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Top five list of In-Spire-ing parkruns - Carl Marston's parkrun tour

PUBLISHED: 08:28 29 January 2020

A good sign: St Albans parkrun

A good sign: St Albans parkrun

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to St Albans, and compiles a top-five list of parkruns in cathedral cities or towns

St Albans Cathedral towers over a procession of runners and walkers at the St Albans parkrun. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOKSt Albans Cathedral towers over a procession of runners and walkers at the St Albans parkrun. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOK

Looking for inspiration (although not necessarily divine inspiration), before the start of last Saturday morning's St Albans parkrun, you could do worse than glance over at the nearby St Albans Cathedral, an imposing building perched less than a quarter-of-a-mile away.

Which gave me an idea for another of these parkrun tour lists - a top five of cathedral cities or towns, boasting a nearby or a distant parkrun.

InSpired!

Of the five I have chosen, St Albans Cathedral, which was previously the Abbey church of the Benedictine Abbey, lies closest to its neighbourly parkrun.

Runners approach the finish to last Saturday's St Albans parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners approach the finish to last Saturday's St Albans parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

In fact, you can't actually see the cathedral from any of the other parkrun routes, due to either the distance or a treeline.

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Verulamium Park, home to the weekly St Albans parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONVerulamium Park, home to the weekly St Albans parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The St Albans parkrun is a cracking event, and a popular one, having attracted a record field of 739 just a fortnight earlier, at Event No. 425. A cold wind perhaps kept numbers down to a more modest 591 last weekend.

Situated in Verulamium Park (Verulamium was the second largest town in Roman Britain, behind Londinium, and was the home of the first British Saint, Alban), the parkrun route is a fast one which still manages to accommodate big fields.

There's a long straight on a good path, beside a hedgerow, before a circuit of the lake, with the cathedral in the background. The route then returns past the start-line and ventures onto grass before dropping back down to the lake for another circuit.

If you can avoid dropping your car keys in the lake (I was very mindful not to do that), then this event should be towards the top of any parkrun wish-list.

Runners alongside the lake at the St Albans parkrun, in Verulamium Park. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOKRunners alongside the lake at the St Albans parkrun, in Verulamium Park. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOK

And so to that top five:

1 St Albans

Following the dissolution of the monasteries, in 1539, the former Abbey church became a parish church until Queen Victoria granted city status to the Borough, and Cathedral status to the former Abbey church, in 1877.

St Albans Cathedral in the background, as runners take part in the weekly St Albans parkrun. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOKSt Albans Cathedral in the background, as runners take part in the weekly St Albans parkrun. Picture: ST ALBANS PARKRUN FACEBOOK

And just 135 years later, St Albans parkrun was born!

From relative small beginnings - 115 lined-up for the inaugural event in January, 2012 - these days St Albans has developed into one of the bigger parkruns in the UK.

Distance from cathedral: less than a quarter-of-a-mile

Quirky fact: 'The Abbey,' as it is known locally, has the longest nave of any cathedral in England, just 15 metres short of a 100-metre sprint

A general view of Lincoln Cathedral. Picture: PAA general view of Lincoln Cathedral. Picture: PA

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2 Lincoln

Having previously visited the cathedral, castle and prison, by ambling up the aptly-named 'Steep Hill,' I returned to run the relatively flat Lincoln parkrun, three laps within the confines of Boultham Park, last May.

Runners assemble for the start of the weekly Lincoln parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners assemble for the start of the weekly Lincoln parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Situated to the south-west of the city, I could not see the cathedral from the park. But I do remember a lake, a bandstand (a common parkrun feature) and a very chilly breeze.

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Distance from cathedral: about three miles

Quirky fact: Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world, for 238 years, between 1311 and 1549. It is the fourth largest in the UK, in terms of floor space.

3 Southwark

The cathedral is on the South Bank of the River Thames, close to London Bridge, but it's quite a trek to Southwark Park, the home of the local parkrun.

Three-and-a-half laps squeezed into the southern section of the park. No views of the cathedral, but this is compensated for by fine distant views of the Shard.

Distance from cathedral: just over two miles

Quirky fact: Designated a cathedral as late as 1905, this area around Southwark was heavily bombed during the Second World War, and shrapnel can still be detected in the outer walls.

4 Bury St Edmunds

My home parkrun, a two-mile jog to the start-line in Nowton Park, on the edge of the town, for two laps of proper cross country. Often muddy, always a challenge.

Distance from cathedral: just one mile, along the River Lark

Quirky fact: A church has stood on the site of the cathedral since the middle of the 11th century. The new Millennium Tower was officially opened in 2005.

5 Norwich

Eaton Park, to the south-west of the city, hosts a lightning quick three-and-a-half-lap course. It has done ever since August, 2010, from a splendid colonnaded pavilion.

Distance from cathedral: three miles

Quirky fact: Norwich Cathedral has the second largest cloister in England, pipped only by Salisbury. The cathedral spire, at 315 feet, is the second tallest in the country.

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