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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

On the run: Huge numbers attracted to Chelmsford parkrun

PUBLISHED: 16:32 15 June 2018

The 700-plus participants at last weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun receive some instructions from the Run Director.

The 700-plus participants at last weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun receive some instructions from the Run Director.

Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Chelmsford Central

The vast numbers at the start of last weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun, spread out before the start. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe vast numbers at the start of last weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun, spread out before the start. Picture: CARL MARSTON

As I’ve found out, over the last year or so of this column, parkruns come in all shapes and sizes.

Some of them are small and intimate, such as my past visits to Beckton (East London), Haverhill (Suffolk) and Pymmes (Edmonton, North London).

Only last weekend, I noted that just 19 runners completed the Gainsborough parkrun, in Lincolnshire, and a mere 26 runners lined up at the wonderfully-named Windy Nook parkrun, held in High Heworth (near Gateshead).

Likewise, a total of 26 tackled the Black Combe parkrun, although admittedly this does take place within the grounds of a closed prison, where only inmates and prison employees are permitted to run. The website states that the event is ‘not accessible to members of the general public.’

Exhausted runners in the finish funnel at the end of last Saturday's Chelmsford Central parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONExhausted runners in the finish funnel at the end of last Saturday's Chelmsford Central parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I guess, therefore, that this will be out-of-bounds for this particular series, unless misfortune befalls me!

- On the run: downpour at Mulbarton parkrun

Dogs are a familiar sight at the ever-popular Chelmsford Central parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONDogs are a familiar sight at the ever-popular Chelmsford Central parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

But at the other end of the scale, as I experienced last Saturday, some parkruns continually attract hundreds and hundreds of entrants, week in, week out.

The Chelmsford Central parkrun is one of the biggest of its kind in the country.

I knew this, because only the week before, a record field of 805 had enjoyed the sunshine at the 287th Chelmsford parkrun, which was the third highest in the UK that day.

When I rolled up, seven days later, the figure dipped slightly to 704, but that was still a huge turn-out for a 5K jaunt around two local parks in the city, within a short stroll of the main shopping area.

Runners near the finish of the 288th Chelmsford Central parkrun, along tree-lined paths. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners near the finish of the 288th Chelmsford Central parkrun, along tree-lined paths. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Glancing through the statistics, for last weekend’s total of 535 senior parkruns, only seven events had more entrants, headed by the oldest of them all, Bushey Park in Teddington (1,266), and followed by Southampton (1,007), Cardiff (775), Cannon Hill (763), Sheffield Hallam (751), Huddersfield (748) and Poole (748).

But whether it’s a field of just a dozen, or a heaving mass of over 1,000, all parkruns are free, friendly and welcome-to-all.

Chelmsford Central was no different.

Last weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun celebrated 70 years of the NHS, with several running in fancy-dress. Picture: CARL MARSTONLast weekend's Chelmsford Central parkrun celebrated 70 years of the NHS, with several running in fancy-dress. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The run-down

This is a fast course. In fact, if you want to have a fighting chance of posting a personal best time for 5K, away from the athletics track, then Chelmsford could be the answer to your prayers.

It is a one-lap course, spread over two of the main parks in the city, and is mainly on good tarmac paths, with a short stretch on grass.

The start is near the Pavilion in Central Park, with the route following the River Chelmer out to Admirals Park, via an under-pass, and returning along tree-lined paths.

Last Saturday’s results

The pace was hot at the head of the field, with the first two both easily breaking the 16-minute barrier.

Mark Newton, of Springfield Striders, was first home in 16mins 26secs, some way off his personal best for the course of 15:48.

Likewise, runner-up, Tim Woulfe, a member of Braintree & District, was slightly off his PB mark of 16:21 with a time of 16:38 on Saturday, followed by Chelmsford AC over-40 veteran Ken Hoye (17:45 in third).

Claire Hallmey was the first official female finisher, in a PB of 21:15, with Springfield Striders over-40 veteran Vic Curran second (21;39) and Benfleet’s Isla Sinclair third (21:47).

Records

International runner Jessica Judd, a member of the local Chelmsford AC, posted the course record of 16:23 for a female, in February of last year. She competed at the Commonwealth Games in Australia two months ago.

Her younger sister, Jodie Judd, has the fifth fastest time of 17;46. Those to have gone quicker are Gemma Kersey (16:52), Springfield’s Elizabeth Davies (17:02) and City of Norwich AC’s Danielle Nimmock (17:29).

For the men, no one has eclipsed the 14:56 landmark of Notts AC’s Alastair Watson, registered at the 30th event on August 17, 2013.

Chelmsford’s Mark Woodley has the third fastest time (15:33), while the Springfield duo of Paul Molyneux (15:46) and Saturday’s winner Newton (15:48) are sixth and eighth in the charts.

Carl’s experience

After being drenched by a heavy downpour at the previous weekend’s Mulbarton parkrun, it was a refreshing change to stay dry, and run a faster time (19:30) than I had managed in many, many months. Perhaps the recent ‘warm weather’ training (gentle five-milers) in Lanzarote did some good after all? I’d like to think so.

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