On the run: to Frimley Green, but not for the darts!
PUBLISHED: 11:51 13 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:03 14 May 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Frimley Lodge Park
It can be quite a juggling act, trying to find a convenient parkrun to visit each Saturday morning.
And that’s especially the case, if you need to be down in Devon by early afternoon of the same day.
That was the exact challenge for me last weekend – where to stop off on a 260-mile jaunt down to Exeter.
First comes the plotting of the route. I opted for the A303 down through Wiltshire and Somerset, rather than strike out on the two motorway alternatives, across on the M4 or all the way down the M5 from the Midlands.
The normal 9am parkrun start-time also presents its own problems, and requires a very early morning start.
I was out of the house by 6.15am, and had a couple of targets to aim for, depending on the traffic (Bank Holiday weekends can be so unpredictable), finally ducking off the M3, en route for the A303, to roll into Frimley Lodge Park.
Here I was joined by more than 500 like-minded souls for the 431st staging of the Frimley Lodge parkrun.
From here, it was a mere 140 miles on to Exeter, past the predictable bottleneck around Stonehenge.
And after reporting on another Colchester United FC away defeat, not an unfamiliar experience, at a sun-kissed St James’ Park, it was just 260 miles back into Suffolk.
It was a long day.
Frimley Lodge parkrun is one of the more established of the 529 parkruns (total at the last time of counting, last week), having first been held on February 13, 2010.
More than eight years later, it has gone from strength to strength, and now regularly attracts fields in excess of 400 and even 500 every weekend.
Set in a 24-hectare site, next to the suburban village of Frimley Green, in Surrey, the parkrun features a two-lap course starting from the pavilion.
There is an initial stretch around football pitches, before the run heads out along the Basingstoke Canal tow path (‘avoid trampling on any ducklings,’ was the pre-event warning from the Run Director) and through a wooded area (avoid any tree roots) past the miniature railway and back for lap two.
It’s a varied route, certainly one of the more interesting of the 5K parkrun courses, and dogs are allowed to roam free, which adds to the spectacle.
Before last weekend’s visit, I had only associated Frimley Green with the venue for the BDO World Darts Championships, which take place at the Lakeside Country Club in Frimley Green every January. It has been held here since 1986.
All I can say is that the parkrun experience is a very, very different ‘sporting’ occasion.
Last Saturday’s results
Mark Symes, a member of the famous Aldershot, Farnham & District club, led home a bumper field of 511 in 16mins 44secs, a cracking time for what is quite a twisty course.
Symes has a personal best of 16:08, and last Saturday was his 328th parkrun, and his 316th at Frimley Lodge. It was his third first-place finish in four weeks.
Candice Johnson was the first female finisher in 19:10, a PB in only her third-ever parkrun. She was just one second ahead of Caroline Brown (19:11), who was taking part in her first parkrun. They both finished in the top 10, and they both showed this columnist a clean pair of heels!
An impressive 49 men have clocked sub-17-minute times at Frimley Lodge, spearheaded by Joshua Grace’s 15:25 clocking from April, 2015. He is one of 10 members of the Aldershot, Farnham and District club to have posted the top 15 quickest times.
Likewise, 62 women have beaten the 20-minute mark, led by another AF&D runner in Lauren Hall, who ran 17:41 in February, 2017.
Well, when the Run Director, in her pre-event speech, enquired as to who had travelled the furthest to take part in last Saturday’s Frimley Lodge parkrun, I thought I was in with a shout of topping the group.
Someone shouted ‘Marlow’ – a mere 26 miles away in South Buckinghamshire – which got me excited. That was hardly worth getting in the car for!
I was on the verge of proudly announcing, to the 500-plus field, that I had come all the way from Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, when someone shouted ‘Germany,’ only to be drowned out by another bloke barking out ‘South Africa!’
So I kept my mouth shut, and went on to miss the 20-minute mark by eight seconds.