On the run: fun in the sun at Great Dunmow parkrun
PUBLISHED: 09:08 24 May 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Great Dunmow
The Great Dunmow parkrun is one of the “youngest” of all the 532 parkruns in the UK, hosted by one of the oldest market towns in the region.
Last Saturday, blessed with hot sunshine, a Royal Wedding and an FA Cup Final, featured only the sixth staging of the Great Dunmow event since its inception on April 14, 2018.
I took the direct route, from my home in Bury St Edmunds, rather than the faster alternative along the A14 and M11, so that I could wind my way through such East Anglian gems as Steeple Bumpstead, Finchingfield and Great Bardfield, all of whom sound so very Old English.
Great Dunmow itself, translated as the ‘Meadow on the Hill,’ is home to many buildings dating back to the Middle Ages.
It has been home to the parkrun, though, for just six weeks, staged from near Dourdan Pavilion on the Recreation Ground.
The course is fairly unspectacular, but is a quick one now that the ground has dried out, especially if you end up being chased by a dog, which happened to me for a short section.
I didn’t mind it – the canine companion urged me on to a faster time!
As often seems to be the case, the inaugural event attracted a big field and has yet to be matched.
A total of 261 lined up at the start-line for the first event, next to the skate park on the Recreation Ground, with 23 volunteers in attendance.
And as is the ‘norm, at the birth of a new parkrun, the ‘parkrun tourists’ tend to make a beeline for the fresh venue to add it to their ‘been there, done that’ list.
Looking through the results of that first meeting, I spotted Poole AC’s over-70 veteran, Rex Troop (369 parkruns), Cambridge Tri Club’s Sarah Chamberlain (288) and Stephen Tarrant (300) all in attendance.
And the previous weekend before I turned up, Paul Freyne, who has the distinction of rattling up the second highest number of different parkrun events (currently on 350), clocked up his 349th at Great Dunmow.
Course-wise, it is a one-and-a-half lap route on grass and trail paths, kicking off with a stretch around football pitches and then following a small river to a (very) narrow footbridge, through an orchard and up to the top fields to begin lap two.
Follow the cones, and you can’t really go wrong.
Last Saturday’s results
Tim Cheshire, an over-40 veteran, led home a field of 172 in a time of 18mins 23secs on Saturday. It was his 84th parkrun.
He was exactly a minute clear of runner-up Danny Beazley (19:23), a member of nearby Bishop’s Stortford who was notching up his 138th parkrun.
First lady, and third overall, was Chelmsford AC’s Sally Judd in a time of 19:45, which broke the female course record previously held by Elizabeth Bellinger (21:07) from week three.
Octavia Singleton was the second female in 21:56, followed by Suzanne Annis (23:25). Further down the field Neil Chapman (The Stragglers) clocked up his 450th parkrun, a notable achievement.
There have been six different first-placed finishers in the six events to date.
Crispian Bloomfield, a familiar face at road races and parkruns across Essex, clocked a cracking 16:41 at the fourth event, from two weeks ago. That time might stand for quite a while. In fact, as yet, Bloomfield, of Billericay Striders, is the only runner to cover the 5K distance faster than 18 minutes.
I will remember this for the friendly dogs, the narrow footbridge, and also being overtaken by a member of the successful Judd family (though not international star Jessica Judd) in the final few metres.
Most dogs roam free off their leads on the Recreation Ground – being a dog-owner myself, I approve – and it was quite amusing to be tracked for some of the way (only 100 yards or so) by an enthusiastic Terrier.
Such impromptu meetings keep you on your toes.
The footbridge, which you encounter on the longer first lap, might create a bottleneck at certain events. It is very narrow, with runners/joggers/walkers approaching from both sides, but I don’t think it will be much of a problem at Great Dunmow. Fields aren’t too big, and the spirit of the parkrun reigns supreme.
I actually repeated my sub-20-minute time of the previous weekend, from Maldon Prom. In fact, I went precisely one second quicker, perhaps helped by being over-taken by the leading lady in the last few metres.