On the run: a jaunt to East London for the Beckton parkrun

The Beckton parkrun is well sited, as this signpost beside the course suggests, with the likes of th

The Beckton parkrun is well sited, as this signpost beside the course suggests, with the likes of the ExCeL and River Thames not far away. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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

Runners along the out-and-back section at Beckton Corridor during last Saturday's parkrun. Picture:

Runners along the out-and-back section at Beckton Corridor during last Saturday's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

The London Marathon takes place on Sunday, an event I have completed seven times, but not since 2001.

I have no immediate plans to hit the marathon trail again, but last weekend I decided on a brief trip to the Capital, for a gentle 5K rather than gruelling 26.2-miler.

The Beckton parkrun, which takes place down near the River Thames, on the north bank, is a well-established but rather low key parkrun in East London.

This was new territory for me, even though it’s just a stone’s throw from the Isle of Dogs, the Royal Docks, London City Airport and the famous former home of West Ham FC at Upton Park.

A runner is happy to reach the finish of last Saturday's Beckton parkrun, held in the Borough of New

A runner is happy to reach the finish of last Saturday's Beckton parkrun, held in the Borough of Newham in East London. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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This all used to be unpopulated marshland, in the early days of Charles Dickens, before construction began in the 19th century to build housing for the newly established gas and sewage works.

There was no whiff in the air last Saturday morning, when I rolled into town off the Royal Docks Road, or more specifically I trundled into the Will Thorne Pavilion car park, at Beckton District Park South.

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As this signpost suggests, the Beckton parkrun is close to many landmarks in East London. Picture: C

As this signpost suggests, the Beckton parkrun is close to many landmarks in East London. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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The previous weekend, I had been treated to the sounds of seagulls, and the smell of cooked breakfasts from beach cafes on the Norfolk coast, at the Gorleston Cliffs parkrun.

Seven days on and I was running along to the screech of brakes from early-morning buses, and the drone of the nearby Docklands Light Railway.

The parkrun experience is an eclectic one.

The run-down

The Beckton parkrun, situated in the Borough of Newham, hosted its first event on June 2, 2012.

A field of 53 toed the line that day, with eight volunteers, and Ilford AC’s Malcolm Muir, who used to be a familiar face at the Friday Five Series in Suffolk and Essex, was first home in 16:48.

In fact, Muir’s time remains eighth on the all-time list.

Last Saturday was the 309th event, held in warm conditions and over a two-lap course on paths, on grass around the perimeter of a football field, and with an out-and-back section along part of Beckton Corridor.

The weekly average entry is only around the 40 to 50 mark, although a record field of 159 did turn up for the 258th event on April 22, 2017, just a day before last year’s London Marathon.

Last Saturday’s results

Lindsay Russell had an incentive to be the first runner home from a small band of 62 last weekend.

And that’s because he had the job of scanning all the individual barcodes as runners, joggers and walkers crossed the finish-line, close to the pavilion.

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Russell was more than equal to the task. He duly reached the finish funnel first, in a time of 17mins 36secs, setting a personal best for the course in the process. It was his 49th parkrun.

Runner-up Sam Davies also set a PB (18:58), while over-60 veteran Catherine Apps, of local club East End Road Runners, was the first female in 26:05.

Records

Ieuan Thomas (no, not the former 400m Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Iwan Thomas) holds the course best of 15mins 10secs.

The Cardiff AC athlete set that landmark on February 18, 2017.

Kent AC’s Oliver Bright has the second fastest time (16:13) while New Zealander Paul Martelletti, who holds the course record for several parkruns around London, is third quickest with 16:17.

Looking down the list, Billericay Striders’ Crispian Bloomfield, a regular winner on the Essex road circuit, is sixth with 16:31.

Six women have eclipsed 20 minutes, headed by Helen Newberry, of Bristol & Wells AC, who posted a swift 18:16 last August at the 274th event.

Carl’s Experience

It was shorts weather, down in Beckton.

The sun was out, and the aforementioned Beckton Gas Works, and the Beckton Sewage & Treatment Works, were a comfortable distance away.

I enjoyed the run, even though my best-laid plans of returning to sub-20-minute times were thwarted … by just three seconds!

I was near to the River Thames, and close to the ExCeL Exhibition Centre, but didn’t see either, although I will return.

I might not return to Beckton for a while, but the Victoria Dock parkrun has recently been established (in March), just 1.3 miles down the road.

Apparently, that’s held on the dockside path, right next to the ExCeL.

But that’s for another day.

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