There are no ‘holes’ in the Pocket parkrun
PUBLISHED: 17:00 31 July 2018
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond!), running in different parkruns. Here he heads to the Pocket parkrun at St Neots
Any newly-established parkrun does not take long to attract its share of ‘parkrun tourists,’ with runners travelling from afar to chalk up another new event.
The superbly-named Pocket parkrun, situated in St Neots in the historic county of Huntingdonshire, is no exception.
Last Saturday was only the seventh staging of this new addition to the parkrun community – the current total stands at 546 – and already the locals have been blessed with appearances from some parkrun veterans.
Only two weeks ago, Danny Norman visited the Pocket parkrun, the Surrey-based athlete having gained renown for his weekly 5K exploits over the years.
Norman has taken part in 249 different parkruns, and 599 in total, so this weekend he will undoubtedly chalk up his landmark 600th.
On the same day that I made the short journey from west Suffolk into Cambridgeshire (Huntingdonshire was incorporated into modern Cambridgeshire in 1974), last Saturday, a certain Charles Green was also in the field, although I didn’t know it at the time.
Surrey-based Green has the distinction of rattling up 301 different parkruns, third only to Paul Fielding (398) and Paul Freyne (360) on the all-time list. He is on 399 in total.
New parkruns are springing up aplenty in the area, which is good news for those Suffolk runners wanting a change of scenery.
Littleport parkrun, in East Cambridgeshire, was set up only a week after the Pocket parkrun, while a new parkrun in Cambridge (at Coldham’s Common) has been earmarked for this autumn.
In fact the East Anglian region, as a whole, is positively booming, with regards the parkrun phenomenon.
Closer to home, Suffolk welcomed Haverhill (in March) and Felixstowe (in April) to its parkrun repertoire. Clare Castle was started last September, and a new event at Sizewell is being planned for later this month. The inaugural Sizewell parkrun is set for Saturday, August 25.
Your columnist will no doubt nip into Cambridge, and head for Sizewell, later this year, with his tried-and-tested moth-eaten trainers, but for the moment the spotlight is on Pocket parkrun.
I was expecting a mundane route, perhaps around playing fields at the adjoining Ernulf Academy and One Leisure Centre, but the Pocket parkrun offers nothing of the sort – it’s a gem of a course!
In fact, I couldn’t pick any ‘holes’ in the course, or the event.
Starting on a tarmac path, the two-lap course cuts across grass meadows and then follows a woodland trail on the banks of the River Great Ouse. It really is a pleasant experience.
Mark Wishart, of Eye Community Runners, was first home in 18mins 42secs, followed by Dermot Martin, of the Aylesbury-based Bearbrook RC, who was second in 18:54.
Jo Oregan, who was first female at the inaugural event, on June 16, and first again only the previous weekend, completed a hat-trick with 19:00. She was third overall.
Mark Rushbrook tops the charts with 16:56 from the third event, the only runner to have so far posted a sub-17-minute time at Pocket Park. Rushbrook has an impressive marathon best of 2:28:59, set at Sevillle last year.
Saturday’s winner Jo Oregan, of local club Riverside Runners, holds the female course record, thanks to her benchmark 18:39 from event No. 1.
I have relished running in the heat over the last few weeks, but the weather relented a little on Saturday morning – there was even a swirling breeze in our faces as we headed across the meadow-land within the 45 acres of Pocket Park.
There’s a few twists and turns, alongside the river, and the terrain is a little uneven in places, but Pocket is well worth a visit, whether you be a ‘tourist’ or just happy to cross the county border.
I continued my sequence of sub-20-minute runs, but only by a handful of seconds, thanks to a Bolt-like sprint finish – well, an unsightly dash for the funnel!