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On the run: a ‘steep descent’ at the Rushmere parkrun

PUBLISHED: 08:00 25 January 2019

Rushmere Country Park, the home of the Rushmere parkrun, near Leighton Buzzard. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Rushmere Country Park, the home of the Rushmere parkrun, near Leighton Buzzard. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads towards Leighton Buzzard for the Rushmere parkrun

Runners, joggers and walkers assemble before the start of last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun,staged near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGERunners, joggers and walkers assemble before the start of last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun,staged near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

What goes up, must come down.

But here’s the burning question – does what go down, necessarily come up?

I only mention this, because I ventured into the depths of rural Bedfordshire last Saturday, to take part in the Rushmere parkrun, which boasted one of the steepest descents I have yet encountered on this mini (but growing-by-the-week), parkrun tour.

The origins of the phrase – ‘what goes up, must come down’ – obviously has its origins in Issac Newton and the physical properties of Gravity.

The sign warning runners of a steep descent ahead, through the trees during the Rushmere parkrun. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGEThe sign warning runners of a steep descent ahead, through the trees during the Rushmere parkrun. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

- On the Run - record field at Southend parkrun

That’s the literal sense of the term, although it’s often used metaphorically to describe the rise and fall of shares, house prices, good fortune …etc etc.

Runners set off at the start of last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun, in Bedfordshire. There were 227 in the field, tackling a two-lap course in Rushmere Country Park. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGERunners set off at the start of last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun, in Bedfordshire. There were 227 in the field, tackling a two-lap course in Rushmere Country Park. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

Seasoned runners, when conquering a steep hill, also take solace in the fact that ‘what goes up, must come down.’ It is a good way of getting to the top of that hill, anticipating a downward stretch on the other side.

If a training run/race/parkrun starts and finishes in the same place, then it also does tally that what goes down, must come up.

That doesn’t apply to point-to-point races, naturally.

The famous Boston Marathon, in New England, starts in Hopkington and finishes in Boston, and features far more downhill than uphill, while the Comrades Marathon (actually an Ultra marathon) in South Africa alternates the direction of its A-to-B course each year.

The various personal belongings left by runners, before they tackled last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGEThe various personal belongings left by runners, before they tackled last Saturday's Rushmere parkrun. Picture: RUSHMERE PARKRUN FACEBOOK PAGE

There is the ‘down’ run, which starts in Durban and finishes in Pietermaritzburg, and the ‘up’ run which travels the other way.

I was not in the north-east of America or on the East coast of South Africa last Saturday morning, more’s the pity, not that Bedfordshire is an unpleasant place to be.

- On the Run - impromptu visit to Gadebridge parkrun

The Rushmere parkrun does start and finish in virtually the same place, close to the Tree Tops Café, so what ‘goes up does come down,’ and what ‘goes down does come up.’

Yet it didn’t feel like it. The descent through the woodland is steep, and fairly long, but I never felt like I had any payback, in terms of an equal amount of ascent.

On lap one, I geared myself up for a brutal climb, after the downhill plunge towards a pond, but it never materialised, and I arrived back at the finish area pleasantly surprised.

- On the Run - trip to Westmill parkrun

Of course it’s all an illusion. The ascents, before and after the steep descent, are just more gradual and a little longer.

So if you like downhill, then Rushmere parkrun is to be recommended – as is the Boston Marathon and the ‘down’ years of the Comrades!

The run-down

I like to think that I have visited, or at least driven through, most towns in England, particularly on my travels covering football matches.

However, Leighton Buzzard was one town I wasn’t familiar with, and I’m still not!

The local parkrun, the Rushmere parkrun, takes place a couple of miles to the north of the town, within 400-plus acres of woodland and heathland at Rushmere Country Park.

The closest I had come to it in the past was a visit to nearby Woburn Safari Park.

First held on November 7, 2015, when 126 turned up, the parkrun is along dirt paths and forest trails, around a two-lap course mainly in woodland.

Looking for a Suffolk equivalent, it reminded me of the Brandon Country parkrun, but without the steep descent.

Last Saturday’s results

Harry Smith, of Team Surrey Triathlon Club, led home a field of 227 in 18mins 04secs, followed by Jamie Pugh, of Vale of Aylesbury AC, who clocked a PB of 18:18.

Johnanna Sharples, from local club Leighton Buzzard AC, was the first female finisher in 21:48.

Records

Darren Deed, of Dunstable RRC, registered the course record of 15:58 at Event No. 89, in July, 2017.

The female landmark was set only a month ago, when Nicola Sykes, a member of Bournville Harriers, clocked 18:24 just four days after Christmas.

Carl’s experience

Ironically, I am not a big fan of downhill. I have a definite preference for toiling up hill, rather than down dale. There’s less creaking of the joints, less strain on the muscles, and less chance of ending up in a heap.

Still, Rushmere is a cracking parkrun, in remote, picturesque surroundings. As an aside, I ran a modest 22 minutes, so, alas, my times are not going ‘down!’


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