Carl Marston's parkrun tour: Choice of Japan or Bedfordshire (Millennium Country parkrun)
PUBLISHED: 15:32 11 April 2019 | UPDATED: 15:32 11 April 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to the Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale
It was another big last weekend for parkrun, all over the world, from Japan to Poland, from Australia to rural Bedfordshire.
Japan became the 21st country to join the parkrun family last Saturday morning, with the launch of its first ever parkrun.
Over in Poland, the number of parkruns hit 60, with the birth of the Park Zdrojwy event, while Australia’s total was boosted to 351 by the arrival of two new events at Lorne Beach and Naracoorte Lake.
Australia also celebrated its eighth birthday last weekend – the Main Beach parkrun was first held in Queensland in 2011.
And so we come to rural Bedfordshire!
I had to report on Colchester United’s home game against Oldham Athletic, last Saturday afternoon, which unfortunately ruled out trips to Australia, Poland or Japan to celebrate birthdays or inaugural events.
So instead, I opted for the unusual choice of running in a parkrun that bore my name in its title – Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale – situated just off the A421 between Bedford and Milton Keynes.
A bit of a mouthful, but I found it difficult to resist as a member of the ‘Marston’ clan.
And who wants to run along an Australian beach, or in a park in a Japanese city, when you can tackle an out-and-back 5K course around a lake, formerly the home of a massive brickworks, in Eastern England?
Japan will have to wait.
The Millennium Country parkrun is one of the youngest of the 612 parkruns in the UK. In fact, it was only established three weeks ago, so last weekend was its third event.
I trust I was the first ‘Marston’ to complete this fast, flat 5K in the Forest of Marston Vale.
The Millennium Country Park, as the name suggests, was opened in 2000 and features 225 hectares of woodlands, meadows and a Wetland Nature Reserve, close to the village of Marston Moreteyne.
The area was previously home to the Stewartby Brickworks, plus a few landfill sites, but the empty pits have since been transformed into lakes and more than 1.5 million trees have currently been planted, with a few more million in the pipeline.
The parkrun starts from near the Forest Centre and is an out-and-back route around Stewartby Lake, on trail paths and tarmac paths.
The going is good, as are the views across the lake, and it is impossible to veer off course.
Last Saturday’s results
A field of 136 turned up for the inaugural event, and that figure was swelled to 179 on week two, and to 216 last Saturday.
Teenager Will Bowran (appropriate name), a member of St Albans AC, was first home in 17mins 14secs.
There was an impressive run from Johanna Sharples, of Leighton Buzzard AC, who was sixth overall and the first female in 18:27.
Being only the third event, it was no surprise that 17 of the top 20 were ‘first timers’ to the Millennium Country parkrun. In fact, 173 of the 216 were first-time visitors, including me.
Simon Coombes, an over-45 veteran from Herne Hill Harriers, has set the benchmark with his 16:31 from week two.
Last Saturday’s first-placer, Will Bowran, is second on the list, while Johanna Sharples has the ladies’ best and is ninth in the overall standings.
I had actually intended to head north-westwards into the Fens, to visit the Whittlesey parkrun, but having learnt of a road closure around Ely, I travelled south-westwards instead to Marston Moreteyne – I didn’t want to spend the morning hopelessly lost, in Cambridgeshire, among a sea of diversion signs.
At the end of 2017, I had stopped off at the Bedford parkrun on an away trip with Colchester United, and only a few weeks ago I had visited the still relatively ‘young’ Great Denham parkrun, which is sited only four miles away from Millennium Country Park, so this was familiar territory for me.
There was a chill in the air – I bet it was warmer in Japan, and Australia – so I kept the jogging bottoms on and sauntered around the 5K in precisely 20mins 50secs.
I note this has placed me 39th on the all-time list, which would be an impressive position after 203 events, not quite so impressive after three!
Next week .... Japan? Australia?