Carl Marston's parkrun tour: South Woodham Ferrers parkrun
PUBLISHED: 18:35 04 April 2019 | UPDATED: 18:35 04 April 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to South Woodham Ferrers
There are few better places to run, on a sunlit Saturday morning, than along the River Crouch.
I had very pleasant memories of my previous visit, at the beginning of last September, when I took part in the Burnham-on-Crouch parkrun.
I say ‘pleasant,’ because I dipped under 20 minutes by just one second – that was before all the niggles set it – although that day was also the closest I have come to leading home a parkrun field (I was pipped at the post, by the margin of two seconds!).
These days I need a very, very long straight, and a good pair of binoculars, to keep the leaders in sight at any parkrun, up and down the country.
Speed on seven months and I was back beside the River Crouch to run in the South Woodham Ferrers parkrun (about 10 miles from Burnham) last Saturday morning.
Again, it was a delight.
The sun shone, the wind stayed away (I’m led to believe that a stiff breeze can be a problem in these parts), and a remarkable 48 of a field of 145 celebrated personal best times.
Despite these perfect running conditions, I can confirm that I was nowhere near 20 minutes, and nowhere near the pace-setters.
South Woodham Ferrers, only eight miles south-east of Chelmsford, is sited near where Fenn Creek meets the River Crouch.
The parkrun course follows the river for much of the route, starting just down the lane from Marsh Farm Country Park.
When I turned up, there were more swans than parkrunners on the muddy banks of the Crouch, but this is a popular parkrun these days, so the swans were soon outnumbered.
A total of 162 turned up for the inaugural event, on March 10, 2018, while a record field of 248 marked the start of this year with a 5K run-out on January 1.
The course starts from the car park and follows the river along a sea-wall past the yacht club.
There are a few little ups and downs, as the route alternates between the lower and upper paths, but this is basically a very fast course, and well worth a visit.
Last Saturday’s results
Scott Cousins, a member of Springfield Striders and a regular first-placer, led home a field of 145 in 18mins 06secs.
Darren Cook, of Felixstowe Road Runners, was second in 18:22 at what was his first visit to South Woodham Ferrers, although it was his 168th parkrun (137 of them on his home course at Ipswich).
Lisa Cornell, of local club South Woodham Runners, was the leading lady in a PB of 22:19.
Last weekend’s first-placer, Scott Cousins, tops the list with his 16:08 posting at Event No. 52 from just five weeks earlier. He has finished first at all seven of his appearances, a perfect record.
Stacey Ward, of Herne Hill Harriers, holds the female course landmark of 17:17, a very impressive time registered at Event No. 19, last July. She is one of seven women to have beaten 20 minutes.
In fact, Ward is fourth on the all-time list – only Cousins, Billericay Striders’ Crispian Bloomfield (16:21) and Braintree AC’s Tim Woulfe (17:06) have gone quicker over this 5K course.
I am not often egged on by a fellow runner during the final 100 metres to the finish of a parkrun, but that was the case at South Woodham Ferrers.
In truth, it made me feel rather old.
I was shuffling along to the finish, minding my own business, when one of the designated ‘pacers’ – I counted at least a dozen ‘pacers,’ an impressive number – started urging me to up the pace in an effort to beat 21 minutes.
I was much obliged, and duly tried to increase my speed, to such an extent that I almost turned too early, before the finishing cones had been reached.
To my shame – but no great surprise – I comfortably missed the 21-minute mark by a whole six seconds – although I am indebted to the ‘pacer,’ who actually had ‘22’ on his back, for trying to rally me.
I feel I let him down!
Maybe next time I will start my ‘sprint’ a little sooner.
- A record field of 188 celebrated the 200th staging of the Harwich parkrun last Saturday.
- Alas, the Fritton Lake parkrun has been temporarily suspended, due to building work at the site.