This is why I’d absolutely love to live in a big city.
I was in London for the Royal Parks Half, spending the weekend staying in South Wimbledon, so a quick bit of research told me that my nearest parkrun was just two stops away on the tube on Tooting Common, followed by a 15-minute walk.
I could get there quicker than I could from my house to my local event back home. It was a no-brainer!
What appealed to me about this was the numbers that turn out each and every Saturday morning, regularly topping well over 600. My home parkrun is doing very well to attract 200 runners on a good day so the prospect of rubbing shoulders with in excess of three times that amount really excited me. I thrive on mass participation events and, in parkrun terms at least, this ticked that box.
Mindful of the 9am start (9:30 at home, remember) I left my hotel in good time to allow myself to find the location at my leisure but even then I was there too early and actually arrived before the core team started setting up for the morning.
That allowed me to explore the Common a little, spotting little yoga groups and exercise classes dotted around. Again, I love this sort of thing. It’s not something you’d find at home but in a big city, or London at least, it seems to be a regular sight.
For a while there was only a sprinkling of runners milling around then the hordes descended in droves. It was wonderful to see. I have run half marathons and 10ks at home with fewer participants than this!
I found the first timers briefing and did my best to listen intently but, given the numbers, it was difficult to hear. I was going to start towards the back anyway so I’d just follow everyone else.
Pretty soon we were off. The course is basically three pancake flat loops of a triangle with a little offset at the start and finish to make up the outstanding .1 of a mile.
Given my unfamiliarity with the area, and the fact I was so far back, I wasn’t quite sure where the actual start line was so I just took my guide from those in front of me … I just started running when they did, and started my Garmin when they did etc.
At the briefing we had been advised that because the path was narrow in places that it’d be difficult to start quickly or to get any sort of speed going for a while and so it proved.
This suited me perfectly. With the half marathon the next day I was just wanting a shake out run, as well as to experience a ‘big’ parkrun. I got both.
I was boxed in right from the off, and also had runners right on my heels too. I enjoyed it.
I used the first lap to take in my surroundings and the conditions underfoot. Mostly on tarmac, there was a small section on a trail like surface which took a bit of concentration to keep my footing. I was glad it was a bright, sunny morning because I could imagine on a wet day this could prove tricky in places.
Usually I’m not a big fan of laps but I didn’t mind them this time.
I think that was because I constantly had runners around me. I picked some off, some picked me off but it kept it competitive and interesting. Very often at home during the second part of the course I could be running on my own. There’d be no-one in sight in front or behind me even though I know they’re there.
I kept a steady, consistent pace during the first two laps but eased off a little over the third lap. I hadn’t run hardly at all since Glasgow and with Sunday in mind I didn’t want to push things too much. To be fair, I didn’t slow considerably, it was more akin to a mile long cool down run really.
The finishing funnel was a sight to behold. Any other parkruns I’ve been to have a fairly short funnel as appropriate to the numbers that have attended which meant this one was suitably long and winding. It probably took me a couple of minutes to walk the length of it to get my barcode scanned. Impressive!
It was fantastic to experience a parkrun as big as this. I very much intend to return when I’m next in London.