Plaque On Track

I was delighted with my first sign of plaque – no, not even dental is spelt “placque”! It was a delight to open a newly refurbished track in Parliament Hill. Great coverage too – “Parliament Hill athletics track on Hampstead Heath gets £2m revamp“.

Just before kicking off a race amongst some enthusiastic junior Harriers, my remarks went:

Parliament Hill Athletics Track official opening, Parliament Hill Athletics Track, Hampstead Heath, Wednesday, 17 April 2024, by The Rt Hon The Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Professor Michael Mainelli

Chair, Councillors, ladies and gentlemen…

I am delighted to be here to officially open the Parliament Hill athletics track after this renovation. Huge thanks to the Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood and Queen’s Park Committee, the staff of the Environment Department and all those involved in the works.

I was going to start with a joke, but I didn’t want to do a running gag.

The City of London Corporation has managed Hampstead Heath since 1989. This is part of the more than 11,000 acres of open space in London and southeast England – which also include Burnham Beeches, Epping Forest and many more – in which we invest over £38million a year.

These open spaces, most of which are charitable trusts, are run at little or no cost to the communities that they serve. They include important wildlife habitats, Special Areas of Conservation, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and National Nature Reserves – and they are protected by legislation. They are also part of the lungs of London, removing around 16,000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. Hampstead Heath is one of our most iconic.

Parliament Hill = After a £2million investment in this site, these improvements to one of the country’s top athletics venues are now complete – ensuring this remains a key venue for national and international athletics events, and retains the prestigious UK Athletics Trackmark accreditation.

As well as being open to the public, this track is used throughout the year by several running clubs and schools from across north and central London, and is open to the public. In fact, 50 local schools use it for PE and sports days. And the running clubs here also have strong youth sections and encourage participation from local young people.

One such club is the Highgate Harriers, who hold their annual Night of the 10,000m PBs (Personal Bests) here. This popular sporting event – which has been running for more than a decade now – is free to attend and brings together elite runners from across the world to compete alongside some of Britain’s best athletes.

As well as the Olympic 10,000m trials, this year’s event in May will also host the British Championships and will be a designated World Athletics Silver Label event, attracting some of the best International elite athletes. Alongside all those PBs, this site is home to a record, when Mizan Adane of Ethiopia ran 10,000m in 29 minutes 59 seconds last year, the fastest time by any woman on a UK track.

I am delighted that we are joined today by a London Marathon winner and a 10,000m world record holder. I recently had the pleasure of meeting the City of London Corporation’s own ‘Mile 23’ Club who will be running the London Marathon this weekend – hopefully they will be among the people enjoying this renovated track in future.

I ran the London Marathon 21 years ago – but once was enough for me. You won’t see my running the course in my mayoral regalia – although I may suggest this for one of my successors. But everyone who does run it has my respect, and I wish them all the best of luck.

After the City worked so closely with the clubs who use this facility throughout the improvement works, we can be confident that the improved track will meet and exceed the needs of users for many years to come. In fact, I can say with certainty, it will be a runaway success.

My thanks and congratulations again to all those involved in the renovation and improvement of this great facility,
I look forward to unveiling the official plaque. Thank you.

‘Warm up’ chat with William Upton KC CC, Chair, Hampstead Heath, Highgate Wood, and Queen’s Park Committee