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Top seven list of watery parkruns - Carl Marston's parkrun tour

PUBLISHED: 11:24 11 February 2020 | UPDATED: 11:24 11 February 2020

The setting for the weekly Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

The setting for the weekly Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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Athletics correspondent Carl Marston is travelling around the region (and beyond) running in different parkruns. Here he heads to Aldenham and compiles a top seven list of inland water-based parkruns

Aldenham Country Park, home of the Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONAldenham Country Park, home of the Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Lakes, reservoirs, boating lakes, ornamental ponds, fishing lakes. All are very popular focal points for parkruns, up and down the UK.

I visited Aldenham parkrun last Saturday morning, situated in Aldenham Country Park, not far from the renowned Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire.

I suppose I could have made a 'pilgrimage' to the Studios, where such family favourites as 'Pointless,' 'Strictly Come Dancing and 'The Voice' are produced, to say nothing of their past associations with 'Star Wars' and 'Indiana Jones' films.

But no, a brisk two laps around Aldenham Reservoir seemed more appealing, and so I found myself on the relaxed start-line for the 243rd Aldenham parkrun.

Aldenham Reservoir, which provides the focal point for the Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONAldenham Reservoir, which provides the focal point for the Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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The course description couldn't have been any more basic - 'two clockwise loops of Aldenham Reservoir' - a far cry from some parkrun route descriptions which resemble short stories, describing every twist, turn, lamppost, park-bench and slight incline that you are likely to meet on the course of your 5K travels.

It was wet and muddy underfoot at last weekend's Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONIt was wet and muddy underfoot at last weekend's Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

They like to keep it simple, at Aldenham, and I like that.

In fact, that's a big attraction of all these inland water-based parkruns. There isn't much scope to take a wrong turn, or veer off course, because the alternative would run the risk of an early-morning dip in ice-cold water.

Which all prompts me to unveil my list of top seven inland water-based parkruns. A very catchy title.

A runner approaches the finish to last weekend's Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONA runner approaches the finish to last weekend's Aldenham parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

1 Aldenham

I was feeling good last weekend, which is unusual for me on an early Saturday morning.

I'm usually slightly jaded after a crack-of-dawn drive to a parkrun venue, with the promise of a non-league football match to report on closer to home, later that afternoon.

But Aldenham parkrun, with the 50-acre Aldenham Reservoir at its heart, brought the best out of me. Often referred to as 'boxing glove shaped,' a description I would struggle to better, the reservoir is never more than a few metres away from the parkrun course, which is very reassuring.

Runners nearing the finish of the Rutland Water parkrun, staged by the edge of the reservoir. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners nearing the finish of the Rutland Water parkrun, staged by the edge of the reservoir. Picture: CARL MARSTON

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I was so reassured that I spent a lot of the time over-taking, rather than being over-taken, which made a pleasant change.

The distinctive Normanton Church, jutting out into the reservoir, near the start of the weekly Rutland Water parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe distinctive Normanton Church, jutting out into the reservoir, near the start of the weekly Rutland Water parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

We were warned that it was muddy underfoot, by the Run Director, who suggested that the representatives at Aldenham Country Park would like some of their mud back, which had been had taken away on the soles of parkrunners' shoes in past weeks.

Well, I admit that I now also have a little bit of Aldenham mud caked on the bottom of my trainers, as a souvenir - and 'no,' they are not a pair of the new controversial Nike Vaporfly trainers!

I have had my current pair of battered trainers for more than a year, and they barely have a sole, let alone a 40mm-thick sole.

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So there's no sensation of 'running on trampolines' for me. I could feel every inch of that Aldenham mud. Old-school running.

2 Rutland Water

Perhaps the most inland water-based of them all, Rutland Water (the largest reservoir by surface area in England) is a simple out-and-back, with a turnaround two-third of the way along the dam, back to the finish near the distinctive Normanton Church.

The beautiful setting for the Rickmansworth parkrun, held around Batchworth Lake and Bury Lake. Picture: CARL MARSTONThe beautiful setting for the Rickmansworth parkrun, held around Batchworth Lake and Bury Lake. Picture: CARL MARSTON

I visited on my 52nd birthday to run what must be one of the fastest parkrun courses in the country. I remember feeling my age - and my Abductor muscle!

3 Rickmansworth

If you like water, then you'll like Rickmansworth parkrun, in the south-west corner of Hertfordshire, two laps around Bury Lake and Batchworth Lake, both flooded gravel pits, plus a stint along the River Colne.

I visited 'Ricky' last March, and loved it, dead-flat.

4 Milton Keynes

One of the biggest parkruns in the UK, this is surrounded by water on all sides. There's a stretch along a canal, and then the famous Zig-Zags to negotiate before skirting the north lake, circling the south lake and finishing outside the water sports centre.

Well worth a visit, if you can navigate the town's roundabouts.

5 Kettering

I rolled into Wicksteed Park, the UK's second oldest theme park, with two media colleagues at the start of 2018.

Three middle-aged men in a pool car, bound for the Potteries - would make a good TV Series.

Two muddy laps around the big boating lake, and over a pontoon bridge, in watery sunshine. Ideal.

6 Millennium Country

To give it its full name - Millennium Country parkrun, Forest of Marston Vale - this Bedfordshire event is a delight.

I visited Event No. 3, last April, and enjoyed the views of Stewartby Lake (former clay pit) along a delightful out-and-back course.

7 Cambridge

One of the first parkruns I visited, in Milton Country Park, a stone's throw from the busy A14 and a few miles north of the city centre.

The fishing lakes are well named here, Todd's Pitt and Dickerson's Pit are both encircled by the two-and-a-bit lapper.

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