parkrun tour of 2019: biggest, slowest, most scenic, most festive

Runners and walkers, many of them with Christmas hats, congregate before the start of the Roding Val

Runners and walkers, many of them with Christmas hats, congregate before the start of the Roding Valley parkrun on Christmas Day. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. He ends 2019 with trips to Roding Valley (Essex) and Orpington (Kent)

Roding Valley Recreation Ground, home of the Roding Valley parkrun in Loughton

Roding Valley Recreation Ground, home of the Roding Valley parkrun in Loughton - Credit: Archant

I rounded off a busy 2019 with parkrun visits to Roding Valley, on Christmas Day, and a jaunt to Orpington for the final Saturday of the year.

Here's a run-down of those two visits, alongside a few highs, lows and landmarks of this 2019 parkrun tour.

CHRISTMAS DAY - Roding Valley

Runners cope with muddy conditions near the finish of the Roding Valley parkrun. Picture: CARL MARST

Runners cope with muddy conditions near the finish of the Roding Valley parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

I had never run a parkrun on Christmas Day - in fact, it had never even crossed my mind - but with one step-son visiting his girlfriend in Germany, and the other working as a chef in Tewin, Hertfordshire, there were no early morning family commitments.


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In fact, when asked by my wife what I would like as a Christmas present, I even suggested a pass to attend a parkrun, as a tourist, before preparing for a big family lunch.

My own home event at Bury St Edmunds was cancelled, due to a waterlogged and mudbath of a course at Nowton Park, so instead I hit the road and went to the Roding Valley event at Loughton, in the Epping Forest District of Essex.

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It was wet, it was muddy, but it was on!

Waterlogged conditions for the Roding Valley parkrun, on a sunlit Christmas Day. Picture: CARL MARST

Waterlogged conditions for the Roding Valley parkrun, on a sunlit Christmas Day. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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There might have not been the numbers that converged on the likes of the Bushy parkrun (world record 2,545 finishers, in addition to boasting the longest finish funnel, at 238 metres) or the Norwich parkrun (event record 1,342 finishers, propelling Eaton Park to No. 2 in the all-time UK attendance records), but there was still a heart-warming festive feel to Roding Valley, with 126 runners and walkers squelching around the recreation ground.

Runners approach the grassy finish to the Christmas Day Roding Valley parkrun, in Loughton, Essex. P

Runners approach the grassy finish to the Christmas Day Roding Valley parkrun, in Loughton, Essex. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

The festive tunes were blasted out from speakers near the start-finish area as we negotiated two laps, with two added-on out-and-back sections along the tree line, while traditional Christmas hats were in the majority, and a few Christmas pudding hats in the minority.

It was more mud than grass, and it was a feat to keep your balance crossing the wooden bridges, while a huge puddle at least ensured an impromptu wash for your trainers.

Proper parkrun, proper Christmas spirit.

Well done Roding Valley.

The welcome sign for the Orpington parkrun

The welcome sign for the Orpington parkrun - Credit: Archant

FINAL EVENT OF 2019 - Orpington

I decided to end 2019 where I had started it, down in Kent.

Having kicked-off the year with a sprightly 5K at Foots Cray Meadows, I ended it with an appearance at the nearby Orpington parkrun, less than five miles away in a southerly direction, last Saturday morning.

Goddington Park was not quite as muddy, or waterlogged, as Roding Valley Recreation Ground, but the three-lapper from the pavilion was still a true cross country test.

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The downhill section along the gravel path, provided you avoided the bollards, was very welcome, offsetting the steady climb beside the trees, and their roots, and a tricky stretch around the rugby pitch - there is an art to keeping your balance alongside and around the many red cones.

A field of 188 of us mastered the 381st Orpington parkrun and, as the Run Director almost forgot to mention on the start-line, the 11 volunteers were simply superb.

MISCELLANEOUS 2019

Some facts, figures and observations from this 2019 parkrun tour:

First event: Cray Foot Meadows (Kent, January 1).

Last event: Orpington (Kent, December 28).

Toughest courses: Gadebridge (Hertfordshire, January), Frickley Country (West Yorkshire, April), Dunstable Downs (Bedfordshire, December), Hadleigh (Essex, December).

Quickest courses: Great Denham (Beds, February), Millennium Country (Beds, April), Northampton (Northants, May), Sloughbottom (Norfolk, August), Victoria Park (London, December).

Most scenic venues: Holkham (Norfolk, March), Hampstead Heath (North-West London, July), Blickling (Norfolk, July), Sizewell (Suffolk, August).

Slowest time: Banstead Woods (Surrey, November).

Fastest time: Sloughbottom (Norfolk, August).

Biggest fields: Milton Keynes (631, September), Braunstone (588, August), Northampton (510, May)

Smallest fields: Snowden Field (95, , Lincs, April), Long Neaton, Watton (97, Norfolk, November).

Coldest events: Southend (Essex, January), Ellenbrook Fields (Herts, February), Thurrock Orsett (Essex, February), Luton Wardown (Beds, November).

Warmest events: Highwoods (Essex, June), Braunstone (Leics, August).

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