Someone recently asked me what was the best Parkrun to start on with their 5ks. The answer of course is that “it depends”.
Bushy Park in Teddington was the first Parkrun. It is fairly flat and sheltered from wind to a degree. It is one circuit of a 5k course with almost 2k of grass sections. The grass bits are normally fairly OK in winter and rock hard in summer. There are a hundreds of attendees every week of every ability level from Elite Olympic Champions to beginners. Many children run this event (starting at the front as children do! – although you will be dismayed as many of them stay ahead of you!) It is well organised. Car Parking is best suited to those who get there early as spaces are limited.
Richmond Park was one of the first Parkrun events. It is far from flat with a first downhill half and a second uphill half to the finish. The uphill bit is not trivial but neither is it mountain climbing by any stretch of the imagination. The entire course is fairly exposed to wind. It is essentially one circuit of a 5k course with only a short 500m or so grass section. There are 100-200 attendees most weeks ranging from beginners to excellent club member athletes. It is well organised. There is sufficient parking nearby in the park but a little bit of a walk from there to the start.
Wimbledon is flat and occasionally has sharp turns on this two circuit run. Sheltered mostly from wind and there can be significant muddy puddles in winter. 100-200 attendees of all levels. Car parking is Ok.
Kingston is one of the newer Parkruns and is not in a park! It is flat and sheltered from wind (remember that on a windy day when deciding which one to go to!). The grass section is about 500m and, like the Thames Path on which it is run, is susceptible to puddles…and worse. Though far from cross country or the Aldershot Extreme GRIM events, you might get wet feet. It is one lap but the second half is the first half in reverse. You won’t get lost. Attendance is relatively low, in the 10s, sometimes some of the better club runners take part. It is well organised. Car parking is an issue due to nearby residents only zones.
So of these which is the best? They are all close together so you could choose any.
For a PB on a still, cool, spring morning you would have to go for Bushy.
For a PB on a windy but dry, winter’s day you would go for Kingston.
For a bit of extra hill training and a challenge you would go for Richmond.
For a group arriving by car think twice about Kingston but arrive early regardless of the event. Better still cycle there.
For novices and children go for Wimbledon or Kingston. Although every ability level is welcomed at every event.