There are four parkruns that I can do on a workday without being late: Mile End, Victoria Dock, Barking and Beckton. I have already done the first three, so finally it was time to tick off Beckton, and so I boarded the Docklands Light Snailway (ha ha ha) on one of the most horrible grey, damp mornings ever to the uninspiring Royal Albert station which is sandwiched between some shipping containers and a dual carriageway.
Beckton is one of the smallest parkruns in London, and in this horrible weather it attracted a whole 51 people, 48 of whom seemed to be regulars. It took me a while to spot where everyone was meeting: I knew I was in the right place because I could spot a telltale trail of cones and the bones of a finish funnel, but no people. I eventually found them nestling in an alcove of an otherwise shut pavilion. The tardis-like alcove contains toilets, refreshments and all the parkrun gear, and also somewhere for weatherphobic parkrunners to get a bit of shelter. I talked to another tourist, who mistook Samuel for a squirrel. This now makes the list of things Samuel has been mistaken for as follows: a camel, a crumpet, a duck, a squirrel.
The route is quite simple. It starts on the tarmac near the pavilion then heads round the very edge of a big open playing field. If you keep the hedge on your right at all times you can’t really go wrong. This bit is all on grass and goes on for about a kilometre. I did not care for it much; the grass was quite wet and slippy (although thankfully not muddy) and I found it a bit draining. Eventually, the route finds some tarmac and heads into the tree-lined Beckton Corridor for a short out-and-back section, which I liked better. There was absolutely nothing even resembling a hill on this course, the closest I can get is a bit where the tarmac had buckled, or a slight ramp leading on to the corridor. The grass field was even worse the second time round, as the runners had thinned out so much that at times I couldn’t even see another runner. I am turning into Goldilocks: last week I complained that there were too many runners, this week I complained that there weren’t enough. At times it just felt like I was out for a run on my own (in the rain, in a field in the arse end of East London, without having a clue whether I was going) and I also felt that I was so far behind the pack that I would see a sweeper car come along and spray me with detergent at any second.
The second lap is a shorter version of the first, this time you run through the centre of the park and diagonally across the grass (more grass). I finished in 36:36 and felt the need to apologise to everyone for being slow and explain that “I am not a grass person”. I am sure no one cared in the slightest.
On the whole I liked Beckton’s community feel and everyone was very friendly, but the grass part of the course wasn’t really for me and it will probably be Mile End or Barking for pre-work parkruns from now on, unless I start knocking ten minutes off my times in which case I might be able to branch out to Southwark or Hilly Fields.