On the run: braving the snow and ice at Panshanger parkrun

All-white: approaching the finish of last Saturday's Panshanger parkrun, held at Hertford. Picture:

All-white: approaching the finish of last Saturday's Panshanger parkrun, held at Hertford. 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 Panshanger Park

The snowy scene during the 'sprint' to the finish at last Saturday's Panshanger parkrun. Picture: CA

The snowy scene during the 'sprint' to the finish at last Saturday's Panshanger parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

By my calculation, precisely 431 of the 508 parkruns across the UK were cancelled last weekend, due to snow and ice.

So to find a parkrun, within a 70-mile radius of my home, defying the wintry conditions and still going ahead, despite the best efforts of the ‘Beast from the East,’ was a challenge indeed.

Harwich went ahead, but that was about it for the Essex and Suffolk area.

However, late on Friday night I did stumble across a parkrun insisting that it was going to cheat the cold snap – the Panshanger parkrun on the outskirts of Hertford.

The snow had to be scraped off to reveal the sign for Panshanger Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The snow had to be scraped off to reveal the sign for Panshanger Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Sure, there was snow and ice on the course, but unlike many other parkruns, there were no potentially hazardous, slippery tarmac paths to negotiate.

Backed by a spirited 22 volunteers, and a hardcore field of 210 runners, Panshanger parkrun No. 184 did indeed take place last Saturday morning.

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Not even the wintry conditions could stop the Panshanger parkrun from going ahead last weekend. Pict

Not even the wintry conditions could stop the Panshanger parkrun from going ahead last weekend. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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I negotiated the trip south-westwards to Hertford without having to use my shovel, thermal coat or emergency flask, eventually rolling up at Panshanger Park to dip my trainers in the snow.

In truth, trail shoes would have been better than trainers for the Hertfordshire snowscape, but this was no morning for fast times or personal bests.

Just to stay on your own two feet, and enjoy the wintry scene, was success enough.

The run-down

To be honest, I had not heard of Panshanger Park, before last weekend.

It is named after a large country house, located between Hertford and Welwyn Garden City, which was eventually demolished in the 1950s. Nowadays, Panshanger Park is owned by Tarmac Holdings, hence the presence of gravel and sand quarries, with a large country park and nature reserve at the eastern end, where the parkrun is situated.

The aforementioned parkrun was first established in the autumn of 2014, with a bumper 289 entrants turning up to the inaugural event. The record field stands at 396 from the 88th event on May 14, 2016.

Last weekend was an occasion for parkrun diehards to congregate in an icy Thieves Lane Car Park (a rather disconcerting name for a car park), just off the A414, and then to try and stay on their feet for five kilometres of off-road cross country.

The one-lap course takes in forest trails, dirt tracks, grassy sections, woodland paths and a stretch around Kings Lake, but last Saturday the terrain was basically the same – just snow!

Last Saturday’s results

The first female finisher was actually a Suffolk athlete – Ipswich Harriers’ Lucy Barnes.

Barnes notched her 53rd parkrun, and 15th at Panshanger, in an impressive time of 19mins 54secs, though obviously some way off her personal best of 18:36 for the course, achieved last July (presumably set when there was not so much snow on the ground!)

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The second and third placed females were both young members of Herts Phoenix, Freya Stapleton (11-14 year-old age group) clocking 19:59 in second and teenager Lottie Rowedder in third (21:18).

Michael Waddington, of Ware Joggers, led home the field in 17:27, finishing well clear of veterans Neil Holme (Garden City Runners) in 18:08 and Rob Lowe (Harlow RC) in 18:23.

Records

The course record has stood for nearly three years, since Paul Pollock, of Abbey AC, posted a cracking 14:42 in May, 2015.

Twenty females have ducked under 20 minutes at Panshanger, a good total, led by Jenna Hill, who ran 17:24 in October, 2015 as a member of St Mary’s University College AC. Last Saturday’s winner, Ipswich Harriers’ Lucy Barnes, is fourth on the list with her 18:36 from last summer.

Carl’s experience

Only 77 parkruns took place in the UK last Saturday, because of the fall-out from the ‘Beast from the East.’

According to the official parkrun statisticians, it was the first time that less than 100 parkruns had been staged on a Saturday morning since February 11, 2012.

They like their stats at parkrun HQ, and another surprising figure was that 292 runners, joggers or walkers completed their first-ever parkrun last weekend, up-and-down the country, despite the trying conditions.

I had my usual experience of being overtaken by a dog, this time during the final 100-metre snow sprint, on my way to a time of 22-plus minutes. And it wasn’t even a husky!

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