All the London Parkruns

Back in March 2016, my friend Geoff persuaded me to get into Parkrun – free, timed 5km runs that happen all over the world at 9am every Saturday, organised by amazing volunteers. Geoff was coming to the end of his mission to run all of the (then) 47 Parkruns within the London Boroughs. I went with him to the last dozen or so on his list – and became a Parkrun tourist myself.

18 months later, I’ve now completed all 49 London Parkruns (Hoblingwell and South

Norwood launched in 2017), and again inspired by Geoff’s #LonDone list, I’ve made my own list of London Parkruns – the date I first ran each, the best result I got, a short comment about the run, and a difficulty rating from 1 (good for beginners) to 4 (gruelling).

My next mission is to complete the 13 ‘London Plus’ Parkruns – outside the London boundary but inside the M25. But that’s for another year…

In the meantime, here are the 49 London Parkruns, #LonDone…

 

Ally Pally

Date: 24th June 2017

Result: 23:37 (57th of 240)

One of the Parkruns with summer and winter routes: this was the summer route, and consists of a fairly testing two and a bit laps (especially on a very warm day), including a fairly steep uphill section. There are essentially three levels – you start on the middle level, run downhill to the bottom level around playing fields, then head up to the top level, and run through some woods and past the iconic palace. The terrain is mixed tarmac, track and grass, with a nice home straight to the funnels. I ran this one unexpectedly as I’d been planning to do Finsbury – only to find that park closed when I got there.

Difficulty rating: 4

 

Barking

Date: 1st July 2017

Result: 21:47 (7th of 89)

About a 10-minute walk from Barking TFL, the park is really picturesque with a lake and a meandering tarmac track that you run twice. There are some slight undulations, but nothing too taxing. The final 200-metre dash towards the finish, through a tree-lined avenue, is one of the best in any London Parkrun

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Beckenham Place

Date: 19th November 2016 (inaugural event)

Result: 21:20 (35th of 153)

I managed to make it to the inaugural event of this Parkrun, which is run alongside the train line across the road from Ravensbourne Train Station. The course is three laps run on fields (watch out for some dips), and is fairly flat and fast. There was no obvious nearby café for a post-run drink, but there is a kiosk at the train station.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Beckton

Date: 18th February 2017

Result: 22:06 (21st of 74)

In the shadow of London City Airport, about a 10-minute walk from Royal Albert DLR, the park is quite compact. Runners congregate near the pavilion. The course is run 50:50 on tarmac and field, and on the day I ran it was pretty muddy. There are two laps including a 100m ‘there and back’ stretch (called the ‘Beckton Corridor’) where you have to circle a tree and then run back on yourself. The organisers were super-friendly and tea and biscuits are available afterwards in the pavilion.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Bedfont Lakes

Date: 11th November 2017

Result: 21:31 (14th of 169)

The nearest Parkrun to Heathrow Airport, and one of the prettiest in London. The country park is adjacent to lakes, with gently undulating terrain. The course consists of two laps on tracks around the path, with a long straight to pick up speed to make up for some of the slower, twisty-turny sections towards the start and end. I parked in a free car park just off Bedfont Road and walked the 1.5km to the start (near the visitor centre). On the day I ran, the course was very wet, with deep puddles, but the organisers were incredibly warm and welcoming (and more importantly, put me in their weekly run report). The café for post-run drinks is a five-minute drive away.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Bexley

Date: 25th June 2016

Result: 24:16 (43rd of 354)

Located beside a large boating lake in the grounds of Danson House, this is a pretty but challenging course. It starts with a long, flat section on tarmac, before you turn sharply left and run up a reasonably steep hill across a car park entrance. You turn left again, and wind through tarmac and gravel paths until a very narrow and steep downhill trail section through a small wood, and through a field pack to the tarmac path for a second lap. The hills are steep, both up and down, and there are some relatively tricky bits to navigate for a newbie (I’m always nervous running across roads, even when they’re marshalled). It’s definitely worth holding back a bit on lap one to get a feel for the layout before you go for it on the second lap – I made the mistake of using up my energy on the lap one uphills and struggled on lap two. We ran this one the day after the Brexit referendum and weren’t in the mood for post-run coffee, but there are some nice-looking facilities nearby. We drove there – there is a large car park located near Danson House.

Difficult rating: 4

 

Brockwell

Date: 29th October 2016

Result: 22:30 (73rd of 247)

A beautiful park, located at the Brockwell Lido very near Herne Hill Train Station (and on-street parking). The course is two laps around undulating tarmac paths with a short lead in, and a very welcome downhill towards the finish of each lap. Afterwards, the Lido Café serves drinks and breakfast.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Bromley

Date: 9th July 2016

Result: 23:04 (147th of 669)

Located at Norman Park in Bromley, I drove to the venue and parked in the Hayes Lane car park. I arrived (as usual) quite early, and struggled to find the start – it’s on a mound by the children’s play area in one corner, which became obvious when the bulk of runners arrived about 8:45. This is a very popular and busy run – 669 runners on the day I took part – and the start is quite congested. The run is two and a half laps round the recreation ground, mainly on tarmac with a couple of sections on grass. As it’s round sports fields it isn’t the most inspiring course, but the organisation was good and it’s a pretty flat and accessible run.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Burgess

Date: 23rd July 2016

Result: 22:11 (50th of 205)

Sometimes claimed as the fastest and flattest course in London. My own result tends to disagree, but in my defence I ran it on the hottest day of the year. I’ve run it twice more since and due to building works in the park, the course has been substantially different each time. It always begins at the Walworth Road end of the park, either side of ornamental flowerbeds, with a long straight through a subway, back up, and then two laps round the lake; a ‘there and back’ and then a long straight to the finish funnel. It’s not very close to any stations so I normally drive and park in the Tesco Car Park on Old Kent Road (and do my shopping afterwards to say thank you…) It’s a pretty park, with some nice features (like an old railway bridge over nothing), and definitely one I’ll go back to in the hope of a new PB.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Bushy

Date: 18th November 2017

Result: 20:44 (93rd of 1140)

There may be other Parkruns, but this is THE Parkrun: the original, you might say (because it is). It’s also exceptionally busy, with over 1100 runners on the cold day I took part. We drove (although Teddington Rail Station is about 2km from the start), and parked near the Diana Fountain where the run begins. There are toilets about 5 minutes walk away by the large café – which does a good bacon roll, if you have time to queue afterwards. The park itself is beautiful, with deer wandering freely (and very close to the course). The multitude of Parkrunners gathers on grass near the fountain in a large line, and dash the first 50m on grass before joining tarmac and track for the rest of the run. The course is a single, meandering route which ends not far from the starting line. Due to the number of runners, the funnel feels like it’s another 200m long, with some complicated but effective organisation and plenty of barcode scanners. Other than the normal caveats for running on tracks (watch out for branches, dried mud ridges etc), it’s flat and fast and I was delighted to finish my tour of all the London Parkruns with a new PB.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Canons Park

Date: 29th July 2017

Result: 22:49 (15th of 107)

Located very close to Canon’s Park TFL (surprise surprise), this small and pretty Parkrun starts by a stable block, and is three laps run on a mix of tarmac and woodland trail (through the ‘Spinney’), and a short stretch on grass. There is a slight incline on the return part of each lap, but nothing too taxing. The only thing to watch out for is that the tarmac is a bit uneven in places, and its edge with the grass is worth watching out for as I slightly twisted my ankle on the first lap. The run is still fairly new, just over 100 people ran the day I took part, and it still has a nice community feel that’s sometimes not as obvious on the big Parkrun events.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Crane

Date: 5th August 2017

Result: 22:33 (22nd of 152)

I drove to this run as it’s fairly inaccessible by rail, and ended up parking about 20 minutes walk from the start – so my first advice is leave yourself plenty of time. The runners congregate near a play area, and set off on one and a half clockwise laps run on tarmac (with two short sections at either end of the park run on roadside pavement). The course is very pretty – woodland, with an old windmill (the Shot Tower) and the River Crane. It’s also quite fast and flat. It’s worth bearing in mind that there are no facilities in the park (I watered a tree), and the finish and start are on opposite sides. As I drove I didn’t need to use the bag drop, but I think you can leave these at the start and marshals will transport them to the finish.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Crystal Palace

Date: 26th March 2016

Result: 22:06 (38th of 274)

My original home Parkrun is also one of the tougher courses in London. It’s run around the middle and eastern sections of Crystal Palace Park, and is one of the most hilly courses in London. It starts near the café at the corner closest to Penge West Train Station, with about 1km uphill to the top of the park next to the site of the old palace, around the rusty old outdoor concert venue, back down the hill for another km, a second lap of the same, and a third part-lap, evilly all uphill. It’s run mainly on tarmac with some dirt tracks at the bottom of the park. The trick is to take the uphill steadily and go all-out on the long downhill. There are toilets near the start line, which is about a 2 minute walk from the funnel (and bag drop). I’m glad this was my first Parkrun, as it’s one of the more challenging ones.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Dulwich

Date: 11th June 2016

Result: 22:28 (49th of 229)

I usually drive to Dulwich and park in the park, as the nearest stations are a pain to get to for me – although both North and West Dulwich Train Stations are nearby. The course is a large tarmac loop around Dulwich Park. Mainly flat, but with a small hill just past the start, On the plus side it has 100-metre markers to track progress, and is ideal for buggy runners. On the downside, it’s not the most interesting course as you’re basically going round and round a race track. There are toilet facilities near the start line.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Finsbury

Date: 8th April 2017

Result: 23:37 (101st of 370)

I think I am cursed when it comes to Finsbury: the first time I ran it I fell and twisted my ankle with some spectacular colourful bruises, and the second time I got there to find the park closed for an event and ended up diverting to Ally Pally. Finsbury Park TFL is nearby. The park is spacious and pretty, and the course, two laps, is mainly run on tarmac paths with some reasonable uphills through wide paths and a slightly winding uphill. On the day I ran it there was a funfair in the park so the course was varied slightly to run across grass for a stretch. There is a large café that does great breakfasts just near the start / finish.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Fulham Palace

Date: 22nd April 2017

Result: 21:23 (73rd of 485)

A very pretty ornamental garden beside the Thames (it’s a bit posher than the average London park), with three laps run on concrete paths around the perimeter. Be warned: the paths are narrow, the briefing is done in the open area near the toilet facilities before walking to the start line, and the start is packed. If you want a good time you need to get to the front of the pack before the run starts, otherwise it will probably take a couple of minutes to break out of the melee. After that, it’s pretty smooth going and very flat – although there is a weird dogleg in the middle of each lap and a hairpin near the end that slow things down. A good candidate for PBs.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Gladstone

Date: 12th August 2017

Result: 22:08 (28th of 176)

A short walk from Dollis Hill TFL, Gladstone Park is the Crystal Palace of North London. Runners set off from the pavilion (which has toilet facilities and a café), with a dash across grass and over a bridge to the north section of the park for two tree-lined laps on tarmac paths. There’s a reasonably challenging uphill, and the rest of the course is quite undulating, albeit very picturesque if you have the puff to enjoy the views from the top. At the end of lap two you head back down towards the finish funnel, next to the start line. A personal favourite of North London courses.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Greenwich

Date: 21st May 2016

Result: 24:03 (50th of 253)

I drove to Greenwich as the course is not actually anywhere near the famous bits of the borough but tucked away south towards Eltham in Avery Hill Park. There’s lots of parking and a toilet at the café in the park. Start and finish are at the north end of the park, and the course takes you on three laps mainly on grass around the perimeter. Slightly undulating, but not too taxing.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Grovelands

Date: 14th January 2017

Result: 22:57 (22nd of 160)

Southgate TFL is the closest tube stop. The park is a 10-minute walk, and is very beautiful – even on the very cold winter morning we took part. The run starts near a boating lake with a long uphill that goes on forever – and that needs to be done three times as this is a (nearly) three-lap course. It’s usually run on tarmac but on this day due to ice on the paths it was mainly run on grass. Definitely one to revisit in the summer.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Gunnersbury

Date: 4th February 2017

Result: 21:43 (52nd of 407)

A large park in West London about 10 minutes from Action Town TFL. The day I ran it, the course was a single lap of the park run on a mix of grass and concrete paths, pretty flat and fast aside from a slightly challenging 500m uphill stretch towards the finish funnel. The organisers are very friendly and after the run we crossed the road to the rugby club for coffee and results processing. On the day I took part the park café was undergoing refurbishment, and checking the website now it looks like the course has changed to two laps – so one to try again at some point.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Hackney Marshes

Date: 11th February 2017

Result: 21:42 (49th of 197)

Hackney Wick or Homerton are the closest TFL stops, and I took a bus the Hackney Marshes Centre next to the start of the run. The centre has toilets, and a café that serves a decent bacon roll. The course is ‘there and back’, 2.5km out to a post and then back along the same route. While not my favourite format, the actual route along the River Lea is incredibly pretty, with a long wooded section that opens out as you run through fields and then alongside the river path itself (don’t fall in). The halfway mark is a bit challenging as you have to basically stop and set off back again. This is fast, flat and on a good day a candidate for a PB.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Hampstead Heath

Date: 7th January 2017

Result: 23:25 (43rd of 317)

One of the most scenic parks in London – but not on the day we ran it. Exceptionally cold and muddy, this was a pretty gruelling run. The start was packed, the opening stretch downhill was good, and then the two laps around a lake and some hills are very undulating, but run on tarmac. However, the final tail of the course, uphill to the finish, was horrific. The dirt path we’d run downhill at the start had been churned into a muddy slide by 317 runners, and the last 500m was one of the most miserable Parkrun experiences ever! I would definitely like to re-run this on a dry day, as the route itself is absolutely stunning.

Difficulty rating 4 (in wet weather)

 

Harrow

Date: 28th October 2017

Result: 21:25 (7th of 175)

A 10-minute walk from Harrow on the Hill TFL. The run begins from by the pavilion (with toilets) in the south-east corner, and is three anti-clockwise laps (with a slight diversion loop on the first lap to make up the 5k). The course is all run on tarmac paths, with an uphill stretch on the way out and some slight undulations elsewhere, but nothing too taxing. Afterwards, tea and coffee is available from the pavilion. A well-organised and enjoyable run.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Harrow Lodge

Date: 3rd December 2016

Result: 22:09 (17th of 87)

The nearest TFL is Elm Park. The run is a single lap on fields and tarmac, beginning near a car park and ending in the same place. The scenery is interesting and varied – open fields, woodland, lakes and scrubland – and although it’s quite undulating, it isn’t overly tough. The hardest part was the finish, because I mistook some rugby goalposts for the funnel and started my final sprint too soon. D’oh.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Highbury Fields

Date: 4th March 2017

Result: 22:05 (67th of 263)

About 5 minutes from Highbury & Islington TFL. This is the weirdest Parkrun in London, as it isn’t a park as such – it’s a ‘village green’ area in Highbury, and the run is mainly on roadside pavements around the perimeter. It’s five (five!) laps, which is deceptively tough as you’ll inevitably both lap people and probably get lapped, so there’s almost a constant stream of people running in a circle and you need to remember which lap is the last one so you go through the funnel. The course is a reverse ‘D’ It starts uphill on a straight, flattens out at the top of the D, then is largely downhill for the loop. There are plenty of coffee shops nearby.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Hilly Fields

Date: 7th May 2016

Result: 23:38 (78th of 246)

Nearest station is Ladywell (about 5 minutes). Hilly Fields Park lives up to its name: this is the most “undulating” course in London. It starts near the pavilion (with toilets and cafes) at the top of the hill, with a short straight stretch on tarmac, a downhill on track, and then a twisty-turny course across tracks, grass and tarmac with a final, very steep uphill on grass that gets tougher each lap. Oh yes: this is for three, relentless laps. To make up for it, the organisers are incredibly welcoming and fun. Not a course for PBs.

Difficulty rating: 4

 

Hoblingwell

Date: 15th July 2017 (inaugural event)

Result: 22:50 (39th of 215)

I drove to this course as it’s in the wilderness of south-east London suburbia. There’s a free car park and facilities at the pavilion. The course is two laps, and is almost impossible to describe as it involves a loop, doubling back, and running through the finish line in the opposite direction than you set off. A lot of the course is also run sideways on a slight incline, which is challenging. The terrain varies from grass, tarmac and a short trail section, plus a short stretch on roadside pavements. I went to the inaugural event, and got the impression that this was a real community effort, and a long time in organising, so I hope it thrives.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Kingston

Date: 2nd September 2017

Result: 21:17 (22nd of 193)

Again, it’s easiest to drive to this course – there is a large, free car park at the sports centre (Hawker Centre) next to the start. The course is a ‘there and back’ run, with a small loop at the far end, run alongside the Thames at Teddington Lock, partly on the towpath and partly on a path parallel to it. There are also a lot of cyclists on this route. The course is a mix of track and tarmac, and it’s very flat and fast. There are toilet facilities and a café in the Hawker Centre.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Lloyd

Date: 18th March 2017

Result: 24:10 (38th of 215)

The course is next to Lloyd Park Tram Stop. The Parkrun course forms part of a Surrey cross-country run, and as you’d expect is pretty rugged with some serious undulations including the steepest hill in any London Parkrun. The course is all on grass, and is two laps around various sports fields and scrubland. I ran it when the weather was dry, but it was obvious from the condition of the ground that it could be exceptionally hard going in wet conditions. There is a large (and excellent) café by the start / finish, with toilet facilities, and overall it’s a really well-organised run.

Difficulty rating: 4

 

Mile End

Date: 1st April 2017

Result: 22:58 (71st of 232)

The nearest stations are Limehouse DLR or Mile End TFL. There are toilets in the Mile End Stadium at the start / finish. The course is a ‘there and back’ with a loop at the far end, and it’s run twice. About halfway through each of the ‘out’ and ‘back’ stretches there is a fairly long incline over a bridge that I found quite hard going. The park is landscaped and very scenic, with one section run next to the Limehouse canal. There is no café, but a ‘man with a van’ sets up about 9am and does a decent coffee at the end of the run.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Northala Fields

Date: 4th November 2017

Result: 21:05 (25th of 262)

Northolt TFL is about 15 minutes walk from the start, which is next to a toilet / café block by the Northala Fields man-made ‘mounds’. Uniquely for London, this is actually run across two parks. The single-lap run starts on a straight, with an uphill around one of the mounds, then you run through the north part of the park, through a linking path to another park (Rectory Park), do a single lap of this park, including a stretch on roadside pavement, then back up to Northala Fields, back round the mound running in the opposite direction you started, and through the funnel. It’s all run on tarmac or pavement. If you’re feeling energetic afterwards you can run up the mounds and get some great views from the top. Alternatively, you can go to the café. The run has a really great community feel, with cheerleaders and very welcoming organisers, and is one of the most beautiful spaces in London. This is my pick of the West London Parkruns.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Oak Hill

Date: 21st October 2017

Result: 21:13 (17th of 200)

Oakleigh Park Train Station is a 10-minute walk. The park is neat, undulating grass either side of the Pymmes Brook. The run starts next to a car park and tennis courts at the east end, and is run anti-clockwise on tarmac for two and three quarter laps, starting with a fairly long straight. There are a couple of narrow turns as you cross the brook (twice on each lap) and a sharp dogleg at the north part of the run, and there are some relatively long inclines that need to be done three times. I had to rush off afterwards, but I think there is a café in the park.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Old Deer Park

Date: 10th December 2016

Result: 22:58 (14th of 69)

I drove and parked in the sports centre next to the park. This is run mainly on grass around sports fields, for three laps. It’s pretty flat. The course is not very interesting – the main views are of the main road that runs down one side of the sports fields, although there are a couple of landmarks like an obelisk to break things up a bit. It’s made up for by an incredibly welcoming group of volunteers, who organise coffee at the sports centre afterwards. Most excitingly, on the day I went, Paul Sinton-Hewitt, inventor of Parkrun, happened to be helping out and it was a pleasure to say hello to the man behind it all.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Orpington

Date: 27th August 2016

Result: 24:00 (29th of 160)

I drove – there is a car park at the rugby club. This started as an offshoot of Bromley Parkrun, and it’s quite similar – three laps run on a mix of grass and tarmac, including around a sport field. There’s a nice bit through an avenue of trees and a small section through a woodland snicket. The run starts and finishes by the pavilion, where there is also a café.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Osterley

Date: 3rd June 2017

Result: 23:05 (25th of 202)

The nearest TFL is Osterley. The run is in the grounds of a gorgeous mansion, with a lake and spacious lawns, which makes this feel like the poshest of all London Parkruns. The run starts and finishes outside the main entrance to the house, and is three laps run clockwise on tarmac paths, track, grass and a stretch through a woodland trail with some exposed roots and uneven ground, branches and other hazards most of which are well marked but make this a tough one to PB. I ran it on a hot summer day, but I imagine it’s a different proposition in the winter. There are tea rooms and facilities in the stables of the mansion.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Peckham Rye

Date: 4th June 2016

Result: 22:25 (33rd of 154)

The nearest TFL is Peckham Rye, or there is a large, free car park. This is run in the south side of the park, which is a mix of ornamental gardens, a woodland section, open space and a duck pond. For a relatively small park it’s incredibly varied and very attractive. It is three laps run entirely on tarmac, and has a lot of twists and turns, with a decently wide path for the start and finish. There are nearby cafes in Peckham Rye. Because of its variety, this is my favourite south-east London course.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Pymmes

Date: 7th October 2017

Result: 20:57 (11th of 60)

The nearest station is Silver Street, which is a 5 minute walk. The park is compact and pretty, with wide open spaces on the north side and ornamental gardens and a pond on the south side. The run is three laps on tarmac and concrete paths and is very fast and flat. It’s worth watching out for a couple of missing paving stones near the pond which create some nasty looking potholes, plus a bollard to avoid. The volunteers are very friendly and there is a real community feel to the event. The park toilets have apparently been closed for a while, so you might need to find a secluded tree.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Raphael

Date: 17th June 2017

Result: 22:41 (34th of 219)

Romford Station is a 15-20 minute walk. The park is small but perfectly formed. Runners and volunteers congregate at the bandstand which doubles as the bag drop and scanning station, and the new runners briefing. From here, you walk 20m to the start, and run two and a half laps on tarmac around the park, anti-clockwise, going past the duck pond (dodging as much of the guano as you can), up a short, steep incline, round the upper part of the park and back round. The third time, at the top of the incline you turn right instead of left, and sprint to the finish. There were a lot of dog walkers there on the day I ran, with leads trailing across the paths, so it’s worth taking care.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Richmond

Date: 6th August 2016

Result: 23:51 (91st of 327)

I drove and parked in Richmond Park. Toilets are pay only but there are plenty of trees. This was a popular run, with around 300-400 runners, and the start funnel is in my view a bit too cramped for the number of runners, making it very difficult to get off to a good start. The course is a single large loop through the park run on a mix of grass and trail, and is quite undulating, starting on a long downhill and ending on a long uphill. The park is beautiful with great views.

Difficult rating: 3

 

Riddlesdown

Date: 16th September 2017

Result: 21:51 (38th of 295)

I drove and parked in the school car park and walked the five minutes to the run registration / bag drop. The actual start of the run is another five-minute walk, and the course is one and three quarter laps on grass, track and trail. It’s relatively level given the terrain, but has all the usual caveats of stones, rabbit holes etc. that could trip you up. I ran in dry, warm weather – in the rain / cold it’s probably very much more difficult. On the day I took part several local churches had sent big teams, and it was the largest event that the organisers had done – they were even worried about running out of tokens. It’s a great cross-country type run, and very fun. No obvious cafes nearby, and no facilities.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Roundshaw Downs

Date: 23rd September 2017

Result: 22:02 (22nd of 172)

A sister course to Riddlesdown, and quite similar in the sense that both are cross-country type courses rather than typical Parkruns. I drove and parked on the street near the start of the course, which is on a large area of downs near Croydon. The course is run entirely on grass, with two large anti-clockwise laps with some short but serious inclines, including one up a dirt track in some woods. Luckily the final stretch on each lap is run on grass downhill, allowing you to pick up a bit of speed for the final sprint. There are no toilet facilities, and limited tree cover so go before you go.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

South Norwood

Date: 8th July 2017 (inaugural event)

Result: 22:51 (29th of 180)

I got the train to Eden Park Train Station and walked 10 minutes. This was the inaugural event, and it was a little unclear where the start and finish were at first. The start is near a playground and visitor centre, and the finish is on a side path cutting through the middle of the park. The run is two and a bit laps run on gravel trails around the park’s perimeter with one very steep hill to climb near the end of each full lap. It definitely doesn’t feel like one for PBs. There are no obvious toilet facilities, and no-one seemed sure where the café was for post-run drinks – the website says Croydon Arena, but we couldn’t find anywhere serving tea and drifted off to a local café.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

Southwark

Date: 13th August 2016

Result: 22:32 (53rd of 208)

Southwark Park China Hall Gate is right next to Surrey Quays TFL. The run is three laps on tarmac around the south part of Southwark Park. It’s very picturesque, not too twisty-turny, and with no significant undulations so a potential PB course. There’s a café in the park.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Tooting Common

Date: 25th February 2017

Result: 22:26 (80th of 467)

The nearest TFL is Tooting Bec, which is about a 15-minute walk from the start. The run begins on a wide open grass area at the north end of the park, and is a flat, triangular course (with short top and tail), run for three laps on a mix of tarmac, dirt paths, pavement and grass. The bottom of the triangle is run by Tooting Bec Road, but not worryingly close to traffic. There are café and toilet facilities in the park.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Valentines

Date: 30th September 2017

Result: 21:45 (11th of 209)

The nearest TFL is Gants Hill, which is a 15-20 minute walk to the start. The park is very beautiful, and full of geese and other birds. The start of the run and the briefing is near to a bandstand and café (with toilets) in the middle of the park, and begins with a sprint along a broad tarmac straight. There are then two anti-clockwise laps on tarmac paths around a boating lake, over a bridge, through an avenue of trees, past tennis courts, finishing on the second lap with another sprint along the straight to finish. Apart from a couple of sharp turns, it’s a pretty straightforward course, with some slight undulation, but nothing too vexing.

Difficulty rating: 1

 

Walthamstow

Date: 14th October 2017

Result: 21:40 (14th of 124)

The nearest station is Higham’s Park TFL, and it’s a good 15-20 minute walk to the Peter May Sports Centre where the run starts and finishes. It’s quite hard to find the route in – you have to walk all the way down Winchester Road to the North Circular, then turn right, and look for the signs to the sports centre. There are toilet facilities in the centre itself, and the Parkrun is actually run around the sports fields. It’s three anti-clockwise laps on grass (with one small stretch you can do if you like on pavement by the tennis courts), with some deceptive inclines, and a very awkwardly placed bollard about three quarters of the way round that nearly took me out on the first lap.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Wanstead Flats

Date: 13th May 2017

Result: 22:54 (51st of 220)

I went to Leytonstone TFL and walked the 10-15 minutes to the start, which is next to a pavilion (with toilets). The course is two laps on fairly level grass and trails, including a stretch through a wooded area. It’s varied and interesting, although I imagine can be a lot tougher in bad weather. The organisers are very welcoming and there was an urn of hot water in the pavilion with tea, coffee and biscuits available.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Wimbledon

Date: 15th April 2017

Result: 22:58 (87th of 428)

Be warned, like a lot of south-west London courses this is nowhere near any train stations. I went to Wimbledon Station and started to walk – then ended up having to run the last 1.5km to the briefing (which is by an impressive windmill) because the walk is a good 30-40 minutes. The course itself begins a few minutes walk from the windmill, and is two laps run on track and trail, with lots of tree branches and the normal challenges of off-road running, although is generally reasonably flat. It’s very pretty, although disappointingly there are no wombles to be seen. There is, however, a very nice café with toilets, which is the hallmark of a good Parkrun.

Difficulty rating: 2

 

Wormwood Scrubs

Date: 11th March 2017

Result: 24:00 (18th of 81)

Run in the shadow of the infamous prison, the nearest station is East Acton TFL. The very friendly volunteers and runners congregate near the end (and bag drop) to the north of Linford Christie Stadium car park, and then walk to the start that is beneath the prison walls. On the day I took part, I spent a good 10 minutes wandering round increasingly panicked because I couldn’t find anyone. Luckily the website now reflects this. That day, the course was exceptionally (shoe-suckingly) muddy: it’s two laps around the scrubs, run entirely on grass with some rugged undulations. I ended up caked in mud, slipping and sliding across the finish line. Luckily, there is a sports club serving tea and homemade flapjacks near the finish funnel and I was soon warmed up. It’s a fun course but probably not one for PBs.

Difficulty rating: 3

 

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