Puddles, laces and a flying Dutchman at Fletcher Moss – Carl Marston’s parkrun tour

Fletcher Moss Park, home to the weekly Fletcher Moss parkrun in Didsbury, South Manchester. Picture:

Fletcher Moss Park, home to the weekly Fletcher Moss parkrun in Didsbury, South Manchester. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Fletcher Moss parkrun in Greater Manchester

Columnist Carl Marston, right, with his nephew Matt before the start of the Fletcher Moss parkrun

Columnist Carl Marston, right, with his nephew Matt before the start of the Fletcher Moss parkrun - Credit: Archant

I stretched the parkrun tourist tag to new lengths last weekend, to take part in the delightfully-named Fletcher Moss parkrun, in Greater Manchester.

There were several reasons for this visit, not just the desire to run a free 5K on the outskirts of England's second largest city.

It certainly wasn't for a love of 'early starts' - I had to leave the house before 4.30am, to make sure I was toeing the line in Fletcher Moss Park, in Didsbury, before the 9am start. This required a big effort, and lots of coffee.

Instead, I was swayed by a rendezvous with a nephew, a visit to an old mate, and an afternoon jaunt to nearby Moor Lane, the home of Salford City FC, to catch up on the promotion exploits of Colchester United.

Two pairs of trainers, and four different coloured laces, for columnist Carl Marston and his nephew

Two pairs of trainers, and four different coloured laces, for columnist Carl Marston and his nephew Matt - Credit: Archant


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Top of the list was a meet-up with Matthew, my 'runner' nephew who is currently studying medicine at the University of Manchester, and whose student house digs are in Withington, a suburb of South Manchester situated just a couple of miles north of Fletcher Moss Park.

We had run in the same event before, nearer to our Suffolk homes at the Bury St Edmunds parkrun in Nowton Park, but this was our first catch-up for a while.

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Being a student, Matt had naturally only got to bed a few minutes before my alarm sounded, 200 miles to the south in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Neither preparation was therefore ideal. Four hours in a car is never the perfect environment to prepare for a run, while Matt was starved of sleep and also suffering from a bruised hip, caused by a fall on some slippery cardboard - runners pick up injuries in the most unlikely ways.

Runners approach the finish to last Saturday's Fletcher Moss parkrun, in Greater Manchester. Picture

Runners approach the finish to last Saturday's Fletcher Moss parkrun, in Greater Manchester. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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And both Matt and I do profess to be 'proper runners,' whatever that means.

Runners in the tree-lined avenue at the finish to the Fletcher Moss parkrun last Saturday morning. P

Runners in the tree-lined avenue at the finish to the Fletcher Moss parkrun last Saturday morning. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

One sure indicator of our preference to run well, rather than look good, was the state of our respective pairs of trainers.

Now I have snapped a few laces, while undergoing this parkrun tour - one such 'lace issue' almost caused me to miss the start of the Harrow parkrun in north-west London last year - and as such my stash of laces had worn thin.

As a consequence, I have been sporting two different coloured laces in recent weeks and, by coincidence (though not particularly surprising) Matt had also experienced a crisis of laces - he too was displaying two different coloured laces, one of these knotted together to avoid further disintegration.

I always find that the worst-dressed, most shabby runners are the quickest in the field, or rather that's what I used to believe.

The River Mersey, on the route of the Fletcher Moss parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The River Mersey, on the route of the Fletcher Moss parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Fletcher Moss parkrun rather destroyed that theory.

A field of 236 was led home by a very smart-looking young Dutch runner by the name of Ruben Sansom, who, my nephew Matt suggested, might even have been wearing a pair of those much-publicised Nike Vaporfly trainers, which are reported to help you shave off 4% of your time for the marathon.

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In truth, it would have taken more than an expensive pair of trainers - even with the same coloured laces - to propel Matt and I much further up the field around two muddy but very enjoyable laps of Fletcher Moss Park.

The flying Sansom made a mockery of the watery conditions - there were plenty of wide and deep puddles en route to check the stride and soak the socks - to reach the finish funnel in 15mins 53secs, nearly two minutes ahead of the chasing pack. Not bad for someone who had just arrived from the Netherlands.

The rest of us took it a bit easier, taking in the views along the swollen River Mersey and covering two laps of Millgate Fields, next to Stenner Woods.

As for Matt and myself, we ran together until my nephew's bruised hip began to get painful - at least he can return on any weekend of his fancy, with Fletcher Moss on his doorstep.

For me, I didn't want another 4am start, so I got my head down, waded through puddles, and finished a few (several) minutes after the flying Dutchman.

A post parkrun coffee, a visit to an old pal on the other side of the city, and it was then time to visit Salford City for a League Two contest that survived two pitch inspections. For the record, Colchester United won.

I plan to run another parkrun with my nephew, some time in the future, maybe back in Greater Manchester (there are eight parkruns within a four-mile radius of Fletcher Moss).

It will be interesting to note the colour of our laces, on our reunion - they won't match, that's for sure!

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