On the Run: Carl Marston takes part in the Great Notley Parkrun

Cold but dry conditions greeted runners for the start of the weekly Great Notley Parkrun, staged nea

Cold but dry conditions greeted runners for the start of the weekly Great Notley Parkrun, staged near Braintree, last Saturday - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different Parkruns.

Runners congregate for the start of last Saturday's Great Notley Parkrun

Runners congregate for the start of last Saturday's Great Notley Parkrun - Credit: Archant

I suppose it had to be ‘unlucky 13’ in this current series of Parkrun extravaganzas.

But regardless of me tweaking a hamstring within the first 100 metres, it was still a pleasure to trot around the 5K course at the Great Notley Parkrun last Saturday, albeit with a slightly strange stride pattern!


Situated within Great Notley Country Park, and reached from Braintree via the Flitch Way (disused railway line), this event is fast approaching it’s 200th anniversary.

Last weekend was the 182nd staging of the Great Notley Parkrun, which all began back on June 28, 2014, when a field of 230 assembled for the inaugural event in front of the cafe.

That total of 230 remained the highest for nearly two years, until the 100th meeting (on May 7, 2016) attracted a field of 246.

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As with other Parkruns, the Great Notley experience just gets better and better, with runners, joggers and walkers enjoying a two-lap course on flat terrain, on grass and gravel paths.

The one sting-in-the-tail is a short, sharp hill at the start of the second lap, when runners are encouraged to touch the ‘Bird of Freedom’ sculpture, a 2.5-metre high kestrel with a 15-foot wing-span, at the summit before descending to complete lap two.

Saturday’s results

Six of the first seven home celebrated personal best times for the Great Notley course – it was a very cold morning, but still excellent conditions for running.

Innes Fullerton, a young teenager from Flitch Green Runners, reached the finish funnel first in 18mins 27secs, followed by Gavin Ripton (19:20) and Springfield Striders’ over-50 veteran Paul Broome (19:20), both with PBs. It was actually Broome’s 72nd Parkrun, with 52 of these have been at nearby Chelmsford,

- Carl Marston spotlights the Wimpole Estate Parkrun

Tobey Turl, in the 15-17 year-old age group from Braintree & District AC, also set a PB with 19:26 in fourth, as did over-40 veteran Neil Johnson (19:35).

Colchester Harriers’ stalwart Peter West was a familiar face in sixth (19:50), and Ryan Cutmore completed his 118th Parkrun (58 at Great Notley) with a PB clocking of 19:50 in seventh.

Stephanie Hughes, another member of Braintree AC, was the first female finisher in a PB of 23:06.

Also setting a new landmark was Clare Suzanne Collins (24:54) in second – this was her 189th Parkrun, and 49th at Great Notley while Nicola Wiseman (25:51) was third lady.


This is a fast course, as reflected in some of the times over the last three years.

Crispian Bloomfield, a regular winner on the Essex road running circuit over many seasons, has the best time for Great Notley, a scorching 16mins 37secs from June 11, 2016, at the 105th event.

Hillingdon AC’s Stephen Woodford posted the second quickest (16:44), with Braintree AC’s Tim Woulfe in the top three with 16:51.

Liz Davies, of Springfield Striders, set the ladies’ benchmark of 18:30 on Guy Fawkes Night, last year.

In fact, the Striders club have provided the three fastest ladies at Great Notley, with Sam Bilbie (19:18) and June Allen (19:34) also in the leading trio.


As always, there were several ‘first timers’ relishing the Parkrun experience for the first time.

On Saturday, Braintree AC’s Lewis Thorn, over-50 veteran Chris Knight, Stephanie Knight, Amr Ziko (Braintree AC), over-55 Richard Ballard, 10-year-old Jessica Cantle, Carole Smith and Ken Smith all chose Great Notley for their first-ever Parkrun experience.

- Carl Marston takes part in the Clare Castle Parkrun

At the other end of the scale, Mark Greensides chalked up his 99th Parkrun (18th in 21:48) and Lauren Cooper celebrated her 100th Parkrun (98 at Gt Notley). Meanwhile, the Springfield Striders duo of Chris Sewell and Anna Luff notched their 247th and 246th Parkrun respectively.

Carl’s experience

As I said in the introduction, I managed to tweak a hamstring within 30 seconds of the start, perhaps not the ideal way to begin a five-kilometre event!

I guess if I had been nearer to home, I would have called it a day straight away to avoid aggravating the injury, but in the end I persevered and protected it as best I could.

A time of 22:09 (slowest ever for 5K, so my own personal landmark) was to be expected, but Great Notley Country Park is well worth a visit – as with many of these events, I will return!