A very flat course around Gunpowder Park, on the Essex/Middlesex border, just inside the M25. The postcode provided (EN9 3GP) takes you directly to the car park and it is very easy to find. The car park holds about 100 cars, which seemed plenty for parkrun, and is free for up to one hour but a flat rate of £2.50 thereafter (as of Dec 17). It’s number plate recognition and we were advised that they do fine people, so don’t risk it if you know you’ll be more than an hour. There are two pay machines available in the car park, or you can pay by telephone on the number provided on the signs. The toilets are next to the car park and were free, clean and open before the run. There was also a water fountain in the ladies’ toilets (though I can’t comment on the gents’).
The runners all met directly behind the toilet block, then we were all walked a short distance to the start line. The course is two and a bit laps of the park. One interesting thing about Gunpowder parkrun is that they don’t use marshals because the course is so straightforward. There are a few arrow signs along the course – one at a left turn on the course that you do need a sign for, but there’s no real need for the others, although it’s nice to have them for reassurance. The second interesting thing is that the course is not 5k – it is 5.1km. One of the volunteers advised us of this and the Suunto Spartan Trainer did log a distance of 5.12km. I don’t know why this parkrun is slightly longer, because it would be very easy to move the start or finish lines. I think this would be the one thing preventing a PB.
The course itself is great for a parkrun – a short distance in, there is a gentle incline of about 100m, followed by 100m of gentle decline, but other than that it’s basically flat. The pathways are all wide, so overtaking is never a problem, and it’s all run on proper pathways – no cross country whatsoever. Because it’s only two laps, and because the numbers at this parkrun tend to range between 150-200, it doesn’t get congested. We went on an icy day, but apart from a few visible patches of ice, it was still great to run on. Overall, this was my favourite parkrun to date, due to the straightforward, flat course plus the car parking and toilet facilities.
Official Event Page: Gunpowder parkrun
Nearby postcode: EN9 3GP
Hills (as logged by Suunto Spartan Trainer): Ascent 7m / Descent 7m
Subjective PB potential: 9/10 – conditions almost perfect,
Distance Displayed on Suunto Spartan Trainer: 5.12 km
See below for difficulty ranking