Today was a special milestone in my parkrunning career: my 20th different venue. Doing 20 different venues makes you appear on the Most Events page which in turn entitles you to join the UK parkrun tourists Facebook group where you get the top secret link to purchase a black, white and yellow cow print cowl which you can then proudly sport at parkruns to let other parkrunners know that you get about a bit.
I decided to celebrate this occasion by going to one of London’s newest parkruns, Victoria Dock. It’s a bit different from the usual parkrun because it’s not in a park or anything that even vaguely resembles a park. As the name suggests, it’s run around a dock and the route is a out-and-back, out-another-way-and-back horseshoe shape around the dock (and it’s pretty impossible to get lost). This is quite nice as you get to see fellow runners coming back the other way and give each other the thumbs up. There are loads of things going on that you don’t see at your average parkrun: the cable car over the river (you could even use this as your mode of arrival), low flying planes coming in to land at London City Airport, some big shiny buildings including the famous Excel Exhibition Centre, an open water swimming centre and some very confused looking geese. Also, for the next couple of months only, there is a fake beach in situ, which means the runners congregate on deckchairs before and after the run and there are proper loos instead of the one cubicle in the hut which the team use for storage.
Like Hampstead Heath, this run has also attracted some complaints from local residents, though slightly more justified in this case as the noise apparently wakes them. Therefore the residential area on the south side of the dock is now a designated quiet zone, and the marshal there doesn’t cheer but instead holds up a sign saying “Well done!”
I would highly recommend this parkrun to people on holiday in London who want to see landmarks because there’s a spectacular view of Canary Wharf and the O2 when you are running back towards the start. I meant to get a photo but didn’t for reasons I’ll come to shortly. I would also recommend it to people who love their parkruns to be flat, because there is nothing in this parkrun that could even be described as a slope, a tilt, or an incline. You could rest a spirit level on it. Unfortunately, for people who care about terrain more than hills, it’s not so great and I definitely don’t agree with the recent assessment of this as “the fastest parkrun in London” that recently appeared on Facebook. The first out-and-back is not too bad, paving stones with the odd ridge here and there, but the second half is cobbles. The cobbles slowed me down at first, but I tried to plunge onwards, conscious of the fact that I was on for a fairly decent time. I made the fatal mistake of paying more attention to my speed than where I was putting my feet and WHAM suddenly I had stacked it over a cobble stone and was on the floor flat on my face with aeroplanes and cables cars sailing over my head. I violated the “quiet zone” by saying a bad word loudly and a couple of local residents came along and helped me to my feet. Somehow I’d managed to land on my shoulder so I can only assume I did some kind of comedy somersault through the air like I’d been shot out of a catapult. I felt very winded and it took me a while to get to my feet but I managed it and after walking a few metres I was even able to run the last kilometre very slowly.
I finished in 88th position which was third from last in a time of 40:29. I think the fall probably cost me about two minutes (one lying on the floor flapping around like a fish and another limping slowly towards the finish instead of bounding like a gazelle) but looking at the results even if I’d not fallen I would STILL have been third from last. This does not seem to be a parkrun that is popular with slower runners or walkers.
I was very glad that I managed to finish and earn my coveted cow cowl but I don’t think I will be running this one again (though it would be a nice place to volunteer) – the scenery and people were great but the cobbles were awful and I missed hills and I will forever remember it as the place where I went arse over tit.