Well, how are we all? It’s been a while. I am just about all right. As you may know, I have been struggling all spring and summer with an ankle injury. It’s just about okay now. I can still feel something there but it hasn’t stopped me from tentatively resuming running. I am about the least fit that I have been for many years but I have started again running relatively short distances at a pretty slow pace. I need to get fit again as I plan to be back on the start line of the London Marathon next April.
In the meantime I can start doing a few parkruns again. Last Saturday I was at the fifteenth anniversary of parkrun in Bushy Park. This Saturday I resumed my travels with a visit to Ifield Mill Pond parkrun which is in Crawley. Many people were delighted to see a second parkrun start up in Crawley, partly because it takes the pressure off Tilgate but also because Ifield begins with the letter ‘I’ There is a thing in parkrun touring called alphabeteering, whereby you run a parkrun beginning with every letter of the alphabet. Previously to gain an ‘I’ I would have had to go to Ipswich or Inverness. Crawley is a lot nearer!
This would be my second visit to a parkrun in Crawley so I have given you the history of the town before but briefly ... Crawley was for centuries a relatively unimportant market town in the middle of Sussex. Then, after the Second World War, the new airport of Gatwick was constructed just outside the town and rapidly grew to be Britain’s second busiest. Crawley was also designated one of Britain’s ‘New Towns’ which resulted in years of rapid development. By the turn of the century the population of Crawley had already passed the hundred thousand mark and so the place was less of a town and more of a small city in the middle of the Sussex countryside. You can still see the odd remnant of the old town dotted around but Crawley is mostly composed of red brick and concrete. Neighbouring Gatwick provides over twenty thousand jobs and so the unemployment rate in Crawley is close to zero.
Ifield lies on the western side of the town. It was originally a tiny village, its name meaning “Yew Field”, but now it comprises the western district of Crawley. It consists mainly of modern housing estates but here and there you can see an odd remnant of the old Ifield. St Margaret’s Church was originally built in the thirteenth century and is still there today, alongside the Ifield Barn theatre. At Ifield you will find several small streams that merge together to form the source of the River Mole. A few centuries ago they must have dammed one of these streams to form a millpond. A watermill, to grind corn was built at the northern end of the pond in 1683 and then rebuilt in 1817. That building still stands and is currently being renovated. The Mill Pond today offers an oasis of wetland and parkland amidst the outer suburbia of Crawley.
The parkrun route at Ifield takes place on the tarmac path which runs alongside the pond. It consists of two laps consisting of an out and back along the path with the addition of a little detour where you have to go over a bridge and do a little circuit on the other side. It is all on smooth tarmac and largely flat and so would be the sort of course where I’d hope for a fast time under normal circumstances. Today I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too desperately slow. This is a relatively new parkrun, they were only on run number four today. Thus far they have typically been attracting maybe 80 or 90 starters but today the tourists must have been there in force as the numbers shot up to 188. It was a dull, damp morning, one or two splashy puddles on the course but thankfully the wind and the rain held off for us.
So off we went. I had no ambitions for this run other than to maintain a steady pace from start to finish. I just about managed to do this, passing the halfway mark in around 12:30. I was puffing and panting a bit towards the end (so unfit!) but I crossed the line eventually in 69th place in a time of 25:24. This is still desperately slow by my standards but it was nearly a minute and a half faster than at Bushy last week so I had reason to believe I was making progress!
My statistics for today - that was parkrun venue number 208. I was second in my age group and 38th overall on age graded scores. Most importantly, I now have my letter ‘I’!
Somebody made a YouTube video of Ifield parkrun so if you would like a little glimpse of the course, here it is.
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