On the run: Three middle-aged men bound for Kettering parkrun

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate for the start of the 69th Kettering parkrun last Saturday. P

Runners, joggers and walkers congregate for the start of the 69th Kettering parkrun last Saturday. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Wicksteed Park, Kettering

Volunteers marshalling beside the lake at last Saturday's Kettering parkrun, in Wicksteed Park. Pict

Volunteers marshalling beside the lake at last Saturday's Kettering parkrun, in Wicksteed Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Three middle-aged men, in an Archant pool car bound for the Potteries, stopped off in Kettering last weekend with one thing in mind – or rather three thoughts in three different minds.

Photographer Warren Page was all geared up for a slow training run, radio guru Neil Kelly was ready for a long walk, and I had the intention of taking part in the Kettering parkrun, the latest in my mini-parkrun tour.

All three of us have known each other for the best part of three decades, mainly following the fortunes of Colchester United FC, up and down the country.

Snapper Warren never used to like running, while radio commentator Neil never walked further than he had to, unless it was for a rare game of golf.

One man and his dog: canine participants were welcome at last Saturday's Kettering parkrun. Picture:

One man and his dog: canine participants were welcome at last Saturday's Kettering parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant


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But how things have changed!

Warren, in recent years, has been transformed into a long distance running machine, mostly off-road and on his own. He is also the chairman of Colchester & Tendring.

- Braving the elements at Pymmes parkrun

Runners head towards the lake, having just crossed the narrow gauge railway line, in Wicksteed Park,

Runners head towards the lake, having just crossed the narrow gauge railway line, in Wicksteed Park, Kettering - Credit: Archant

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Neil too has taken to his two feet at every opportunity, walking prodigious distances each day.

Me? Well, I’ve always run, but I’m now a lot slower.

Middle age has a lot to answer for!

Runners on a descent during last Saturday's Kettering parkrun, which attracted a field of 407 to Wic

Runners on a descent during last Saturday's Kettering parkrun, which attracted a field of 407 to Wicksteed Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Run-down

There can’t be that many parkruns that use an amusement park as a venue, not least the official second oldest theme park in the UK – Wicksteed Park (the oldest is Blackgang Chine on the Isle of Wight).

The Kettering parkrun was only founded 16 months ago, attracting a field of 331 to the inaugural event on September 24, 2016.

Situated less than two miles off the A14, and a good midway point on our way to the Potteries, Wicksteed Park was the brainchild of Charles Wicksteed, the son of a Unitarian minister.

The amusement park was opened in 1921, and now boasts a miniature gauge railway line, which skirts around a big lake, a huge children’s playground, fairground, and even its own mascot– ‘Wicky Bear’ – although I didn’t spot him among the starters at last Saturday’s parkrun.

- A jaunt through the wood at Linford Wood parkrun

The parkrun route offered its own challenges, a two-and-a-half-lap course featuring a downhill section of 250 metres to the boating lake, plus a small section on a timber boardwalk leading across a pontoon bridge, before circumnavigating the lake and crossing the railway line back up to the start.

Saturday’s results

Jack Chennell, of Kettering Town Harriers, led home a field of 407 in a time of 18mins 33secs for the 5K course. This was some way adrift of his PB of 17:10.

Lorna Doggett, however, did celebrate a PB on her way to finishing first female in 21:34.

Records

Jonathan Goringe, a member of Birchfield Harriers, posted the quickest time for the Kettering course at the fifth event. He ran a swift 15:50 in October, 2016.

Tonbridge AC’s Kirandeep Marsh holds the female course record, of 19:09. She is one of just six women who have so far run faster than 20 minutes.

Carl’s experience

Well, it was an experience.

Within seconds of having pulled up, in the car park, my photographic colleague Warren was off and running.

I had hardly turned off the engine and he was already on his way, armed with a Garmin, which later confirmed that he had run seven miles.

Hampered by a niggling adductor muscle injury, I opted to join radio man Neil on the start of his walk, rather than risk breaking down on a warm-up jog.

Neil was equipped with a Fitbit, a present from his children, which is a main reason for his sudden determination to complete 10,000 steps per day.

According to his beloved Fitbit, he covered seven kilometres around Wicksteed Park.

As for me, I was plagued by a sore adductor throughout the five kilometres, but developed a rather nifty style of shuffle-running to post a slowest-ever time for 5K (disregarding the 27 minutes I posted at the Swindon parkrun before Christmas, when I began running six minutes after the official start).

All three of us reconvened by the car, complete with Garmin (Warren), Fitbit (Neil) and my own gadget – an £8.99 watch displaying a time of 22-plus minutes.

I shall return, and run, not shuffle.

Whether Warren and Neil will join me again, time will tell. They had to get up before 6am for this pre-Potteries experience, but I think they secretly quite enjoyed it. The parkrun bug strikes again!

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