Carl Marston's On the Run parkrun tour: Holkham parkrun in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 15:48 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:48 08 March 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Norfolk for the Holkham parkrun
This was neither the first time I had visited Holkham Hall, nor the first time that I had run there.
When I was far younger, and in far better shape, I donned my Saint Edmund Pacers vest and slipped on a pair of spikes to run in the annual South of England Cross Country Championships, at Holkham Hall.
That was 12 years ago, back in late January, 2007.
A bit of research revealed that I finished 171st over a gruelling 15km course that winter’s day, in North Norfolk, a mere 11 minutes behind the winner!
Incidentally, a year later and I again ran the South of England Championships, this time when they were held at their spiritual home of Parliament Hill Fields, Hampstead Heath, in north London.
The course was far tougher than at Holkham, with more hills and far more mud.
The whole 15K experience was a blur of bogs, puddles and swamps, and the clearest memory I have of that day, and race (11 years ago), was being overtaken by world-renowned snooker player, Ronnie O’Sullivan, who at the time was a very keen club runner. He won the World Snooker Championship just a few months later.
Perhaps I will touch on that further, when I get around to running the Hampstead Heath parkrun in a few weeks, months or years time.
But back to Holkham.
Situated close to Wells-next-the Sea, Holkham Hall is an 18th century country house located adjacent to the village of Holkham, on the North Norfolk coast.
It is within a wonderful private estate encompassing about 25,000 acres of parkland, farmland and woodland.
One of the most prominent landmarks is the obelisk, which was built in 1730 and stands at 80 feet on the highest point of the park, on axis with the centre of the house.
I mention this, because the obelisk is a very welcome sight for parkrunners as they approach the finish of the weekly 5K, although it naturally involves a short ascent to reach it before a swift downhill section to the finish.
My visit last Saturday morning coincided with the 150th staging of the Holkham parkrun.
The event has gone from strength to strength ever since 96 runners, joggers and walkers congregated for the inaugural event on December 12, 2015.
A record 400 toed the start-line, near the Ice House beside the lake, for Event No. 129 last August.
And a respectable 133 braved a cold wind for last Saturday’s 150th bonanza, tackling the normal one-lap route along good-surfaced tracks and roads.
The first half is gently uphill, for the most part – it helps to be pulled along by a dog, along this section (two dogs past me!), before the welcome turn along the long South Drive and the short climb up and around the obelisk before a short ‘sprint’ to the finish, back beside the lake.
Last Saturday’s results
James O’Neill, of Ryston Runners, was away and clear in 16mins 41secs, a very impressive time, although he has a personal best of 16:16 for the course.
Young Abbi McCallum, of North Norfolk Harriers, was the first female finisher in 21:51. She was a PB of 20:41.
Piers Arnold, of City of Norwich AC, is the only runner to have beaten 16 minutes. He clocked 15:55 at Event No.83 (August, 2017). Cambridge & Coleridge’s Victoria Knight set the quickest time of 17:30 for a female in April, 2015.
I always enjoy my visits to the North Norfolk coast, which usually involve trying to keep up with my over-excited Italian Spinone on the coast path between Blakeney and Stiffkey.
Once, on an organised dog-walk from Holkham Hall to Holkham beach, the aforementioned Oscar worked his way to the head of the pack (of dogs and walkers) and reached the sea first, but not before sprinting through a stretch of sand dunes frequented by naturists.
I don’t know what those naturists thought, being suddenly invaded by a procession of 50 or so dogs, led by my own one!
Fortunately, there were no naturists on display last weekend – it was too cold for that.
I duly kept my clothes on and chalked up my 100th parkrun (as opposed to 80th different one) in a modest 21:31.
And no, I didn’t not get overtaken by Ronnie O’Sullivan – makes a change!