Tough challenge of Highwoods parkrun – Carl Marston’s parkrun tour rolls into Colchester
- Credit: Archant
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Highwoods parkrun in Colchester
There is a sting in the tail during the last kilometre of the Highwoods parkrun, the most recent addition to the Essex parkrun family.
I nipped over to Colchester last Saturday morning to take part in the 18th staging of the Highwoods event, held in High Woods Country Park in the Chanterelle area of the town, not far from Ipswich Road.
In previous weeks, I had deliberately avoided any energy-sapping hills to protect a chesty cough (I know, this sounds pathetic!) by searching out dead-flat parkrun courses at the likes of Basildon, Thomas Mills (Framlingham) and Lingwood (Norfolk).
But that sequence of hill-free routes came to an abrupt end at Highwoods, which could have been deduced from the name alone - the finish was also on the brow of a hill, affording good views of the town, but suggesting that the approach to the finish would be a slog.
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And so it proved.
In short, you won't be chalking up any 5K all-time personal best times at the Highwoods parkrun, but that's not the point. It's a superb course, with a fine section along wooodland trails.
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A real treat on the edge of Colchester.
The Highwoods parkrun is a one-lap course, which makes a change to the more prevalent multi-lap routes.
It is a fast start, following a main gravel path down to a stream, before turning to climb a grassy hill and then diving into the woods for a sheltered stretch along trail paths, dodging dog-walkers along the way.
Out of the woods and there is a steep climb, which can knock the stuffing out of you (it did me), followed by a downhill burst and one final incline to the finish.
I reckon it's a little tougher than the more-established Colchester Castle parkrun, which is held just a mile down the road. In fact, the two events complement each other, and can at least offer a choice for the fit-and-enthusiastic Colchester resident every Saturday morning.
Last Saturday's results
Paul Dungate led home a field of 129, in a time of 17mins 57secs, which was only one second adrift of his PB for the course (17:56).
In fact, that set the trend for the morning. Runner-up Jason Gunn, of Colchester Harriers, was just two seconds behind Dungate (in 17:59), and was only a couple of seconds off his own PB (17:57).
Likewise, the first female finisher, Colchester Harriers' Alexandra Hennessy, clocked 22:36, which was a mere one second slower than her own Highwoods PB of 22:35.
It was a day of PB near misses!
Harriers' over-55 veteran, Debbie Cattermole, was second female in 23:39, followed by over-50 veteran Nicole Ranson, of Springfield Striders, in 24:18. Sudbury Joggers' Lucy Cowlin was fourth in 24:26.
Further down the field, there were actually 14 PBs, so not everyone missed out on new landmarks by a whisker.
The talented Ramadan Osman, a regular winner on the Essex roads, holds the course best of 16mins 37secs from the inaugural event, on March 2, 2019.
Originally from Eritrea, under-23 athlete Osman began his athletics career at Colchester & Tendring before switching to Colchester Harriers in 2017.
He won the Great Bentley Half-Marathon in February, and the Colchester Half in March.
Crispian Bloomfield, who holds several parkrun course records across the region, is second on the Highwoods list with 16:41, registered at event No. 6 in April.
Harriers' Ed Mitchell is third in the rankings after finishing a runner-up to Osman at the inaugural event in 17:00. Club-mate Laura Shewbridge is the current female course record holder with 20:06.
They arrived from all over the world to take part in last Saturday's Highwoods parkrun - well, there was someone from Brisbane, Australia, and another from Crawley, West Sussex.
I was one of 32 'first-time' visitors to Highwoods, and I must confess that my complete lack of recent training was woefully exposed by the combination of the challenging course and the hot conditions.
I faded to just the wrong side of 22 minutes, literally 'a sign of the times' for me.
I will return, in better shape, for another crack - at least I won't have to travel from Brisbane, Australia!