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Top five parkruns with female names, prompted by a visit to Victoria Dock

PUBLISHED: 10:15 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 10 December 2019

Looking eastwards across the Royal Victoria Dock, near the start-line for the Victoria Dock parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Looking eastwards across the Royal Victoria Dock, near the start-line for the Victoria Dock 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 Victoria Dock parkrun, in East London

Runners and walkers congregate for the start of last Saturday's 81st staging of the Victoria Dock parkrun Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners and walkers congregate for the start of last Saturday's 81st staging of the Victoria Dock parkrun Picture: CARL MARSTON

There aren't many parkruns where you can arrive on the start-line via a 'Gondola,' swinging through the air.

In fact, I think there should be more of them, but at the least the Victoria Dock parkrun, in a rejuvenated area of East London, is trying to set a trend.

I visited the Victoria Dock event, where more 'tourists' than 'locals' seem to be in attendance every week, for obvious reasons - residents are still in short supply, despite the proliferation of new homes, and this section of the River Thames is a cracking place to target for a day-visit.

Last Saturday was the 81st staging, attracting a field of 165, which is about average - the precise average of 140 certainly received a big boost when a record 349 converged on Royal Victoria Dock the day before this year's London Marathon, on April 27.

The gondola cable cars make tjheir way across the start-finish area of the Victoria Dock parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe gondola cable cars make tjheir way across the start-finish area of the Victoria Dock parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

- Stayin' Alive: a parkrun challenge in homage to the Bee Gees

In fact, whenever I run alongside the River Thames, or make the occasional jaunt into the Capital for a parkrun, it always 'jogs' my memory of past London Marathon exploits, particularly the old cobbles (before the days of the carpet) and the post-run celebrations in the 'Sherlock Holmes' pub in Northumberland Street.'

Looking westwards towards Canary Wharf, close to the start of the weekly Victoria Dock parkrun in East London. Picture: CARL MARSTONLooking westwards towards Canary Wharf, close to the start of the weekly Victoria Dock parkrun in East London. Picture: CARL MARSTON

But I digress.

These days, I'm happy enough to tackle a fast, flat 5K every Saturday morning, rather than toil around 26.2 miles.

And the Victoria Dock parkrun is a treat.

The cable cars on the Emirates Air Line nonchalantly trundle along above your heads, on a one-kilometre Gondola line stretch from the Greenwich Peninsula, over the River Thames, to the Royal Victoria Dock and the start of the parkrun.

Runners in action at last Saturday's Victoria Dock parkrun, near the Crystal Gardens, with the 'gondola' cable cars in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners in action at last Saturday's Victoria Dock parkrun, near the Crystal Gardens, with the 'gondola' cable cars in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTON

That's the best way to make your parkrun entrance, although I can also recommend the Docklands Light Railway - the Royal Victoria station is just a two-minute walk along Seagull Lane.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, in recognition of last weekend's visit, I have compiled a top five list of female-themed parkruns.

Or rather, parkruns with a female name in their title.

A wintry scene at the Ellenbrook Fields parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONA wintry scene at the Ellenbrook Fields parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

1 VICTORIA Dock

The largest of the three docks in the Royal Docks, sited on the previously uninhabited Plaistow Marshes, the Royal Victoria Dock was opened in 1855 and welcomed large steam ships during the golden era before the arrival of containerisation.

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The docks were closed to commercial traffic in 1981 - ironically the same year as the inaugural London Marathon - but the big Docklands development of the 1990s has brought wealth and prosperity back to the area.

Action from the Clare Castle parkrun, in Suffolk. Picture: MIKE ELDRED PHOTOGRAPHYAction from the Clare Castle parkrun, in Suffolk. Picture: MIKE ELDRED PHOTOGRAPHY

The parkrun course is one of the quickest in the country, staged entirely on dockland paths and without a hill or even the slightest incline in sight.

Starting from Crystal Gardens, the route takes you along the north side of the docks to the ExCeL Centre, before retracing your steps to tackle an equally swift section on the south side, past a row of cranes, a blast from the commercial past.

You can't get lost. This is personal best territory (though not for me), best celebrated by dangling from a Gondola!

Mind the lampost. Runners congregate for the start of the King's Lynn parkrun, at The Walks in Norfolk. Picture: CARL MARSTONMind the lampost. Runners congregate for the start of the King's Lynn parkrun, at The Walks in Norfolk. Picture: CARL MARSTON

2 ELLENbrook Fields

I visited on a weekend in early February of this year, when the wintry weather caused the cancellation of more than 100 parkruns countrywide.

Ellenbrook Fields survived, albeit with some icy paths to negotiate next to the University of Hertfordshire Sports Village. It was a feat, just to stay on your own two feet.

3 CLARE Castle

One of my 'local' events, this enticing Suffolk three lapper is now more than two years old, though I first visited at Event No. 4 in October 2017.

It can be muddy, near the River Stour, but it's all worth it.

4 Kings LYNN

Another flat one - what's with all these fast 'female' parkruns!

Though I was not 'fast' when I visited The Walks for the King's Lynn event in Norfolk, close to The Wash. Suffering from a rather tender hamstring, I consumed pain killers and cups of coffee to see me to the finish.

Fortunately, no representatives from the UK Anti-Doping Agency were in attendance.

5 VALentines

This was a bit of an Ilford blur for me, the second of a New Year's Double at the start of 2018. I remember a boating lake, and the Valentines Park Cafe. But that's it.


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