Wimbledon Common parkrun, event number 399, 23 August 2014


In which we branch off with a cautionary tale…


399 GG (13)

First this week, a word of warning: BEWARE OF THE TREE! Yes, the tree by the bench (pictured above); the one you all hang your bags and odd bits of clothing on; the one on which we thread the washing line and the 10/50/100/250-run t-shirts; the one you can’t miss. Well one runner wishes he had missed it – having survived the run and, indeed, recorded a PB (that narrows it down a little), he managed while retrieving his kit to bang his head hard on one of the branches. His head came off worse.

Being serious for a moment, the poor runner suffered a nasty cut, which bled quite profusely (as head wounds often do) and required attention – event director Charles Lawrie managed to staunch the flow of the red stuff and Hercules Wimbledon’s Hannah Fernando put her first-aid training to good use by expertly applying a bandage. And, not for the first time this year, Andrew Fickling hot-legged it to the rangers’ office. At time of writing, we don’t know what happened after they took him to their abode, though we’re sure it’s nothing worse than a slight headache or we’d have heard otherwise. But please please please please please, mind your heads!

And before we get to what we all turn up for, 50 club t-shirts have turned up for the following runners: Graham White, Steve Tallis, Christian Campain, Gavin Berry and Steve Cull. If you want them presented to you at a parkrun, let the run director on the day know and he or she will do the honours. Otherwise, they should be on display on the aforementioned washing line and you can serve yourself. Anyone else who is waiting for a t-shirt and would like to know where they stand should email wimbledonoffice@parkrun.com: please include information about the number of runs it represents, your size and which gender you spring from.

The run itself took place on a changeable morning, with some overnight rain creating a few puddles, though the course remained largely firm. Since then we’ve suffered un-August-like downpours “and the poppies with their black and secret centres lie shattered on the lawn” – which means we might already have seen the best of the conditions for this year on our beloved rectangle of common land.

399 GG (273)

First in the men’s run was David Chambers (SM20-24, pictured) of Croydon Harriers, posting 17:19 in his debut here (but his 97th parkrun overall). Stephen Hurley (SM30-34) of Wimbledon Windmilers was second in 17:22 – this was Stephen’s first parkrun ever. Welcome, Stephen. And James Neave (VM35-39) of Clapham Chasers came in third in 17:26 – James has been first to finish on two previous occasions and this week’s time was a personal best.

In the men's annual points competition Nick McKay of Wimbledon Windmilers sits in pole position on 9,490 points; Charles Hampden-Smith of Hercules Wimbledon remains second on 8,986; and the unattached Joe Busa retains his third position on 8,417.

399 GG (322)

In the women’s run, the unattached Lucy Woolhouse (VW50-54, pictured) was first (38th overall) in 20:23 – this was Lucy’s 20th first place in 170 appearances. Genia Marek (SW25-29) of Belgrave Harriers was not far behind (44th overall) in 20:34, just two seconds outside her Wimbledon Common PB. Scarlett Walker (JW11-14) of Surbiton High School was third (54th overall) in 21:00, a PB by seven seconds – sub-21 beckons for young Scarlett, so well done to her: excellent running.

In the women's annual points competition Lisa Margaret Thomas of Hercules Wimbledon is top on 9,273 points; Lucy Woolhouse is second on 8,664; and Natasha Hampden-Smith of Merton mini-marathon trial is third on 7,864.

The best age-grade scores of the day were: Tom Conlon (VM50-54) at 84.69% for the time 17:51 (eighth overall); Lucy Woolhouse at 84.30% for the time 20:23 (38th overall); and
 Vic Maughn (VM50-54) at 84.10% for the time 17:49 (seventh overall).

This week there were 328 runners, of whom 43 were first timers and 72 recorded new personal bests. Representatives of 18 different athletics clubs took part.

Just to mention a few PBs: Norman Urquia, a stalwart run director of Wimbledon Park junior parkrun on Sunday mornings, ran 19:44 in his 97th appearance here (out of 119 parkruns in total); in his 110th Wimbledon Common appearance (118 in total), and more than a year since his last, Chris Tinning took eight seconds off his best with 18:16; and in his 24th parkrun here, his 55th overall, Christian Campain posted 20:33, a 17-second improvement.

Milestones are approaching for some of Saturday’s runners. The redoubtable Colin Harris is seven runs away from 350. Nicola El-Kadiri is just 12 away from 300. Phil Tosh is a tantalising 10 runs away from the magical 250 (the last for which a t-shirt is awarded. At the moment). Jayne Pooley needs to run seven more times to rack up 200. The next parkruns for Francesca Thomas and Martin Gf Stacey will be their 100th. And Louise Beal actually passed a milestone by hitting 50 runs in what was her first appearance at Wimbledon, having run most of the time at Bushy Park – nice one, Lou!

Two youngsters qualified for their 10-run t-shirts: Thomas Dulson of Hercules and Finlay Russell, who posted a PB of 21:55.

Wimbledon Common parkrun started on 6 January 2007. Since then 10,892 different runners, including participants from 463 athletics clubs, have completed 77,646 runs covering a total distance of 388,230km, and there have been 14,394 new PBs.

The women's record is held by Justina Heslop, who recorded 16:33 on 17 May 2012 (event number 271).
The men's record is held by Chris Parr, who sped round in 15:04 on 23 April 2011 (event number 224).
The age grade course record is held by Jane Davies, who scored an astonishing 92.99% (21:24) on 29 January 2011 (event number 212).

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Wimbledon Common parkrun results page.

One last bit of advertising: the Royal London Society for Blind People would like to invite Wimbledon parkrunners to the UK's brand new exciting blindfold run, otherwise known as the charity challenge of the year.

You. A friend. One blindfold. 10k. Interested?

WHERE: Queen Elizabeth Park, London.

WHEN: 10:00am, 2nd November 2014.

DISTANCE: Both a 5k and 10k route are offered.

One thing's for sure – you've never run like this before.



Wimbledon Common parkrun Event number 398 16th August 2014

See ... You Can Get Your Mojo Back!

In a week of handbags at dawn over in Switzerland at a certain little athletics tournament where Princess Paula and Mighty (5 and 10,000 metre gold medal winning) Mo were slugging it out (although I think they have kissed and made up now), there has been one stand out performance for me. Jo Pavey, age 40 won the 10,000m gold medal at the European Championships in Zurich last week, just 10 months after giving birth to her 2nd child making her the oldest female European Champion in history. Just how fantastically awesome is that? She is a mega inspiration to any runner but especially so to other females, even more so if they are aged 40 plus (like me) or if they are fairly new Mums like a very tenacious group of our parkrun ladies. So high fives all round to the following speedy Mums of Wimbledon Common parkrun:

398 CS(146)

Denise Barnett placed 5th lady this week in a time of 21.58 which is her quickest time since the arrival of Sophie and her running is going from strength to strength, go Denise. Patricia Peever placed 7th lady this week in a time of 22.39, her quickest time at Wimbledon since the birth of Jasper. Her improvement was predictable for anyone who knows this determined speedster, it is only a matter of time before she will be back to her best, keep it up Patricia. Ruth Wallace ran in her 2nd parkrun post the arrival of wee Zoe recently in a time of 21.36 giving her 3rd place on that occasion. Ruth has won this event 21 times in total and if she continues in this vein, the up and coming cross country season should be a bit lively once more, well done Ruth. Bringing up the rear in this group, I mean literally on this occasion as she was course sweeper was Sarah Goodwin. Sarah has steadily been improving her parkrun times since little Caitlyn came along and she managed to run the Burnham Beeches half marathon on Sunday in a very respectable time of 1.47, not a PB for her but she is certainly getting back to her former pacey self, top work Sarah.

398 CS (79)

So on to the Mystic “Pooley” Meg section of this weeks report. You may recall that fellow scribe Jayne picked Milan Misak for a win based on his recent form. He placed 2nd last week in a time of 17.54 which was a PB and having narrowly missed out on the win by 1 second he decided not to make that mistake again, instead he was our race winner this week in a PB time of 17.38 so very well done indeed Milan. Congratulations to Mystic Pooley too, I shall be bringing my copy of the Racing Post to parkrun next week so that we can put your powers to a more profitable use!

398 CS(194)

Finally there is an interesting little battle going on at the moment which might well appeal to those who like me enjoy a flutter. Current standings for most wins at Wimbledon by a female are Claire Grima with 31 wins under her belt but in form runner and this weeks 1st placed lady in a time of 19.36 Lisa Thomas is coming up fast on the rails with 27 wins. Watch this space and on that note I must sign out and head off to Ladbrokes!

This weeks figures:-

Men's placings:
Milan Misak of Imperial College Cross Country & AC, was first over the line in 17:38 - first time in 46 appearances, an unknown runner was second and in third place was James Moorcroft of Hercules Wimbledon AC, in 17:50 - was first to finish once before.

Current standing in the Men's annual points competition:

Nick McKay is in first place with 9198 points, second is our volunteer man Charles Hampden-Smith on 8706 points and in third place is Joe Busa with 8173 points.

Women's placings:
Lisa M Thomas of Hercules Wimbledon AC, was first (19th overall) over the line in 19:36 - 27th time in 160 appearances, in second place (20th overall) was Chloe Aitken an unattached runner in 16:39 and in the bronze position (37th overall) was Lucy Woolhouse, another unattached runner in 20:33 - has been first to finish on 19 previous occasions.

Current standing in the Women's annual points competition:
Lisa Thomas leads the way on 9273 points in second place is Lucy Woolhouse with 8364 points and in third place is Briarna Clifford on 7622 points.

The following runners recorded the best Age Grade scores:
Lisa Thomas was graded 84.52% for the time 19:36.
Lucy Woolhouse was graded 83.62% for the time 20:33.
James Wallace was graded 78.49% for the time 19:55.

This week there were 314 runners, of whom 50 were first timers and 42 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 16 different athletics clubs took part.

Wimbledon Common parkrun started on 6th January 2007, and since then 10,849 different runners, including participants from 460 athletics clubs, have completed 77,318 runs covering a total distance of 386,590 km, and there have been 14,322 new Personal Bests.

The women's record is held by Justina Heslop who ran in a time of 00:16:33 on 2012-03-17 (event number 271).
The men's record is held by Chris Parr who ran in a time of 00:15:04 on 2011-04-23 (event number 224).
The Age Grade course record is held by Jane Davies who recorded a 92.99% run (21:24) on 29th January 2011 (event number 212).

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Wimbledon Common parkrun Results Page.


Wimbledon Common parkrun Weekly Report – Event No.397 – 9 August 2014

A bit of running and a lot of cycling

I ran on the Common during the week, and I must admit it was quite disconcerting to run on a hard, dry surface. Where were the puddles? Where was the mud? It just didn’t feel right at all. So I was rather pleased when it chucked it down on Friday night, returning the parkrun course to its soggy, muddy best. Not everyone shares my love of mud of course, and some people were heard to complain that they’d been splashed (shock horror!) by their fellow parkrunners going headlong through the many puddles. But we still had a good turnout - 261 runners, of whom 24 were first timers, and representatives of 19 different athletics clubs took part.

In a closely fought battle for first place, James Moorcroft (SM20-24) of Hercules Wimbledon AC, was first over the line in 17:53 – his first win in five appearances. Milan Misak (SM20-24) of Imperial College Cross Country & AC, crossed the line just one second later in 17:54. This was a new PB for Milan on his 45th run at Wimbledon Common (91 parkruns in total), coming almost a year after setting his last PB on the Common. Milan has been second on one previous occasion, and often features in the top 10. Something tells me he has his eye on the top spot. Matt Gallagher (SM30-34; unattached) was third over the line in 18:08 and has been first to finish on two previous occasions.

397 PB (268b)


Current standing in the Men's annual points competition:

  • Nick McKay (Wimbledon Windmilers) 8902 pts.
  • Charles Hampden-Smith (Hercules Wimbledon AC) 8419 pts.
  • Joe Busa (Unattached) 7927 pts.


In the women's race, Samantha Pickford (SW30-34) of Wimbledon Windmilers, was first over the line (17th overall) in a new personal best time of 19:43. This is Sam’s 4th win in 31 appearances. A regular in the top three, Lucy Woolhouse (VW50-54; unattached) was second (37th overall) in 20:45 and has been first to finish on 19 previous occasions. Lucy also achieved the best age-grade score, with 82.81%. Ruth Wallace (SW30-34) of Thames Hare & Hounds, was third (53rd overall) in 21:36. Ruth has been first to finish on 21 previous occasions.

397 PB (312b)


Current standing in the Women's annual points competition:

  • Lisa Thomas (Hercules Wimbledon AC) 8973 pts.
  • Lucy Woolhouse (unattached) 8066 pts.
  • Briarna Clifford (unattached) 7622 pts.


After Lucy claimed the top age-grade score for the girls, men with the best age-grade scores were Volker Vogler (VM45-49), graded 78.33% for the time 18:32 (6th overall), and James Wallace (VM55-59), who was graded 77.97% for the time 20:03 (22nd overall).

This week, 43 runners recorded new personal bests. Young runners Ellie Deeks and William Hunt earned their 10-club t-shirts, with Ellie notching up a PB in the process to run under 28 minutes for the first time. James Hawker and Angharad Callaghan reached the 50-run milestone, while Amabel Watkins notched up her 100th parkrun. All being well, Philip Butler and Andrew Rice will make it to 100 next week.

We are very grateful to the volunteers who made this event happen: Helen Beeby, Robert Beeby, Peter Brunnen, Peter J Collins, Kylie Corso, Charles Hampden-Smith, Tessa Kelly, Charles Lawrie, Carol McCormack, Pete Mulholland, Samantha Pickford, Jayne Pooley, Judith Prentis, Sue Rothwell, Lisa Thomas, Phil Tosh, Annie Tosh, Stephen Vey, Orianna Vottre.

The Beebys, Collinses and Toshes were taking it easy (and collecting some volunteer points at the same time) ahead of the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100-mile cycling race on Sunday. I’m sure everyone was very disappointed to learn that the course was shortened to a mere 86 miles – leaving out Leith Hill and Box Hill – due to some appalling weather conditions on the day, but the cyclists (and their support teams) put in some sterling performances: Phil Tosh completed the course in 06:14:45, Robert Beeby in 06:46:08 and Clare Lyons-Collins (having stopped off en route for a bowl of pasta) in 07:58:14. Congratulations to everyone who took part. I hope you’ve managed to dry out by now, and that the chamois cream did its job.

Wimbledon Common parkrun started on 6th January 2007, and since then 10,799 different runners, including participants from 459 athletics clubs, have completed 77,004 runs covering a total distance of 385,020 km, and there have been 14,280 new Personal Bests.

The women's record is held by Justina Heslop who ran in a time of 00:16:33 on 2012-03-17 (event number 271).

The men's record is held by Chris Parr who ran in a time of 00:15:04 on 2011-04-23 (event number 224).
The age grade course record is held by Jane Davies who recorded a 92.99% run (21:24) on 29th January 2011 (event number 212).

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Wimbledon Common parkrun Results Page.


Wimbledon Common parkrun weekly report: event number 396 August 2 2014


Clapham takes gold, Wimbledon silver and bronze

From the glories of Glasgow to the wonders of Wimbledon, in the local games SW4 took the honours thanks to a fine run from James Neave chased home by those two likely lads from SW19, Hercules’ Peter Justin Collins and Windmilers’ Nick McKay. It was the Clapham Chasers’ James’s (pictured below) second run on Wimbledon Common and his second win, with a personal best of 17:45. Peter followed 19 seconds later and Nick just eight seconds behind.

396 man

The familiar yellow vest, and efficient and effective running style, of Hercules’ Lisa Margaret Thomas (pictured below) upheld local honour in the ladies’ race with an excellent run into first place in 19:46. Well done Lisa on your 26th win on the Common, just five more to match the all-time ladies’ Wimbledon Common record. Gina Galbraith, also of Wimbledon Hercules AC came home second, with regular front-runner Lucy Woolhouse third.

396 lady

With dry conditions, if a tad lumpy here and there, it was a good day for PBs and 74 runners left the Common with the satisfaction of a job well done. A big welcome to the 21 runners who were taking part in their first-ever parkrun; please come back for more, but we can’t always guarantee such a dry run every Saturday.

This week’s top age-graded percentage winners were: Lucy Woolhouse (VW50-54) 84.23%, Lisa Margaret Thomas (VW45-49) 83.81%, Sandy Pfeifer (VM50-54 Wimbledon Windmilers) 82.19%.

Top performers

A flag-draping lap of honour would have been highly appropriate for Saturday’s standout performers who achieved both a top 10 age percentage rating and a PB. Full marks to Lydia Louw (JW10 Ranelagh Harriers) 21:38/81.12%, Adam Fenton (VM50-54) 19.42/76.73% and Ksenia Larin (JW10) 22.21/76.36%. An impressive run from old(er) hand Adam, of Wimbledon Hercules AC, and excellent times from Lydia and Ksenia.

Games over

I thoroughly enjoyed the Commonwealth Games, with many memorable moments including Danny Talbot, our anchor in the 4 x 100m men’s relay final, who appeared for a few fleeting seconds to be hanging on to Usain Bolt, until the great man’s turbo kicked in. There were also fascinating backstories about some of the competitors; Steve Way the self-confessed ‘fat bloke’ is a great example. In 2007 he weighed in at 16½ stone and had a serious fags, booze and kebab habit. He transformed himself through running, and now holds the British over 40 marathon record, beating Ron Hill’s record in the process. He finished 10th at the Games in a time of 2:15:16, almost identical to Paula Radcliffe’s still-standing world record of 2:15:25 set at the 2003 London Marathon. It’s worth putting into perspective what these performances call for. It means running at an average speed of 11.6 mph and a pace of 5.17 minutes per mile - for 26.2 miles; that pace would result in a 16:03 parkrun. Still it’s all relative. While we parkrunners may be in awe of such sustained speed and endurance, there are many more who think getting up on a Saturday morning to run a 5k race at 9 o’clock is pretty heroic!

Facts and Figures

Current standing in the Men's annual points competition: Nick McKay 8606, Charles Hampden-Smith 8138, Joe BUSA 7689

Current standing in the Women's annual points competition: Lisa Margaret Thomas 8681, Lucy Woolhouse 7767, Briarna Clifford 7361

This week there were 310 runners, of whom 36 were first timers and 74 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 19 different athletics clubs took part

Wimbledon Common parkrun started on 6th January 2007, and since then 10,775 different runners, including participants from 459 athletics clubs, have completed 76,743 runs covering a total distance of 383,715 km, and there have been 14,237 new Personal Bests

The women's record is held by Justina Heslop 16:33 (17.3.12)
The men's record is held by Chris Parr 15:04 (23.4.11)
The Age Grade course record is held by Jane Davies 92.99% (29.1.11)

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Wimbledon Common parkrun Results Page.



A visitor’s view of Wimbledon Common parkrun, number 392, 5 July 2014


Nigel Harding of Poole kindly sent us this impressionistic piece about his visit to our event. Thanks to him.


"The Game Awaits". The sign above the station exit whets my appetite. Devotees are already gathering, six hours before the main event. A plump, red-headed mum snaps her son in front of a giant Centre Court screen print. Fortunately the rest of the world will never see it. Our one chance in 70 years has come and gone. Andy Murray’s title defence evaporated in straight sets yesterday.

Where the suburban village high street forks, I choose the road less travelled. My game is different. Curiously both traditions date back to the same year. My Wimbledon’s not just a fortnight. It’s on every Saturday...

“A lady has come all the way from Edinburgh to join us,” jokes the run director. “She may watch a bit of the tennis later.”

There are plenty of club vests on show. The rivalry between the gold with scarlet diagonal of Hercules Wimbledon AC and the black-vested Wimbledon Windmilers is intense.

I scroll back 20 years. A victorious Dave Clarke, lithe and bearded, almost a real-life Hercules, was trying to buy a Swanage 12 T-shirt. They’d run out. I offered the one I’d worn as a marshal. It would have made a great anecdote, if a three-time National Cross-Country Champion took the shirt off my back, but Dave was too much the gentleman. I still run in it occasionally. It’s almost the Hercules shade of golden yellow.

Rugby shirts seem popular here. I notice just one from soccer, a young woman attired in navy blue with a yellow double-headed eagle. AFC Wimbledon was formed when the previous club lost its soul and moved to Milton Keynes. This Saturday last year, I was timekeeping at Kingsmeadow, next to the ground the League newcomers share with Kingstonian FC.

People are moving. Why didn’t I hear the start? No neighbours here to complain about the noise. Maybe they’re reluctant to disturb the wildlife. Or is it Great Uncle Bulgaria? Wouldn’t want to wake him, would we? I’m sure younger Wombles are watching, carefully concealed from view.

I’ll get nowhere if I go with the Orinoco flow. Left in metaphorical blocks, I set off in belated pursuit. Running wide right, I’m so close to the edge of the track that a wet foxglove slaps me in the face.

Round the first corner the track narrows. The oak-wood is lovely, but quite constricted.

Traffic noise comes closer. What I imagined as Amazonian rain forest thins suddenly. There’s civilisation out there. A biodegradeable arrow sprayed on the ground points us left. This is like hash house harriers, though too early for the alcohol.

Paper-chases were important in Victorian distance running. Laying paper trails was banned on Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park in 1879. Maybe the Wombles’ ecological concern goes back further than even Elisabeth Beresford imagined.

I’m looking for the water-hole that marks the next turn. Lilies on a slime-covered surface remind me of the grass snake in a friend’s garden pond earlier in the week. Best not think what lurks in this one. Traffic noise recedes. The jungle closes in once more. Despite last night’s rain, the humidity remains.

The common is noted for its biodiversity. On my way in, there was grass left uncut to encourage nesting skylarks. A sign advertising "Bioblitz" – an attempt to record as many species as possible – included pictures of common pipistrelle bat, cinnabar moth, common lizard, gate-keeper butterfly and great-spotted woodpecker.

I was tracking two men, one in a red 50 shirt, the other in a black 100 one. Now they accelerate. I’m left behind. This is the second-oldest parkrun. The concept’s ability to spread was tested here. Anyone who is anyone has run at least 50 by now. A black T-shirt was presented earlier, but they hang 10 and 50-club ones on a washing line for collection. One third of this field has at least 50 parkruns to their name, a sixth has more than 100 and three are above 250.

I spot a Thames Hare & Hounds vest, white with navy facings, but can’t close him down. They’re the oldest cross-country club in the world – a spin-off from winter training for rowers. "Hares" laid the paper trail. "Hounds", starting later, tried to catch them. The club had permission for paper-chasing from Earl Spencer, the lord of the manor. Ironically, the 1871 Wimbledon & Putney Commons Act, which preserved the area from property development, led to by-laws that stopped the practice.

If we hadn’t had such a long dry spell, this would be real cross-country, though there’s a busy road just beyond the edge of the wood. This mud is good for running, soft enough to cushion without sapping strength. A 10-club boy has splashed the back of his shirt with just a few droplets of mud. You need a good back-lift to manage that in these conditions. I’ll never achieve it with my stride pattern, which is deteriorating from "economic" towards "pathetic".

There’s a further turn by the lake. There are ducks on this more open stretch of water. Then trees hem us in once more. For the next section, parkrun coincides with the men’s Varsity match course, though the Blues run in the other direction. Oxford versus Cambridge first switched to neutral ground nearby in 1896. The annual fixture has been solely on Wimbledon Common since the mid-1970s.

“Get in, Finn!” A mother urges her son on to the racing line. Nine-year-olds have no track sense. He lurches to the left. Any closer and we’d both have fallen. I check my stride to follow him round the final bend of this pentagonal lap. I don’t recall running downhill, so why are we ascending to complete the circuit? The trees are fewer here. Beeches predominate in this more open country.

The timekeeper calls 12:32 where half-way is marked with white splodges. A trifle over par. Nothing I shouldn’t be able to pull back in the second half, surely? To make the point I corner much faster to start my final lap. A Capital Ring logo reminds me that my long-distance walking project has stalled.

Last thing you need along this narrow path is someone running the other way, especially with two loose dogs. I jam on my anchors to avoid falling over the spaniel. Normally you’d credit a runner with more sense, but some dog owners are dafter than their animals!

Opening out onto the next straight, a buggy rushes past. I’m surprised he hasn’t collected a dog on the way. After that I’m in the zone, pushing hard. I always enjoyed cross-country, the one sport I was good at in school. There’s a knack to picking the best line, not always the shortest. Where the course is widest, I close down a lady in orange. She’s wary of ruts left by massive tyres. I’ve found the better line instinctively.

I recall the uphill from last time but just block it out. I focus my eyes ten yards in front and just keep driving.

“24:14.” the timekeeper calls a further split time. The briefing reckoned this is 40 or 50 seconds before the finish". Probably longer in my case. I sense my 25-minute dream is over, but forlorn hopes are what I do.

Can that be the same girl? The one in sky blue who had the stitch half a lap ago? For 20 yards we’re evenly matched. She changes to a gear I’ve long since lost. Her dad and I are both left standing. Though she has me beaten, I can’t help but catch the man in front.

I already know the answer, but I look at my watch. I collect the finish token from the short, grey-haired man in the scarlet top. He’s dishing out more than 20 a minute, so I don’t expect recognition.

I gradually regain my breath after my hardest sprint in goodness knows when. My parkrun’s over in the time required for a very one-sided set of tennis. Had I gone round twice more to complete 10km, I’d be around the 55 minutes Petra Kvitova will take to win her second Ladies’ singles title.

"Participate, Enjoy, Succeed," enjoins a fellow parkrunner’s Great Birmingham Run T-shirt. For me it’s just two ticks out of three. I’m miffed by my time, entirely frustrated by my failure. I brood, trying to find those six seconds. Did I run too wide? I must have started too far back. It feels like daylight robbery. Actually it was Putney Heath, further north, that was notorious for highwaymen. With a clearer course on lap two, why didn’t I quicken?

“Are you at Tooting Bec this afternoon?” Pete Mulholland enquires, with few more tokens to dispense. He guessed it in one. No tennis for me. I’m timing the British Athletics League.

Pete was results editor when I first contributed to Athletics Weekly. We shared a dial-up line through many a midnight vigil. He ran the first parkrun here on 6 January 2007. Since then he’s volunteered more than 300 times – an attendance rate of about 85%.

We chat. We network. One of his clubmates asks after one of mine, whom he used to teach 40 years ago.

Upon my return, the former pupil, Andrew Ridley, first at Bournemouth parkrun today, tells me: “It’s the finest training ground in the country. The psychological advantage of training in the woodlands is enormous. It really enables a punishing run that would never be possible without being cocooned by the trees and not seeing too far ahead.”

I wander over to the Windmill. A plaque records that Robert Baden-Powell wrote some of Scouting for Boys here in 1908.

As I’m about to leave, a Windmiler reminds me this venue is steeped in athletics history, citing 1877 as the date of the world’s first properly recognised cross-country. He’s referring to the English National Cross-Country Championships. The first seven completed events began at Roehampton, just across the A3. That first race crossed the common to Merton, Morden, West Barnes and back via The Crooked Billet. In the same year, on 9 July, the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club began its first championships.

As I rise from my seat, I spot a water bottle, forlorn in the grass. I place it on the bench. I’m sure the Wombles will know what to do...

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