Adam Bird

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Saturday, 11 June 2022

Greenwich parkrun - event 584

Greenwich parkrun

On the 11th June 2022 I ran the Greenwich parkun which was the 584th event held at the venue, my 82nd parkrun and 17th different course I'd attended.

The biggest impediment to my parkrun tourist ambitions is lack of access to a car. So I've devised a list of venues that I can access by train should a car be out of reach. I've come to a sort of agreement whereby on Friday evenings we borrow the in-laws second car and then we drop it straight back on a Saturday morning after parkrun. But with them enjoying another well earned cruise I wasn't sure whether this arrangement would work this week. So I planned to go by train to New Eltham from Gravesend and walk the short distance to Avery Hill park where the Greenwich event is held. As it worked out in the end, the prior arrangement stuck and I was left with a dilemma of sticking to my plan or choosing an alternative venue and saving Greenwich for a rainy day when no access to a car was definite. To make life easier for myself I stuck with plan A, but drove the short distance up the A2 instead.

I am probably not alone in being slightly disappointed that the event isn't held in Greenwich park which is a firm family favourite and may well have caused some confusion to some people. Doing research before you attend any event is crucial. But it was an opportunity to visit another new park which I had not been to before and one that's not a million miles away from home.

The course itself is three laps, the only other 3-lap event that I can remember running is Shorne Woods and for some strange reason any course that is more than two laps causes me a level of minor anxiety wondering if I'll forget how many laps I've done or I'll lose count and do an extra lap by mistake. A bit of a nonsense worry to be honest as it's never happened and would be fairly unlikely bunched up in the middle of the field where you just follow the person in front, you can't go possibly wrong!

On arrival at the park, I took a little bit of an exploratory walk. The word 'hill' in the place name filled me with a little bit of dread, so arriving for the first time gave me an opportunity to see how severe or not the definition of the word might be. I was fairly relieved to see that whilst yes, it certainly wasn't flat, it wasn't anything to fear. Gentle undulations, or gradual long minor elevation changes might be a better way to describe it.

As per ambition, I arrived in plenty of time. I enjoyed walking around the park which was looking particularly pretty and had lots of trees and various types of grasses making it feel a long way from the major urban space which surrounded it. The weather was bright, sunny and very warm so there wasn't going to be any possibility of a lightning fast time from me.

The first timer briefing was informative and helpful, talking through the course which you could see the majority of from the finish line where everyone meets. From here we walked a short way up a slight incline towards the hard surface sports court where we assembled to the right of for the start.

The first part of the course is alongside the sports court, on grass. We headed off before turning left behind a line of trees and downhill on a grass path. I had a bit of a flashback to last week's Queen Elizabeth parkrun, but the downhill was nowhere as intense and nowhere as long. At the bottom, we turned left again - the route follows an anti-clockwise loop and transitions onto a hard resin path.

Volunteers are vital at parkrun, without them the events simply could not take place. Where possible I always like to say a thank you as I run by. On the first corner of the last lap as we were just about to take the downhill turn I said thank you to the Marshall who stood there. He'd just seen (I assume) his wife and was blowing her a series of kisses as she ran by. So he's blowing kisses, I'm saying thank you and his laughing at me saying 'not you!' These little macro interactions take place up and down the country week in, week out and really are what make the events what they are. So if you've not taken part in a parkrun event yet, why not volunteer first and test the water?

Anyhow, back to the course and after the transition onto the resin path, we reach the back leg of the loop, which I found quite fun, it weaves gently through a series of esses and very gradually undulates. It's almost imperceptible the first lap, but laps two and three it certainly becomes more noticeable. The path continues on before turning left where the ascent back to the top of the park begins.

This is the first real challenge of the lap which becomes harder with each revisit. It's not particularly steep, or long for that matter which lures you into a false sense of security so you have to try and not go too hard too soon. At the top as the course has already taken you left again you transition back onto the grass from the path following a row of cones that takes you back towards the following lap and finish.

Heading towards the start/finish area is the highlight of the course, a sharp dip down and a gradual climb back up to the start. The dip allows you to accelerate and use your forward momentum to give you a psychological boost ahead of the next lap or in the case of the last lap a shot of adrenaline towards the finish funnel which I attacked with gusto.

As the course is a multi-lap affair, slower participants are likely to be lapped. I was lapped by a couple of the fastest finishers and I in turn lapped some of the tail walkers so the etiquette as always is to keep left and be aware of others around you. It also gives you an opportunity to offer your support and encouragement to others as you go by.

I finished 80th in a field of 163 people who all ran, jogged and walked the course. My time was 28:51.

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