Hooray! It’s another year! We’re all still here and still able to run! I still have a couple of ambitions with regard to running. The first is to get up to 250 different parkrun venues - I am currently on 238 so, at my current rate of progress, I should reach that milestone in March. I would also like to complete another marathon and extend my span of marathon running into six decades. I was tentatively planning my next 26 miler in the spring. Of course there is always the possibility that another lockdown could delay all my plans. In the meantime I continue to pursue the parkrun tourist trail with a visit to Charlton Park.
I have never run in Charlton Park before but I have run past it on numerous occasions because it pops up at around the two mile point of the London Marathon. If you are on the Red start, you’ll find it on your right behind a high brick wall. On the Blue start you’ll see it on your left behind some railings.
Charlton, or Chorlton, or other variants, is a very common British place name but this particular Charlton lies in south east London between Greenwich and Woolwich. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as a small settlement called Cerletone. For many centuries it remained as a small village on a hillside overlooking a bend in the Thames. Then gradually the urban sprawl of London crept up to envelop it. The flatter area down by the riverside, now known as New Charlton, was the site of several major industries connected to shipping and communication. Nowadays you will find the southern end of the Thames flood barrier at this point.
The grandest building within the district is Charlton House, which is to be found at the western end of Charlton Park. Charlton House is a rather fine Jacobean mansion, originally built in the early sixteenth century for Sir Adam Newton, a royal tutor and Dean of Durham. After his death, the house passed through several hands. In the First World War it was the headquarters for the Red Cross and used as an auxiliary hospital. In the 1920s it was sold to Greenwich Borough Council. It has contained a library and museum but now it is used as a community centre.
Just to the north of Charlton Park lies ‘The Valley’. Home of Charlton Athletic football club. Charlton is one of the few football clubs that I have seen play live as my uncle was a dedicated fan and would sometimes take me along. His devotion was rarely matched by the success of the club. For much of their history (founded 1905) they have been knocking around in the second or third divisions. They had one golden era under the managership of Alan Curbishley when they were in the Premier League, challenging for a Champions league place at one point. Since those days, it has been a steady slide downwards to where they are now, in the middle of League One.
The parkrun at Charlton Park consists of three laps around the perimeter. The course is pretty much flat and mostly on grass, around the sports pitches with a few short stretches of tarmac path. It would be a fastish course under dry conditions. The rain of the past week however had left the surface rather muddy and sticky. Fortunately the weather was fine this morning, after days of rain, and we could see the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf on the other side of the river.
Charlton parkrun is a relatively new one, this was only run number 12 today but it has proved fairly popular. There were 122 runners there this morning to welcome in the New Year. I didn’t have any great ambitions time wise for this one and so set off at a fairly steady pace. My time after one lap was 7:30. I was fractionally slower on the second lap and again on the third lap. On the final lap I seemed to be feeling the pace a bit and was puffing and blowing a bit but I kept going and crossed the line in 22:58, which gave me 22nd place. That was fine - a decent enough start for 2022.
My statistics for today - that was my very first parkrun of 2022 and my 239th different venue in all. I was first in my age group (my last run as a V60-64) and I was third overall on age graded scores.
After the parkrun I went for a little jog along Charlton Park Lane. I wanted to see what it looked like without thousands of London Marathoners charging down it. The answer - it’s a perfectly pleasant suburban street.
If you’d like a little look at Charlton parkrun, here’s Danny Norman visiting the place a few weeks ago.
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