On the run: mad dash from Lee Valley to Oak Hill parkrun

Greetings from Oak Hill Park, the home of the weekly Oak Hill parkrun

Greetings from Oak Hill Park, the home of the weekly Oak Hill parkrun - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This time he heads to East Barnet for the Oak Hill parkrun

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate before the start of last Saturday's 353rd staging of the Oak

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate before the start of last Saturday's 353rd staging of the Oak Hill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

I had to make a mad dash from Lee Valley Athletic Centre to East Barnet, to keep this parkrun Series moving apace last Saturday.

My youngest step-son, Harry, has developed a fondness for training in the indoor facility at Lee Valley, in north London, under the watchful eye of coach Mick Graham.

It’s a great venue for a sprints session, especially if the weather outside is wet and cold, and last Saturday I spotted an array of internationals floating on and around the track, such as Dwayne Chambers, Alisha Philip and Ojie Edoburun (I’m not name-dropping, honest!).

And no, I didn’t hang around to watch the big guns train, or request autographs or selfies.

A runner in the finish funnel at last Saturday's Oak Hill parkrun, one of 248 finishers. Picture: CA

A runner in the finish funnel at last Saturday's Oak Hill parkrun, one of 248 finishers. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

I had a date with the Oak Hill parkrun, a distance of 7.3 miles away, which doesn’t sound far but can still take quite a while along the North Circular Road and up into East Barnet.

In short, 7.3 miles on Suffolk roads is not quite the same as 7.3 miles through North London on a busy Saturday morning.

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Run-down

All in a line: a procession of runners approaching the finish of last Saturday's Oak Hill parkrun. P

All in a line: a procession of runners approaching the finish of last Saturday's Oak Hill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

As it happened, I reached Oak Hill Park café, just off Parkside Gardens, in good time for a warm-up and to get a sneak preview of the course.

I had taken part in parkruns in the vicinity, including Pymmes parkrun (three miles away, in Edmonton) and Grovelands parkrun (5.5 miles away, in Southgate), so this was fairly familiar territory for me.

In fact, Pymmes Brook, a tributary of the River Lea, flows through both Pymmes Park and Oak Hill Park, my latest destination.

Oak Hill Woods actually dates back to the 11th century, when it was owned by the Church, but it had been in private ownership since the Dissolution of the Monasteries (second half of the 1530s) through to 1930, when East Borough Council purchased it.

Oak Hill Park, in East Barnet, a pleasant setting for a parkrun with Pymmes Brook flowing through th

Oak Hill Park, in East Barnet, a pleasant setting for a parkrun with Pymmes Brook flowing through the grounds. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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Now Oak Hill Park, which officially opened in 1933, has a wealth of sporting facilities, including tennis courts, a bowls green and an outdoor gym.

And since the summer of 2011, it has also been home to the Oak Hill parkrun.

A field of 44 runners, and five volunteers, ensured a successful inaugural event on August 27, 2011. By week two, that figure had dropped to 19 runners, but it has gradually grown in numbers and popularity over the years.

It was event No. 134 before a field of 100-plus assembled, and a record 283 turned up for the 352nd staging, which just happened to be the week before I rolled up.

Last Saturday’s Results

Oak Hill is blessed with a fast course, the whole 5K following good tarmac paths with just one slight undulation on each of the three laps.

The start is near the Pavilion, and the route basically takes you to the bottom end of the park, and then back up to the tennis courts and bowls club for the start of laps two and three, and the finish.

Edward Samuel, a member of London Heathside, led home a field of 248 on a cool but thankfully dry morning – all the overnight rain had cleared away.

Samuel clocked a time of 18mins 19secs, some way off his personal best of 17:13 for the course, while club-mate Stuart Meiklejohn completed his 111th parkrun in 18:46 for second spot.

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Josephine Gaughan, an over-50 veteran, was the first female finisher in 23:26, while further down the field, fellow over-50 veteran Margaret Tutty celebrated chalking up her 100th parkrun (and 97th at Oak Hill).

There are many regulars at this event, as there are at all parkruns dotted around the country. I spotted Che F Cheung in the results, an over-65 veteran who duly notched his 286th Oak Hill parkrun, a fine record seeing as though there have only been 353.

Records

A total of 23 females have ducked under 20 minutes at Oak Hill, led by Rebecca Bunting, another member of London Heathside, who registered 18:15 in October, 2016. Michael Callegari, of Shaftesbury Barnet, holds the course best (14:50) from Sept, 2014.

Carl’s Experience

I thought it might be apt to run at Oak Hill Park, firstly because it was within striking distance of Lee Valley, and secondly because it was only eight miles away from The Hive, the home of Barnet FC.

I assumed that Barnet were going to be relegated out of the Football League that afternoon, but they ended up winning at Morecambe to keep alive their season to this final weekend.

Back at the Oak Hill parkrun, I finally ducked under 20 minutes for the first time in weeks. Then it was back to catch up with Chambers and co. at Lee Valley.

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