I said I’d never run Victoria Dock parkrun again. I still have a scar on my left shoulder from my last visit there, when I stacked it on the cobblestones and spent a minute flailing on the floor before limping in second from last. I am always quite sardonic when someone opines that Victoria Dock is the fastest parkrun in the UK: “Well, it wasn’t for me! In fact I was faster at the well known hilly muddy bastard parkrun that is Wendover Woods!” Even without the accident (which happened in the last kilometre) I would still have been several minutes off my PB, and I’ve always thought smoothness of tarmac and absence of trip hazards is more of a defining factor for a fast course than pancakeflatness.
Anyway, despite this assertion I found myself lining up on the dockside this Saturday morning, partly because it was Rob’s 100th parkrun and he wanted to go there to meet with some friends from the Midlands (Dee and Janice), and partly because engineering works meant that I would have had to get up at a ridiculous hour to get to my preferred option of Mile End. It also just happened to be Victoria Dock’s 50th run, which meant various antics with chocolate medals, vegan flapjacks and aerial photographs from the cable car.
I bumped into my friend Sam at the start and he asked if I was going for another PB today.
“Most definitely not!” I replied. “I am just concentrating on staying on my feet!”
For the next five kilometres I stayed true to my word and ran staring at the ground in front of me and watching exactly where I put my feet, taking the long way round in parts to avoid the worst of the trip hazards. The GPS on my watch decided to go haywire around the Excel Centre so I really hadn’t got a clue how fast I was going but I figured that so long as I remained upright I was guaranteed a course PB anyway – I might even be faster than Wendover Woods this time.
The cobbled section on the south side of the dock was even worse than I remembered it and I tiptoed over it gingerly, being sure to give my feet a good bit of ground clearance. It was a great relief when it was over and I was sprinting over the finish. I looked at my watch…
I hadn’t just beaten my course best (and my time at Wendover Woods). I had beaten it by six minutes and one second and I actually had an overall PB of 34:28. I did not know whether to be pleased at my achievement or annoyed that I would have to swallow my words and concede that perhaps Victoria Dock is the fastest parkrun in the world after all. I reckon I need a trip to Dulwich to restore order…