On the Run: history repeats itself at Norwich parkrun
PUBLISHED: 16:16 12 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 12 January 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns.
Norfolk hosts an impressive total of 12 parkruns, five of them situated in and around Norwich.
It was therefore about time I crossed the border, from Suffolk (seven parkruns), and for once went in the other direction away from Essex (27 parkruns, at the last time of counting).
The Norwich parkrun is the oldest of the dozen Norfolk events, and it’s the perfect place to record a personal best, or at least clip a few seconds off your recent efforts over 5K.
Eaton Park, to the south-west of the city, hosts a lightning quick three-and-a-half lap parkrun course.
A rectangular shaped route, its like running around a track, with the difference being that each lap is about 1,400 metres rather than 400 metres, and on hard-surfaced paths rather than a rubberized track.
Eaton Park, designed and built after World War I, boasts formal gardens, a domed bandstand, a model boat pond, a pitch and putt golf course, and most notably a great colonnaded pavilion.
And it’s at the pavilion where runners, joggers and walkers congregate for the start of each weekend’s parkrun.
The inaugural event, held on August 7, 2010, saw 117 runners toe the line. That figure dropped to an all-time low of 54 on Christmas Day of that year (perhaps hardly surprising), but now it’s regularly attracting 500-plus entrants.
In fact, Christmas Day, 2017, broke all records with 799 completing the 5K course, and a healthy 530 rolled up last weekend, me included.
George Clements ducked under 17 minutes to finish first in a personal best for the course of 16mins 58secs, pursued by Kim Bowling (17:19) and Alfie Bentley (17:45), of the nearby University of East Anglia.
Bethan Everson, of Fenland RC, was the first female in a PB of 19:33, while runner-up Ella Sharrock also celebrated a PB of 19:41.
I know this because flying teenager Sharrock stormed past me during the last few metres, on the tree-lined avenue heading back towards the pavilion.
I think she was rather more delighted with her new landmark, than her capacity to out-sprint an aging veteran!
Also among the results I spotted Ben Wharnsby, of Ipswich Harriers, who completed his 66th parkrun, and 17th at Norwich, in 10th slot (18:42). He is more likely to be found at the Kesgrave event.
It can be a rare occurrence for a female runner to clock a sub-20-minute time at a parkrun. In fact, only 28 ladies/junior girls have managed it at Bury St Edmunds, 21 at Colchester, and 20 at the Ipswich parkrun.
It says much for the fast nature of the course at Eaton Park, and also testimony to the big number of runners, that a remarkable 99 females have beaten 20 minutes at the Norwich parkrun.
City of Norwich AC’s Olivia Walwyn has the course record of 17:02, set on December 29, 2012.
Many athletes from Suffolk and Essex have also taken advantage of the swift Norwich course, over the years. Bungay Black Dog RC’s Jo Andrews (18:28), Ipswich JAFFA’s Laura Thomas (18:30) and Stowmarket Striders’ Tamara Jordan (18:31) have all registered eye-catching times.
Others include Springfield’s Nikki Brockbank (19:03), Saint Edmund Pacers’ Angie Joiner-Handy (19:14) and Beccles and Bungay Harriers’ veteran Lynn Emmett (19:35).
For the men, Nick Earl’s time of 14:45 from June 2, 2017, at the 356th event (last weekend was the 388th) is the benchmark.
West Suffolk AC’s Alex Dunbar is seventh on the list with 15:31, while Felixstowe Road Runners’ Joshua Entwistle is 12th (15:51) and JAFFA’s Robert Chenery 28th (16:15). Other Suffolk speed merchants to have visited Norwich include Bungay’s Matt Spencer (16:38) and Framlingham Flyers’ Jim Last (16:54).
The last time I broke 20 minutes was at the Cheltenham parkrun, in mid-September, just 24 hours after a visit to the chiropractors, and also the odd glass of red wine the night before. After the run, I went on to report on a Colchester United defeat at Cheltenham Town’s Whaddon Road.
Well, blow me down – history repeated itself on Saturday!
I visited the same chiropractors on Friday, sampled a little red wine that night, re-discovered what’s it like to run under 20 minutes (19:42) and then covered another Colchester defeat, again at the hands of Cheltenham!