On the Run, Carl Marston's parkrun tour: no guitars at Finsbury Park
PUBLISHED: 09:00 30 March 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to North London's Finsbury Park
There can’t be that many parkrun venues where the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Sex Pistols and Oasis have performed.
But Finsbury Park, the home of the weekly Finsbury parkrun in North London, is an exception.
I love nipping down to the Capital to visit some proper city parkruns, and the Finsbury parkrun manages to combine the “feel” of a bustling city event with the “feel” of an uncongested, outdoor experience.
The Londoners of the 18th century used to escape the smoke of the hectic, filthy city by venturing northwards to the remains of the old Hornsey Wood at the top of a knoll, which is the site of modern-day Finsbury Park.
Nowadays, the public park affords wonderful panoramic views of the London skyline, from that knoll.
Hundreds of runners and walkers converge on the park every Saturday morning to escape the helter-skelter, if not “the smoke,” of modern city life and run in the parkrun.
The Finsbury parkrun is one of the oldest parkruns in existence.
True, it was not around when Hendrix performed in 1967, Dylan entertained in 1993 or even when the Gallagher brothers strutted their stuff in Oasis in 2002.
But the Finsbury parkrun, established in the autumn of 2009, is among the 25 oldest parkruns in the UK (now numbering 611) and also in the world (nearly 1,800).
It was about time I visited, therefore, on this parkrun tour, though I left my guitar behind and packed my trainers instead.
Finsbury Park is a hive of activity on a Saturday morning – runners in an array of colourful attire converge from all corners of the park, including myself, who emerged from my car just off the Seven Sisters Road.
One of the first Great London Parks, laid out in the Victorian era, the park covers 110 acres and caters for a multitude of sporting interests, in addition to the weekly two-lap 5K parkrun.
The course skirts Finsbury Athletics Track, home to London Heathside plus American Football team London Blitz, while I spotted football pitches, a skatepark, lake and even a Diamond for baseball (home of the London Mets).
It’s not an easy 5K, despite the welcome downhill start from near the cafe. There’s a gradual rise along a lengthy avenue of trees, and then a sharp left to tackle a short but steep hill up to the boating lake, past the athletics track and through some formal gardens to start lap two.
Challenging and undulating but, mercifully, all along tarmac paths.
Last Saturday’s results
Teenager Liam Mideska was first home in a personal best of 16:57.
Ellie Davies was the first female finisher in a swift 18:54.
From small beginnings, the Finsbury parkrun has reached great heights.
A field of 64 runners, plus eight volunteers, turned up for the inaugural event on October 31, 2009, but by 2016 the numbers had steadily grown to around the 300-mark, and now they are going through the roof – a record 717 assembled for Event No. 451 in January of this year.
Paul Martelletti, a familiar name in these parts, holds the course record of 15:06 (December, 2012). He is a New Zealander with a marathon PB of 2:16.
Taunton’s Naomi Tashimowitz heads a list of 19 sub-20 women. She ran 17:29 in December of 2017.
It was a grey morning in Haringey, and a few ‘travellers’ had rather thoughtfully parked their vehicles along a small section of the route, but that failed to deter 520 of us from haring around the two laps.
Predictably, the steep climb up to the top of the knoll, with those good views of the London skyline, took the bounce out of the legs, not that there was much ‘bounce’ to start with.
In the end, it was more a shuffle rather than a sprint to the finish, just the right side of 21:30.
And no, I didn’t see Dylan, the Gallagher brothers from Oasis, John Lydon (alias Johnny Rotten) or the ghost of Hendrix.