On the Run: Carl Marston spotlights the Thetford Parkrun
PUBLISHED: 16:40 10 November 2017
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different Parkruns.
Thetford boasts some impressive Priory ruins, the Dad’s Army Museum, nearby ‘Grimes Graves’ and the exhilerating ‘Go Ape’ high ropes forest adventure, to name but a few attractions.
And since the late winter of 2013, it has also been home to one of Norfolk’s 11 Parkruns.
This is a cracking run, amounting to a few separate loops within the Abbey Meadows, close to the Priory and with a good stretch alongside the River Little Ouse.
Runners can park for free at the nearby Iceland car park (always an attraction), and not surprisingly the route is flat, on paths and grass.
A field of 88 took part in the first event, back on February 23, 2013, and that total dipped to just 45 at the fifth event. But now Thetford usually hosts fields of around the 150 to 200-mark.
The biggest field, of 257, took part in the 234th event on June 17 of this year.
Seasoned athlete Kevin Vaughan led home a field of 155 at last weekend’s meeting, which was event No. 254.
I used to run a good deal with Vaughan in the same Saint Edmund Pacers team, both on the road and on the cross country circuit. And despite being a few years older, he always showed me a clean pair of heels.
It’s good to see that over-50 veteran Vaughan is still running so well. Last weekend was actually his 202nd Parkrun, and his 104th at Thetford. He completed his 200th Parkrun, again at Thetford, just three weeks earlier.
Now a member of his local club Thetford AC, Vaughan was first in 18mins 14secs for the 5K route last Saturday, although he has ran 17:55 on this course.
Louise Wright, also of Thetford AC, finished fourth overall and was also the leading lady, in what her 55th Parkrun.
Over-40 veteran Wright just dipped under 20 minutes (19:59), only seven seconds off her quickest of 19:52.
She is more likely to be seen running at Brandon Country Park, where she has completed 50 of her 55 Parkruns.
There were six ‘first-timers’ running their first Parkruns last Saturday. They were Mike Fox, Dave Drake, Shaun Conway, Taz Wilson, Lauren Sparrow and Michelle Loft.
Thomas Beedell, of Woodford Green & Essex Ladies, has the distinction of posting the quickest time for the Thetford event. He set a scorching 15:56 back on January 30, 2016.
Seven ladies have posted sub-20-minute times, spearheaded by Jo Wilkinson, a former international long-distance runner.
Wilkinson, of Bedford & County, notched a fast 17:42 at the 79th staging of the Thetford Parkrun in August, 2014. Not surprisingly, she was first home outright that day.
Wilkinson clocked an impressive 2:37:39 at the London Marathon in 2009, as an over-35 veteran, and a year later she finished 23rd in the women’s marathon at the European Championships in Barcelona.
Suffolk-based runners have the second and third quickest female times at Thetford – Stowmarket Striders’ Tamara Jordan (18:55) and Ipswich JAFFA’s Laura Thomas (19:10).
I took part in this event earlier in the year, when I was fighting fit and able to just duck under the 20-minute mark.
I’m sure it’s also a run that I will return to, in the future – perhaps when we’ve had some heavy rain and the grass is churned up a bit, to give it even more the feel of a cross country.
To date, I have only run this one of the 11 Parkruns in Norfolk.
For the record, the others are at Norwich, Holkham, Sheringham, King’s Lynn, Brundall, Blickling, Catton, Mulbarton, Gorleston Cliffs and Fritton Lake.
Holkham was only introduced in December, 2015 (91 events so far). By contrast, Gorleston Cliffs has staged 446 Parkruns, the first back in August, 2009.