On the run: a trip to the seaside for the Gorleston Cliffs parkrun

Runners pass the beach cafe along the seafront at Gorleston during last Saturday's parkrun. Picture:

Runners pass the beach cafe along the seafront at Gorleston during last Saturday's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This time he heads to the coast at Gorleston

I do like to be beside the seaside: the scene of last Saturday's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun, Picture:

I do like to be beside the seaside: the scene of last Saturday's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun, Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Norfolk currently hosts a dozen parkruns, the oldest of which is the Gorleston Cliffs parkrun.

In fact, the Gorleston event was the first to be established in East Anglia, and among the first parkruns to be born.

The inaugural event was staged almost nine years ago, on April 25, 2009, since when there have been 466 of these weekly 5K meetings held over the same course.

Never being one to lag behind, I thought it was about time I visited this stretch of the Norfolk coastline last weekend.

A field of more than 300 runners and walkers took part in last Saturday's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun.

A field of more than 300 runners and walkers took part in last Saturday's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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The sun was out, the wide expanses of the sandy Edwardian beach looked inviting, and even the sea looked quite tempting.

Pity I had no swim-shorts.

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The run-down

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate at the start of last weekend's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun, at

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate at the start of last weekend's Gorleston Cliffs parkrun, at the north end of Marine Parade. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Situated just south of Great Yarmouth, historically Gorleston used to be in the county of Suffolk, until this old port town transferred allegiance to Norfolk from 1835.

Now it’s a much-loved seaside resort, with its impressive beach, long promenade and colourful seaside gardens.

There were only around 20 or so parkruns in existence when a small field of just 10 turned up for the first Gorleston Cliffs parkrun, in April 2009, supported by five volunteers.

Gorleston hosts the oldest parkrun in Norfolk, the Gorleston Cliffs parkrun. It looked a picture las

Gorleston hosts the oldest parkrun in Norfolk, the Gorleston Cliffs parkrun. It looked a picture last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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It has gradually grown in popularity, just as the whole parkrun phenomenon began to take off after a slow start – after the first parkrun (Bushy parkrun) was held in 2004, it was another three years before a second was established and momentum was finally gained.

Now the total stands at 518, after last Saturday’s inaugural parkruns at nearby Felixstowe and distant Fort William.

The Gorleston extravaganza welcomed 100 entrants for the first time at the landmark 100th event in March, 2011, and 200 for the first time at the 227th event in August 2013.

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate at the north end of Marine Parade for the start, which is conveniently at the top of the Cliffs, while the finish is below next to the beach.

That means although the event is just under two laps, runners only have to toil up the cliff path once.

Now that’s what I call ‘good planning!’

Last Saturday’s results

Marc Evans, of Great Yarmouth Road Runners, led home a field of 309 last Saturday.

Evans rattled up his 149th parkrun, and his 148th at Gorleston, in a personal best time of 17mins 29secs.

He was well clear of Darren Honour, an over-45 veteran from Bungay Black Dog, who also celebrated a PB of 17:54 in second. A familiar face at Gorleston, this was his 168th parkrun.

- On the run: focus on the Haverhill parkrun

Also well up the field was Ben Wharnsby, of Ipswich Harriers, who posted 19:30 in 13th spot.

Colleen Nicole Mukuya, a regular at Gorleston, was the first female finisher in 20:33, despite pushing a buggy.

In fact, this was her 107th Gorleston parkrun, and her 45th first-place finish.

Christine Head was second in 23:16, while young Lilymae Coote was third in 24:01, a PB.

Records

Ben Russell, of Norwich Road Runners, holds the course best of 15mins 29secs, set in December, 2011.

Waveney Valley AC’s Matthew Jeffries is second quickest after his 15:52 posting from June, 2016.

City of Norwich AC’s Danielle Nimmock ran a scorching 16:46 just two weeks ago, at the 464th event on March 24, to eclipse Colleen Nicole Mukuya’s 17:16 female landmark from last summer. Waveney Valley’s Samantha Lines is third on the female list, thanks to her 17:41 from last September.

Carl’s experience

For a change, I was feeling surprisingly good, perhaps due to the benefits of a rare fartlek session during the week.

I felt brave enough to run in shorts and T-shirt, which was put to shame when I was overtaken by a bare-chested athlete at the start of lap two – it was warm, but not that warm!

I also detected the whiff of cooked breakfasts, perhaps from a nearby café – though I could have been dreaming this – which helped me to a time of just nine seconds outside 20 minutes.

The lack of a “finishing kick” prevented me from returning to the 19-minute bracket. More fartlek sessions are required!

But Gorleston Cliffs is a cracking event, the grandmaster of Norfolk’s current dozen.

King’s Lynn, Fritton Lake, Brundall, Catton, Mulbarton, Blickling, Sheringham and Holkham remain on my horizon.

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