Feeling about 75% recovered from my cough and cold today, so made a triumphant (ish) return to parkrun. I decided head to Grovelands, a parkrun that I wanted to visit because a) it’s not far from home b) it has hills. The hill probably wasn’t the best idea in my weakened state but I was also too weak to think of a better idea!
Grovelands Park is located in Southgate, an area of North London with no distinguishing features or points of interest whatsoever except the fact that Amy Winehouse used to live here. In fact, when I googled “Wiki Southgate” for inspiration for this post, Google thought I meant the footballer Gareth Southgate. Perhaps for this reason, Grovelands is another very small parkrun, despite being situated in a pretty little park with all the essentials and a tube station a few minutes walk away. Today there were 160 runners.
The route is not all that disimilar to my beloved Finsbury Park (but is 2.75 laps, compared with Finsbury’s 1.75): it starts on a steady downhill, then turns uphill. The hill is twice as long but half as steep as Finsbury’s infamous hill. The corresponding Strava segment is called “Grovelands parkrun never ending incline” and I think it is very aptly named. It is half a kilometre long and 6% at its steepest. The first time round I ran the whole thing. The second and third time I felt that I had already proved that I could run it and therefore did not need to do so again. Walking it added about fifty seconds to my time on each occasion, but who cares, it wasn’t like I was going to get a good time today anyway!
The corresponding downhill was a delightful gentle slope down towards the lake. There’s a small dogleg section where you run past some pretty cherry trees. There was also a volunteer at this point, rather like the one at Barking, but this one was shouting out positions rather than times. I would rather hear my time because my finish position depends things I can’t control, mainly how many other people have turned up for parkrun, whereas my time is my personal achievement. Also, on the second lap, he was calling out positions for people about to finish, which had the unintended effect of drawing attention to how many people had lapped me. (Thirty one).
On my last lap I actually started to feel pretty sick, I think it was (sorry for the TMI) an unwelcome combination of snot accumulation and deep breathing whilst power-walking up the hill leading to snot ingestion. I was quite glad to finish and all I could think was “how the fuck am I going to do this eight times over in a week’s time” (but of course the answer is that I am going to do it by taking fifty seconds longer to cover each kilometre, because even taking it easy by walking up the hill I was still way ahead of six hour marathon pace).
The finish was on a turn off up a very steep path and I was quite confused as to why it was there, as opposed to the kinder choice of just veering off on to the grass parallel to the path. When I examined my Strava map it all became clear. Grovelands parkrun is phallicly-shaped, and the sharp path puts a finishing touch by drawing on the – there is no delicate way to put this – bell end.
I hadn’t expected a good time and I didn’t get a good time! 38:39. There were two runners just behind me, finishing at 38:40 and 38:41 so I didn’t feel like I was all on my own, even though I was even nearer the back than usual. I have noticed that at quite a few park runs I seem to accumulate a couple of people just behind me and wonder if I should be seeing this as a compliment – I like to think that maybe I look steady and comfortable and less experienced runners might be sticking with me as a surrogate pacer. It could also be that I have a scary haircut and they don’t want to pass me, of course.
There was a bit of a panic at the end because the run director had said that if we left our belongings on a bench at the start, the volunteers would move them to the finish. However for some reason my bag and coat got left behind! I made a panicked sprint back to the start (probably faster than any of my laps) and saw two confused parkrunners in the distance prodding at my belongings before deciding, thankfully, to put them back where they found them. I was very relieved to find everything intact.
I would definitely like to return to this parkrun on a better day – I’m sure I could knock at least two minutes off that time. I’ll be depositing my coat at the finish myself this time though!