On the run: Far from barking mad at the Barking parkrun

Barking Park, the home of the Barking parkrun

Barking Park, the home of the Barking parkrun - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Barking in East London

The impressive boating lake in Barking Park. The parkrun course follows the length of the lake. Pict

The impressive boating lake in Barking Park. The parkrun course follows the length of the lake. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Some might say I’m ‘barking’ to embark on this weekly crusade, visiting parkruns all over the Eastern region.

Ladies enjoy the weekly 5K test at the Barking parkrun, beside the boating lake in Barking Park. Pic

Ladies enjoy the weekly 5K test at the Barking parkrun, beside the boating lake in Barking Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Well, last Saturday morning I was quite literally ‘Barking-bound,’ heading down to East London to tackle another 5K test, within the confines of Barking Park.

The field assembles for the 323rd staging of the Barking parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTO

The field assembles for the 323rd staging of the Barking parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

It has been suggested that the slang ‘barking mad’ phrase has its origins in the supposed existence of a medieval asylum for the insane, which was attached to Barking Abbey.

Barking mad! Owner and dog taking part in last Saturday's Barking parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Barking mad! Owner and dog taking part in last Saturday's Barking parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Well, I was in the right vicinity on Saturday, although in truth a much more likely explanation is the similarity between an insane person and a mad dog – barking!


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The run-down

The first Barking parkrun was held more than six years ago, and last Saturday was event No. 323.

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I parked my car beside some allotments, and headed into Barking Park, a classic Victorian park which was officially opened in 1898.

Situated to the east of Barking town centre, and covering nearly 30 hectares, the park’s main feature is an impressive boating lake, stretching to 910 metres. Apparently, a paddle steamer used to be in operation on the lake.

- On the run: pipped at the post at Burnham-on-Crouch parkrun

There was also a lido – I am partial to lidos, having paid a few visits to Jesus Green lido in Cambridge this summer, splashing my way up and down the 91-metre length – although the one at Barking was closed in 1988. Shame.

However, the weekly parkrun is now rightly one of the main attractions of Barking Park, a fast two-lap course all on tarmac paths.

There is a swift 400-metre start down towards the allotments – and, for one week only, my car – followed by a sharp left-turn to run along the length of the boating lake.

You then double-back along a tree-lined avenue and, after a few more turns, are back at the start to begin lap two, or reach the finish-funnel.

Appropriately, for the Barking parkrun, there were a few dogs as well as runners on the start-line, though I’d left mine (Oscar, the Italian Spinone) at home.

He is suffering from a broken paw at the moment, otherwise he would have shown me a clean pair of heels, even at the age of 11-and-a-half. Either that or he would have probably dragged me perilously close to the edge of the lake!

Saturday’s results

Ewan Maynard, of Southampton AC, displayed a strong finishing kick to finish first in 19mins 34secs. This was his personal best for the course.

Heather MacFarlane, from Saltwell Harriers, was the leading female in 21:38.

A couple of runners celebrated their 100th parkruns – over-55 veteran Sue Parkinson and Victor Hutchins – while Lee Parker chalked up parkrun No. 199, an impressive 194 of them at Barking.

Records

Paul Martelletti holds the course records for many of the parkruns across London.

The New Zealander, who has a marathon personal best of 2:16:49 from Berlin in 2011, set the fastest time on the Barking parkrun course of 14:52 last year, at the 287th event, which was held on Christmas Day.

Lydia Hallam, of Havering AC, registered the quickest time for a female, thanks to her 17:42 effort from August, 2017.

Closer to home, the Colchester Harriers duo of Martyn Clarke (18:48) and Richard Flutter (18:55) both feature in the all-time top 150.

Christmas Day is a popular one with Barking parkrunners. The two biggest fields, of 228 and 155, were both held on December 25.

Carl’s experience

Barking can boast a surprising number of home-grown sporting stars, headed by former footballers Bobby Moore and Paul Terry, and international prop forward Jasaon Leonard, who amassed 119 caps and was a regular in the pack at local club Barking RFC.

However, sporting prowess was in short supply at last Saturday’s Barking parkrun, to the extent that, for the second weekend running, I finished second after again being pipped at the post.

‘Out-kicked’ at the previous weekend’s Burnham-on-Crouch parkrun, I was again left trailing in the final few hundred metres as Ewan Maynard glided past to finish first in a modest time of 19:34..

Your toiling columnist arrived at the finish funnel six seconds later.

Was I left Barking mad?

Not a bit of it.

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