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A visit to Peckham Rye parkrun is 'lovely jubbly'

PUBLISHED: 08:31 06 February 2020 | UPDATED: 08:45 06 February 2020

Peckham Rye Park, the home of the Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Peckham Rye Park, the home of the Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Peckham Rye parkrun in South London

Rodney Trotter, Del Boy and Uncle Albert, from 'Only Fools and Horses,' wih their Reliant Regal van.  Picture: JERRY TURNERRodney Trotter, Del Boy and Uncle Albert, from 'Only Fools and Horses,' wih their Reliant Regal van. Picture: JERRY TURNER

I was hoping to catch a sight of Del Boy, his younger brother Rodney, or perhaps even Denzil, Boycie or Trigger, when I arrived in Peckham, South-East London, to take part in last Saturday morning's Peckham Rye parkrun.

But there were was no sign of the Trotter brothers, or any of their pals from the Nags Head pub, and not even a glimpse of that famous three-wheeler, the Reliant Regal van.

Of course 'Only Fools and Horses,' the hit 1980s TV sitcom, was not actually filmed in Peckham, even though it was set there, in a council flat within a high-rise tower block, Nelson Mandela House, and around the local market stalls and the nearby Nags Head.

I guess running a parkrun, or any distance of up to 5K, would have been low on the list of Del Boy's priorities, but it would have been nice to have been the butt of one of the cheeky market trader's jokes, caught a whiff of one of his cigars, or heard how 'this time next year, we'll be millionaires!'

The most alert participant on the start-line at last Saturday's Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: PECKHAM RYE PARKRUN FACEBOOKThe most alert participant on the start-line at last Saturday's Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: PECKHAM RYE PARKRUN FACEBOOK

And because, deep down, lovable Del Boy had a heart-of-gold, I'd like to think that he would have ended up being a regular at the Peckham Rye parkrun, if it had been around during the 1980s and 1990s, with perhaps younger brother Rodney waiting at the finish-line with a welcome cocktail drink, and with Del Boy's iconic sheepskin coat draped under his arm.

Alas, the concept of parkrun was not born until 2004, with the emergence of the ground-breaking Bushy Park event, and the Peckham Rye parkrun, 16 miles to the east, did not join the fray until the summer of 2014.

But in the words of Del Boy, it's a 'lovely jubbly' event, a very 'cushty' parkrun.

Runners and walkers assemble for the start of last Saturday's Peckham Rye parkrun, in South-East London. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners and walkers assemble for the start of last Saturday's Peckham Rye parkrun, in South-East London. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Peckham Rye event

parkruns are in plentiful supply in this corner of South-East London, as indeed they are all over the Capital. In fact, there are 10 parkruns all within a four-mile radius of Peckham Rye - which is actually Cockney rhyming slang for a tie (necktie) - three of which I had already visited at Burgess (Camberwell), Southwark and Hilly Fields (Lewisham).

Peckham Rye used to be a village known as a stopping point for cattle drovers taking their livestock for sale in London. The rough route was renowned for Highwaymen preying on stagecoaches, travelling between Peckham and London.

Later came the housing developments, and then the high-rise flats of the 1960s, followed by the economic downturn of the 1970s, when the area was one of the most deprived in the country.

The pond in Peckham Rye Park which runners skirt during the weekly parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe pond in Peckham Rye Park which runners skirt during the weekly parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

These days, gentrification has crept into South Peckham - though not everyone is a Del Boy 'millionaire' quite yet.

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A field of 200 assembled for the inaugural Peckham Rye parkrun, on June 21, 2014, though numbers were only in double figures for the first few months, with as few as 30 taking part in Event No. 29.

Now, though, records are being broken on a regular basis, like most of the current total of 703 parkruns in the UK.

Runners approach the finish to last Saturday's 305th Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners approach the finish to last Saturday's 305th Peckham Rye parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

A record 558 congregated for the 300th event, which was held on New Year's Day, 2020, and that was eclipsed by the 563 who had turned up three weeks before my arrival, on January 11.

I was one of 440 taking part last weekend. It was cold and dry, but warm enough to wear shorts - though I had left mine on the bedroom floor, and so kept my tracksuit bottoms on!

Carl's experience

'Only Fools and Horses' characters Uncle Albert, Del Boy and Rodney. The TV sitcom was set in Peckham, but not filmed there. Picture: PA'Only Fools and Horses' characters Uncle Albert, Del Boy and Rodney. The TV sitcom was set in Peckham, but not filmed there. Picture: PA

Three laps of Peckham Rye Park, sticking to tarmac paths, the official website declares the route to be 'mainly flat and therefore a potential PB course.'

Well, I beg to differ.

There are a few twists and turns, alongside the pond and around the bowling green, a couple of small bridges to negotiate, and a few slight inclines that can drag, especially if you are not feeling at your best.

But there's no slippery grass or sticky mud to contend with, so I suppose there are possibilities of a 5K personal best.

For me, not only did I leave my trusty pair of blue shorts back in Suffolk, but I also accidentally wore trainers that weren't a pair, so I concede that my pre-run build-up was somewhat lacking.

It was certainly not 'cushty.'

The organisers had a good morning, especially as they trailed a new system of collating all their 'position tokens,' by hanging them off hooks on a piece of wood. Ingenious.

I, however, was 30 seconds slower than St Albans the previous week - when I had remembered to wear my shorts.

Lovely jubbly!

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