A delight to join in the Sizewell parkrun anniversary celebrations - parkrunner Carl Marston returns to the Suffolk scene
PUBLISHED: 08:00 26 August 2019
There can be few better parkrun venues than Sizewell Beach, on a blistering hot late summer's day.
Picture the scene, complete with gently undulating sand dunes, a motley collection of fishing boats and wooden huts, the shingle beach, the wide expanses of the North Sea, and of course the two nuclear power stations looming large.
It was certainly a postcard view (OK, perhaps without the bulk of the Sizewell A and Sizewell B stations) when I rolled up to take part in the first year anniversary celebration of the Sizewell parkrun.
I had planned to take both my wife and my dog along for the morning, but the extreme heat, even before 9am, would have been too much for my 12-year-old Italian Spinone. So Oscar, and my wife, wisely stayed in the shade back on the other side of the county, in West Suffolk.
Instead, I alone joined a bumper field of 230 - just 17 short of the record 247 from April 20, 2019 - for the 53rd staging of the Sizewell parkrun, the second youngest of the 11 Suffolk-based parkruns (the youngest is the Thomas Mills event at nearby Framlingham).
There was a real anniversary celebration atmosphere, with the promise of several volunteer 'Pacers' to help runners target specific times, and also the promise of cakes at the finish.
The 'Pacers' did a grand job, but I think the cakes proved even more popular.
This was my 11th and so last of the 11 Suffolk parkruns and, although all 11 are fantastic in their own ways, Sizewell probably tops the lot for scenery, isolation and the sheer breathtaking views.
There are faster parkrun courses in the county - Felixstowe, Kesgrave and Great Cornard spring to mind - but Sizewell is a special experience.
The course is simple, but a gem, amounting to one fairly linear lap through the gentle sand dunes.
Basically, runners, joggers, walkers and dogs (there is usually a strong canine presence, despite my own Oscar's absence), head in a northerly direction for 2.5K, with the formidable nuclear power station on the left, and the beach plus North Sea on the right.
The RSPB Minsmere is straight ahead, and after a short loop, the route returns via the same sandy trails to the finish, handily situated next to the café.
The terrain is good, in terms of firmness underfoot, with sandy grassland trails providing a fairly hard surface, but it is obviously a little uneven and it is never easy to get into a good running rhythm.
That's how I found it, anyway - those runners who powered past me on the return 2.5K to the finish seemed to have a better rhythm than me!
Flying veteran, Adrian Mussett, one of the top veteran runners in the whole of the East region, blasted around the course in a sparkling 16mins 06secs.
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A stalwart member of Colchester Harriers, Mussett clipped 14 seconds off his previous effort at this event, a 16:20 clocking from last April.
Over-45 veteran Mussett has a parkrun best of 15:23 from the Salisbury parkrun, registered back in 2015, while over the standard 5K distance he clocked 15:07 at the Lord Mayor's Classic in Norwich, 15 years ago.
However, Saturday's run was still a frustrating eight seconds behind the Sizewell course record of 15:58, set by Jake Shelley (Shaftesbury Barnet) in June at Event No. 41.
Steve Prosser, of Bishop's Stortford, reached the finish funnel in second spot in 17:08, one of 100 'first timers' in the field (I was obviously a member of that distinguished ton-up group).
Regular first placer, Matt Spencer, of Bungay Black Dog, was third in 18:00. Spencer has finished first in 14 of the 53 events.
Sarah Dudgeon, of Abingdon AC, was the leading female finisher in 21:24, ahead of Jane Phillips (Kenilworth Runners) in 22:20 and teenager Emma Ranson, one of 31 runners to record PBs with 22:42.
Having only been 16 seconds outside 20 minutes the previous Saturday, at the Cassiobury parkrun in Watford, I was hopeful of even clocking a rare (these days anyway) sub-20-minute clocking at Sizewell.
I like the heat, and it was hot! And the course is effectively a flat one.
Alas, though, the 20-minute Pacer overtook me before halfway and I spent the second half watching him slowly disappear from view, while also wondering whether a Pacer with a 21-minute bib would also overhual me.
That did not happen, mainly because I don't think there was a '21' designated Pacer, and secondly because I 'smashed' 21 minutes by four seconds.
My times appear to be going in the other direction, again.
Nearby Felixstowe parkrun
Remarkably, a little further down the Suffolk coast, at the Felixstowe parkrun, the old course record was broken not once, not twice but three times as the top three all made the most of the gorgeous summer weather to beat 16 minutes.
Andrew Rooke, of Framlingham Flyers, led home a field of 429, at this 71st event, in a scorching 15mins 18secs.
Runner-up James Pettersson notched a personal best of 15:40, while Danny Rock, of local club Felixstowe Road Runners, followed up his recent Ipswich Twilight 10K victory with 15:59 in third.
Rock had actually held the previous course record of 16:06, set just the previous weekend.
Natalie Johnston was the first female at Saturday's Felixstowe parkrun in 20:51. There was also an eye-catching run from Chris Cooke, an over-55 veteran from Saint Edmund Pacers, who was fifth in 17:51, earning him an impressive age grading of 88.33%.