A few weeks ago the With Me Now parkrun podcast ran a poll on social media asking parkrun tourists how they chose their venues for their parkrun tourism; whether they chose them for “community feeling” or “aesthetics and beauty”. I voted for “aesthetics and beauty”, thinking that I get all the community feels I need at my home parkrun of Walthamstow, which is so friendly and through which I have made many great friends.
But to be honest, until now my parkrun tourism has, in fact, been determined by sheer practicality rather than any aesthetic principals. When I’m at home on a weekend, and not working a weekend shift, I go to my home parkrun, Walthamstow. And when I’m away, I just look for the nearest parkrun to wherever I’m staying, e.g. I went to Lincoln parkrun when staying in Lincoln for the weekend. When I’m at home, to go to any other ‘local’ parkrun would seem like cheating on a partner or being disloyal to my home parkrun! The local parkruns I have done have been through necessity when my home parkrun has been cancelled, or on special extra parkrun days like Christmas Day or New Year’s Day when Walthamstow was not on, or occasionally when my running club has a flash mob event at another parkrun. Yet for a while I have been aware of the NENDY (nearest event not done yet) parkrun listed on the Running Challenges Google Chrome extension, sitting there taunting me: “You haven’t done this one yet – it’s only a couple of miles down the road!” My NENDY, until Saturday, was Pymmes parkrun, a mere 15 minutes drive along the North Circular Road.
Pymmes parkrun is named after Pymmes park in which it is based, in Edmonton. Now I hope those residents of Edmonton will forgive me but I don’t think of Edmonton as being particularly aesthetic or beautiful. But the park sounded interesting on Wikipedia: “The area known as Pymmes Park dates back to 1327 when William Pymme built Pymmes House there. Prior to 1578 the estate changed hands several times until Thomas Wilson a statesman bought the estate in 1579. In 1582 William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, Lord High Treasurer, purchased the estate which remained in the family until 1801. The Ray family owned the estate from 1808 to 1899. The estate was then purchased by the local council to provide public open space following an increase in the local population. The park was opened to the public in 1906. The park contains a Victorian walled garden, bounded on three sides by Grade II listed walls, containing an ornamental pond, herbaceous borders and bedding plants.”
On Saturday (16 February) I was feeling miserable; I hadn’t managed to get out and run for a month for a number of reasons, and felt that I had really lost my running mojo. I wasn’t sure whether I could still run 5k but badly needed my parkrun fix to lift my mood. However, I just didn’t feel up to tackling Walthamstow which is all on grass (or mud when it’s been raining!) and which has a hill (slight incline!) and thought that to get back into running I should try to do a parkrun which was all on tarmac and flat. I also didn’t want my parkrun friends to see me struggling to run/walk as I was so out of shape. Of course, they wouldn’t have minded a bit, and would have been encouraging and lovely as they always are, but it was a little bit of my pride getting the better of me – I didn’t want them to see me struggling. I had to stay local as I was working in the afternoon, so decided last minute to go and tackle my NENDY – Pymmes parkrun.
The park is very conveniently close to the North Circular Road; in fact I must have driven past it thousands of times with no idea that it was there. Although the course website didn’t mention parking a quick search on Google maps showed that there was parking in the streets surrounding the park. And the website mentioned that there were toilets near the start, so all good. I arrived at the park in plenty of time, only to be face with my first hurdle – the streets surrounding the park had parking bays with signs that said “Permit holders only” and underneath that “On event days Noon – 9pm”. Now I didn’t know if this meant that it was normally permit holders only except on ‘event’ days when it was noon-9pm, or whether it was ok to park except on event days noon-9pm! I suppose if I had given it some thought I would have realised that “event days” referred to the nearby Spurs stadium and it was actually fine to park there when there wasn’t a game on. But to be on the safe side I moved my car outside the CPZ and walked into the park.
First impressions were that the park needed a little bit of TLC. The “Pymmes Park” sign was graffiti’d over, and the park from the start area looked like a bare playing field/football pitch with little of interest. Not a parkrun that would be chosen for aesthetics and beauty, I thought. I quite like a bit of urban grittiness, so I wasn’t put off and walked to where I could see people were gathering, next to a toilet block. Now for some reason, I find that I always need to go to the loo before running – possibly nerves? – so a parkrun with facilities near the start is a bonus in my book. I walked to the Ladies only to find an iron gate blocking the entrance. On asking if the toilets when the toilets were going to be opened, I found out that they are now permanently closed due to vandalism that happened a few weeks previously.
By this time a number of parkrunners had gathered, and I found myself chatting to a couple of tourists, one from Wolverhampton (Mary Solomon) whose daughter lived nearby, and one from Wormwood Scrubs (the parkrun, not the prison!). All the Ws. I always find chatting to complete strangers very easy at parkrun – we all have something in common and something to talk about and break the ice, as we talk about our home parkruns and other parkruns we have done and enjoyed. I wondered when they were going to hold the ‘first timers’ briefing, but Mary told me that she had spoken to the RD and apparently they don’t hold them at Pymmes. They also didn’t seem to have marshals or signage on the route, but perhaps both are explained by the fact that the route is VERY straightforward – three laps around the park keeping the fence on your right. This does also mean that the number of volunteers needed is a lot smaller than other parkruns – small but perfectly formed!
The route started off running around the football pitch/playing fields, but about half way around the first of the three laps the scenery started to change. First there was a ‘wetlands’ area, then the walled garden area mentioned in the Wikipedia entry and finally a lake with ducks and moorhens. It was a lot more scenic and beautiful than I had imagined, and with lots of things to look at and keep the interest up. The volunteers were gathered around the start/finish area, cheering everyone on and I made sure I thanked them as I ran past. And surprisingly, despite having not run for a month, I was able to keep running all the way round – perhaps because it was pancake flat apart from a tiny bit of uphill, but that was only about 6 paces long. As I went to get scanned the lovely lady scanning barcodes remarked on how polite I was as I had thanked the volunteers on each lap despite being out of breath!
Having finished in a pretty slow time, I’m afraid I was desperate for the loo and couldn’t contemplate waiting around to see if there was a designated café that people went to, so I just pegged it to my car hoping to make it home quickly. But my impression of Pymmes parkrun is favourable; it has all the community feels, everyone was very friendly, and it even had some pretty scenic spots too! Nice to see some children volunteering too on barcode scanning, and making a fine job of it! Thank you to the Run Director and the volunteers – it was a lovely run and perfect to get me back into running again.
My NENDY has now moved to Finsbury Park, which I understand has some dreaded uphill sections in it, so it may be quite some time before I tackle that one!