I have recently had a change of rota at work, with my nightshifts being replaced with 11am-11pm shifts. This has the very exciting side effect of enabling me to do an extra parkrun every month, so long as it is within 30 minutes travel of work. There are three parkruns that fulfil this criteria, and I started off this week with the closest: Burgess parkrun.
Burgess Park is a really odd park on the Southwark/Walworth/Elephant borders. While most of London suffers from green spaces being taken over by housing, Burgess Park was created by knocking down a bunch of houses and industrial buildings. This process has been going on since the 1940s and is still not complete, leading to a park littered with random street furniture, bridges that lead nowhere and intersecting roads. (The wikipedia page is quite interesting reading).
I was slightly horrified to find that the toilets by the start (in the cafe attached to the tennis centre) were locked on my arrival. They were opened at 9am on the dot and a gaggle of full-bladdered parkrunners deluged upon them. Fortunately (perhaps as a direct consequence) the run didn’t get going until 9:05 so I didn’t miss the start and even caught the end of the run briefing (which I was relieved made no mention of either loose cows or savage locals).
Burgess is one of the fastest parkrun routes in London – almost completely flat, and perfect tarmac. However, I picked a bad day to come as it is not the leafiest of parks, and my Garmin was already clocking 30c at 9am! Thus it was not quite the break I was hoping for after my two weeks of really hard hilly trail runs – running into the blazing sun was just a different kind of difficult. It is one of those rare and wonderful one lap parkruns, but you do meet people coming back the other way on a couple of occasions so suitable for those of you who like to see your fellow parkrunners too.
The first kilometre or so is all in a straight line, down a path that apparently used to be a canal. You pass under a completely pointless bridge, a random “Thomas the Tank Engine” and under a busy road (the underpass is the only thing on the course that vaguely resembles a hill). You then take a turn off towards the lake, which is where I started to encounter faster runners coming back the other way, but this was short lived as soon there was a turn off round the lake. The lake is definitely the best feature of Burgess Park, it has a lot of wild flowers and a fountain and from one side you can see the Shard and some proper Elephant and Castle concrete monstrosity housing blocks, which I thought sums the area up well. I also noticed there was another toilet block on the south side of the lake – perhaps these are open before 9am?
At the far side of the lake there is a small gently undulating section (I don’t mean this euphemistically, it really is gentle) which I thought provided a nice relief from the unrelentingly pancakeflatness of the rest of the park. This was also the only place there was any shade.
The rest of the run was back the way you came with a small added dogleg on the main path. I finished in a very hot and sweaty 40:19 and to tell the truth I am getting a bit fed up with these rubbish times and am hoping that I will be miraculously five minutes faster as soon as normal weather resumes. Geofftech’s parkrun page proclaims this is the fastest parkrun in London, but personally I think Dulwich and maybe even Barking would be faster, because Burgess has a few sharp turns, a couple of scrambles over uneven terrain and the last 50 metres or so on grass – it is still a very fast looking course though. Not that this is particularly relevant if you’re a slow, out of form, runner on a hot day, but maybe next time.