Monday, 23 July 2012

Gunnersbury parkrun (and parkrun raiding)

Been on a few parkrun raids around SW London recently, so have a few more course descriptions to post.

To summarise the difference between parkrun raiding and parkrun touring: as you may imagine, raiding is more belligerent. The aim is to appear as if from nowhere and hand out a ruthlessly unprecedented beating to the locals on their own manor. Should you fail in this (and I've never actually succeeded yet) your back-up is to at least make it to the cafe in time to swipe the last Twix bar. I've never succeeded in this either. If I'd lived in the time of the Vikings, I would have been the one who got seasick and cocked up everyone else's rowing rhythm.

That dismal confession completed, here's my impressions from my trip to Gunnersbury parkrun #39.

Gunnersbury Park is located directly off junction 2 of the M4, presumably making it a great favourite with parkrun tourists (or raiders) from Swindon, Bristol, etc. I thought it looked rather splendid, with high stone walls and aged trees. The drawbacks are some steps in disrepair and a couple of old buildings that look like they should just be given over to the triffids. In particular, if I ever went in the museum, I think I'd have to boil myself afterwards.

I also wasn't a fan of the unisex toilets with the 'smart' (ie. despotic) sinks which dole out a prescribed ration of soap, water and hot air (in roughly that order) when you stick your hands in them. It's only a short step from machines being the arbiters of our personal hygiene to them knocking on our door, asking if we're called Sarah Connor, then lighting us up. I'm just saying.

Nonetheless, Gunnersbury Park is a lovely location and well worth a visit when you're not lurching around in a pair of Asics, trying to keep your breakfast down. Other on-site attractions include miniature golf, a boating lake and hare coursing.

The parkrun, which began last October, is evidently in good health with attendance over 100 in all but one event thus far this year and latterly pushing towards 200. There are good links with the local running club West 4 Harriers who supplied all the marshals on this occasion, as well as a decent number of participants. Another local club in attendance was Ealing Eagles.

The course itself is a single figure-of-eight loop, beginning and ending on grass. Or it could be an ampersand, or perhaps even a slightly squashed cottage loaf. The thing is, you don't actually run it as a figure of eight. Here's how it looks from the air:

The first section, from the green marker to the southern end of the park is all downhill. You then head round the western side of the the park, up to the top, and back down through the start. At this point, you hang a left and head round the eastern side of the park, down to the bottom of the slope and begin the uphill to the finishing line, about halfway along which you have to take a sudden detour round a tree, presumably to ensure you're completed a full 5km.

This is the first course I've run on with kilometre markers chalked on the path, which are pretty handy for recording your splits. They also read out your halfway time, which is a nice touch. Despite some wretched weather, the off-road portions of the course were absolutely fine and the puddles on the pathways weren't too severe (apart from one which I almost mistook for the boating lake). There's a good variety of scenery and decent tree cover generally, apart from along the northern edge of the park and the few bits over open grass.

The course does have PB potential: I scored a healthy new best, although this was probably down to the deathmatch I was having with first lady, who overtook me with about 200 metres to go. I ended up pretty much triple jumping over the line in order to finish ahead of her, whereupon it turned out that she'd been about a minute outside her own personal best. She also had a broad northern accent, which suggested her raiding was going rather better than my own. She then went calmly off to emasculate someone else, while I lay on the floor and sobbed wretchedly.

The cafe (when I'd dried my eyes) wasn't overlarge, but seemed to cope quite well with the influx of parkrunners, seating-wise. As with most parkruns, queues for coffee can grow rapidly, so it's worth hurrying over from the finish if you've got anything left in your legs.

DO: Keep an eye out for the surprise tree on the stretch up to the finish

DON'T: Be handed a ruthless beating by other raiders



Blog post by abradypus
Blog post by fairweatherrunner
Blog post by kirstylirsty

Gunnersbury parkrun home
Gunnersbury route on Mapmyrun

West 4 Harriers
Ealing Eagles