Sunday, 24 November 2013

Beckton parkrun

Beckton District Park is split into north and south sections by a road. The northern section contains a lake with an island, children's playground, basketball court, and areas of natural woodland. Crossing the road and into the north-west corner of Beckton District Park South you will find a 'hilly area managed for nature conservation with wildflower meadow and woods' (thanks, wikipedia).

welcome to beckton district park south

Moving to the south-east corner of Beckton District Park South we find the sports pitches, another children's playground and a small pond. This is the part of the park that has become home to Beckton parkrun. The two parts of the southern section of the park are divided by a car park (free parking for up to 3 hours) and the Will Thorne Pavilion. For cyclists, I'm sorry to report that I didn't see any bike racks, but there is a fence around the playground that would provide a secure position for your bike. The parkrunners meet outside the pavilion and the start of the run is just a few metres away. I couldn't find any toilets, but I have since been made aware (see comments section) that they are in the pavilion and are opened when the run director arrives on the morning.

off to recce the course together

Mainline trains do not pass within a reasonable walking distance to the venue so would only be able to form part of a journey here with the Docklands Light Railway most likely picking up the rest of the journey. The DLR has numerous stations within walking distance of the park with 'Royal Albert' being the closest to the start/finish area. There is also a bus stop right next to the start/finish which is served by the 300 and 376 buses. The park is also within walking distance of London City Airport and every now and then the roar of a plane taking off momentarily demands your attention - I wonder if anyone has ever flown in to run the course.

... and they're off

This is quite a small, close-knit community of runners. The number of runners attending each week usually falls within the 20-40 range and you get the feeling that everyone knows each other here - unlike some of the larger venues where you could attend every week and easily remain quite anonymous. The pre-run briefing was quite a relaxed affair (more of a community discussion, which was nice) but all of the main points were covered. As I was a first-timer, the run director gave me a more detailed overview before we set off.

you pass through here

The course is flat and consists of two slightly different anti-clockwise laps on a mixture of grass and tarmac around the south-east section of the park with each lap having an out and back section along the Beckton Corridor - This is a public foot and cycle path that used to be part of a railway line which served Beckton Gas Works via Beckton Railway Station. The name Beckton was given to the plant and the surrounding area in honour of the company's (Gas Light and Coke Company - GLCC) governor/chairman Simon Adams Beck.

just one of the paths

So. Starting at the pavilion, runners head south on the path adjacent to the road, they cross the Beckton corridor and head onto the grass and past the football pitches to run around the southern perimeter of the park hugging the tree-line. There is a section that passes through some trees, the route then continues along the southern border (but not always still hugging the tree line - see the course map to see what I mean) until it reaches the tarmac path.

the 'out and back' section along the beckton corridor

Upon leaving the grass, runners turn left and follow the meandering tarmac path until it reaches the Beckton Corridor - It is at this point that runners start the out-and-back section which uses a lamp post at the first intersection as the marker for the 180 degree turning point. I was glad to see there was a marshal here because it would be very easy to simply run straight past.

coming back past the pavilion and playground on lap 1

As the 'back' section returns to the park it is a case of turning right and crossing a bridge (it was a bit slippery on the day I visited, but this was highlighted in the briefing and a marshal was on hand to remind us) across the pond before following the path around the northern perimeter which leads towards the pavilion. The runners then follow the left hand path where it splits at the playground, a few metres later the first lap is complete.

the avenue through the park (part of the beckton corridor)

Lap 2 is the same until runners come back from their out-and-back section. This time, instead of turning right at the pond, they head straight on through the centre of the park along the avenue of trees that line the corridor. Once runners reach the main road there is a hard right hand turn onto the grass (take care here - I almost slipped on the mud) and runners now have a straight run towards the finish funnel - bear in mind, the straight line to the finish does not follow the trodden path across the grass!

approaching the finish line

Due to part of the run being on grass I was unsure whether there would be any muddy sections, so I decided to wear my trail shoes to be on the safe side (I didn't want my road shoes soaking up too much water or getting muddy). As it happens I made the right choice as the grass sections were very soft with muddy and slippery sections every now and then. In the summer, road shoes would be fine. I'd also point out that the tarmac isn't always smooth - there are some very uneven surfaces with bumps and ridges, so take care! And for the record, the course is fine for buggy runners.

the finish line on a cold november morning

My run was a strange one. I knew that with it being a small event that I was likely to be near the front, but was nervous about the prospect of leading the field on an unfamiliar course (especially on the grass section which is less easy to follow than a tarmac path). So I stayed behind the initial pack leader (a regular at this venue, I believe) until I was sure that I wouldn't run the wrong way. As I took over at the front, I just hoped that I was running the right way. As it happens, the direction signs and marshals were all wonderfully placed and I didn't get lost. However I never really got into the swing of things and my overall pace was a bit slower than I had hoped to run.

my finishing token

Post-run we decided to head across the road and have a look around Newham City Farm - it opens at 10am, entry is free and we had a really nice time meeting all of the animals and playing in the playground.
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