On the Run: Freezing temperatures at Clacton Seafront Parkrun

Runners shivering before the start of last Saturday's Clacton Seafront Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTO

Runners shivering before the start of last Saturday's Clacton Seafront Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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

Finishers show their determination during the last few metres of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun

Finishers show their determination during the last few metres of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun - Credit: Archant

The seafront at Clacton is familiar territory for me – I used to spend my summer school-holidays there, initially in the family caravan and then at a cosy little family flat, near the bowls club (and the old Butlin’s site).

There was the occasional dip in the sea, on a Christmas Day morning, as is the tradition in these parts.

But I also used to love to run along the promenade, out to Holland-on-Sea and beyond.

Last Saturday, though, required strong willpower to clamber out of bed before 7am and scrape the ice off the car, before travelling south-east to the Tendring Peninsular.

Runners get their breath back by sitting on the seawall at the end of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun l

Runners get their breath back by sitting on the seawall at the end of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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Run down

The Clacton Seafront Parkrun is a simple three-lap course, heading northwards (towards the pier) on the top of the promenade, and then returning via the beach-front promenade.

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There is a steep descent at the top of the course, and a gentler incline to begin each of the laps.

It was bright and sunny, but very cold, at last Saturday's Clacton Seafront Parkrun. Picture: CARL M

It was bright and sunny, but very cold, at last Saturday's Clacton Seafront Parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Last Saturday was the 61st staging of Clacton Seafront Parkrun, which began just over a year ago with the inaugural meeting on October 15, 2016.

A field of 156 took part in this landmark first event, and that total has only been eclipsed twice.

The biggest field stands at 184, from October 14.

A runner takes her finishing-token at the end of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun

A runner takes her finishing-token at the end of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun - Credit: Archant

Saturday’s results

A small field of 83 hardy souls congregated on the seafront, between the Beach Diner and the Toby Carvery.

Two runners were soon away and clear, and they were separated by just four seconds at the finish.

Regular first-place finisher Ben Seldon stopped the clock at 18mins 50secs, which was 46 seconds slower then his personal best for the course, set nearly a year ago on January 7, 2017 at race No. 13.

Runners limbering up before the start of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL M

Runners limbering up before the start of the Clacton Seafront Parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

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Seldon has run the Clacton event 26 times, and has finished first on 20 occasions.

Jack Appleton, in the 11-14 year-old age group, was taking part in only his second Parkrun, and he marked the occasion with a PB of 18:56 in second spot.

That was 18 seconds quicker than his first effort of 19:14, set the previous weekend when he was also a runner-up to Seldon.

Only eight seconds split the top two ladies last Saturday.

Cheryl Watson, an over-50 veteran, was first in 24:20, which equalled her PB. She was followed by over-40 veteran Naomi Lower, who celebrated a big PB of 24:28.

Records

Tom Higgs, of South London Harriers, stormed around the Clacton course in 16mins 15secs, back on New Year’s Eve last year.

Higgs’ time is 41 seconds faster than anyone else has managed over this course. In fact, David Green, of Northampton Road Runners, is the only other entrant to have ducked under 17 minutes with a swift 16:56.

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More familiar regional names are also in the top 10, including Ilford AC’s Malcolm Muir (17:14), Billericay Striders Chrispian Bloomfield (17:25), Framlingham Flyers’ Adam Howlett (17:39) and Sudbury Joggers’ Kieran Hayles (18:13, set at the inaugural event).

Only one female has recorded a sub-20-minute run. That was London Heathside’s Rebecca Bunting (19:49) from last March.

Carl’s Experience

I hadn’t run along the seafront at Clacton for several years.

There were a few more wind turbines on the horizon, than I remember, while a new Premier Inn had sprung up in Marine Parade West, overlooking the seafront gardens.

Last time I visited, the historic-old Waverley Hotel had still occupied that prized seafront site, dating back to 1878.

Down on the promenade, it was freezing, officially minus one degree celsius.

That meant tricky decisions to be made – run with gloves? Take off the training bottoms? Wear a woolly hat?

Organisers had already been around the course, placing red cones in strategic places where icy patches could have caused a slip or fall, especially on the upper promenade.

I ditched the gloves and hat, but didn’t strip down to the shorts.

And I thoroughly enjoyed the run. In warmer conditions, and without the icy surface underfoot, this is a very fast course.

I ran much of the way, as so often happens (it seems), alongside an energetic dog who looked capable of doing laps of the course for the rest of the morning!

Janice, and her owner Ben (Ficken), only faded a little because Ben was suffering from a cold. I was happy to duck under 21 minutes, avoid all the ice, and cheat frostbite. I think I will make a return visit next August!

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