On the run: New Year's Day visit to Bexley parkrun
PUBLISHED: 19:02 11 January 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This is Part Two of a New Year's Day double in Kent, at the Bexley parkrun
There is only one thing better than running a parkrun on a cold, fresh morning – and that’s running two of them!
Part Two of my double header on New Year’s Day, last Tuesday, was a visit to Danson Park in Bexley to take part in the popular Bexley parkrun.
Readers of my previous column, from last Friday, will recall that I was due in West Sussex that afternoon, to report on Colchester United’s visit to Crawley Town.
But before then, I had nipped over the Dartford crossing and into Kent to run the Foots Cray Meadows parkrun (at 9am), which gave me ample time to travel the 1.8 miles from Sidcup to Danson Park.
A complete of absence of any training, in recent weeks, due to injury, meant that I arrived on the start-line of the Bexley parkrun (at 10.30am) with rather heavy legs, after a ‘swift’ 5K along muddy trails at Foots Cray Meadows.
The temperature had also dropped, which didn’t help matters, but it was impossible not to get caught up in the feel-good atmosphere among a bumper field of 618, all keen to welcome the New Year with a two-lap blast around the park.
In fact, it was a new record for the Bexley parkrun, eclipsing the total of 580 who completed Event No. 328 last May.
I didn’t exactly ‘blast’ around the Bexley 5K, and was predictably a minute slower than my 5K effort at Foots Cray Meadows from 90 minutes earlier, but I surprised myself by walking without a hobble into Crawley’s Broadfield Stadium later that afternoon.
Unlike nearby Foots Cray Meadows parkrun, which has only been going since last July with 25 events staged, the bigger Bexley parkrun can trace its roots back to the Olympic year of 2012.
The inaugural event, on February 4, 2012, attracted 103 runners, and seven volunteers. By comparison, there were 26 volunteers and a field of 618 on New Year’s Day.
It is also a completely different experience to Foots Cray. Instead of five kilometres of grass, meadow trails and a little mud, the Bexley event is predominantly on tarmac paths around Danson Park.
Starting on the south side of the lake, the two-lap course travels eastwards beside the length of the lake, before turning left uphill to pass in front of Danson House.
There is a short stretch of cross-country, through woodland and down to a boggy area to rejoin the path along the lake.
Danson Park itself is the second largest public park in the Borough of Bexley (the largest is at the aforementioned Foots Cray Meadows) at 75 hectares, and was opened in 1925 by Princes Mary.
New Year’s Day results
Andrew Pickett, like me and many others, completed the New Year’s Day Kent double.
But unlike me, Pickett, of Dartford Harriers, followed up a second spot at the Crays Foot Meadows parkrun by leading home more than 600 runners and walkers at Bexley in a time of 18mins 03secs.
Chaoran Sun had likewise been very active just 90 minutes earlier at the Greewnich Parkrun, where he was fourth. Sun was a close second to Pickett with 18:12.
There was a familiar face, especially to all Essex runners, in third. Ilford AC’s Malcolm Muir, who used to be a regular visitor to Suffolk and North-East Essex for the Friday Five Series, was third in 18:23 at what was his 94th parkrun. Muir had actually led home the field (and Sun) at the Greenwich event earlier in the morning.
Tereza Francova, of Dulwich Harriers, was the first female finisher in 22:34, running 35 seconds quicker than at Crays Foot Meadows.
The course record was set back in the first year of 2012, when Berihu Hadera, of Exmouth Harriers, posted a fast 15:39 at Event No. 30.
Chloe Sharp, of Central Park Athletics, leads the 11-strong group of sub 20-minute women. Her 18:23 landmark was registered in October, 2015.
This was not my first visit to Danson Park. I used to visit my Auntie Joyce and Uncle Len at nearby Bexleyheath as a youngster, and my Dad once sailed a model boat on the lake.
This has nothing to do with parkrun, obviously, but it brought back happy memories.
I aimed for a conservative 23 minutes, and ran 22:59! Pure luck or perfect pacing? I can’t decide.