On the run: parkrun tour heads to Castle Park, Bishop’s Stortford
- Credit: Archant
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This week – Bishop’s Stortford
Situated less than eight miles from Stansted airport, the historic market town of Bishop’s Stortford is ideally located for a short flight to somewhere hot, for the summer recess.
But there was no need to escape to the Canary Islands or the Greek coast last weekend – the Castle Park parkrun, in the centre of Bishop’s Stortford, offered Mediterranean-like conditions, even at 9am on a Saturday morning.
Not only a veteran in age, I am now approaching veteran status in parkrunning circles, although I was still a relative parkrun novice when the Hatfield Forest parkrun bit the dust, nearly a year ago.
Only a small handful of parkruns have failed to stand the test of time – there is currently a grand total of 544 parkruns in the UK, with more being added most weeks – but a few of them can be a victim of their own success.
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That was the experience of the Hatfield Forest parkrun, which took place on National Trust-owned land, just three miles east of Bishop’s Stortford.
After 131 events, spanning March, 2015, to September, 2017, the Hatfield Forest 5K bonanza was discontinued, due to ever-increasing numbers of runners putting pressure on car-parking, and use of the forest trails in sometimes testing conditions.
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But Hatfield Forest’s loss is Bishops Stortford’s gain because, after 30 months at the former venue, it found a new home at Castle Park.
And that is where my parkrun tour took me on a sun-kissed Saturday.
It might not have the beauty, or the lonely isolation, associated with Hatfield Forest, a former Royal Hunting Forest, but Castle Park has its attractions, especially for a seasoned parkrunner
It offers a potentially fast, two-lap course, with car parks close at hand (always a bonus), and the quiet River Stort for company, as well as the not-so-quiet West Anglia Main Line – Bishop’s Stortford, a commuter town, is only 30 miles from Liverpool Street Station.
Recent fields have been in excess of 300, establishing the Castle Park event as a big hit with the locals.
Last Saturday, the 44th staging, boasted a total of 331 finishers, just two short of the 333 who turned up for the inaugural event, back on September 30, 2017.
Starting from the bandstand, there is a narrow half-lap of Sworder’s Field to negotiate before covering two big laps out to Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, along the river and across playing fields back beside the railway line.
It ends with a final half-lap of Sworder’s Field – perfect symmetry.
Last Saturday’s results
It is rare for a 300-plus field to be led home by a female, but Megan Evans showed everyone a clean pair of heels, including my good self.
A member of Chelmsford AC, Evans stopped the clock at 19mins 20secs to claim her eighth Castle Park first place. She has a personal best of 18:18 for the course.
Adam Chapman, of local club Bishop’s Stortford RC, was second overall and first male in 19:26.
Saturday’s winner, Megan Evans, has the female course record for her 18:18 from event No. 6, last November, while Ian Kempton holds the men’s best thanks to his scorching 15:37 from the second event, in early October, ahead of Billericay Striders’ Crispian Bloomfield (16:33) and Springfield Striders’ Mark Newton (16:57).
It was quite a chastening experience, running alongside several speed merchants propelling buggies around the course, plus no end of dogs, all straining at the leash.
I started a little too quickly, and was later overtaken by the leading lady, plus two buggy-pushers. I did manage to nip back past one of the buggies, without catching my Achilles on a wheel, to continue a recent trend of slipping under 20 minutes. Sun-stroke was also avoided,