On the run: joining in the Walthamstow parkrun 300th celebrations
PUBLISHED: 17:40 14 December 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads down to Walthamstow
I was in East London to join in the celebrations for Walthamstow’s 300th parkrun on a bright Saturday morning last weekend.
New parkruns continue to be born, up and down the country, but it is now almost six years since Walthamstow held its inaugural event, from the Peter May Sports Ground, situated within a stone’s throw of the North Circular Road, just off Wadham Road.
The Walthamstow parkrun had been on my radar for a while, just over an hour from my front doorstep and boasting a fairly flat course, on grass.
I’m also a big cricket fan, so the ‘Peter May’ headquarters – May succeeded Len Hutton as the England Test captain during the 1950s – was a shining beacon for me.
It was not an ideal morning for cricket – the grass was wet with muddy patches, and the cold weather would have made slip-catching a precarious business.
But it was fine for running.
Walthamstow was historically in the county of Essex, but officially became a part of Greater London in 1965.
It is one of those areas which was rather neglected, pre-Olympic Games, 2012; but is now, post-London Olympics, regarded as one of the trendier parts of the Capital, with property prices going through the roof.
I am not planning to move to Walthamstow, although I did enjoy my visit to Walthamstow Stadium, the leading venue for greyhound racing in the country until its closure in 2008, for a night ‘at the dogs’ before the turn of the century.
But the parkrun is a little gem, wonderfully low-key, well-organised by a tight group of volunteers, and with a course that reminded me of my formative year of running cross country races during my schooldays.
It was also the first parkrun I had attended – this was my 66th different one, although there are now a mind-boggling 584 of them in the UK – where the first finisher ran barefoot.
Last Saturday’s results
Patrick Brown, of East London Runners, is no stranger to leading home the field at the Walthamstow parkrun.
This was his 214th parkrun, and his 84th at Walthamstow – he has finished first at 56 of his 84 appearances.
Brown stopped the clock at 18mins 04secs, some way adrift of his 17:19 personal best for the course. He did not wear trainers, or trail shoes, or even spikes. Instead, he conquered the course barefoot, which didn’t seem to hamper his progress.
His East London Runners club-mate, Mark Boulton, was second in 18:24 (PB of 17:05), with Thomas Stottor, of London Heathside, third in a PB of 18:29. To my knowledge, both wore trainers of some description.
Anna Morgan set a PB of 23:19 in her third parkrun, to finish first female.
Euan Brown, of East London Runners, set the course best of 16mins 09secs only last summer, at the 274th event in June.
Linda Huyck has held the fastest time by a female for more than four-and-a-half years, thanks to her 19:11 from April, 2014, one of four women to beat 20 minutes.
Looking down the list of the top 500 times, runners from East Anglia do feature, including the Haverhill RC duo of Mat Bigley (18:31) and Natalie Sewell (21:08), the Colchester Harriers’ pair of Richard Flutter (19:18) and Simon Morgan (21:12), plus Tiptree RR’s Andrew Conway (21:16).
As I said before, this felt like I was running 40 years ago, around the school sports pitches as a fresh-faced 12-year-old.
There was little difference, apart from the twinge in my Achilles and calf which caused me to cover the last couple of kilometres in rather gingerly fashion, so showing my age.
There were three laps to negotiate, always keeping behind the goal-posts.
Event No. 300 attracted a good field of 111 finishers, with the Mayor of Waltham Forest (Cllr Sally Littlejohn) as the official starter, though this was some way adrift of the record 207 which congregated for the fifth anniversary of the event, on January 27 of this year.
There was cake on offer last weekend, to celebrate the magic 300-mark, but alas I had to nip off early to begin preparations for reporting on another Colchester United home victory – there was no cake to mark that occasion!
And no, I didn’t report barefoot!