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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

On the run: inaugural Littleport parkrun is a big hit

PUBLISHED: 12:32 28 June 2018

Runners congregate in front of Littleport Leisure Centre before last Saturday's Littleport parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Runners congregate in front of Littleport Leisure Centre before last Saturday's Littleport parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

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

Approaching the finish-funnel during last Saturday's inaugural Littleport parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONApproaching the finish-funnel during last Saturday's inaugural Littleport parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Before last weekend, I had never attended an inaugural parkrun.

But that duck was broken by a short excursion into East Cambridgeshire to take part in the first-ever Littleport parkrun.

There was a time, a few years ago, when core team organisers used to always heavily publicise their new event, to encourage runners to turn up and ensure a healthy attendance.

But that was when parkrun was still a relatively unknown entity, with often distances of 30 or 40 miles between each event.

The finish funnel that greets runners at the Littleport parkrun, held for the first time last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe finish funnel that greets runners at the Littleport parkrun, held for the first time last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Now, however, parkruns are extremely popular, to put it lightly, and often an inaugural event can be flooded with entrants, putting extra pressure on organisers who are still trying to find their feet with a new course and all the administrative tasks (marshals, finishing tokens, barcode scanning) to be mastered.

That’s why many new parkruns now emerge, sometimes unnoticed and with next-to-no publicity whatsoever, to prevent so-called ‘tourists’ from turning up to tick-off another inaugural event.

They want a ‘soft start,’ with small, manageable numbers to iron out any first-day problems.

A field of 133 tackled last Saturday's first staging of the Littleport parkrun, held in East Cambridgeshire. Picture: CARL MARSTONA field of 133 tackled last Saturday's first staging of the Littleport parkrun, held in East Cambridgeshire. Picture: CARL MARSTON

- On the run: grass skirts at Brundall parkrun

Three parkruns were ‘born’ last weekend – Cotsford Fields, Newborough Forest, and Littleport.

The Cotsford Fields parkrun, held on the spectacular Northumberland coast at Horden, went for the ‘soft start’ approach, with 81 in attendance, while 90 turned up in North Wales for the Newborough Forest parkrun in Anglesey.

Runners stretching at the finish to the Littleport parkrun, held in sunny conditions last weekend. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners stretching at the finish to the Littleport parkrun, held in sunny conditions last weekend. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Likewise, the organisers at Littleport also opted for a low-key start, although local residents and parkrun first-timers turned up in their numbers, as did members of the nearby Ely Runners club.

I was among the field of 133, for what will probably be my one and only ‘inaugural,’ keen to give this column an insight into what’s its like to run at a first event.

Well, there was a celebratory air to proceedings, the many months of hard work finally coming to fruition for the core team of organisers and volunteers. It was indeed a special occasion, and a big day for little Littleport.

On a national scale, the Littleport event has swelled the total number of parkruns in the UK to a mammoth 539, and that figure continues to rise most weeks.

- On the run: huge numbers at Chelmsford parkrun

I note that Armley parkrun, in Leeds, has been earmarked for this Saturday.

It is NOT on my radar, and probably never will be – I have to draw the line somewhere.

The run-down

Littleport, situated just six miles north of Ely, has a backwater feel to it.

One website that I stumbled across, focusing on inaugural parkruns, had one contributor cheekily suggesting that ‘tourism and Littleport are two words that are rarely used together,’ with reference to possible parkrun tourists converging on the village.

A bit harsh, I thought.

True, there aren’t many tourist hot-spots in the village, but there’s always the Cathedral and the Oliver Cromwell House at nearby Ely, to say nothing of the Prickwillow Drainage Engine Museum – well worth a visit, according to my Dad!

And Littleport itself does have a few claims to fame.

Historically, it was the site of the Littleport Riots of 1816, when veterans from the Battle of Waterloo, unhappy at the lack of work and rising food prices on their return to their homeland, smashed shops and buildings.

And geographically, the nearby hamlet of Little Ouse boasts the lowest trig point in Great Britain, standing three feet below sea level.

But what of the village’s newest attraction – the parkrun?

Based at Littleport Recreation Ground, the 5K route features two big laps and one small lap, following tarmac paths, trail paths and grass. There is an initial circuit of a football pitch and then a bumpy stretch alongside a ditch into a field behind the Littleport Academy. Needless-to-say, it is flat!

Last Saturday’s results

Josh Holman, of Ely Tri Club, was first home in 16mins 19secs, ahead of Huntingdon’s Harrison Evans (18:28) and Joshua Marsh (18:36), of Watford Joggers.

Over-50 veteran Elaine Smith celebrated her first-ever parkrun by finishing first female in 21:19.

Carl’s experience

This was the ‘lowest’ parkrun I have so far visited, in terms of altitude, or lack of it!

But it was not a ‘low point’ for me. Helped by a dead-flat course, and the spanking hot weather, I ran my quickest parkrun for more than two years (19:06).

I wish Littleport parkrun all the best for the future.

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