On the run: Past stop-offs at Huntingdon parkrun
PUBLISHED: 21:46 19 October 2018 | UPDATED: 21:46 19 October 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he recalls trips up north via Huntingdon
The injury curse continues to curb my running – no miles in three weeks now (who’s counting?) – but I do have one last parkrun venue to recount from my memory bank.
That ‘memory bank’ will then be empty. I have no more parkruns up my sleeve, after recalling a couple of trips to Huntingdon, so I guess this column will be mothballed, revamped or hopefully extended by a sudden recovery from a sore hip.
Time will tell.
I have visited Hinchingbrooke Country Park, and more specifically Huntingdon parkrun, on more than one occasion during a long journey either north or west, covering the fortunes of Colchester United FC.
Although just under 50 miles from my home, it is not exactly a half-way stop for marathon treks to the likes of Blackpool (as was the case in January, 2017) or Newport, South Wales (February, 2017).
But with the normal 9am starts, for parkrun, it does ensure I leave at the crack of dawn and get to stretch my legs, before carrying on revived to Bloomfield Road or Rodney Park.
Out of interest, both these matches ended in 1-1 draw, and on both occasions I failed to beat the 20-minute barrier at Huntingdon.
I blamed the weather, at the time. It was freezing cold on both occasions, with a few icy patches around a two-lap course. I’d like to think that I took it steady, to avoid straining a muscle or turning an ankle ahead of long stints up the A1 or across the A14.
The venue is perfect, for a fleeting visit, being just two miles from the A14/A1, though its not necessarily so convenient at the moment, with all the road developments in the area, including a new bypass under construction.
The course is flat, but not super quick. The start and finish is on grass near a cafe, and the route follows unsurfaced bridleways plus concrete paths alongside Alconbury Brook, through a wooded area and around an ornamental lake.
Last Saturday was the 280th staging of the event, with 275 finishers, although the record field stands at an impressive 565 from July 2, 2016.
My two visits, from early 2017, were very similar, in that David Hudson, of BRJ Run & Tri, was first home on each occasion, leading home 300-plus fields. He has a course best of 15:53, the only runner to beat 16 minutes.
I remember a helpful volunteer shouting out times as each runner passed him at the end of lap one. At this half-way stage I was on for sub-20 minute times, but for some unknown reason, lap two has always been slower – perhaps my mind was already beginning to wander towards munching on a stick of rock at Blackpool, or a Welsh cake at Newport?
Looking through the statistics that adorn every parkrun website, I note that runners from Suffolk and Essex have regularly rolled up to Huntingdon.
Friday Five Series champion Odette Robson, of Saint Edmund Pacers, holds the ninth quickest time for a female (19:05) over the two laps at Hinchingbrooke Country Park, while Springfield Striders’ Nikki Brockbank is No. 15th on the list (19:24).
Colchester Harriers’ Martyn Clarke (19:24), Lowestoft’s John Jervis (19:25) and Stowmarket Striders’ Nicholas Barton (20:11) are all on the top 500 ‘leaderboard.’
The next time I have to nip up to Blackpool, or across to Newport, then Huntingdon will again be on my stop-off list. Painful hip permitting, of course.
A PARKRUN ASIDE
After his ‘parkrun’ debut at Bury St Edmunds the previous Saturday, my eldest step-son, Jack, confirmed my suspicions that he had caught the parkrun bug by taking part in the Norwich parkrun last weekend – he is based just down the road from Eaton Park, as a student at University of East Anglia
I think Jack can now consider to be a proper runner, for two reasons.
Firstly, he dramatically improved upon his time from the two-lap 5K challenge at Nowton Park, where he had recorded 23:33.
At Norwich, after I had delivered the earth-shattering news that it was a much faster course (three-and-a-bit dead-flat circuits, on good paths), Jack trimmed nearly two minutes off his parkrun PB with a very satisfactory 21:40.
And secondly, when he returned home later that day, for a family gathering, he revealed that he had trouble walking up and down the stairs, due to a swollen left knee.
Yes, indeed. A proper runner!