On the Run: a double header at Wanstead Flats and Valentines parkruns

It was a 9am start for runners at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, in East London, on New Year's Day. Pic

It was a 9am start for runners at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, in East London - Credit: Carl Marston

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns.

It was tough going on a boggy course at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, as these exhausted runners in th

It was tough going on a boggy course at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, as these exhausted runners in the finish funnel will testify. - Credit: Archant

Is there any better feeling than running a parkrun on a Saturday morning?

Yes, obviously. But one of the least obvious responses could be – ‘yes, running two parkruns.’

I tackled a double-header on New Year’s Day, by taking part in both the Wanstead Flats parkrun and the Valentines parkrun.

And I was not the only one.

The venue for the Wanstead Flats parkrun on New Year's Day, with two distinctive tower blocks in the

The venue for the Wanstead Flats parkrun on New Year's Day, with two distinctive tower blocks in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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Staggered start-times, with the Wanstead event kicking off at 9am and the Ilford-based Valentines bonanza at 10am, enabled an enthusiastic few to complete both five-kilometre challenges in East London.

In fact, there were possible double-headers all over the country, due to the annual change from the normal 9am start-times for some of the current total of 492 parkruns in the UK.

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The distance between Wanstead Flats and Valentines Park is about two-and-a-half-miles.

This allowed many of the participants at Wanstead to jump on their bikes and head over to Ilford in good time for the 10am ‘second half,’ with a select few even running between the two venues.

Runners get ready to start the Valentines parkrun in Ilford on New Year's Day. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Runners get ready to start the Valentines parkrun in Ilford on New Year's Day. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

For the record, I drove.

Run down

Both Wanstead Flats and Valentines parkruns boast fast, flat courses, but they are otherwise very different.

Tranquil scene of the lake at Valentines Park, close to where Monday's parkrun started. Picture: CAR

Tranquil scene of the lake at Valentines Park, close to where Monday's parkrun started. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Wanstead Flats, after a few days of rain, can be very boggy, and so it proved on New Year’s Day.

The two-lap course is entirely on grass, around the playing fields beside Harrow Road and in Bush Wood.

The result was that my legs were caked in mud by the finish – it was clear to see who, on the start-line at Valentines just an hour later, had also run at Wanstead Flats!

Runners on the course at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, with a tower block in the background. Picture:

Runners on the course at the Wanstead Flats parkrun, with a tower block in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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Last Monday was the 354th staging of the Wanstead event, the first attracting a small field of 48 back on May 21, 2011.

That figure had shrunk to 21 a few weeks later, but it has since grown hugely in popularity.

In fact, the New Year’s Day event’s field of 256 was the second highest ever, just behind the record 267 from last May.

Over at Ilford, the 363rd staging of the Valentines parkrun was an ‘easier’ proposition, in that the two-lap course was entirely on well-surfaced tarmac paths.

No chance of losing your footing in a muddy hollow or on a boggy bend. It was like going from a cross country event to a road ‘race.’

Starting from near café, not far from the boating lake, a record field of 337 congregated in Valentines Park. That beat the previous record by 50, the first time the event had attracted an entry of more than 300, in part due to the ‘doubling up’ brigade.

New Year’s Day results

At Wanstead Flats, Alex Day, of the local club East London Runners, was first home in 18mins 46secs.

Kelly Clark, of the rather long-winded Victoria Park Harriers & Tower Hamlets AC, was the first female finisher in 21:32.

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An hour later, Day reached the finish funnel at the Valentines parkrun in third spot, in a quicker 18:21, behind David Mills (17:48) and Philip Ellul (18:14).

It was Mills’ first visit to Valentines, although it was his 165th parkrun! Clark completed a quickfire double’ by finishing first lady in Ilford in 20:47.

Records

Paul Martelletti has the distinction of holding the course record at both Wanstead Flats and Valentines.

The New Zealander clocked a red-hot 15:07 at Wanstead Flats in October, 2015.

Interestingly, fifth on the fastest list is West Suffolk AC’s Seb Anthony. The Bury St Edmunds athlete registered 15:53 on his way to a first place on August 5, 2017.

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On the same day, his older sister Justine Anthony recorded the fourth fastest time for a female (18:28) to make it a family double. City of Norwich’s Danielle Nimmock has the female course record of 17:32.

At Valentines, Martelletti’s landmark of 15:12 was set in March, 2013, while Havering AC’s Faye Fullerton covered the 5K in 17:00 in the spring of 2015.

Carl’s experience

I arrived at Wanstead Flats – an expanse of common pasture at the southernmost point of Epping Forest – in good time to watch the ‘regulars’ roll up, many of them perhaps still suffering from the festivities of the night before.

I managed to stay on two feet around the slippery course (it’s a fine route) to clock a respectable 20:31, and then drove to Valentines Park, taking some of the mud with me, to record a slightly more pedestrian (by four seconds) 20:35.

A model of consistency, if nothing else!

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