On the Run: Carl Marston fails to produce fireworks at the Gunpowder Parkrun

Runners snake through Gunpowder Park at last Saturday's Parkrun in Waltham Abbey

Runners snake through Gunpowder Park at last Saturday's Parkrun in Waltham Abbey - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different Parkruns.

There were no problems with signage at last Saturday's Gunpowder Parkrun

There were no problems with signage at last Saturday's Gunpowder Parkrun - Credit: Archant

There was nothing explosive about my performance at last Saturday’s Gunpowder Parkrun, but I survived to tell the tale.

A trip down to Somerset, to report on a rarity – a Colchester United away victory, at Yeovil – meant either gate-crashing a Parkrun out of the region, en route for the West Country, or no Parkrun at all.

Approaching the dreaded M25 before 9am, I selected the Gunpowder event, at Waltham Abbey. It was a good decision.


I didn’t know about the history behind Gunpowder Park, when I veered off the M25 at junction 26. In fact, I didn’t know of its existence.

The Royal Gunpowder Mills, one of only three of their kind in the UK, and set in 175 acres of parkland, used to be a home for testing munitions, stretching back to more than 300 years ago.

Most Read

From the mid-1850s, the site was centred on developing new nitro-based explosives, while after World War II it became a defence research establishment.

Of course there are no bangs to be heard these days. The site was finally closed in 1991, so ending a long association with explosives production and research.

Now, every Saturday morning, local runners commandeer a small section of the park, close to the River Lea and Sewardstone Marsh.

The course is a simple one, and a fast one, just over two laps along good gravel tracks.

It is a well-established event. Last Saturday was the 308th staging of this low-key 5K, having all begun with the inaugural one on October 22, 2011, when a field of just 26 congregated in a corner of Gunpowder Park, close to the toilet block (the informal HQ).

- Carl Marston’s experience at the March Parkrun

Fields have been as low as 12 (from the sixth race in November, 2011), but as high as 216, at the 289th event in May.

Among the previous winners, I recognised the name of Crispian Bloomfield, of Billericay Striders, a regular winner on the North-Essex circuit at such events as the Tiptree 10, Chelmsford 10K, Great Bentley Half-Marathon and Essex 20 and

Now an over-40 veteran, he won in a ‘modest’ 16:49 back in August of last year.

Saturday’s Results

The standard was very high, at the head of the field – the top two were soon out of my vision.

Nick Shasha, who boasts the second quickest time for this course, won in 16mins 43secs. He runs for nearby club Walthamstow AC.

Over-40 veteran Shasha was just four seconds clear of runner-up Reece Barclay, of Hoddesdon Tri Club, in 16:47.

Marilyn Martin, an over-45 veteran from Broxbourne Runners, was the first lady in 22:43.

The Records

Shaun Collins, from the renowned Enfield & Haringey club, has the course record of 15:24, which he set more than four years ago in April, 2013.

Last Saturday’s winner Shasha clocked a next best 15:57 from September, 2014, while Vale Royal AC’s Tessa McCormick set the quickest female time of 17:34 from December 6, 2014.

- Red wine does the trick for Carl Marston at the Cheltenham Parkrun

Carl’s Experience

Considering that I felt my right calf tighten inside the first kilometre – a rather familiar occurrence these days – perhaps a product of the hour-and-a-bit drive down from Suffolk, it went well.

Again no sub-20 minute time (20:13), and in fact five seconds slower than my effort from the previous weekend in the Fenland drizzle at March.

But no dogs came past, and no parents propelling their offspring in buggies overtook me.

That was satisfaction enough for me to carry on with my 420-round trip down to Yeovil and back.

- Carl Marston at the Ipswich Parkrun

Other Parkruns

Dave Solomon, of Felixstowe Road Runners, was first home from a field of 310 at the Ipswich Parkrun in Chantry Park last Saturday. Solomon, an over-50 veteran, celebrated the occasion of his 178th Parkrun (160 at Ipswich) with a personal best of 18mins 00secs.

In fact, there was an over-50 double ay Ipswich, because the experienced Val Jennings was the first female finisher with 21:14.

Over at the Brandon Country Parkrun, it was youth rather than experience that was to the fore. Thetford AC’s James Peck, competing in the 11-14 year-old age group, won in a personal best time of 19:08.

Rebecca Silkstone, of home club Brandon Fern Hoppers, was first lady in 22:14.