Run for the hills! Lloyd Park’s the toughest in all London

Lloyd Park in the spring time is a terrific venue for its weekly Parkrun. But you won't be seeing Geoff Marshall there in a hurry. Photo: Mike King

Lloyd Park in the spring time is a terrific venue for its weekly Parkrun. But you won’t be seeing Geoff Marshall there in a hurry. Photo: Mike King

Lloyd Park in Croydon has the toughest Parkrun course in the whole of London – and that’s official because the Londonist website says so.

Their reporter, Geoff Marshall, has surveyed all 47 courses in Greater London’s parks and open spaces used by the weekly 5-kilometre (one of Mo Farah’s Olympic gold medal distances) runs/races/time-trials, and he concluded that Lloyd Park was the one they “never want to relive”.

Marshall, who lives in Crystal Palace and regularly takes part in the Parkrun staged there, spent 18 months being a “Parkrun tourist”, travelling across the capital each Saturday morning to experience the other events.

Bushy Park, where the starting gun fired to get the whole thing started in 2004, is probably the busiest, with around 800 starters every week.

With no entry fees or payment of any kind, the now-international phenomenon has encouraged hundreds of thousands of people to participate, whether well-trained athletes racing around the course in less than 20 minutes as part of their weekly training mileage, or using it for a weekly stroll, as a couple of Croydon women do in Lloyd Park most Saturdays, enjoying the rugged, near-to-nature surroundings for nearly an hour before crossing the finish line.

With the event well-served by public transport, starting near the tram stop, last week, there were 193 finishers at Lloyd Park, where the Parkrun course records are a respectable 15min 36sec (Croydon Harriers’ former junior international Peter Chambers) and 18:51 (by Rachel Lindley of Striders of Croydon).

There are other Parkruns in and around Croydon: as well as Crystal Palace, there’s Roundshaw Downs, with a flat-ish course near where the Aerodrome used to be; Riddlesdown; Tooting Bec Common; and Brockwell Park (unmentioned by Marshall, but with a cruel couple of climbs each lap).

A good spot from which to watch Lloyd Park's regular Parkruns and cross-country races

A good spot from which to watch Lloyd Park’s regular Parkruns and cross-country races

Marshall found Lloyd Park toughest of all: “The Parkrun we never want to relive is Lloyd Park in Croydon. They hold cross-country meets here because it’s rugged, bumpy, all on grass, with crazy hills and undulating gradients. It’s London’s toughest course (especially after it’s been raining). Not for the fainthearted,” he says.

Maybe Marshall needs some better, all-terrain trainers. Clearly, he’s never endured the Eiger-like hill that runners have to climb, twice, at Banstead Woods, just south of Coulsdon and perhaps just out of Marshall’s range (though it appears on Parkrun’s map of Greater London events).

Check out the Parkrun website here. And get along to Lloyd Park for the 9am start one Saturday, even if you are not running it yourself: the recently re-opened Park Life cafe is a terrific place to grab a tea and watch from.

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