultra just needed to get the legs moving on the following hot Saturday. The original plan had been to take the Overground from Hampstead Heath to Gunnersbury but the schedule went a bit wrong and I ended up with a last minute jaunt to Hackney Marshes, scene of the ridiculous Hackney Half 5K race.

It was very cramped, at the start you are at a junction of paths in the woods by the car park of the sports centre. And the run itself is very cramped. Not a huge field, but if it was you’d be there forever. A 2KM there and back, with a 500M there and back about a 2 hundred yards from the finish. It was busy. It was hot. You always have people on the back as you are on the there. It suggests you are slow, but it’s the nature of the course.

Finished and the scanners were not at the end, they were by the buildings of the sports centre. 3 scanners. One guy had issues scanning the token. TBF they all looked a bit ratty so they need a new set. Mine took a good couple of minutes to scan. With another one of the tokens not scanning, rather than sending the runner to find the RD to take it down manually he just walked off with her to find the RD leaving a dozen people standing in a scanning line with no scanner. A bit poor that.

It was flat. It was cramped. But the 2 there and backs would allow you to get a pretty decent time if you wanted. I may be back. I am just not paying £25 for the privilege at the Hackney 5K.

Hampstead Heath 26:13

My local Parkrun and a hilly one. Two routes, Route A starting in a car park, crossing the pond before climbing a little, down through wooded paths before a long descent to another pond, and then the first painful hill, Parliament Hill. Along the top, then down a short steep descent and then up and back into the woods for a second lap, before returning to the car park. It is hilly, but Route B is hillier. Route B is needed when the Affordable Art Fair, the Circus or an army of pikeys take over the car park. Route B actually makes the route a lot more challenging with a long downhill to start with, joining Route A in the woods, with the route being the same up to the end, where in Route B you have to climb the long hill back to the start. By far the most challenging Parkrun I have done, despite my time being better than others, but the time is likely better as I know the route and what to expect.

Harrow-on-the-Hill 28.13

Getting up is a pain. Races are one thing but a bit of tourism is another. Up earlier than needed, a tube, a walk, a check of Google Maps and you are in a strange park, with new people, a new route and different ways of doing things. For my 46th parkrun I took a nice easy 4 stops on the Met Line to Harrow-on-the-Hill. This was a 3 lapper around the extremes of a small recreation ground type park, with football goals and a club house. The club house was the HQ, there was food (cakes and fruit), given out at the end by the guy celebrating his 50th parkrun (dressed as The Flash).

The club house had a cafe serving food, the changing rooms doubled up as unisex bag drop. It was cold, wet and foggy. The local Royal Marine Commandos were there to test themselves and I was happy to plod all the way around for the 7th parkrun of the year. I do need to do better. It is the only chance I get to run “fast”. The long edges of the park were either gentle ups or gentle downs and I ran them all.

Highbury Fields 27.13

Birthday Parkrun and my 19th of the year and 40th overall thanks to WelshinLondon. Right opposite the station the start and finish are again not the same place. This is a multi lap race, and literally follows the basic Parkrun description of “X laps around the outside of a park”. In this case it is 5 and a half laps around a semi-circular part of the park that is 40% downhill, flat then 40% uphill at the same gradient, then flat along by the finish. It is almost all on the path with the last 20 yards to the finish on mud. WelshinLondon did lap me, maybe twice, as I ran the flats and the downs and took it easy on the ups. Caught up with Frankie there too. It wasn’t my favourite, not much to see, not when mountains, and city views and lakes are out there. But at least I learned by taking the London Overground I found out I can easily get to Gunnersbury and Hackney parkruns.

Hove Promenade 24:43

My second PB in two runs on the south coast. The Hove Promenade parkrun couldn’t be more flat. It is on the seafront, on the promenade by the lawn bowling green. This was one of those slingshot shaped races where the race HQ is in the middle. You run west away from the start 600ish yards, then turn at a cone and run the 600ish yards back to the start, but then keep going. You run another 600ish yards east along the promenade to a covered set of benches, and then turn back to run the 600ish yards to the start, but keep going and repeat the there and back and there and back lap again. It is lightning quick and I wasn’t in particularly good shape but still I PBd by 72 seconds.

Mile End 27:52

Another hot one and on the road to recovery. This is a very friendly parkrun were I met up with @WelshinLondon and Jenni Morris at the station before the walk to the start at Mile End Athletics stadium. Primary School headmistress kinda character was RD for the day and got everyone ready. A coffee cart at the end, showers and toilets at the  athletics stadium, and the bagdrop is under the benches so they didn’t bake. The run was 2 laps that felt like they undulated a lot more than the profile suggested. I think it was because there was virtually no flat, it was all a little incline or decline. You run the path the other side of a cycle path up and down, through the park, across a bridge and along the canal and some barges. There was someone injured at the slope leading down the canal on both laps. I am not sure what happened there.  You are beside the canal for the briefest of times and then a hairpin bend later are back and running the parallel of the first part of the lap. I did find it quite tough, Jen being there pushed me on a bit, and I saw WelshinLondon hammering it way ahead. Walked about half a dozen times but happy with the time in the heat and on my way back to fitness. You do see things at different parkruns that you think are cool. Here, once scanned, you put your own barcode in a box (like a button box) with different compartments for ranges of numbers, to they are sorted out by the runners. I liked that.

Note: In the end the guy who fell actually dislocated his hip, and broke his hip socket in 2. His name is Matt @Mattchester_7 and when we is back up and running we must be there to support him.

Pennington Flash 33:13

In Leigh, Manchester, this is a friendly and small parkrun by my normal standards, the small bit, not the friendly bit – although I have noted that some are far more friendly than others. By the lake used for the Bolton Ironman open water swim the route is lasso shaped and involves a few slight inclines as you run 3 laps of a field within a nature reserve. I ran this with Rachel Shaw and Matt Bowman with my chest infection playing up and ruining my other races at the weekend. It was good, hilly, maybe a bit cramped at times, especially when the fast kids lap you, and is on loose stone paths, and grass. Less than 200 people I think, bag drop was one of those giant leaf bags. Cake was mentioned at the end, but we had a track half marathon to get to so had to hot foot it out of there.

Southwark Park 28.51

Sweltering hot day in July and I needed a flat Parkrun to come back from injury. Southwark Parkrun is technically closer to Canada Water so I took the Jubilee line all the way. The park was undergoing some work so this became a 3 1/2 lap race, with a dogleg over the grass to avoid the fenced off areas. It is dead flat, as flat as a pancake before a yard drop then yard climb by the tennis courts. I have run here before for the Go Dad Run a few years back that was the course in reverse (for the most part). I walked a fair chunk due to my fitness levels post injury and injury itself, but still came in in 30.00 exactly. I could take 5 minutes off that. Back for Halloween and people dressed up, cake and marshmallows, a photographer and Podcast interviewing people. Families all dressed up and running. This was the best inclusive Parkrun experience yet. I gave the Viking helmet another airing.

Woodhouse Moor, Leeds 29:18

Leeds in November. Toilets to change in and use. Although I did see rats running around there. Very young crowd probably as the park is within the campus grounds of Leeds university. But if I thought I’d be left behind the opposite happened because the 588th parkrun here was so crowded you are hardly in a position to overtake or be overtaken without taking the slippery muddy option of going onto the grass. It was a multi lap race with a weird diagonal at the start and a start that was a distance from the finish. It was busy. It was muddy and if you stuck to the path it was quite slow. Chatty RD and a bag drop at the finish as well an IKEA bag for sweater drop at the start. Leaves made it slippery. 2 sets of groin height bollards to avoid and one slippery downhill when reentering the park a couple of times. Tail walkers and a good parkrun. Tokens dropped into an orange bag at the end. The funnel ends with your chip handed to you but then you stay between the tape where 3 scanners are processing the barcodes. I liked this feature very much. It would be one of the things I’d introduce to mine, although I’d replace the bag with the Mile End button box idea.

 

 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. charliesbird says:

    Well done! You’ll definitely be able to get a parkrun in while in Cape Town in September too!

    Like

    1. runnersknees says:

      Thanks. I think I will get to the Greenpoint run. Am racing in Constantia too at the Merrell 8K Night Race

      Like

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