Carl Marston’s parkrun tour: a northern stop at Frickley Country parkrun
- Credit: Archant
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Frickley Country parkrun, in West Yorkshire
They breed them tough up north, and that applies to the parkrun courses as well as the people.
I can vouch for that, after stopping off at one of my most northerly outposts – only eclipsed so far by the Pontefract parkrun – on my way up to Lancashire last weekend.
The Frickley Country parkrun, situated in the small town of South Elmsall in West Yorkshire, is just off the A1 on the way to Wakefield, and so within striking distance of my afternoon destination of Bury FC’s Gigg Lane.
Ironically, the home of the Frickley Country parkrun is also the home to the local football club, Frickley Athletic, a well-known non-league club who graced the top division of the non-league scene during the early 1980s (Alliance Premier League, which became the Conference) and enjoyed several good runs in the FA Cup.
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Talking of ‘good runs,’ the parkrun course is a gem.
In fact, it is probably the toughest of all the parkruns I have so far tackled on this UK tour, and it certainly had the steepest climbs.
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Having travelled 150-plus miles to get there, I wasn’t complaining.
You don’t want to go all that way and be confronted with a dead-flat uninspiring three-lap course within the confines of a cheerless urban park.
And there is nothing ‘uninspiring’ or ‘cheerless’ about the Frickley Country parkrun, especially on a bright but chilly Saturday morning.
The ascents are challenging, but are also (quite literally) breathtaking – I was certainly gasping after the steep, winding climb after the first kilometre.
But the panoramic views, of both urban and rural landscapes, are well worth the toil.
The parkrun course is on the site of the old Frickley Colliery, which emerged during the Industrial Revolution and transformed South Elmsall from a sleepy farming settlement into a small town.
Houses were built, to cope with the boom in population, as Frickley became one of the largest deep coal mines in the country.
It also had the reputation of being one of the most hard-line, in terms of the picketing which took place during the UK Miners Strike of the mid-1980s.
As a result, it was one of the last pits to re-open after the strike, and was eventually closed in November, 1993, after the closure of many other pits nearby.
Nowadays, the site has been given a big face-lift.
Frickley Country Park spans 180 acres, where the colliery used to stand, with 17 miles of footpaths and cycle paths.
It was opened in 2009, but the parkrun has only been up-and-running for a matter of four months.
The inaugural event was on January 5 of this year, and last Saturday was only the 14th staging of this testing 5K.
Starting from Frickley Athletic FC Pavilion, there is a main 4K lap, described as ‘undulating’ (alarm bells always start sounding with that description) and a final 1K loop.
Last Saturday’s results
Teenager Thomas Whitworth, of Meltham AC, marked his first visit with a triumphant time of 17mins 24secs as he led home a field of 103. He was a minute clear of his closest rival.
Karen Ball, of Ackworth Road Runners, was first female for the third time, in 19:43.
As so often happens at the start of a new parkrun, the first event tends to attract a huge field, and that was the case at Frickley Country when 308 assembled.
Whitworth’s 17:24 effort from last Saturday established a new course record, which had previously been held by Barnsley Harriers’ Alan Ford (17:33).
The aforementioned Ball has the female course best of 19:01, set six weeks earlier. She is the only female to so far beat 20 minutes.
The legs were a bit stiff after the long drive up the A1, and I needed to conserve some energy for the trials and tribulations of reporting on another Colchester United away defeat that afternoon, but the cob webs were certainly blown away by an exhilarating 5K.
If the Frickley Country parkrun was my ‘home’ event, on my doorstep, then I would be a hundred times fitter than I am now, due to the rewarding climbs – or maybe I would be burnt out.
And the moral of this story? If you want an easy parkrun – avoid old colliery sites.