It has been a record breaking week for parkrun! Last Saturday Charlotte Arter became the fastest ever female parkrunner when she ran 15:50 at Cardiff. https://tinyurl.com/yb7krmax On the same weekend Britain saw the greatest number of participants, both runners and volunteers, when over 168,000 people took part in a parkrun somewhere. The global total for the same weekend was 340,000 and it can’t be too far off when we see a million people taking part in parkrun on the same day. In the meantime my more modest contribution continued today with a visit to Buckingham.
I have never been to Buckingham before and my knowledge of the place was very limited but it must be a town of some consequence to have given its’ name to a whole county and to a palace. Buckingham lies in the middle of the Buckinghamshire countryside on a bend of the River Great Ouse. It has a history going back at least as far as Roman times. It owes its’ name to an Anglo-Saxon chieftain called Bucca. The suffix -ing means “people of” so the Bucking were the people of Bucca and the settlement where they lived was the Buckingham.
Buckingham was already a significant town by the time of the Domesday book when it was apparently home to 26 burgesses, 11 freeholders and a mill. In 1554 it received its charter from Queen Mary becoming the free Borough of Buckingham and an important market town. In 1725 the town centre was devastated by a fire which destroyed most of the buildings. The one good thing to come out of this was that it was extensively rebuilt in the Georgian style. Many of those fine historic buildings still survive today and make Buckingham one of the more picturesque places in the county. The most prominent building in the town centre is the old town gaol, which nowadays serves as a museum.
Buckingham was for many centuries the county town of Buckinghamshire (although that honour has since passed to the much larger Aylesbury) The dukedom of Buckingham was once one of the more important in the country. In 1703 the Duke of Buckingham built a large house to serve as his London residence. This bore the name of Buckingham House. It was sold to the Royal Family later in the eighteenth century and, when it was enlarged in the nineteenth century, duly became Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham, unlike some towns in Middle England, didn’t really explode in population in the twentieth century. This may be down to its position. It nestles quietly in the Buckinghamshire countryside. It doesn’t lie on any major road (unless you count the A421). It doesn’t even have a railway station. As recently as 1970 its population was no more than 5,000. It only has around 12,000 residents today. It does though have its own university - it is perhaps the smallest place in the UK to be a university town. The University of Buckingham is one of Britain’s five independent universities. It still functions in the same way as any other university but instead of being state run it is operated by a charitable trust.
Buckingham parkrun takes place in the area of parkland along the banks of the Great Ouse, just south of the town centre. The course consists of a run out of maybe a kilometre to a loop of about 1.5 kilometres, which you do twice and then run back to the start point. The first part of the course is slightly undulating, it then flattens out for the loop around by the river. It’s not the absolute fastest course that I have run - it’s a bit twisty and you have the problem of lapping the tailenders on the second lap - but it is reasonably fast being on firm paths.
Buckingham parkrun has been going for about five years, indeed today they were celebrating their 250th running. I hadn’t specifically planned to be here for their anniversary, it was just a happy coincidence, but it’s always nice to be there for a special occasion. They had a record crowd of starters there today, 370 in total, which is around twice what they normally get.
So to the run. The start at Buckingham is quite narrow and there are some bollards to avoid, so you need to get away quickly. I managed to start reasonably well. Two guys went off very fast and behind them was a largish group and I was following at the back of this group. I gradually worked my way through. I reached the end of the first lap, so therefore halfway, in 9:30, so quite promising. I wasn’t quite sure what my position was and it became trickier in the second half as we had to wind our way past the tailenders. As we completed the second lap I could see that there was a small group of three just fifty yards ahead. I never quite managed to catch them though. I crossed the line in 19:20, which gave me fifth place. I was pleased with that as I had thought there were more people ahead of me than that.
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 191. I was first in my age group and second overall on age graded scores. So I was pleased with my performance in Buckingham. It’s the sort of course I’d be happy to have as my home parkrun. Indeed I’d be happy to live in Buckingham - it’s a nice place.
I shall finish, as per usual, with a video of the course. If you want a glimpse of Buckingham parkrun, here it is!
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