This morning I ran Finsbury Park parkrun, finishing off my quest to run at 17 different parkruns in London in 2017! I initially set myself the challenge as a way to explore new areas of the city, and along the way have met so many nice people and run some really great routes. I’ve been asked a lot about which is my favourite, but I find it hard to just pick one! Instead, I’m going to classify the parkruns I’ve done into ‘buckets’ so that you can find one to try for yourself based on what sort of running you like best!
Burgess: My friend Jess participated in the first-ever Burgess parkrun, and has since run somewhere around 100 parkruns there alone! We ran this one together and it was a pleasure to have her show me around. We ran on an alternate route, but still got to see a nice pond at the mid-way point. Despite our chatting we still finished in a good time, so this course definitely has the potential to be quick.
Fulham Palace: My old home parkrun! A three-lap course around Bishop’s Park, including a nice stretch along the Thames, which is brilliantly marked with kilometre markers the whole way. There is one annoying corner/cut-out section per lap which threatens to interrupt your stride. When you visit, say hello to the runners in black & white stripes – Fulham Running Club is very friendly!
Hackney Marshes: The day I went along to Hackney Marshes they were using an alternate route, but I have been told that the standard route is just as flat. It’s a little difficult to get to via public transport, but there is a leisure centre with lockers/toilets/cafe which makes life easier. Ran this with Sye and he finished much more quickly than I expected, so it gets his tick of approval.
Southwark: I visited this parkrun for the first time in December 2016, where I managed to come first lady with a time only a few seconds off my PB – so it’s definitely a quick one! It’s three laps with a little loop section on each lap, so you can cheer on/be cheered by your friends – or just check who is chasing you down!
Tooting Common: Recently, a friend told me that she doesn’t like Tooting Common parkrun because it has a sandy stretch along the back straight, but on the two times I visited it never bothered me. The course is three laps with a tail, the sort of course that usually suits me well for a PB-attempt. Both times I ran this as an easy run, but if I had more time in London I’d definitely be going back to see how fast I can go.
Brockwell: My new local parkrun since moving to Clapham (slightly closer than Tooting Common), Brockwell parkrun is just one massive hill… which you run twice because it’s two laps 😜 The first time I went I volunteered to pace 28-min, and had no idea about the elevation change – which made staying consistent very difficult! The good thing about the hill though is that you spend the second half of each lap running down the other side!
Finsbury Park: I might have a thing for hills, because I really enjoyed this course. Run over two laps, there is a shallow, long incline towards the start, and a short, sharp incline with ~1km to go per lap. That being said, the park is beautiful (especially with the autumn leaves everywhere) and provides a good distraction from the pain!
Mile End: Ok, so I said I wouldn’t pick a favourite, but having run 25 times at Mile End (it’s also where my 5km PB was set!) it would be remiss of me not to promote this event. The course is a lollypop shape with a little hill and a big hill which you run in both directions on both laps. So actually, it’s more like eight hills. Don’t let that discourage you though, it’s a fabulous event with a great community behind it. (And if you’re in London on Nov 18 2017, come join me there for my farewell parkrun before I move to Paris! Wear orange 🍊)
The ones on trails
Bushy Park: The original parkrun, aka where it all started 13 years ago. I visited recently as a pilgrimage to celebrate my 50th parkrun in London, and was shocked by how huge this event was. Every week over 1000 people attend, which I find totally mind-boggling. It rained the day before I visited, so I spent most of the run dodging people and puddles (and avoiding getting my shoes too dirty).
Hampstead Heath: This parkrun could also have been classified under the ‘hilliest’ category, because on the two-lap course you certainly spend a lot of time going up and down! The Heath is always a lovely place to run because it’s very green and feels like you’re no longer in London.
Wimbledon: I managed to show up for Wimbledon parkrun for what they called “the muddiest event we’ve ever had”! Thankfully I’d read the course description beforehand and elected to wear trail shoes, because it would have been a very slippery (and slow!) affair otherwise. The two laps is run entirely on trail, hence why it can get so muddy!
The most boring…
Old Deer Park: I feel bad about calling these courses ‘boring’, but unfortunately they just aren’t that exciting. The Old Deer Park run is two laps of two playing fields, with only one 20m section of path. That being said it’s only parkrun all year where I managed to come first lady, due mainly to the small turnout (some ~100 people). Because it’s a small group, they are incredibly friendly and I felt very welcome in joining them for coffee & cake afterwards.
Wormwood Scrubs: Another parkrun run (mostly) on playing fields, with nothing in the way of woods or trees to run through, nor a lake to look at – nada. There’s also not much nearby (except a prison), so you feel a bit strange heading there & dropping off your bag in the middle of a football pitch. I ran this in my cheerleading uniform in preparation for the London Marathon, and did get some great pictures, so that’s a plus.
Gunnersbury: You could probably argue that most parkruns are pretty, but these are a few that stand out. Unfortunately at Gunnersbury I went out too fast and completely blew up, so my memory of the event is clouded by that experience. Course-wise though, once you’ve run down the hill at Gunnersbury (which you also finish by running up again) you find yourself running through a wooded area which was simply beautiful.
Peckham Rye: I have read a review of this course which named it “the most beautiful parkrun in London”. Over the three-lap course you run past flower beds, a Japanese garden and a lake – so I completely understand why! I got a bit lost heading to the event, but was helped out by some other runners and this welcoming nature continued throughout the event.
Richmond: DEER! As an Australian, I am still blown away every time I see deer, because we don’t have them ‘down under’! Richmond Park is well-known for its deer, and the chances are that you’ll get to see some on this course. The back section heads along a trail path and finishes with an incline (of course). On the day I visited they were setting up for a 10km event to start a few hours after us, so it is seems to be a popular course for fun-runs.
Highbury Fields: This event gets its own special category because it is run over five laps! Even worse, each lap starts with a incline which you then run down on the other side – and repeat five times. The repetitive nature of the course makes it difficult, and I was very impressed that a group of primary school girls who had come along to run their first-ever 5km all made it around the course (complete with their own aid station!). This event also gets the prize for ‘most accessible’, being just a 3min walk from the nearest tube station.
Which parkrun will you visit next?