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Top five list of ‘Great’ parkruns

PUBLISHED: 11:11 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 11:11 26 November 2019

Great Lines Heritage Park, the home of the weekly Great Lines parkrun, Medway. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Great Lines Heritage Park, the home of the weekly Great Lines parkrun, Medway. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he compiles a top five list of ‘Great’ parkruns after a visit to the Great Lines parkrun, Medway

A field of 400-plus runners and walkers congregate for the start of last Saturday's Great Lines parkrun, Medway. Picture: CARL MARSTONA field of 400-plus runners and walkers congregate for the start of last Saturday's Great Lines parkrun, Medway. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I nipped over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and into The Medway area of Kent last Saturday morning, in search of yet another 'Great' parkrun, before hotfooting it along to West-London to report on an FA Trophy clash (Kingstonian v AFC Sudbury, to be precise).

And I duly found my latest 'Great' 5K event in Gillingham, close to the historic dockyard in Chatham, toeing the line with 401 like-minded souls for the 311th staging of the 'Great Lines parkrun, Medway.'

Now, as we know, all of the UK's current 682 parkruns (a figure that is rising almost every week) are 'great.'

But I have taken this opportunity to take the term quite literally, and compile my top-five 'parkruns with 'Great' in the title. Obviously, they are no greater or lesser than the 670-odd parkruns that do not have 'Great' in their name, but I will persist.

The one-kilometre mark, with the Chatham Naval Memorial in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe one-kilometre mark, with the Chatham Naval Memorial in the background. Picture: CARL MARSTON

1 Great Lines, Medway (Kent)

This is a fine event, blessed with a gentle incline on each of the two laps up to the Chatham Naval Memorial, where the views across the Medway are stunning, even on a dreary November morning.

First established back in September, 2013, the parkrun is based in the Great Lines Heritage Park, featuring an initial lap of a football field before knuckling down to tackle the rise up the Memorial Obelisk.

Runners 'keep to the right' both up and down the hill, on the path to Chatham Naval Memorial during last weekend's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners 'keep to the right' both up and down the hill, on the path to Chatham Naval Memorial during last weekend's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Having circumnavigated the obelisk, there is a fast, downhill stretch back to the start/finish area, to commence lap two.

I can imagine the wind can wreak havoc with finishing times, on a blowy day, because there isn't much protection around the park.

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The head of the field at the weekly Great Notley parkrun, near Braintree in Essex. Picture: MIKE ELDREDThe head of the field at the weekly Great Notley parkrun, near Braintree in Essex. Picture: MIKE ELDRED

This wide open space of land ('The Field of Fire') would have given the military a clear view to shoot the enemy, in Napoleonic times, and has always been a good place for military exercises.

Fortunately, there was no wind last Saturday morning, and no danger of being caught in any crossfire - these days, the park is used for more leisurely pursuits such as football, cycling, kite-flying and of course parkrunning.

For a change, I felt 'in-form' during my first taste of the 'Great Lines parkrun,' nothing earth-shattering but I left something in the tank for the second climb up to the obelisk.

The sign says 'Danger, Deep Water' but there was no water to be seen at the Great Denham parkrun, apart from the nearby River Great Ouse. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe sign says 'Danger, Deep Water' but there was no water to be seen at the Great Denham parkrun, apart from the nearby River Great Ouse. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I can certainly see why this event regularly attracts fields of 400-plus. Next time I'll hope for a bit of wind, and bring a kite.

Reason: I left something in the tank, for a change

2 Great Notley (Essex)

Runners set off at the start of the Great Cornard parkrun, held over a dead-flat course, Picture: CORNARD PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGERunners set off at the start of the Great Cornard parkrun, held over a dead-flat course, Picture: CORNARD PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

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This was unlucky No. 13, in terms of parkruns visited, because I tweaked a hamstring within the first 100 metres.

I guess I was too keen to leap off to a good start, around a pleasant two laps within Great Notley Country Park - the start can be reached from nearby Braintree via a disused railway line along the Flitch Way.

I visited just two years ago, almost to the day. Despite the tightening hamstring, I enjoyed hobbling around the 5K course, even the stiff climb on lap two up to the 'Bird of Freedom' sculpture.

Reason: I mastered a slightly strange stride pattern, to accommodate a sore hamstring.

3 Great Denham (Beds)

The proliferation of housing developments in the area - on the western outskirts of Bedford, in a loop on the banks of the River Ouse - should ensure a healthy number of local parkrunners at Great Denham, for years to come.

I nipped over in February, a week after the event had celebrated its first anniversary.

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Two laps on well-surfaced paths, with the occasional 'Danger Deep water' sign - I never saw any water, apart from in the river.

I didn't know it at the time, but Paul Freyne (currently on 418 different parkruns) was also in the field that day.

Reason: as flat as a pancake

4 Great Cornard (Suffolk)

The third parkrun I ever visited, in August, 2017, this is another of the 'Great' parkruns that offer a dead-flat course and so big personal best potential.

It is one of many parkruns to be based at sports centres, featuring laps of school playing fields.

Reason: Having been beaten by a sprightly dog the previous week, at Brandon Country Park, I did not want a repeat - and no dogs are allowed at Great Cornard!

5 Great Dunmow (Essex)

Follow the cones, and you can't go wrong. This is another 'Great' flat one, on grass and trail paths on the Recreation Ground, with a stretch through an orchard and a narrow footbridge to cross.

Reason: Friendly dogs, and no bottleneck on the bridge


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