On the run: Carl Marston's take on the Great Denham parkrun
PUBLISHED: 16:24 01 March 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Great Denham, near Bedford
The total number of parkruns in the UK burst through the 600-barrier last weekend.
New events are being introduced virtually every week, and five new venues were established only last Saturday, including one within the confines of a prison.
In addition to inaugural parkruns at California Country (Wokingham, Berks), Dunstable Downs (Bedfordshire), Haldon Forest (Exeter, Devon) and Marshall Drive (Brotton, North Yorkshire), another was set-up at Feltham (West London), within the grounds of a young offenders institution.
And the parkrun surge shows no signs of slowing down.
In fact, I have done my homework and discovered that three new parkruns, in the East Anglian region alone, are to be unveiled tomorrow morning.
Colchester will be welcoming its second parkrun, Highwoods parkrun (at Highwoods Country Park), while Norfolk will have a further two events within its boundaries – the Loch Neaton parkrun at Watton, and the Lingwood parkrun (village equidistant between Norwich and Great Yarmouth).
No doubt I will visit all three, over the coming weeks and months, for the benefit of this column, although a trip to the Feltham parkrun is more unlikely.
Instead of attending the new parkrun at Dunstable Downs, in Bedfordshire, I headed off to another event in the same county, and one that had celebrated its first anniversary only the previous weekend.
The Great Denham parkrun is as flat as a pancake, ideal if you are looking for a relatively ‘easy’ 5K to protect a few injuries.
A village situated on the western outskirts of Bedford, in a loop on the banks of the River Great Ouse, Great Denham is growing rapidly with many new housing developments appearing.
That should ensure growing numbers of runners taking part in the weekly Great Denham parkrun, a clockwise two-lap course on hard-packed, well-surfaced paths around the newly-established Great Denham Country Park.
It is a two-and-a-half mile walk from the centre of Bedford, along a riverside path, which I imagine would have been a delight on a misty morning like last Saturday.
I say ‘imagine,’ because I skirted around Bedford by sticking to the A421 and A428 in the car, a quicker if less scenic way of ending up on the start-line.
Adam Bowller, of North Herts RC, led home a field of 233 at the 53rd staging of the event – the previous weekend had seen many runners turn up in fancy-dress to celebrate the first anniversary.
As usual, I was a week late!
Sarah Ritchie (Redway Runners) was the first female in 20:29.
A field of 240 turned up for the inaugural event, on February 17, 2018, while 252 joined in the first anniversary celebrations.
The current record stands at the 260 who toed the line for the New Year’s Day event.
Ian Kimpton holds the course best of 15:14, from Event No. 15 in June, while Rosie McNabola, of Luton AC, clocked the fastest time by a female last March, with a swift 17:02.
I am nearing the 100-mark for parkruns, no big deal, and that certainly pales into insignificance when compared to a few of the diehard parkrun tourists who rolled up at Great Denham last weekend.
Three names leapt out of the results list.
Ruth Benzimra (100 Marathon Club) finished her 328th parkrun and 189th different one (in the UK) last Saturday, while Kevin Jones chalked up his 411th and also his 231st different UK parkrun.
Yet Paul Freyne, well-known in parkrunning circles, was also in attendance and duly chalked up his 499th parkrun, worldwide. It was his 387th different UK parkrun, a feat only bettered by Paul Fielding (430).
Of course I had no idea who was taking part. I just nursed a sore pair of calves around the dead-flat two laps in just under 22 minutes, having been amused by a quote-of-the-day before the start.
With reference to some construction work, on site, one ‘local’ said to the other: “They’ve taken away our toilets, and now they’ve taken away our car park!.”
I’m sure normal service will resume in the near future.
Now, which direction shall I point the car to record parkrun No. 100? I’ll keep my options open, but Feltham is a no-goer.