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On the Run: impromptu visit to Gadebridge parkrun

PUBLISHED: 16:55 17 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:18 17 January 2019

Gadebridge Park, the home of the Gadebridge parkrun in Hemel Hempstead

Gadebridge Park, the home of the Gadebridge parkrun in Hemel Hempstead

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Last Saturday he headed to Hemel Hempstead for the Gadebridge parkrun

Runners congregate for the start of last Saturday's Gadebridge parkrun, held in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners congregate for the start of last Saturday's Gadebridge parkrun, held in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Pointing the car in a certain direction, I often have no precise parkrun location in mind when I leave home at the crack of dawn (actually before the crack of dawn, at this time of year).

I usually just head for a certain region, or designated county, and see where that takes me by a certain cut-off time.

That was the case last Saturday morning when I headed into the unknown, in Hertfordshire. I thought this would make a pleasant change from recent jaunts into Norfolk, Central London and over the Dartford Crossing into Kent.

Runners emerge from the underpass that connects the western and eastern sections of Gadebridge Park, during last weekend's parkrun in Hertfordshire. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners emerge from the underpass that connects the western and eastern sections of Gadebridge Park, during last weekend's parkrun in Hertfordshire. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Of course I did have a rough idea – if I was a betting man, I would have laid a wager on a visit to the St Albans parkrun.

But, having made such cracking progress along near-deserted roads, I arrived on the outskirts of St Albans well before schedule, with just under an hour to go before the regular 9am parkrun start.

Dogs were a common sight at last Saturday's Gadebridge parkrun, leading their owners around a 5K course. Picture: CARL MARSTONDogs were a common sight at last Saturday's Gadebridge parkrun, leading their owners around a 5K course. Picture: CARL MARSTON

So I just kept going, continuing to head westwards beyond the MI and into Hemel Hempstead, where I rolled up ay Gadebridge Park to join the fun at the weekly Gadebridge parkrun.

The run-down

Gadebridge Park has been home to a parkrun since early May, 2015, when 203 runners and walkers toed the line at the start, situated in the south-east corner of the park, on the northern edges of Hemel Hempstead.

It is an urban park of 32 hectares, split into two sections by the Leighton Buzzard Road, which runs along the bottom of the Gade Valley. Unusually, the River Gade is a chalk stream, very shallow but prone to flooding.

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The 5K course, made up of two laps, begins with a 400-metre stretch on a good path before heading around a field, and then over the River Gade and through an underpass into the western section of the park.

This part is proper cross country, following an anticlockwise route uphill on grass, and then a steep downhill back to the underpass, the river and the other half of the park.

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It is challenging, certainly more so than some of the flat-as-a-pancake, well-surfaced routes that greet runners, eager for a fast 5K, at such parkruns in Norwich, King’s Lynn, Bedford, Chelmsford and on Hackney Marshes.

Last Saturday’s results

Jim King, a member of nearby St Albans Striders, led home a field of 188 at the 191st Gadebridge parkrun, in what was his 96th parkrun, and 74th at Gadebridge.

Phil Robbins, of Gade Valley Harriers (a local Hemel Hempstead running club, formed in 1991), was second home in a personal best of 19:38.

Sian Hibbs, also of Gade Valley Harriers, was the first female, also in a PB of 23:32.

Records

The course best has stood since the third event, held on May 16, 2015, when speed merchant Ian Kimpton roared around the two laps in 16mins 08secs.

Four women have beaten 20 minutes, led by Kate Rennie, of Dacorum & Tring, who posted 19:15 in May, 2017 at Event No. 108.

Carl’s experience

I felt exhausted, even before I had clambered out of the car, not due to the exertions of the journey, but rather by the sight of several very fit athletes being put through their paces in what looked like a boot camp style regime.

Surely this was not the local parkrunners limbering up before the big event, at 9am?

Usually, when I arrive at a parkrun event somewhere in the country, there are just a select few runners warming up hamstrings beside park-benches, or stretching calves while leaning on a tree.

Most, though, are just mingling, chatting or sipping water, with not much hint of a warm-up.

No, these early-birds in Gadebridge Park were not your typical parkrunners. I later found out that they were indeed taking part in a military-style Boot Camp Fitness session, the sort of circuit training that made my eyes water.

After seeing these fitness gurus in action, I didn’t require much of a warm-up myself – by comparison, the Gadebridge parkrun should be doddle.

Actually, it wasn’t.

The course was tough, and the inclines again exposed my woeful lack of training, and overall fitness. But I was not overtaken by any of the many dogs in action, or their owners, and at least I finished on the right side of 22 minutes.

Next time, I might arrive even earlier and try my hand at the outdoor boot camp .... but then again ....


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