On the run: tackling the Haverhill parkrun

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate before the start of last Saturday's Haverhill parkrun. Pictu

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate before the start of last Saturday's Haverhill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. This time he nips down the road to Haverhill

Approaching the finish of last Saturday's Haverhill parkrun, with a lap of the short field. Picture:

Approaching the finish of last Saturday's Haverhill parkrun, with a lap of the short field. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

I was back on Suffolk soil last Saturday, to take part in the county’s newest parkrun – the Haverhill parkrun.

This was only the third staging of the event, following its inauguration on March 10 and then a testing second weekend in freezing weather conditions, on a mud-bath of a course.

While only 35 runners braved the numbing cold of last Saturday week, following 123 on the successful first event, I was one of 88 runners, joggers and walkers to tackle last weekend’s more benign conditions.

The toughest challenge that I faced was actually finding the event HQ at Puddlebrook Playing Fields.

Runners approach the small bridge spanning the two areas of Puddlbrook Playing Fields. Picture: CARL

Runners approach the small bridge spanning the two areas of Puddlbrook Playing Fields. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

That was down to my own ineptitude – getting lost in a maze of avenues – and also no Haverhill ‘locals’ seeming to have heard of ‘Puddlebook Playing Fields.’ (at least the ones I asked!).

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Runners and signs were a common sight at the third Haverhill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Runners and signs were a common sight at the third Haverhill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

I eventually stumbled on the start-area, not from my intended direction, and more by luck than judgement, with several minutes to spare.

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And anyway, these days a warm-up usually means a danger of aggravating an injury, and pulling out before the start, rather than limbering up for a potentially scorching run.

Run-down

The finish funnel at last weekend's Haverhill parkrun. There were 88 finishers. Picture: CARL MARSTO

The finish funnel at last weekend's Haverhill parkrun. There were 88 finishers. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Multi-lapped, almost dead-flat, and all on grass.

That describes the Haverhill parkrun, the eighth to be established in Suffolk after Ipswich, Lowestoft, Bury St Edmunds, Kesgrave, Great Cornard and Clare Castle.

The route is fairly simple, starting with a couple of laps around a small playing field, just off Cleves Road, by way of a warm-up before crossing a small bridge to begin three laps of the main park.

You then return via the same bridge to complete a further lap of the small field to make up the five-kilometre distance.

Puddlebook Playing Fields, the venue for the Haverhill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Puddlebook Playing Fields, the venue for the Haverhill parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

If you are feeling fit, and the weather has been dry in the preceding weeks, then this can be considered a very quick course.

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But if, like me, training has been virtually non-existent, and the terrain is not bone-dry, then it can be a bit of a slog – a pleasant slog, but a slog all the same.

Certainly, Event Director Annette Hall and her voluntary committee, which are at least 20-strong, deserve great credit for getting this latest Suffolk parkrun up-and-running.

Saturday’s results

I had the dubious pleasure of being overtaken by the leading female, Nicki Davis, who set a new course record in this third staging. She clocked 21min 33secs.

A member of Walden Tri, and often first lady at the Clare Castle and Cambridge events, this was Davis’ 58th parkrun. Her personal best of 19:35 was set a Cambridge.

Teenager Toby Spaxman was away and clear at the front of the field (20:14), finishing 15 seconds ahead of over-50 veteran Steven Ramek, of the 26.2 RRC.

Paul Game, an over-40 veteran from the local club Haverhill RC, was third in 21:11.

Records

While Davis now holds the female course record, teenager Alex Smith, of Haverhill RC, has so far posted the quickest time overall, thanks to his 19:55 on week one. Spaxman’s time from last Saturday has him second on the list, just ahead of Sudbury Joggers’ Kieran Hayles (20:18).

Carl’s experience

One of the advantages of writing this column is that I do get to visit so many different parkruns, dotted all around East Anglia and beyond.

But I am a mere novice, when compared to many of the ‘veterans’ who you come across at each weekly 5K challenge.

For instance, Danny Norman was one of the 88 toeing the line at Haverhill last Saturday.

That might not sound particularly interesting, but Norman was running in his 581st parkrun (and 232nd different parkrun), not bad when considered that the first-ever parkrun was not held until October, 2004.

Being a new addition to the parkrun party, it does mean that Havehill is quickly attracting parkrun ‘tourists’ from all over the country.

Ramek, the third-placed finisher last Saturday, was taking part in his 303rd parkrun, while Mark Jennings, in fifth slot, rattled up his 415th parkrun, at his 249th different venue.

Of course, most importantly of all, a big percentage of the field were also enjoying the parkrun experience for the first time.

I am neither in Danny Norman’s ‘specialist’ class, nor a complete novice. As my 22-mins time (55th event) suggested last weekend, I am somewhere in between!

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