Harrow parkrun in Greater London joined the parkrun family in May 2015.
Event Director Mike Lepps tells us the story behind this thriving “undulating” parkrun…
A running friend had discovered the parkrun event at St Albans and was taken by the simplicity of the concept: register, turn up and run for free when you wanted to.
Also, we already knew from Harrow Council that the Borough had one of the highest rates of diabetes in the whole country and felt that there would be a strong demand from the local towns people for some form of free and accessible exercise opportunity in the heart of their community.
From there it was an obvious decision to launch Harrow parkrun and I think we’re all amazed at just how well people have adopted it into their regular Saturday routine and it’s a real pleasure to see the buzz it generates amongst everyone involved week after week.
If I was describing our course to a first-timer, I would say “It’s a three lap course with a short extra loop thrown in on lap one to get us exactly to 5k.
We’re not called Harrow on the Hill for nothing, so make sure you pace yourselves and leave something in the tank for the third lap!
Yes, it’s an undulating course but you will enjoy the downhill sections once you’ve got to the top. And please try and count your laps as improving your personal best will be challenging if you finish on 2!”.
On a sunny morning, when you get to the far end of the course and look left towards the start area, you can’t help but admire the wonderful view of St Mary’s Church spire and some of the buildings at the famous Harrow School, Winston Churchill’s alma mater on top of Harrow on the Hill.
For others, they look forward to the super support from Kennedy, one of our regular marshals who vociferously encourages you up the last gentler hill towards the finish with cries of “go on, you can do it, push on!”
Our parkrun is a popular destination for tourists, for various reasons. Firstly, the park we run in is so picturesque and when you consider that we are only five minutes from the town centre and the tube and bus station, we are so accessible for visitors.
We also have a lovely pavilion with facilities so you can avoid the worst of the weather if your early but really it’s the spirit and community of the runners and volunteers that makes us such an enjoyable event.
Finally, the icing on the cake is that the course is run all on tarmac paths so you won’t be taking home a bag of muddy shoes with you!
We are a small parkrun averaging 150+ runners most weeks, but the local Harrow athletics club has a certain Olympian athlete in Andy Baddeley amongst its membership and he holds the parkrun world record!
We’re hoping to get him to run our course and improve the local record at some point.
We also have a veteran transplant games four event gold medal winner in Tony Scott who runs with us most weeks.
After a career in education, he has written a number of the PE text books that are used in schools across the country – he’s a real inspiration to so many of us.
Joe Turner is one of our local star volunteers and has marshalled on “Joe’s corner” on well over 100 occasions.
His mum Pauline runs our Facebook page and is a regular runner herself and brother Harry has been first finisher several times.
We’re so pleased to hear that Joe has started running during the week and we really look forward to the Saturday when he throws off his hi-viz jacket and joins the other runners on the start line with a marshal encouraging him up that hill!
After parkrun, there are various options for the all-important post-parkrun coffee and de-brief.
The local youth football teams come to train on the pitches by our parkrun finish and the smell of bacon butties is quite pervasive! For others it’s a short walk to the Morrisons café.
But the big news if that the council is installing a brand new purpose built café just a short distance from us in the centre of the park later this year.
We are all excited as to what extra refreshment options this will make available – perhaps a range of healthy smoothies and juices to supplement the teas and coffees – who can tell?!
Overall, it has been amazing to see the improvements that so many of the regular runners have made over the last three years and a surprising number have joined one of the local running clubs such as Metros or Harrow AC.
The range of ability is amazing and we have seen quite a few runners transform themselves into strong Club standard athletes, competing at fixtures they never knew existed. For others their target is just to get their regular weekly fix of a faster run in good company with people they have got to know ever so well over the last couple of years.
It’s great to see people there still chatting long after the run is done and just enjoying the feel good atmosphere that’s generated each and every week.
If you’ve been inspired to bring parkrun to your own community, we’d love to hear from you using this form.
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Canterbury parkrun can be found at the University of Kent in the town of Canterbury in the South East of England. Event Director Glenn Wilson tells us more… I first started running at Whitstable parkrun in late 2013. After just a couple of runs, I heard that a local parkrun was starting up…