It’s been a busy old week in parkrun world. On Tuesday I was back at the spiritual home of parkrun, Bushy Park, for the Christmas Day event. Now it was once suggested that parkrun on Christmas Day was a waste of time - nobody would want to leave their homes and the unwrapping of presents to go run 5K around a park. Well, as it turned out, the numbers have increased year on year around the country. The organisers might have expected to have beaten last year’s total of around 1500 starters but even they would have been surprised to have beaten the 2000 mark. Two thousand and eleven finishers crossed the line and created a new participation record for a parkrun in the UK. Amongst them was me, in 76th place. I was pleasantly surprised to run 18:59, which was my fastest time of the year.
There’s one more Saturday in the year and for my final parkrun I headed back to the banks of the Thames and to Higginson parkrun. Higginson Park is in Marlow in Buckinghamshire. Dedicated readers, who also are possessed of an amazing memory, might remember that I have run in Marlow before. I took part in the Marlow to Windsor half marathon, along the banks of the river. And the following year I did the Windsor to Marlow half marathon and ran all the way back!
Marlow has a long history -its position on the river would have made it an excellent place for a settlement since ancient times. The earliest recorded mention of the town is in a will from 1015 AD when it was known as Merelafan. In the Domesday Book it is referred to as Merlaue. Many of the main buildings date back to the 16th and 17th centuries but the oldest is probably the 14th century Old Parsonage in St Peter Street. The oldest structure in the area is a 12th century chapel and crypt at Widmer Farm. There are, however, even older structures further afield such as the Iron Age hill forts at Medmenham and Danesfield and monastic sites at Bisham and Little Marlow. The core of the town is now protected within a conservation area.
The two most significant buildings in the town are Marlow Place and Remnantz, both of which were part of the Royal Military College before it moved to Sandhurst in 1812. There has been a bridge across the river here since the Middle Ages - the current version dates from 1832. There is also a weir and a lock here, constructed to allow easier passage for the barges taking goods down towards London.
Famous personalities who have lived in Marlow include Mary and Percy Shelley, Thomas Love Peacock, T. S. Eliot - and Jerome K. Jerome who wrote his “Three Men in a Boat” here. The town is a major centre for the sport of rowing and Steve Redgrave was born and bred in Marlow. There is a statue of him in the park where the parkrun begins.
Just across the river is Bisham Abbey which is nowadays one of three National Sports Centres. There are a wide range of facilities for athletes and teams to use in their training. One of the frequent users of the centre is the England football team.
The parkrun starts and finishes in Higginson Park down by the banks of the Thames. The course consists of two small laps of the park and then an out and back section along the gravel path that runs by the river. It is mostly flat apart from a couple of small bridges. It should be a fairly fast course, the only tricky bit .... a bridge along the river is closed for repairs, so this necessitates a short detour along a muddy path and over a temporary bridge.
Higginson is a relatively recent addition to the parkrun family, this being event number 19, but it has proved fairly popular, usually attracting between 150 and 200 starters (157 today) The weather was dull and grey but fairly mild for late December. I took the first couple of small laps fairly easily and waited until we got onto the riverside path before I started to move through. It was a lovely morning out on the river with lots of rowing crews out training. I was soon up to ninth place which is where I was to stay for the remainder of the run. I was chasing a young lad and I was slowly inching nearer to him, I thought I might catch him but then the muddy path reappeared and he got away from me again. Still ninth place in 19:27. Happy enough with that. It’s one of my faster times of the year.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 189. I was first in my age group and second overall on age graded scores. My final reckoning for the year 2018 - I have increased my number of parkrun venues by 35 and my total of parkruns by 41. My aim for the coming year is to reach a total of 250 (currently on 216) and to bring my total of venues to over 200 (currently on 189) At the current rate I should reach the latter goal by the spring and the former by the autumn of 2019. I shall begin on New Year’s Day by boosting my total by two when I visit Guildford and Cranleigh.
So that was Higginson, Marlow. It was a good ending to 2018. The setting is one of the most attractive I have been to, the course is reasonably fast and there are good facilities near the start/finish. Just take out that muddy path and it would be just about the perfect parkrun! It’s only about an hour’s drive from my place so I might come back here one week. I normally throw in a YouTube video at this point but none have so far appeared so I shall instead post a few photos to give you a glimpse of the course.
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