The Wombles host 100th different parkrun – Carl Marston’s parkrun tour
- Credit: Archant
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Wimbledon Common
I could have travelled to Cape Town or Colorado, or made my way up to the Shetlands or down to Cornwall, but instead I decided to celebrate my 100th different parkrun at the home of the Wombles.
It seemed a fitting way to bring up the century, on Wimbledon Common, the backdrop for those lovable, fictional furry creatures.
On the face of it, the Wombles were never renowned for their athletic prowess, although I seem to recall that Tomsk fancied himself as an athlete, or at least a golfer of some repute at the London Scottish Golf Club, which is based on the Common.
The likes of Great Uncle Bulgaria, Tobermory, Orinoco, Wellington and Madam Cholet were never natural runners - not that parkrun was around when the popular children's TV Series came out in the 1970s (parkrun was first established in 2004).
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Wombles-aside, there was a method to my madness.
The Wimbledon Common parkrun is actually the second oldest parkrun in the world, second only to the nearby Bushy Park parkrun.
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I had already visited Bushy Park earlier in this tour, so Wimbledon Common appeared to be the next-best-thing.
Established on January 6, 2007, when a field of just 51 runners aided by a mere two volunteers attended the inaugural event, the Wimbledon Common parkrun has grown and grown.
A biggest attendance of 659 was set just eight weeks ago (on June 1, 2019), although persistent heavy rain put off many of the fair-weather runners last Saturday morning.
I was one of a select field of 219 and, to my huge disappointment, I didn't even spot one Womble.
I guess the wet weather forced them to stay in their cosy burrows. Sensible.
The Wimbledon and Putney Commons, spanning 1,140 acres, is the largest expanse of heathland in the London area.
It is hard to miss, comforting when you have had to travel along the busy North Circular and South Circular roads to get there, in driving rain.
It also predominantly sits on London clay, which means the area is renowned for its bogginess.
I can vouch for that, because during the course of 100 different parkruns, I had never encountered more puddles than those that lay strewn across the two-lap route on Wimbledon Common.
On a dry day, the gravel and woodland trails must be a joy to run on, flat and conducive to fast times.
But last Saturday, some of the puddles resembled swimming pools - there were certain points when I thought one wrong step, in a murky puddle, could see me submerged in muddy water. Not the way I would have liked to bring up the century!
Last Saturday's results
Thomas Greenwood led home the field at Event No. 664, in a swift 17mins 25secs.
Interestingly, Greenwood is a member of local club Thames Hare & Hounds, who use Wimbledon Common as their base and whose claim to fame is that they are the oldest cross country running club in the world. Very impressive.
Equally impressive was the time of the winning lady, Lucy Woolhouse, an over-55 veteran, who covered the soggy 5K in 21:36.
The course records are held by runners from the north-east, suggesting that some people travel hundreds of miles to run the world's second oldest parkrun, unless of course they just happened to be in the area.
Justina Heslop, of Elswick Harriers, set the quickest time by a female (16mins 33escs) in March, 2012, at Event No. 271. Chris Parr, of Gateshead Harriers, clocked a landmark 15:04 in April, 2011.
An eye-catching 151 runners have beaten 17 minutes, and 120 ladies have dipped under 20 mins. I was the wrong side of both.
Well, that's the 100-up, and a very wet one at that - the only one to rival it was the downpour that greeted me at the Mulbarton parkrun in Norfolk last summer.
Not surprisingly, numbers were down at Wimbledon Common. The 219 finishers was the lowest since November, 2016.
The Wombles were absent, but it's good to see that their motto of the 1970s - 'Make Good Use of Bad Rubbish' - with the emphasis on helping the environment is 'in fashion' again.
As an aside, I made 'good use' of some 'rubbish' training to clock just over 21 minutes. Not that Orinoco would have been fussed.