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New Year’s Day parkrun double-headers – from true tarmac to squelchy mud

PUBLISHED: 13:12 02 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:13 02 January 2020

The Cyclopath parkrun, which welcomed a record field of 609 on NYD. Picture: CARL MARTON

The Cyclopath parkrun, which welcomed a record field of 609 on NYD. Picture: CARL MARTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he runs a New Year’s Day double header at the Cyclopath and Shorne Woods parkruns in Kent

Runners approach the finish to the Cyclopath parkrun, on the road bike track in Gravesend on NYD. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners approach the finish to the Cyclopath parkrun, on the road bike track in Gravesend on NYD. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Records tumbled, up and down the country, as parkrunners made the most of New Year's Day - the one day of the year where it is possible to complete two parkruns in one day, due to some staggered start times.

The numbers really were incredible.

I opted for a Kent pair, toeing the start-line in record fields at the Cyclopath parkrun (at 9am) and the Shorne Woods parkrun (at 10.30am), situated less than four miles apart on the outskirts of Gravesend.

Both events smashed their record fields - the relatively new Cyclopath event eclipsed its previous best of 188 with a massive 609 finishers, while in the trees at Shorne Woods, their new biggest is up from 528 (previous New Year's Day) to 781.

Shorne Woods Country Park, the home of the Shorne Woods parkrun in Kent. Picture: CARL MARSTONShorne Woods Country Park, the home of the Shorne Woods parkrun in Kent. Picture: CARL MARSTON

It was the same story all over the country.

- festive fun, plus highs and lows of a 2019 parkrun tour

Through the trees: a record number of 781 runners and walkers congregate before the start of the Shorne Woods parkrun on New Year's Day. Picture: CARL MARSTONThrough the trees: a record number of 781 runners and walkers congregate before the start of the Shorne Woods parkrun on New Year's Day. Picture: CARL MARSTON

In my home county of Suffolk, for instance, runners and walkers flocked to the seaside to take part in the Felixstowe parkrun, a total of 888 to be precise, making it the biggest parkrun to be staged in the county.

Felixstowe benefited from a 10.30am start, gaining 'double' seekers from the likes of the Ipswich and Kesgrave events, or those just preferring a lie-in.

Cyclopath, Shorne Woods and Felixstowe were just three of a remarkable 163 attendance records on NYD, from 390 staged.

In summary, parkrun looks set for another barnstorming decade.

The muddy woodland trails of Shorne Woods provided a challenge for all parkrunners, including those pushing buggies. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe muddy woodland trails of Shorne Woods provided a challenge for all parkrunners, including those pushing buggies. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Cyclopath parkrun

A mecca for cyclists of virtually every persuasion - there's a mountain bike track, road bike track and BMX track - no one was asked to 'get on yer bike' for the NYD Cyclopath parkrun, me included.

More accustomed to fields of just over 100, since its inception in July, it was chock-a-block on the start-line with the promise of two laps on the actual road bike track, with its smooth tarmac surface.

The first of a NYD double header - a field of 609 waiting at the start-line for the Cyclopath parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe first of a NYD double header - a field of 609 waiting at the start-line for the Cyclopath parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

It was amusing at the finish to see so many runners, after scanning their barcodes, either make a dash for their cars to journey to nearby Shorne Woods, or take a short-cut by jogging between the two venues.

A wave of humanity in this slither of Kent.

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Shorne Woods parkrun

After the hard, true tarmac surface of Cyclopath, it was a bit of a shock to the system to encounter the twisty, muddy trail paths in Shorne Woods Country Park, with its many ponds and sculptures (I particularly liked the metallic 'Spider tickling Worm' scuplture, a turn-of-phrase I don't use every day).

But this was proper cross country, proper parkrun, three laps on churned up woodland trails above the Thames Marshes.

Flat, but very, very squelchy.

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It was a squeeze for so many to tackle the multi-lap 5K distance, along winding paths and over narrow wooden bridges.

But all 781 managed it, even the brave ones pushing buggies.

I nearly ended up face-down in mud on one of the slippery corners, but it was all great fun.

New Year's Day at its best.

So many NYD double headers

In previous years, I had tackled the Wanstead Flats and Valentines parkruns in East London (NYD 2018), and the Foots Cray Meadows and Bexley events in Kent (2019).

On all occasions I have ended up caked in mud - par for the course.

But the number of choices are mind-boggling.

One year I am going to stay in Suffolk and run/volunteer at perhaps Kesgrave and Felixstowe, in the east of the county, or perhaps Clare Castle (new record of 232 on NYD) and Haverhill or Grear Cornard in the west.

Just over the border (across the Stour), I was tempted by Colchester Castle (9am) and Highwoods (10.30am), less then three miles apart - Highwoods was another to celebrate record numbers (349) to its 45th event. Usually, it struggles to break 100.

I could have also enjoyed an Essex promenade double-header, at Harwich and Clacton Seafront, or stayed inland at Great Notley and Chelmsford, the latter setting a new landmark of 991 on NYD.

Further afield, it was possible to take part in the Father of all parkruns, the Bushy parkrun, and still make the start-line for one of the many other South-West London events, including Richmond Park (new best of 913).

One of these days (New Years Day), I'd love to visit the Northumberland pair of Newbiggin-by-the-Sea and Blyth Links, perhaps the Yorkshire duo of Skipton and Cliffe Castle, or Ury Riverside and Aberdeen in Scotland.

Well, there's no harm in dreaming.


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