No matter how many Parkruns I clock up over the coming years, Highbury Fields will always be my first bit of Parkrun tourism. And I will love it for that.
Having been super busy with life, my husband and I had decided to book a night away in London, something we love to do. So although, we had no plans….. unless you count eating and drinking our way around the city, a Parkrun was top of my list. Our hotel was just north of Covent garden, by the British library. So, a quick bit of research showed me that Highbury Fields was my closest option. And being only 2.7 miles away, I could run to the start, take part in the event and get the tube back to the hotel, all in time to make the last half hour of breakfast! Result!
Highbury Fields is an anticlockwise, 5 lap course. It starts just by the leisure centre at the bottom end of the park. You then complete 5 full laps before heading up the hill one last time and breaking left just before the top to finish on grass.
The first 300-400m are straight up the hill, which Strava thinks averages about 2.5% gradient. It’s a pretty, tree lined section, particularly at the bottom end. Once at the top, you follow the path round to the left where there is a good amount of marshal support and cheer leading. The good news, is that what goes up, must come down! And sure enough the opposing side of the course is all down hill. This section was made particularly fun by the exuberant marshal in pink trousers with a pair of maracas! The course is entirely on paved pathway which makes it very runnable.
As I’ve said, I actually ran to the start. But as you can see from the map, the station couldn’t be closer. It’s about a 2 minute walk from the start and less if you run! Highbury and Islington station connects to central London on the Victoria line, but also has an overground service.
What I especially loved
- Strangely, it turns out that I’m a huge fan of lapped courses. So, I liked the 5 laps, although I was paranoid that I’d accidentally miscount and run a MASSIVE PB!
- The laps also mean that the course is always busy. I ran 24.44 and was lapped by the lead man on my 3rd lap. To me this is a positive as I love watching and cheering the faster runners, but I get that not everyone would love it. I also started lapping people from the start of my 4th lap too.
- The marshal with the maracas. I have no idea if he’s there every week, but I hope so. He made me smile on every single lap.
- The diversity. Everyone from seriously good club runners to a pair of older ladies wearing ankle length skirts.
- A much shorter, more concise briefing than Bournemouth.
And what I didn’t
- Probably a 1 off, but we didn’t get started until 10 past 9. Not a big problem….. unless you’ve planned your morning to the exact second to get back to your hotel in time for breakfast!
- Some confusion at the start for a first timer. Half the people were collected by the finish and half by the start. Consequently, it wasn’t clear where the briefing was going to take place. Luckily Parkrun is super friendly, so I just had to ask a local.
- Faster runners are likely to get snarled up in traffic after the first 2 laps as they negotiate overtaking slower runners. Over a 5 lap course, I think the winner must have lapped approximately 3/4’s of the runners, and even some multiple times. As runners are so spread out, this must be frustrating if you’re fatigues and pushing for a fast time.
Unlikely. The solid path and downhill section make 3/4’s of the route really fast, but 6 trips up ‘that’ hill are likely to end any serious PB dreams compared to faster courses. Weaving around other runners is also likely to slow faster runners down.
Stats from 13th July 2019
Event number: 407
Number of runners: 335
This weeks fastest: M- 17.07 F- 19.10
All Time Stats
Lasting memory of Highbury Fields Parkrun:
I’d been following a guy for the last 3k. He was one of those runners who takes you with them by their shear positivity. He was cheering everyone he overtook, and everyone who overtook him with equal enthusiasm. As we got to the bottom of the hill and started to climb for the 6th time, he looked round and beckoned to me:
‘Come with me, I don’t want to finish alone’
To which all I could reply was: ‘what kind of sadistic Parkrun finishes up a hill?!’
His reply? ‘This one!’ and we sprinted off up the hill and towards the finishing funnel. The perfect example of the competitive, yet supportive atmosphere that Parkrun manages to create.
Thanks for having me Highbury Fields!