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Kings of Anglia Issue 10 Magazine Offer

Top five parkruns beginning with the letter 'C' - from personal experience

PUBLISHED: 10:13 21 August 2019 | UPDATED: 10:29 21 August 2019

The entrance to Clumber Park, the home of the weekly Clumber Park parkrun in Nottinghamshire. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The entrance to Clumber Park, the home of the weekly Clumber Park parkrun in Nottinghamshire. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he highlights five events beginning with the letter 'C' in five different counties

Runners near the finish of the Clumber Park parkrun. There were 358 finishers when Carl Marston took part, in 2017.Runners near the finish of the Clumber Park parkrun. There were 358 finishers when Carl Marston took part, in 2017.

I was so taken by my impromptu visit to the Cassiobury parkrun last weekend, that I decided to incorporate it into a top five.

I could have opted for a top five of Hertfordshire parkruns, or perhaps a 'South of the Watford Gap' top five - Cassiobury Park, Watford, is more than 60 miles south of this linguistic divide.

Instead, quirkier, and certainly less geographically north/south orientated, I have opted for a top five parkruns beginning with the letter 'C,' from five different counties. Tenuous, maybe, but alphabetically very satisfying.

Runners set off at the start of the inaugural Clare Castle parkrun, in September, 2017. Picture: ANDY ABBOTTRunners set off at the start of the inaugural Clare Castle parkrun, in September, 2017. Picture: ANDY ABBOTT

1 Clumber Park (Notts)

Clumber Park could have been designed with parkrun in mind, a picturesque two-lapper starting through woodland and featuring a downhill stretch to Clumber Lake. A stiff climb to the finish blows away the cobwebs.

First staged in June, 2013, I rolled up for the 237th event in mid-February 2018.

Carl's experience: At the time, this was the furthest north I had travelled for a parkrun, and it ended up being the coldest. A distance of 130 miles from my house, and 161 miles from my intended destination (Carlisle United Football Club) it was the ideal stop-off point. Despite suffering from numbed fingers and frozen toes, cold Clumber Park parkrun deserves its place in this elite 'C' group.

A sea of colour during the Clacton Seafront parkrun.  Picture: CLACTON PARKRUN FACEBOOKA sea of colour during the Clacton Seafront parkrun. Picture: CLACTON PARKRUN FACEBOOK

2 Clare Castle (Suffolk)

Another gorgeous setting, the Clare Castle parkrun starts near the remains of a motte and bailey castle, as well as an old Victorian railway station complete with booking hall, station-master's house and goods shed.

The course is on paths around the circumference of the park, both tarmac and trail, with the Rover Stour never far away.

Down on the promenade for the Clacton Seafront parkrun. Picture: CLACTON PARKRUN FACEBOOKDown on the promenade for the Clacton Seafront parkrun. Picture: CLACTON PARKRUN FACEBOOK

I visited when this event was just a month old, in late October, 2017, one of a field of 123 to tackle the three laps of Event No. 4. The Romans and later the Saxons used to occupy this site; now its parkrunners every Saturday morning. A treat.

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3 Clacton Seafront (Essex)

The field congregates before the start of the 240th Cheltenham parkrun, in Pittville Park. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe field congregates before the start of the 240th Cheltenham parkrun, in Pittville Park. Picture: CARL MARSTON

On a good day, when there is little wind, this is personal best material, three laps starting with an outward stretch along the top of the promenade towards the pier, and then a return via the beach-front promenade.

I do like to be beside the seaside, but I prefer summer to winter. So don't ask me why I chose to visit the Clacton Seafront parkrun in mid-December! (2017).

Carl's experience: I used to spend my summer holidays on Clacton beach, initially based in the family caravan and later a cosy little flat near the old Butlins site, so this was familiar territory for me. I even occasionally took a dip in the sea on Christmas Day, as remains the tradition in these parts. I am therefore used to feeling cold in Clacton and, as has become a theme of this list, it was freezing on my visit, to such an extent that red cones were placed in strategic positions to encourage the 83 hardy souls (parkrunners) to steer clear of the icy patches. I pipped the leading dog by a nose!

Runners emerge through the trees at last weekend's Cassiobury parkrun, in Watford, one of Carl Marston's top five parkruns beginning with the letter 'C'. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners emerge through the trees at last weekend's Cassiobury parkrun, in Watford, one of Carl Marston's top five parkruns beginning with the letter 'C'. Picture: CARL MARSTON

4 Cheltenham (Gloucs)

The Cheltenham parkrun, in Pittville Park, used to be a three-lap affair, but increasing numbers made it tricky negotiating a small, narrow bridge over the lake, with some bollards thrown in for good measure, so a new course had been devised by the time I visited (September, 2017). The park, like the town, is steeped in history.

Carl's experience: This gets in my dream 'C' team as I happened to run under 20 minutes for the first time in weeks. I put this down to two factors. Firstly, a designated '20 minutes' Pacer, who paced me to perfection; and secondly, the bottle of red wine I consumed with my wife the night before.

Cassiobury Park, in Watford, the home of the weekly Cassiobury parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONCassiobury Park, in Watford, the home of the weekly Cassiobury parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

5 Cassiobury Park (Herts)

I headed off to Watford, in Hertfordshire, only last Saturday morning to soak up the sunshine in Cassiobury Park, home to a flat course and a potentially fast time. The emphasis here is on the word 'potentially.'

It is a two-and-a-half lap course, on good tarmac paths, with very little gradient. The start is 400 metres from the well-named Cha Cafe, near the Shepherds Road entrance, and involves a long straight stretch down the 'central avenue,' followed by a tight left-hand turn back up towards the cafe.

First established in February, 2015, it's a gem.

Carl's experience: As the parkrun saying goes - 'no barcode, no time, no exception' - that's why I always remember my tatty paper barcode every week. I mention this, because 40 of the 469 runners (including the first placer) last Saturday were 'unknowns,' and will forever remain so.

The main obstacle to recording a swift time, if that's your goal, is the narrowness of the paths. Over-taking can be problematic, especially on the final lap, but never grumble. This is parkrun, where patience is a virtue.

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