Thames Path, Woolwich parkrun

A state of frenzied anticipation broke out amongst my rather easily excited friends with the announcement of a new parkrun that is local and meets all the suitability requirements (toilets, no grass or other major trip hazards, nearby pub, no fuckwits). The only downside is the fact it has a comma in its name which personally I find stylistically unattractive. (Apparently this is something to do with the fact that there are three or four other parkruns on the Thames Path but none of them are called Thames Path and I can only think of Kingston anyway, unless Fulham Palace counts? Anyway, I digress).

TP,W parkrun has only been around for three weeks yet has already caused a huge amount of drama and consternation amongst the people of Bristol as the course shares a certain design feature with their beloved Somerdale Pavilion parkrun – a “curly wurly” – in other words, a spiral section to the course where dizzy runners go around in circles in a comedy fashion best set to the Benny Hill theme. Proponents of the new parkrun would go as far to say they have improved upon Somerdale Pavilion’s iconic design by making their Curly Wurly three dimensional and tarmac. Somerdale Pavilion would probably retort that this is an unforgivable corruption of the classic and these adulterations make it not a Curly Wurly but a Walnut Whip. (The corresponding Strava segment incidentally, is called “The Pyramid”, which I don’t think will ever catch on, not least because it isn’t actually a pyramid). As I do like to court controversy and am a self appointed expert on everything, I decided to conduct a thorough inspection of the offending element myself, taking along my long suffering friends and my toy snail, Samuel, who has a curly wurly shell of his own and therefore for the extent of this exercise was repurposed as a Wurlometer.

My findings are thus:

The parkrunners meet by the finish line in James Clavell Square, the home of a bunch of statues wearing hi vis (I wonder how long until the novelty of dressing the statues wears off or someone leaves a hi vis there all week?) and then walk what seemed like an awfully long way to the start point, which I imagine could catch latecomers out. I am a stickler for punctuality so this is a good thing in my book. Presumably if they started and finished in the same place there would be no way to accommodate the Curly Wurly/Walnut Whip/Pyramid and this would be a boring post. The run gets off to quite a slow start due to congestion on what would other be a fast, flat, tarmac path, then after about a kilometer or so changes to a pleasant reasonably well maintained trail path similar to the long stretch of Thames Path in West London. Then it takes a right into Gallions Reach Park, along one of those hard packed sandy stuff paths (do these have a proper name?) and a magnificent view of the Curly Wurly. As I reached the path, the fastest runners were already reaching the bottom of the mound. I shall report my findings on said lump shortly. After retracing your steps back down the mound, you run back to the start on a different path which is parallel to the one you took on the way out and mainly comprised of paving stones which have slightly more arse over tit potential than the tarmac but were generally in good repair. From here it’s just a steady plod back to the hi vis clad statues, with a vista of the Thames an a smell reminiscent of a day at the seaside. My time was 38:24. My excuses for not being faster this week are: 1) gave blood on Thursday, head still feeling a bit curly wurly 2) too busy mentally composing blog post to concentrate on pace 3) six-inch patch of grass on first km 4) will probably be doing this one regularly, so best not to get unbeatable PB on first attempt.

Now on to the important bit. Strava informs me that the path up the mound is 0.6km long with an average incline of 3% and total elevation gain of 15m. Also that some man with a 5k PB of 14 minutes has run up and down it 81 times in the last 90 days, what a show off. On this occasion it took me four minutes and twenty-three seconds to get to the top (I managed not to walk but it certainly wasn’t a very emphatic run) and three minutes and thirty-five seconds to get back down. There was a good clear view of Woolwich from the top, I’d have preferred somewhere a bit more scenic but that’s what you get for putting your parkrun in Woolwich I suppose. The path was firm with no trip hazards and zero scope for getting lost. Using Samuel as a Wurlometer, I confirmed it met minimum requirements for spirality, curling, twistness, helixity, coiliness, swirling and circlitude. It was in no way straight, linear, unbending or direct. Based on this information, I was ready to give TP,W parkrun a shining pass on the Wurlometer readings.

But there was one final hurdle to cross (not literally. parkhurdle would be a bad, bad thing). I have not eaten a Curly Wurly or a Walnut Whip for many years due to a being a vegan, but was able to find photographs of both of these delightful confectionaries on the internet and present them for your information:

As you can see, this parkrun course looks nothing like either, it’s actually a giant snail shell. Somerdale Pavilion, meanwhile, is a massive Danish Pastry which has been dropped in some grass and kicked around a bit. Neither of them are a “curly wurly” and god help us if anyone ever does design a parkrun the same shape as an actual curly wurly, it would be absolute chaos with people running into each other left right and centre and drowning in chocolate mud.

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