On the run: festive cheer at Catton parkrun
PUBLISHED: 17:00 28 December 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads for Catton Park, to the north of Norwich
Norwich residents are spoilt for choice, in terms of free 5Ks run on a Saturday morning, because they are blessed with five parkruns, all within a six-mile radius of the town centre.
For some festive cheer last weekend, I completed the set of five by venturing north of Norwich to Catton Park, to take part in the 273rd Catton parkun.
Earlier in the year, I had run parkruns at Norwich (icy conditions in January), Colney Lane (muddy underfoot in March), Mulbarton (torrential downpour in early June) and Brundall (warm sunshine in late June).
It had rained overnight last Friday, which left the Catton Park course rather muddy and waterlogged in places, but that did not deter a bumper field of 318, comprising a mixture of runners, joggers, walkers, Santas, elves, snowmen, sheep and even one banana from toeing the line, next to Hayman Lodge.
I was one of them, not dressed as Santa or a banana, but bearing a strange resemblance to an elf due to combined red and green tops.
It was not a good look.
Catton Park, situated in the village of Old Catton, is just two miles north of central Norwich, and has in recent years enjoyed a new lease of life, including the birth of its parkrun during the autumn of 2013.
The 70-acre park was originally the work of landscape gardener Humphey Repton, back in the late 18th century. After 200 years of private ownership, the park was restored and regenerated, and officially opened by the Duke of Kent in 2007.
It now boasts an impressive sweep of grasslands, crisscrossed with paths, and with Catton Hall perched on higher ground.
Of course it has much changed since the 18th century, with the park now surrounded by busy roads and dense housing estates.
A field of 183 turned up for the inaugural Catton Parkrun, on October 5, 2013, and numbers have steadily increased over the years.
A record 527 turned up on January 7, 2017, and a healthy 318 enjoyed the pre-Christmas cheer last Saturday morning, which included a rousing rendition of ‘12 Days of parkrun,’ plus a Run Director (Brett Cornish) dressed as an angel (not a fairy).
There then followed a good cross country challenge, beginning with a circuit of the park, with some mud and a puddle or two to negotiate, and a twisty stretch through a wooded area, before a final figure-of-eight section to the finish.
Last Saturday’s results
Marc Dunn, one of 18 ‘first timers’ last Saturday – I was one of these 18 – led home the field in 17mins 51secs, followed by Dan Goodwin in a personal best of 18:38.
The first female finisher was actually third overall, regular visitor Amy Beck timed at 18:57.
Beck, of Norwich Road Runners, was clocking up her 93rd parkrun, and her 57th at Catton.
She had set her PB of 18:36 for the course only four weeks earlier, when she again finished third.
The top two times were both recorded at the same event, on October 29, 2016, when a couple of speed merchants from City of Norwich AC visited.
James Senior (15:35) and club-mate Scott Greeves (15:52) were first and second at Event No. 160.
Suffolk and North-East Essex-based runners occasionally swell the numbers.
Richard Heath, of Colchester Harriers, is No. 16 on the list with his effort of 16:40, while Lowestoft RR’s John Jervis (17:48), Bungay Black Dog’s Graham Jenvey (17:55) and Ipswich JAFFA’s James Humphreys (18:27) have featured prominently in the past. Likewise Bungay BD’s Jo Andrews is second on the female list with 17:49, behind course record holder Iona Lake (CoN), who conquered the 5K route in 17:12 in April, 2017.
I could not hang around for too long – I had to travel south-westwards from Norwich to Milton Keynes, with a quick stop-off at Bury St Edmunds to ditch the muddy trainers and the green-and-red elf-like gear – for a football match later in the day, but it was impossible not to get caught up in all the festive cheer.
I also got ‘caught,’ and overtaken, by a buggy-pushing runner, a common sight at parkruns up and down the land.
Time-wise, I am gradually getting a little quicker, and travel-wise I arrived at Stadium MK in good time for a pre-match pie (non-festive) before a rare Colchester United away win!