News - 1st August 2019

parkrun profile: Wanstead Flats

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Since the inaugural event in May 2011, Wanstead Flats parkrun has been taking place every Saturday morning between Leytonstone and Forest Gate in London.

 

Frequent Wanstead Flats Run Director, Mike Bristow, tells us more…

 

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I started parkrunning because my then-boss, Norm Driskell, kept on talking about how wonderful parkrun was. At first I didn’t believe him: I learnt in PE that I hated running, but eventually, I thought I’d try it out again, just to prove him wrong.

 

On a cold January morning, I finally ran around the Flats with sixty other runners.  Turns out that the PE lessons of my youth taught me wrong: running is brilliant fun!

 

parkrun is the perfect reason to explore places I’d never think to go otherwise.

 

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Our event takes place at Wanstead Flats Playing Fields, in north east London, and we meet at the Harrow Road Changing Pavilion.

 

The course is mostly flat, and entirely on grass and trail. It starts on the football pitches, but we quickly turn onto a bridleway through an avenue of trees.

 

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From there, we then loop through Bush Wood, before coming out onto a section of open grassland before a returning to the football pitches.  It’s so nice we do it again for a second lap!

 

Despite The Fred Wigg and John Wash tower blocks dominating the landscape, our most famous landmark would be the “Narnia Lampost” in the middle of the woods. Even now, it still makes me smile on every lap.

 

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We’re popular with tourists because our event is easy to get to, with four railway stations within a mile of the start, and a friendly crowd of participants who will make you welcome.

 

But most of all, the thing that everyone should come along and experience is our beautiful course, especially the wooded section.

 

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For our all-important post-parkrun coffee, sadly, there is no café at the finish, so we brew our own tea and coffee in the pavilion!

 

Wanstead Flats is the southern tip of Epping Forest, and under the Epping Forest Act of 1878 local residents have the right to graze cattle on the course. Luckily, the cows haven’t yet bothered us during a run as they’re currently about five miles away!

 

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Our event director, Paul Lewis, celebrated his 50th Birthday by running 50 marathons in 50 days – a stunning achievement and testament to his grit and determination.

 

He has always been a rock in the local running community, coaching many of us and volunteering on more than 300 occasions.

 

Since parkrun has come to Wanstead Flats, there has been a definite increase in runners on the flats – and not just on Saturday – and the diversity of the participants has grown.

 

Most importantly, though, neighbours have become friends.

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