As we were down south this weekend visiting our son and his girlfriend in Harrow, we decided to let them have their Saturday morning lie-in in peace whilst Gill and I took the opportunity to sample the nearest parkrun which is at Northala Fields in Northolt.
Anybody familiar with driving west out of London on the A40 will know a line of 4 very distinctive man-made mounds alongside the main road. These mounds, which were made from the rubble of Wenbley Stadium, mark the start of a very pleasant park with good pathways. We had arrived early and the cafe wasn’t yet open, so, resisting the temptation to join a few keen parkrunners in climbing the mounds for a warm-up, we had a leisurely stroll. Behind the mounds it is like a mini-wetlands centre with a number of small ponds, reedbeds and a surprising variety of birdlife and was very pleasant indeed.
The run is a single lap and actual covers two parks. The start and finish are conveniently situated between the mounds and the cafe. The first kilometre is a flattish loop around the mounds. I found myself at the back of the leading group but knew that I couldn’t keep up with them. The second kilometre was fairly straight but was into a stiff breeze and I fell way behind the leaders. The path then went through a narrow woodland to come out in the second park, which was a flat, open field with numerous football pitches. We left the park and ran on the pavement alongside it. The leaders were so far ahead that I felt I was running on my own. Then, about half way along this stretch, which was also about half-way in the course, a tall, leggy runner came bounding past me and left me for dead. Checking the results afterwards, he caught the leading pack so I can only think he started late or had been having a chat for the first kilometre or so!
We then skirted the football pitches and returned to the cafe via the same path we had left on, before doing the loop around the mounds in the opposite direction and heading to the finish. It was a very un-parkrun like race for me as I felt on my own for most of it, as can be seen in the photo below where there is just a solitary marshal and no other runners in view. I finished 7th, 37 seconds behind 6th and 36 seconds ahead of 8th. There were 115 finishers, so I can’t quite understand how that happened. Perhaps the locals, who seemed friendly enough, had an allergy to running with northerners!
I then joined Gill to encourage her at the finish, and we went for a well-earned cup of tea sitting outside the cafe in time to see the tail-end of the runners come home. Suitably refreshed, we then climbed the mound to get fantastic views across London and beyond. All in all, a very pleasant place for parkrun and a great start to our weekend.
The course is 90% flat with just a couple of minor undulations around the mounds. Like the toonrun, it is on good paths – a mix of concrete and trails, so I think it is definitely one for a fast time. My excuses for not getting one are a gruelling 8.5 miles the day before in a the howling gales we had in the North East and too much free wine as we had travelled down first-class! (our 1st class ticket was cheaper than the 2nd class one for the return journey, though now Virgin run the line, there may be fewer special offers).