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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

On the run: limping around Letchworth parkrun

PUBLISHED: 17:00 09 November 2018

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate down a narrow bridleway for the start of last Saturday's Letchworth parkrun, in North Hertfordshire, Picture: CARL MARSTON

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate down a narrow bridleway for the start of last Saturday's Letchworth parkrun, in North Hertfordshire, Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads off to the Letchworth parkrun

Runners negotiate a tree-line approach to the finish of the Letchworth parkrun, held in bright sunshine last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners negotiate a tree-line approach to the finish of the Letchworth parkrun, held in bright sunshine last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Running while nursing an injury is never to be recommended, but parkrun can unwittingly encourage regulars (verging on addicts) to ignore the tell-tale signs to get their weekly 5K fix on a Saturday morning.

I am not quite in that bracket yet, although I confess that I did feel an urge to continue with my parkrun tour last weekend, despite knowing I was favouring a recent hip problem and resultant sore calf in the other leg.

That’s why I rolled up at Letchworth, although it was always with the intention of just ‘jogging’ around rather than putting any undue strain on vulnerable limbs and joints.

There is a contradiction here, surrounding the parkrun phenomenon.

The half-way point of the Letchworth parkrun, a two lap challenge over 5K. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe half-way point of the Letchworth parkrun, a two lap challenge over 5K. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The need to clock up another parkrun, particularly if you’re a ‘parkrun tourist’ – and there are those around who have run 500-plus parkruns, and others who have run 300-plus different events – can be a very strong one, regardless of your health or overall fitness.

Yet it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s not like entering your 10K or a national half-marathon, where a failure to start means you have kissed goodbye to an entry free, often in excess of £10 and sometimes nudging £30 or more.

parkrun is free, so you have nothing to lose with swallowing your pride and taking a few weekends off, to let injuries heal. To satisfy that parkrun fix, volunteering at your local event can be just as rewarding, if not more so than actually running.

National surveys have revealed some startling facts about runners persisting with their training or racing, despite having an injury.

Approaching the finish of the Letchworth parkrun, at Grange Recreation Ground. Picture: CARL MARSTONApproaching the finish of the Letchworth parkrun, at Grange Recreation Ground. Picture: CARL MARSTON

One such web-based survey, which I tracked down and will quote here because it was based on UK parkrunners (mainly novice and recreational runners), with a pool of more than 1,000, came up with some interesting statistics.

A total of 570 of those asked admitted to having a current injury, and 86% of those were continuing to run despite the injury causing them pain, which directly affected their performance and caused a reduction in their weekly mileage.

Futhermore, men were 1.45 times more likely to be injured than women.

Which brings me to the last Saturday’s Letchworth parkrun, and my own ailments!

The run-down

Letchworth (full name of Letchworth Garden City) has several claims to fame.

It was one of the world’s first new towns, and was the first of the new garden cities to emerge during the first half of the last century, inspired by the idea of Sir Ebenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement in 1898.

Centred around his idea of people living together in a self-contained community, alongside nature, work on Letchworth Garden City began in 1903 after agricultural land was purchased from 15 individual landowners for the princely sum of £160,378.

Now more renowned as a commuter town (only 35 miles from London), Letchworth has another claim to fame – it was home to the UK’s first roundabout, built in 1909.

There are no roundabouts to negotiate around the two laps of the Letchworth parkrun, which is held on the edge of town at Grange Recreation Ground and includes a section on the Greenway, a 13-mile circuit around the town.

The run is along bridleways, earth paths and grass, and overnight rain had left some of the course strewn with puddles.

It boasts fine views of the North Hertfordshire countryside, and a short, stiff climb on each lap.

Saturday’s results

This was the 40th staging of the Letchworth parkrun, attracting a field of 101. Ashley White was first home in a modest 20mins 48secs, while Madeleine Pritchard, of Fairland Valley Spartans, was first lady in 23:54.

Records

Oliver Saville, of Bedford & County, clocked 16:59 in August. That is currently the mark to beat.

Adam Bowller, from local club North Herts RR, is second on the list with his 17:27 from September. Emily Hutchinson, of Arena 80 AC, has finished first female at four Letchworth events this year, including a course best of 19:07.

Carl’s experience

Yes, I ran with an injury, and yes, I shouldn’t really have run. But the views were excellent and the course a good cross-country test.

I will return, when I am in better shape, to run the parkrun again perhaps track down the whereabouts of that ground-breaking old roundabout.

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