Top five list of ‘small but beautiful’ parkruns – Carl Marston’s parkrun tour

A good sign: Sunny Hill Park, in Hendon

A good sign: Sunny Hill Park, in Hendon - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he compiles a list of his favourite ‘small’ parkruns after heading to Sunny Hill parkrun, in north London

A field of 48 hardy runners and walkers assemble before the start of last Saturday's Sunny Hill park

A field of 48 hardy runners and walkers assemble before the start of last Saturday's Sunny Hill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

The smaller the better, that's my parkrun motto. Or one of them, at least.

I always get a buzz out of being in the midst of a massive field of runners, whether it be lining up for the start of the London Marathon, or mingling with 1,000-plus enthusiasts at the weekly Bushy parkrun.

But I have to confess that, for me, it's the more intimate the better when it comes to parkrun.

My taste in music leans towards the smaller, guitar-based indie bands, just as my passion for football is directed towards the lower divisions, and the less fashionable non-league scene.

The view looking across north and west London, from Sunny Hill Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The view looking across north and west London, from Sunny Hill Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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So that's probably why I have a fondness for the smaller parkruns.

I mention this because last Saturday morning I travelled to Sunny Hill Park in Hendon, in the London Borough of Barnet, for the 46th staging of the Sunny Hill parkrun.

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It was a windy morning, as was the case across the whole of the UK, which probably contributed to a total of just 48 runners and walkers congregating by the tennis courts, for their weekly dose of a free 5K.

This was actually the smallest field I had so far encountered on this parkrun tour - I know, I have led a sheltered life.

Runners in action at the highest point of the Sunny Hill parkrun, which affords great views looking

Runners in action at the highest point of the Sunny Hill parkrun, which affords great views looking north and west. Picture: SUNNY HILL PARKRUN FACEBOOK - Credit: Archant

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The smallest attendance of all the UK parkruns last weekend was at Girvan Prom, where a field of just five completed the 5K course on the seafront in South Ayrshire, 16 miles from Ayr.

The welcome finish funnel at the end of last Saturday's Sunny Hill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The welcome finish funnel at the end of last Saturday's Sunny Hill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

And looking back over the parkrun facts-and-figures of this year, while ignoring those from the prison-based events (which are not open to the public), the 'smallest' title has been spread around the country.

The previous weekend, Hafan Pwllheli (on the Llyn Peninsular in North-West Wales), 'led' the way with 11, while Mount Stuart, on the Isle of Bute in the Firth of Clyde, took the accolade with 12 finishers on February 1. Back on January 11, Bressay, on Shetland, had the smallest field of 24.

Alas, I have yet to visit any of these small gems ...... yet!

Instead, here's my top five of the smallest fields I have so far encountered on this mini-tour:

Runners tackle on the of the inclines at the weekly Sunny Hill parkrun. Picture: SUNNY HILL PARKRUN

Runners tackle on the of the inclines at the weekly Sunny Hill parkrun. Picture: SUNNY HILL PARKRUN FACEBOOK - Credit: Archant

1 Sunny Hill (48)

I can imagine this is a terrific event to run on a bright summer's morning, with the extensive views across north and west outskirts of London, towards Wembley.

It was a bit more of a challenge last weekend, though, with a keen wind and the normal stiff inclines to negotiate.

aaa park

aaa park - Credit: Archant

As the name suggests, Sunny Hill Park, spread across 22 hectares of grassland, is hilly. A couple of figure-of-eight loops of the park, preceded by a shorter warm-up loop, can leave the legs feeling like jelly.

But the terrain is good - paved paths all the way - and it's a wonderfully friendly event, fast approaching its first year anniversary (end of March).

It was all smiles for the 48 of us who revelled in the conditions, before Storm Dennis paid a visit, spurred on by eight hardy volunteers.

The record field remains the 140 who assembled for the inaugural event, while figures have dipped as low as 34 (there are 10 other events within a six-mile radius of Sunny Hill, so the choice for 'locals' in bewildering). But remember - small is beautiful.

2 Beckton (62)

Often at its most popular the day before the London Marathon, Beckton is a little cracker, sited in Beckton District Park South, just to the north of the River Thames in East London.

I visited in April, 2018, a couple of weekends before the London bonanza, when a select field of 62 of us covered a couple of laps of football pitches, plus an out-and-back section along the Beckton Corridor. The first finisher was also the barcode scanner!

The lowest benchmark is 12.

3 Westmill (67)

I rarely run long distances these days, due to injuries, but I did visit the Westmill parkrun, at the Three Lakes campsite, near Ware in Hertfordshire, just 24 hours before I ran a half-marathon.

And I almost wish that I hadn't, because there are some awkward climbs, and some skiddy descents.

I was one of 67 who ran/walked Westmill on September 15, 2018. The happy low is 29.

4 Manor Field, Whittlesey (72)

Three laps of Manor Park, in the Cambridgeshire Fens, it was very, very muddy when I visited, in October of last year, especially on the stretch along the River Nene.

A field of 72; a proud low of 33.

5 Pymmes (74)

It didn't stop raining when I splashed around three laps of Pymmes Park, in Edmonton, in north London.

A happy field of 74 (January, 2018), and a fine low of five, recorded several times during the early days, back in 2011 and 2012.

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