On the run: Running the Hastings parkrun is no battle
PUBLISHED: 16:11 03 July 2018
If there's one fact everyone remembers, from their school-day history lessons, then it's the date of 1066 for the Battle of Hastings.
I thought it would be quirky if I was to take this parkrun tour to Hastings for the 166th staging of this event, not that I had given that any thought until a weekend trip to the East Sussex coast was planned over the last couple of weeks.
Well, the 166th Hastings parkrun took place last Saturday week and, true to form, I arrived a week later for last Saturday’s 167th edition!
Based at Hastings, so that my wife Helen and I could visit nearby Charleston, the former home of the Bloomsbury Group (pioneer artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant), it would have been foolish of me not to take my trusty trainers for the weekly dose of off-road 5K bliss.
I have yet to try my hand at the Felixstowe parkrun (hopefully that will change in a few weeks), but I have always relished a parkrun which hugs a promenade, like at Gorleston Cliffs, Clacton Seafront or Harwich.
And Hastings was no different.
A super-quick five kilometres on the promenade from St Leonards to just beyond Hastings pier, on an out-and-back course, and in red-hot sunshine without a breath of wind, is the stuff of parkrunners’ dreams.
The Battle of Hastings did not actually take place at Hastings – it was fought on a nearby field, at Senlac Hill, eight miles ‘down the road’ – although William the Conqueror was based for a while at Hastings Castle, overlooking the English Channel.
There is very little left of that castle, the ruins perched on top of West Hill. By contrast, just over a mile away, the weekly Hastings parkrun is a picture of health.
A field of 259 rolled up for the latest 5K instalment, starting on the promenade opposite Grosvenor Gardens in St. Leonards, situated to the west of central Hastings.
The route heads off in an easterly direction, dropping down to the Lower Prom and through ‘Bottle Alley’ (double-deck promenade) to the pier entrance.
There’s then a 180 degree turn, 100 metres beyond the pier, as the out-and-back course returns to St Leonards and the start-finish area.
Dog owners abound – there was a wonderful pack of Huskies near the finish – as do early-morning ramblers in search of a suitable café for breakfast, and the odd skateboarder airing his tricks.
It all added up to a seaside treat, without a Norman invader in sight.
Last Saturday’s results
Not surprisingly, the top five home were all Hastings based runners.
Rhys Boorman, of Hastings AC, was away and clear in 15mins 46secs, which was just one second adrift of his personal best (15:45), set in April, 2016. That is the fifth fastest time over this course.
Danielle Edmunds, of Oxford University AC, was also just one second adrift off her Hastings PB, finishing first female in 18:53. She left me trailing in her wake from the half-way mark.
Adam Clarke, of Aldershot, Farnham & District, heads the list with his scorching 14:14 from last December, while Grace Barker tops the total of 37 women who have managed sub-20-minute times, with her 17:23 from Boxing Day, 2015.
Looking down the list of top 500, there is a smattering of Suffolk-based runners, including Lowestoft Road Runners’ Carl Prewer (17:26) and Waveney Valley AC’s James Cousins (19:46).
The first Hastings parkrun was held on April 18, 2015, and the record field stands at 412.
I had a touch of cramp in the calf, not helped by trudging along the shingle seafront in front of the fishing boats at nearby Stade Beach the previous evening – I know, any old excuse will do!
But revived by fish-and-chips that night, and helped by anti-inflammatory gel in the morning, with the promise of a full English breakfast to come, I ate up the five kilometres in 19:25.
Perhaps I’ll return in about 20 years to run Hastings parkrun No. 1066?