On the run: the wind blows but the cones stay put at the Billericay parkrun
PUBLISHED: 15:55 14 February 2019
Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. This week he heads to Essex for the Billericay parkrun
After the ice and snow of the previous weekend, at Ellenbrook Fields parkrun in Hertfordshire, it was the turn of a strong wind to hinder parkrunners at my latest stop-off, in Billericay.
Not that seasoned parkrunners are going to be put off by a stiff breeze – it is this stoicism that has ensured there are now an amazing 593 parkruns in the UK, with an average of 200 runners at every event.
As if to confirm that ‘stoicism,’ which exists among the hardy volunteers as well as the 5K participants, the Core Team leader, called Dave, apparently arrived on site at the crack of dawn to peg down every red cone with tent pegs on the delightfully curved approach to the finish, on the main central field of the park.
The pegs did the job. The blustery conditions failed to dislodge even one of the cones – a triumph over adversity.
The Billericay parkrun is actually one of the ‘younger’ of the current 593 events, first held during the summer of 2017.
There were 258 finishers at that first event, on June 24, 2017, and since then the 300-mark has been eclipsed on several occasions..
A field of 344 gathered for the first anniversary, last June, and a record 361 turned up on New Year’s Day this year, matching the same number who congregated on October 20, 2018.
Ready to tackle a head-wind, I rolled up at Lake Meadows Park, near the centre of the commuter town of Billericay, along with 288 like-minded souls for the 87th edition of the Billericay parkrun last Saturday.
I was there for a breezy 5K and to marvel at those stubborn red cones.
Lake Meadows Park, which spans 40 acres, hosts a parkrun course of nearly four laps, on a mixture of paths and grass, including a stretch beside the fishing lake.
The park is also home to Billericay Fireworks, which apparently is the largest firework display in Essex, plus the odd outdoor concert – Pete Andre once performed here, so I was treading in distinguished footsteps!
Last Saturday’s results
Teenager James Lee, of Billericay Striders, was first home in 19mins 30secs, just off his personal best for the course of 19:08. He runs in the 15-17 year-old age group.
By contrast, over-50 veteran Robert Cowell (he graces my age category) was a runner up in 20:17.
Suzanne Wells had the distinction of setting a PB, despite the wind and mud, on her way to finishing first female in 23:26.
And in the spirit of parkrun landmarks – parkrun does love a statistic – apparently the 20,000th ever finisher crossed the line during last weekend’s event.
It wasn’t me.
Thomas Beedell, of Woodford Green AC, posted the course best of 15:48 in June of last year.
Braintree & District AC’s Tim Woulfe is second on the list with 16:21, while other familiar names include Billericay’s Crispian Bloomfield (fourth with 16:28) and Springfield Striders’ Paul Molyneux (fifth with 16:29), a former winner of the Bury 20-mile road race in both 2008 and 2009.
Not surprisingly, the top 100 times are awash with runners from North-East Essex, and Suffolk. The Springfield duo of Alex Manton (seventh) and Chris Burgoyne (ninth) are both in the top 10, sandwiching Braintree’s Kurtis Swan (17:07).
James Smith, of Halstead RR, has a best of 17:48, while Tiptree RR’s Andrew Conway (18:46), Ipswich JAFFA’s Steve Langley (18:56) and Witham RCs Leo Cole (19:01) also deserve a mention.
Alexa Joel, of local club Billericay Striders, has the female course best of 18:20, set last May. Joel was first female at the first four events, and has also finished first outright on three occasions
I enjoyed the first four kilometres, especially as I managed to shelter from the occasional head-wind at the opportune moments.
Naturally, running has a nasty habit of clipping your wings – or in this case twinging your right calf muscle – just when you begin to think that you are a teenager again. Still, a slight application of the brakes, and a slower last kilometre saw me to the finish funnel, near the tempting café, in a modest but not disastrous 21:42.
I note, looking at the website, that has seen me ‘come in’ at No. 353 in the Billericay parkrun top 500. I look forward to seeing my name slide down the list and eventually disappear altogether, over the next few months. But those cones will still be there!