On the run: a stop-off at Barclay parkrun
PUBLISHED: 16:57 07 December 2018 | UPDATED: 16:57 07 December 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Barclay parkrun in Hoddesdon
I had no idea where Barclay parkrun was based, until I took part in the previous weekend’s Harlow parkrun.
Harlow is in West Essex, and ‘Barclay Park’ in East Hertfordshire, but the two are actually only five miles apart.
Like many parkruns, up and down the country, the name ‘Barclay parkrun’ refers not to a town or village, but to a specific venue – Barclay Park, in the small town of Hoddesdon.
No wonder I didn’t have a clue of its location, even though I had already visited nearby events at Panshanger, Westmill, Gunpowder, Groveland and Pymmes, all within a 10-mile radius.
That short-list falls into the ‘obscure name’ category of parkrun – Panshanger Park is in Hertford, Westmill Farm is sited near Ware, Gunpowder Park is just off the M25 at Waltham Abbey, Grovelands is in Enfield and Pymmes is a small park in Edmonton, North London.
So now you know.
Hoddesdon sprung up as a coaching stop en route between Cambridge and London.
It was boom-time, in the 18th century, when as many as 35 coaches a day used to pass through the town, with inns and other watering holes in plentiful supply.
Now, Hoddesdon is primarily known as a London commuter town, not so exciting or as ‘romantic’ as the golden era of the Stagecoach.
Back in 1750, it used to take around two days to travel from Cambridge to London (nothing to do with leaves on the line, or endless roadworks), but improvements in coach design and the quality of road surfaces enabled that journey time to be cut to under seven hours by the 1820s.
For the record, it took me just over an hour, in the car, to roll up at Barclay Park, an 18-acre park close to the town centre, last Saturday.
The rendezvous point is at Hoddesdon Town Football Club and Cricket Club, based at Lowfield.
The football club’s main claim to fame is that they were the first-ever winners of the FA Vase, beating Epsom & Ewell at Wembley Stadium in 1975. I appreciate that has little to do with parkrun, but it is an interesting fact all the same.
The usual parkrun route features three anti-clockwise loops of the park, on grass and tarmac paths, but because of the recent heavy rain, the course was switched to the winter variation.
This was very similar, but cut out a section of the park and instead involved two initial circuits of the lake, and then four longer laps, each with a testing climb.
It was a recipe for dizziness.
Paul Martin, of nearby local club Ware Joggers, led home a field of 89 in a modest time of 20mins 09secs, a little adrift of his personal best for the event of 19:40.
His club-mate Tom Porter was second in 20:35, while Abigail East finished the first female in 23:48, a couple of minutes off her PB.
Michael Waddington, another member of Ware Joggers, has taken part in the Barclay parkrun on 95 occasions, and finished first in all but 11 of them.
He set the course best of 16:53 just six months ago, in early June, eclipsing Billericay Striders’ Crispian Bloomfield’s landmark of 17:26, posted in 2016.
The ladies’ course best was set only seven days before I arrived, on November 24 at the 184th event. Annabel Gummow, of Winchester & District, clocked a sizzling 19:01, the first female to beat the 20-minute barrier at Barclay Park.
Not being at the peak of fitness at the moment, I consider it a triumph just to ‘go the distance’ at these weekly 5Ks at the moment.
Barclay parkrun, first held in June, 2015, rarely attracts 100-plus fields (the record is 127) but it is a good early-morning tester to blow away the cobwebs.
The climb up from the lake to the top corner of the park is a fairly pleasant one, on lap one; not too unpleasant, on lap two; getting tiresome, on lap three; and, to be honest, a real struggle, on lap four.
I could have done with a stop-off at one of those famed inns in the centre of town.
And as I say at the end of all these parkruns - I will return!