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Kings of Anglia Issue 9 Magazine Offer

On the run: proper cross country at the Colney Lane parkrun

PUBLISHED: 13:59 24 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:59 24 March 2018

The wintry scene at the University of East Anglia which greeted last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The wintry scene at the University of East Anglia which greeted last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This time he heads to Colney Lane, Norwich

Runners in the finishing funnel at last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners in the finishing funnel at last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I was back on familiar turf last weekend, running on terrain I used to grace once or twice a year when competing in the East Anglian Cross Country League on Wednesday afternoons.

The Colney Lane parkrun, a relatively new addition to the 500-plus total of parkruns in the country (there are now precisely 513), is staged over a 5K course at the University of East Anglia, on the edge of Norwich.

Saturday was another test of one’s resolve – only the diehards assembled in freezing cold conditions, with little pockets of snow glimpsed on the short drive along the A11.

There were 134 of us ‘diehards,’ most of us huddled together in the warmth of the Colney Lane Sports Pavilion, and only venturing out just a few minutes before the start.

Colney Lane Playing Fields, the home of the weekly Colney Lane parkrun, which was established as recently as last December. Picture: CARL MARSTONColney Lane Playing Fields, the home of the weekly Colney Lane parkrun, which was established as recently as last December. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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This was proper cross country.

One man and his dog: canine action from last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun, held at UEA  in Norwich. Picture: CARL MARSTONOne man and his dog: canine action from last Saturday's Colney Lane parkrun, held at UEA in Norwich. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Two laps on grass and trails, preceded by one short lap, and a taxing little climb on each of the big laps. It was enough to remind me that training had not been going very well lately!

The run-down

Situated just over a mile down the road from the well-established Norwich parkrun, held at Eaton Park, the Colney Lane parkrun sprung up before Christmas of last year, on December 9.

Cones and runners strewn across Colney Lane Playing Fields at last Saturday's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONCones and runners strewn across Colney Lane Playing Fields at last Saturday's parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

A field of 248 congregated for that inaugural event, the only time more than 200 have turned up to tackle this all-terrain 5K.

Whereas Norwich is conducive to personal bests, basically three-and-a-half laps of a very flat park, on well-maintained, hard-surfaced paths, Colney Lane is far more challenging. It’s like the more awkward younger brother.

From the pavilion, a short lap skirting the football pitches is followed by a section on trails through woodland, and then up alongside Bluebell Road. For good measure, there’s a muddy section to end each of the two big laps.

Orange cones and yellow signs made navigation easy at last Saturday's bitterly cold Colney Lane parkrun, in Norwich. Picture: CARL MARSTONOrange cones and yellow signs made navigation easy at last Saturday's bitterly cold Colney Lane parkrun, in Norwich. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Saturday’s results

Norfolk-based veterans dominated, perhaps not surprising, with James Fowler leading home a field of 134 in 19mins 32secs. A member of Norfolk Gazelles, over-40 veteran Fowler was running his 125th parkrun, with 101 of these completed at nearby Norwich.

Fellow over-40 veteran Nico Drinkwater was second in 19:46.

A little further down the field, Nick Overy chalked up his 472nd parkrun in 22:37, a notable achievement, 428 of these coming at Gorleston Cliffs, Norfolk’s oldest parkrun (463 events).

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Anna Hoogkamer, of City of Norwich, was the first female finisher last Saturday. She showed me a clean pair of heels on lap two to register 21:34.

Bure Valley Harriers’ Sabina Spence was second with 23:11. It was the her 169th parkrun.

Records

The men’s course best currently stands at the 16mins 43secs posted by Piers Arnold, at event No. 8 on January 27 of this year.

Arnold is one of only two men to have ducked under 17 minutes to date, the other being his City of Norwich AC club-mate, Jack White, with 16:54.

Iona Lake set the ladies’ course record of 28:27 from the second event, held on December 16, 2017. The quickest three times are all held by City of Norwich athletes, with Mabel Beckett (18:34) and Millie Salway (18:39) also to the fore.

However, this is the sort of course which should produce some far quicker times, once summer comes around and the route becomes less muddy.

Carl’s experience

I knew this venue from my many appearances at the aforementioned EACCL meetings, during the 1990s and 2000s, when the University of East Anglia and the ‘Runners Centre’ each hosted a race per season.

There were usually games of rugby, lacrosse or hockey taking place on the playing fields, as a mostly older age group tackled the cross country.

UEA still stage a race in this league, and the most recent one in January did employ the new Colney Lane parkrun route – the men covered four laps, and the ladies’ two.

Last Saturday was once again a case of coping with the freezing conditions, and a biting wind. I faded to a time of over 22 minutes, hardly surprising given my lack of training and the challenging nature of the course.

Elsewhere, I noted that three more parkruns enjoyed their inaugural events last Saturday, two in Surrey and one in Central London, boasting the ever-growing grand total to 513.

Whether I ever get to the delightfully named Mole Valley (Dorking), Hazelwood (Sunbury-on-Thames) or Victoria Dock (Central London), the new trio, is another matter altogether.

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