On the run: ‘Beast from the east’ on Mersea Island
- Credit: Archant
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This time he heads to Mersea Island
I was back on East Anglian soil last Saturday, for this circuit of parkruns, indulging in a spot of running that took me away from the mainland.
Well, just. I travelled along the Strood to East Mersea, to take part in the 63rd staging of the Mersea Island parkrun.
Situated to the south-east of Colchester (I was back in Colchester to cover the U’s home match against Barnet, in ice-cold conditions, just a few hours later), Mersea Island is an island in the estuaries of the Blackwater and the Colne.
It is perhaps an unlikely hotbed for running.
Yet I used to be a regular visitor to the island, to take part in the Mersea five and 10-mile road races during the 1990s.
This event still takes place each year, on the August Bank Holiday weekend, from The Esplanade car park in West Mersea, organised by Mersea Island Lions Club .
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Another well-established event, Mersea’s ‘Round the Island race,’ can trace its origins back nearly 100 years, to just after the First World War.
Still very much a permanent fixture on the local running calendar, in late June, this race follows the perimeter of the island, a distance of close to 13 miles, along the sea-wall and on the beach.
A head-wind can also be an unwelcome companion on stretches of this route, and ‘wind’ was certainly a factor at last Saturday’s parkrun.
Although with a shorter history – the inaugural Mersea Island parkrun was held on December 17, 2016 – this event has become very much a part of weekly life on the island.
Long may that continue.
A total of 195 runners, joggers and walkers assembled for the first event, just before Christmas, 2016, and that remains the record field.
But 122 of us did turn up to brave the windswept conditions last weekend, the biggest since last July, boosted by an impressive 37 volunteers from ‘Running Colchester.’
The 5K route is based at Cudmore Grove, and is mainly on grass near the sea-wall and cliff, with short stretches through copses, amounting to a three-lap course.
Last Saturday’s results
Callum Milner, representing ‘Defence Sports & Recreation,’ was first home in 17mins 43secs, one of 38 to record personal bests (for the event) despite the tricky conditions. It was his 142nd parkrun.
Sarah Stradling, of Colchester Harriers, was fourth overall and the first lady in 19:16, while club-mate David Wright, an over-55 veteran running with his Terrier, Nancy, was fifth in 19:56.
The Harriers actually had a one-two-three among the ladies. Helen Taczunski was second in 21:01, and Ffion Harris celebrated a PB of 21:34 in third.
Also to the fore were Great Bentley RC’s Ben Ficken, who completed his 104th parkrun in seventh (20:19), and Ryan Cutmore, who rattled up his 124th parkrun (he is usually to be found at the Great Notley or Colchester events), in 20:25.
Just five seconds separate the top three times at Mersea Island, and all three are current members of Colchester Harriers.
Adrian Mussett, one of the quickest veterans in the country, set the fastest time of 15:39 at the 30th event, on July 8, 2017.
Just a fortnight later, at the 32nd meeting, Harriers’ club-mate Ramadan Osman registered 15:42 on the same course. And on the same day Angus Holford, who runs second claim for the Harriers and first claim for Woodford Green, notched 15:44.
The green vests also dominate the top of the female leaderboard. Laura Shewbridge holds the course best of 18:46, from the 34th event on August 5, 2017.
A week later, fellow Harrier Sarah Stradling, who was first home last Saturday, clocked 18:50, having registered the same time a couple of months earlier.
The ‘Beast from the east’ did not really blow in until a couple of days later, from Siberia, but it did feel bitterly cold on the island.
The atmosphere, as at all parkruns, was terrific, the air filled with the excited barks and yelps of the many dogs who were also preparing to make short work of the 5K distance.
I toyed with the idea of ditching the gloves, jogging bottoms and neck scarf, but in the end stayed wrapped up and covered the 5K in 20:30, emphatically beaten by at least a couple of the canine entrants.
I know my place.