Thank you to Ian Gregory A173387 for this great run report form last weeks extremely busy parkrun-
This morning saw us, The Three Amigos, take an 82-mile north-east trip from Portsmouth to the dizzy heights of Lullingstone, Kent, the eighth hilliest parkrun course (according to the Jegmar elevation rankings). I’ve done a decent amount of parkrun tourism with fellow obsessive enthusiast, Dave ROBBINS and it was the first time our running buddy Michael SENNETT had joined us.
It was a much milder morning than ones we’d been experiencing throughout the week, although once we’d arrived, we all opted to do our warm-up with our running jackets on. It’s a course where it’s quite difficult to fit in my usual half-mile warm-up, unless you’ve become accustomed to the steep slopes here or you’re somewhat masochistic.
Lullingstone Country Park is just a stone’s throw away from the start of the parkrun, located halfway up the hill… this introduction to the area leads me on to some history about the area we were running in today.
The park area has had settlements there from as early as the Stone Age, though I expect their parkruns back then were based on running away from cave bears and woolly rhinoceros. Evidence has also been found of settlements and records of two farmsteads dating back to the Iron Age, as far as 20AD, Lulling’s tun meaning Lulling’s farm. During the Medieval period, the Country Park was part of a large estate and deer park which became a valuable hunting area. It resulted in the landscape becoming full of mature trees, some of which the parkrun route goes through, Lower Beechen Wood.
The site has a huge collection of ancient trees, with over 300 veteran oak, beech, ash, hornbeam and sweet chestnut, some of which are estimated to be 800 years old.
On to more recent history now… in 1933 some of the land that originally formed the park was sold off to cover debts of the estate, the 200-acre area around Lullingstone Castle being retained. The site is still owned by the Hart Dyke family, who have a history in Lullingstone which dates back 600 years. Some six years later, the Ministry of Defence used the land, placing dummy aircraft in the dry valley behind Lullingstone Park Farm to avert the enemy’s attention from nearby Biggin Hill. In some cases, aircraft were set alight during air raids to replicate direct hits; evidence still remains of bomb craters in and around the park.
Back to today’s run! All three of us were the first to experience a parkrun Mob Match. This is where clubs use parkrun as a place to meet and compete against each other; today there were four local clubs all competing for the local crown. From what I could gather from today’s Run Director, Giles James WOLFE, it wouldn’t be a case of who finished first, more a case of how each club performed as a whole - more about that later. All I can say is, it was conducted excellently and probably helped me put more effort into my run.
The parkrun itself is mainly run on grass, with a woodland carpet of leaves and other woodlandy stuff. I also seem to recall a small section of stony trail towards the finish line. Very little of it is flat, and even the flat parts are mostly on a camber, so it’s a constantly demanding course, both for the body and the mind. That said, two fifths of the course is downhill, so if you’re a lover of downhill running, like myself, you’ll be welcoming those kilometres with open arms! I must be a masochistic parkrunner at the moment, especially as I’ve completed Alice Holt (277ft), Cuerden Valley (345ft), Queen Elizabeth (376ft), Lullingstone (407ft) in the last twelve months and am heading to Bevendean Down, the sixth hilliest course, this-coming Saturday.
Despite the course being so hilly, there were some excellent times today, though fast times were to be expected with the Mob Match taking place. The four clubs taking part were Central Park Athletics, Dartford Harriers AC, Dartford Road Runners and SLGR Dartford Running Club.
First male finisher was Alex CAMERON of Dartford Harriers AC in an amazing 17:34, with first female finisher Cas WRIGHT, also of Dartford Harriers AC, in an equally impressive 20:07 and setting herself a new PB in the process.
There was only one official milestone runner today, Rob O’HALLORAN, a first timer from Central Park Athletics, celebrating his 100th parkrun, so a massive well done to him. Stephen BURGESS from SLGR completed his 150th parkrun and bagged a PB while doing so along with Rachel BIGNELL of Dartford Road Runners who completed her 200th parkrun… not official milestones but still very worthy of a special mention.
Out of the 254 participants who ran, jogged or walked the course today, a colossal 106 were first timers to this course, two of which were taking part in their first ever parkrun (seriously, there are much easier courses to start off at!) Out of the remaining 148 people who had run this course before, a staggering 58 managed to gain themselves a new PB. Representatives from 18 different running clubs took part, the largest contingencies being from the four Mob Match clubs mentioned earlier… 35 from Central Park Athletics, 31 from Dartford Harriers AC, 68 from Dartford Road Runners and 30 from SLGR. The best 20 results from each club determined the winner.
Other notable finish times today include runners who finished on exact minute times, Denise ROSE in 26:00, Brian BORRETT and Megan DAVIS bang on 28:00 and Carolyn CORP in 39:00. There were three runners finishing in aesthetically pleasing times… Antony HYLTON in 21:21, Christopher ARCHER in 23:23 and Maria ASHLEE in 32:32. Finally, there were two palindromic finish times… Paul DAWES in 21:12 and Marc POWELL in 24:42.
I want to praise every single marshal and volunteer out on the course today, they did a pristine job of making sure everyone completed their run safely and with unequivocal encouragement, I loved every minute of it. After the three of us had finished, we headed down to the café for a spot of breakfast and a drink before heading off back home, all having thoroughly enjoyed today’s road trip.