On the Run: Carl Marston in the ‘fast lane’ at the Bedford Parkrun

Runners line up for the start of last Saturday's Bedford Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Runners line up for the start of last Saturday's Bedford Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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

Runners approaching the end of the second lap at last weekend's Bedford Parkrun.

Runners approaching the end of the second lap at last weekend's Bedford Parkrun. - Credit: Archant

It is quite appropriate that Bedford Park should host the Bedford Parkrun, both in name and in convenience.

Bedford’s largest urban park, which has Green Flag Status (basically a top-notch park), provides an ideal setting for a Parkrun.

The course is ferociously fast, and solely on flat, well-maintained tarmac paths, attracting big fields every week.

It’s certainly five-kilometre Personal Best material, although that wasn’t the prime reason for my visit – it was basically well sited on my short trek up to Nottingham for Colchester United’s latest League Two test, at the world’s oldest Football League club, Notts County.

The relief at reaching the finish of the Bedford Parkrun, with the pavilion cafe in the background.

The relief at reaching the finish of the Bedford Parkrun, with the pavilion cafe in the background. - Credit: Archant


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Run-down

Bedford Park, to the north of the town, is well worth a visit for any Parkrun enthusiast.

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Plenty of free parking, a simple course (it is absolutely impossible to go wrong!) and some very quaint Victorian features, including a cricket pavilion and bandstand.

Female finishers at last Saturday's Bedford Parkrun, staged in cold but sunny conditions. Picture: C

Female finishers at last Saturday's Bedford Parkrun, staged in cold but sunny conditions. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Last Saturday was the 333rd staging the event, which was first held back on June 11, 2011.

- Carl Marston takes part in the Great Notley Parkrun

A total of 104 ran, jogged or walked that day. Now, fields in excess of 400 are commonplace, with a record field of 586 taking part on July 15 of this year.

I was one of a field of 419 to toe the start-line by the pond last Saturday.

Saturday’s results

Peter Jnr Benedickter, who led home that record field of 586 from the summer, was again first to arrive at the finish-funnel by the pavilion café last Saturday.

Representing Vegan Runners, Benedickter clocked 16mins 31secs to finish a meaty 90 seconds ahead of runner-up Frank Harkin (18:01). Bedford & County’s young Alex Alston, in the 11-14 year-old age group, was an impressive third in 18:23.

Another local club, Bedford Harriers, provided the first female home – Rebecca Maddock registered a swift 20:27, although some way off her PB of 19:21.

Bronwen Collacutt, who tracked my good self for most of the event, before scorching past me in the last 200 metres (I bear no grudge!) was second in a PB of 20:53.

As with all Parkruns, several in the field were not locally based. That included the third female, Emma Twomey, who was running for Windsor-based Datchet Dashers.

Records

The fastest two times for this super-quick Bedford course were both posted more than five years ago, in the same event on September 8, 2012.

Neilson Hall, of Bedford & County AC, clocked a cracking 14:49, followed by Central AC’s Robert Russell in 14:55.

The fact that an impressive 73 women have ducked under 20 minutes, speaks volumes for the speed of the route – at many Parkruns, only a handful of ladies have beaten 20 minutes.

Rebecca Murray, another member of Bedford & County, holds the record with 16:59 from last December.

Carl’s experience

I resisted the temptation to even break into a trot while accompanying my dog, Oscar, on our walks during the week, let alone lace my trainers for a short jog, having tweaked my hamstring at the Great Notley Parkrun the previous Saturday.

These ‘tactics’ worked.

A couple of cups of coffee, a couple of Paracetamol tablets, and a conservative ‘race-pace’ (though of course Parkruns are not races!) and I covered the two-and-half-laps of Bedford Park with no more than a twinge.

Ignoring the urge for a sprint finish (I didn’t want to tempt fate, with Nottingham beckoning that afternoon), I just sneaked under 21 minutes. In fact, I was a mere six minutes and nine seconds off the course record.

Room for improvement, I feel.

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