Almost 150 people took part in the first Thames Path Woolwich Parkrun yesterday, after organisers kept quiet about the event so they weren’t overwhelmed by visitors.
The free, weekly volunteer-run 5k event, along the riverfront at Woolwich and west Thamesmead, is London’s 62nd Parkrun and the fourth to open in Greenwich borough.
Participants can walk, jog or run – all they need to do is sign up on the website to be given a personal barcode, which they take with them to every event. Yesterday’s finish times ranged from 18 to 50 minutes.
The first event had 149 people taking part, meeting by the Peter Burke Assembly statues in the Royal Arsenal at 8.45am before being taken to the start point. The course follows the Thames Path before running into Gallions Reach Park, where it takes a spiral path up the mound in the centre of the park.
Runners and walkers then turn around at the top and follow the path back to the river, and back to the Assembly statues where they are given finish tokens which are scanned along with their barcodes. They then receive their times by text message later in the day.
Parkrun has become hugely popular, with people travelling across Britain and beyond to take part in different events; a phenomenon encouraged by apps which list achievements that can be ticked off by travelling to new different events.
But the Thames Path Woolwich debut was kept off the Parkrun website until later in the day to give volunteers a chance to get used to the event without being overwhelmed.
The riverside location and proximity to the Elizabeth Line means the new run is certain to be a hit with runners and walkers from far and wide, but Nick Sankey, the event director, asked visitors who are thinking of making a special trip to hold off for a few weeks to “give us a chance to bed in”.
“We are hugely accessible and everyone is going to be thinking that it’s very easy to get to,” he told 853. “We’ve got a very new volunteer team with a lot of people volunteering for the first time today.”
Sankey said that he was “really pleased” with how it went, and that he started it because the riverside was where he normally went running.
“It’s been 18 months in the making and there were times when we wondered if it would happen,” he said. “I think it’s great that so many people who live on the Arsenal have found it. They’ve been travelling to Parkruns and now they’ve got one on their doorstep.”
Help from Berkeley Homes, which is developing the Royal Arsenal, Peabody, which is doing the same in Thamesmead, and the company behind the Woolwich Exchange development helped get the run off the ground. Peabody also installed new gates in Gallions Reach Park to accommodate the run. The borough’s leisure provider GLL, which has its headquarters on the Arsenal, also chipped in.
The arrival of Parkrun also promises to be a boost for the Woolwich Works arts hub, which is next to the finish line – if it can be persuaded to open its doors slightly earlier to serve scores of hungry runners and walkers.
It opened its cafe early yesterday, but this website understands that managers at Woolwich Works, which was built with £45 million of council cash, have not committed to opening in future weeks.
Until October 2021 the borough only had one Parkrun event – at Avery Hill Park in Eltham. Since then Greenwich Parkrun has been joined by events in Sutcliffe Park and Charlton Park, and the arrival of Thames Path Woolwich means that only Bromley has more runs.
Thames Path Woolwich Parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9am, although participants meet at James Clavell Square five minutes beforehand to walk to the start. To volunteer or find out more, visit parkrun.org.uk/thamespathwoolwich.
Help 853 continue reporting on public interest issues in Greenwich and southeast London – we are the only outlet regularly producing original journalism in the borough, and we can only do it with your funding.
Please join over 100 donors who use Steady, PressPatron or Patreon to give a little towards our costs every month. The money pays the bills, a wage for the editor and pays others to write for the site.
You can also buy the editor a coffee at ko-fi.com. Thank you.