On the Run: New Year's Day fun at Foots Cray Meadows parkrun
PUBLISHED: 10:35 11 January 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This is Part One of a New Year's Day double, at Foots Cray Meadows parkrun
New Year’s Day is the one day of the year when it is possible, with just a little planning, to run two parkruns.
Rather than all events starting at 9am every Saturday morning, January 1 gives parkruns an opportunity to stagger their times, with some beginning at 10am or 10.30am, as well as the traditional nine o’clock.
I remember starting 2018 with a couple of parkruns in North-East London, at Wanstead Flats and Valentines Park (Ilford), before returning home to prepare for reporting on Colchester United’s home match against Cambridge.
Twelve months on and Colchester were on the road, playing away at Crawley Town in West Sussex, so this New Year’s Day I headed to the Dartford crossing, over the Queen Elizabeth Bridge and into Kent, to take part in a couple of their local events.
One was at Foots Cray Meadows, starting at the normal 9am, and the other was at Danson Park, Bexley, a distance of just 1.8 miles away, and starting at 10.30am.
I was not the only one to turn up at both venues, and run back-to-back 5Ks, but I think I was the only one who then travelled southwards for an hour to watch the U’s crash to a 2-0 defeat at 10-man Crawley that afternoon.
They didn’t miss much!
The Foots Cray Meadows parkrun, situated in Sidcup, in the London Borough of Bexley, is one of the ‘younger’ parkruns in the UK.
Tuesday (New Year’s Day) was only run No. 24, since the inaugural event on July 21, 2018.
It remains fairly low-key. A total of 160 took part in the first run, and the record had stood at 202 from week No. 16 (before this week), although only 31 rolled up for the last event before Christmas (December 22).
But the local residents turned up in numbers on New Year’s Day – plus one from Suffolk! – mild, dry conditions greeting a new record field of 226.
I loved the course. It was proper cross country, following muddy trail paths on a dual loop of meadows on the north side of the River Cray.
There was no tarmac or concrete, just grass and mud, although fast times are possible along a flat route.
The course takes in two main sights, the Five Arches Bridge (built in the 18th century) and All Saints Church at the top of the longer first lap.
Foots Cray Meadows, which covers 240 acres, began life as part of Footscray Place estate, before the country house was gutted by fire in 1949.
The grounds became a public park, and now the area is awash with dogs and their owners, as well as parkrunners every Saturday (and New Year’s Day!).
New Year’s Day results
Teenager James Kingston, of Tonbridge AC, was first home in 17mins 24secs, which was actually the second fastest time seen at Foots Cray Meadows.
Andrew Pickett, of Dartford Harriers, was just over a minute behind in second spot (18:27), some way off his personal best of 17:38.
It was much closer amongst the leading women.
Hannah Roberts, from Petts Wood Runners (based in Bromley), was first home in a PB of 21:06, a mere six seconds ahead of Rebecca Watson, of Central Park Athletics (Dartford) who also set a PB, of 21:12.
Only one female has so far dipped under 20 minutes, and that was at Event No. 7 at the start of September, when Jessica Zara Keene clocked 19:45.
She is a member of Blackheath & Bromley Harriers, a club with a proud history dating back as far as 1869, when it was known as Peckham Hare & Hounds.
Club-mate Ben Cockburn holds the men’s course record, thanks to his 17:17 at Event No. 2 in late July.
I haven’t been able to train for a few weeks now, due to a long-standing (no pun intended) sore hip, but I have been able to continue with this parkrun tour every weekend.
I was a bit wary on New Year’s Day, both due to the injury and my lack of fitness, as I was intending Foots Cray Meadows to be Part One of a double-header.
I didn’t want to arrive at Bexley, 90 minutes later, with a severe limp, or to have to crawl into the press box at Crawley Town FC later that afternoon.
Actually, I loved the Foots Cray event. A pure cross country experience, and I managed to dip under 22 minutes, still on two legs!