Carl Marston's parkrun tour: no 'mean time' at Greenwich parkrun
PUBLISHED: 13:07 12 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:08 12 July 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he targets the Greenwich parkrun in S-E London
Never one to arrive late for a party, I visited one of the older parkruns in the country, the Greenwich parkrun in South-East London, on the weekend before its 500th event.
I guess it was a ploy to miss the crowds, and avoid a huge field - although a good total of 323 runners did turn up for last Saturday's Event No. 499.
Greenwich is world-renowned for Greewich Mean Time (standard time adopted throughout Great Britain by 1880), Greenwich Meridian (0 degrees longitude), the Greenwich Observatory and for being the birthplace of such distinguished royal figures as Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.
The weekly Greenwich parkrun, not yet in that same league of fame or notoriety - although by my calculations it sneaks into the top 30 oldest parkruns in the UK at No. 29 - actually takes place well away from the Greenwich Observatory, River Thames and all the accompanying tourist hot-spots.
Avery Hill Park, the home of the Greenwich parkrun, is situated four miles away, and so also four miles distant from where the London Marathon starts each April.
But it provides an excellent setting for the weekly 5K, a three-lap course on grass and tarmac paths, thankfully free of tourists or sightseers.
Avery Hill Park, created in 1903 in the grounds of the old Avery Hill House, is famous on two counts.
Firstly, because its interior winter garden is the second largest Victorian glasshouse in the UK (after the one in Kew Gardens); and secondly, because of parkrun!
The latter finishes within a stone's throw of the former - though runners who are within striking distance, as the old saying goes, 'should not throw stones in glass houses.'
The inaugural event, held on March 6, 2010, attracted just 18 runners, and that figure dipped to just nine in weeks two and three.
Now, though, the total rarely dips under 300.
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Last Saturday's results
Liam McLaughlin, of Cambridge Harriers (based in Bexley, Kent, not Cambridge!) led home the field in a scorching 16mins 53secs, just two seconds adrift of his PB.
McLaughlin shot out of the traps like a greyhound and had soon built up a big lead. I soon lost sight of him!
Runner-up Anthony Lobo was more than a minute behind in 18:13, while Ellis Lusted was the first female in a PB of 21:34.
Many of the parkrun course records in Greater London are held by New Zealander Paul Martelletti, a 2hrs 16mins marathon runner from Victoria Park Harriers & Tower Hamlets.
Martelletti set his 15:45 landmark at Greenwich on Christmas Day, 2016, at event No. 363, while Kent AC's Amy Clements clocked the women's course best of 17:21 a year ago, in July, 2018.
The record field of 396 was achieved last November - but I wouldn't bet against the 400-barrier being broken at tomorrow's 500th event.
Greewich might be home to 'Mean Time,' but there was nothing 'mean' about my finishing time, when compared to my indifferent showings of recent weeks.
Perhaps it was the warm sunshine? Perhaps it was the welcome sight of a casual game of cricket already taking place in the grounds, when I entered Avery Hill Park at 8.30am? Maybe it was the journey down, free of traffic jams? or, maybe, it was the memories of starting London Marathons (during the 1990s) just a few miles down the road at Greenwich Park?
Whatever the reason, and all these reasons probably combined, I managed to run 85 seconds quicker than I had done at Highwoods in Colchester the previous weekend.
Of course, Greenwich does not boast the hills of Highwoods, but getting under 21 minutes has given me renewed encouragement for future runs. It has at least reversed the trend of going in a slower direction.
There are an amazing 11 parkruns situated within a five-mile radius of Greenwich, including several I have already attended for this column - Bexley, Beckton, Hilly Fields and Foots Cray Meadows.
All of them are flourishing, despite the wide choice for local parkrunners. I'd say give Greenwich a go, if you are ever in the area - and I 'mean' it!