Sunday 5 November 2017

Finsbury parkrun

Finsbury Park is an area within the London Borough of Haringey, which has a culturally diverse population of around 14,500 people. Not to be confused with Finsbury, which is a few miles down the road, the central part of the area consists of the large bus, rail and tube interchange, also called Finsbury Park which makes travelling to this parkrun very simple.

A couple of minutes walk from the station is one of London's magnificent Victorian parks - Finsbury Park. I first visited this venue back in November 2012 and remember it looking splendid as its autumn colours were coming through, so when I went back in 2017, I was pleased that it was the exact same time of year.

finsbury park

It occupies land that was once part of the Manor of Brownswood, and Hornsey Wood, which was gradually cut back to be used as grazing land. The area was frequented by Londoners looking to escape the smoke in the city, and by the mid-19th century public demand lead to it formally becoming a park. Designed by Frederick Manable, the park, which is now Grade II Listed, was formally opened in 1869 and covers an area of 110, gently undulating acres.

Over the years, the park has hosted many musical performances including Jimi Hendrix, Morrissey, Madness, Bob Dylan, Sex Pistols, Pulp, Oasis, Rage Against the Machine, and The Stone Roses. Sadly, like many other public parks, a lack of funding during the late 20th century lead to it falling into a state of disrepair. However, in 2003, £3.4 million Heritage Lottery Fund money was awarded for the restoration and improvement of the park.

briefing / start area

On 31 October 2009, Finsbury parkrun brought the total number of world-wide parkrun events to twenty-three (it is the 23rd oldest event still active according to the parkrun wiki). Back in those days the number of participants was much lower and it wasn't until January 2011 that an event was attended by over 100 people. Growth over the years has been slow and steady, and it is now attended by over 300 people every week.

The meeting point for the parkrun is at the Finsbury Park Cafe which is on the western side of the park just next to the lake where boats are available for hire. There are also a couple of playgrounds here and cyclists can use the bike racks or one of the fences to secure their bikes. The cafe building also contains the toilets - a sign on the wall states that they open at 9am, but they have been open earlier than that on both of the occasions I have visited.

the wide perimeter road

After a new-runners briefing outside the cafe, the whole show moves to the closed road that runs around the perimeter of the park for the main briefing. The road is very wide and has ample space for hundreds of participants. While the road is mostly closed to vehicles, it does give cyclists a bit of relief from the adjacent busy roads, so keep your eyes out for them at the start and around the course. The course is just under two laps, all on tarmac and it undulates.

The zebra crossing on the road is used as a start line and at 9am-ish everyone heads off for their weekly 5k around the park. The opening section is slightly downhill and meanders past the tennis court facilities before reaching the southern tip of the park. The course continues to follow the main road with a tight left-hand turn which leads into a long, but gentle incline all the way to the most easterly point of the course.

perimeter path cont..

It levels out for a bit before heading back downhill. Just as the course reaches its northern tip, the natural running line transfers from the road onto the pavement. Watch out here because the camber is quiet severe and it would be easy to trip - the best point aim for to avoid the camber/kerb is where the pavement is lowered for a zebra crossing.

To the runner's right hand side flows the New River which is a man made waterway, opened in 1613 to supply London with fresh drinking water from Hertfordshire. On the other side of the river are softball and baseball fields which are home to the London Mets Baseball Team.

inner park

The latter stages of the lap see the course heading into the park before returning to the perimeter road a couple of times - first of all there is a path with fairly steep incline to negotiate, this is followed by the second, flatter one which goes deeper into the centre of the park by following the northern border of the lake as it passes the Finsbury Park Athletics stadium, which is also home of London Blitz American Football Club.

First time around, the course leads all the way back to the start, but second time around the finish is found on the grass just to the side of the path. After the run, barcodes are scanned next to the finish line and the cafe is open for refreshments.

finish area / me with bill sutherland (commonwealth games 1970, 20 mile walk bronze medalist)

I didn't stay for a drink because I had to rush off to work, so headed straight off around the course in reverse for a cool down where I bumped into the 1970 Commonwealth Games, 20 Mile Race Walk bronze medalist Bill Sutherland, before heading back across the road to take the tube back to Westminster (totally dripping wet from the heavy rain). The results were processed shortly after and 360 people took part in event 396. It was a course PB for me so that was a nice bonus.

I recorded the course data on my Garmin and it can be viewed on Strava, here: Finsbury parkrun #396 GPS data. I also used that data to create a course fly-by with the Relive app, and that can be viewed here: Finsbury parkrun course fly-by video.

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