Hampstead Heath parkrun

At the end of January I was off to my first new event of 2024. My friend Branka was off there and had offered to pick me up, so of course I was very happy to join in.

I was treated to a gorgeous sunrise while I got ready, and even when we had arrived there, the skies were so wintery with that low light you only get at this time of year. The ground was frosty in places, with a few icy puddles.

Pink and purple skies, top right the winter skies at the start area, and then all the people on the start line!

The parking was on East Heath Road, and be warned, there were no parking machines and I had wrongly assumed that I could pay using my phone- nope! Thankfully there was enough internet so I could download the parking app and sort it that way. We paid for 2 hours, having arrived at 8:30, which was the right amount of time for us to not rush after, however had we wanted to stay for longer, it was something like £7 per hour after the first two hours, so London prices!

We walked uphill from the car park, and this gave us a flavour of what the route would be like- it was quite steep!

The course was essentially a lollipop shape- you started at the top of a hill, ran down the hill, completed two undulating laps past the ponds and health land, and then ran back up the hill to the start/finish.

Even at 8:45 it didn’t seem very busy, and we couldn’t even see the purple sign, but just before 9 there were suddenly people everywhere! The start is very narrow and I was not in a rush. The path was also a bit uneven (covered with big stones and lumps of broken brick) so I was taking it gently, not wishing to fall over. I was glad I had worn my trail shoes as the thicker soles help on that sort of uneven ground too. We had been warned about some ice near the ponds, and there was a lot more ice than expected- I walked across those icy bits because I think I would have slipped if I had tried to run. But that was fine – it’s not a pb course so I was happy to take it gently and take lots of photos.

One thing to mention, and I had read this on the excellent Blog 7t, but there are a lot of dogs there. And I mean a LOT. As someone who is a little nervous around dogs off their leads, I was not keen on this aspect of the route- Hampstead Heath must attract loads of people with dogs off leads. At one point a massive dog hurtled down the hill towards me, and because it was uphill of me it just seemed so much bigger than me. The owner did call out to the dog but I just stopped and waited for it to go past.

A few photos taken mid-run- I particularly loved the bottom right one- you run along the ridge and then down, and if you looked back you could see the silhouettes of other runners at the top of the ridge. I was token 463 but actually had position 423 so I think they must have dropped a bunch of tokens- it happens!

Once finished and scanned I noticed that the purple sign had been put up, so I asked someone to take my photo- you have to commemorate these trips with a purple pop up picture. Anyway, soon the event team started packing things away, but I knew Branka (my friend, who was walking it) would want a photo, so I thought I would delay them by getting my photo taken again (I’d put my hoodie on by this point). While I was hovering by the sign, lots of people kept asking me to take their photos, so I think I must have taken pictures for about 8 people! The RD came to take it down and I explained that my friend was still on the course and would like a photo with it, so he asked me if she could take the sign down (as he found it tricky), and he then left it up so she could have a picture with it too.

That did make me feel a bit sad though- had we walked together then the sign would have been gone, and I know it’s not the actual point, but it’s a shame if the sign is there only for the runners or people near the front, and not for everyone.

My two pop up photos.

After we had taken some photos we went looking for a toilet as someone had told us there was one further up, but we didn’t find it. Anyway, a fun morning chatting all things parkrun on the journey there and back.

Event number 106 for me, and my first new parkrun of 2024. Here’s to some more tourism this year!

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