What do you do when you have completed your goal of visiting 300 parkrun venues? Well you head off to number 301. And so this morning I was headed back up the M1 in the direction of Northampton. I thought I had seen the last of the town having completed Northampton parkrun last year and also the suburb of Sixfields Upton earlier this year. But since then a third parkrun has started up locally and so I was headed for the University of Northampton.
Now here’s a question for you. How old do you think the University of Northampton might be? Could it be one of those red brick universities that were built after the war? Or might it be a plate glass university built in this century? Actually the origins of the university go back to the thirteenth century. The university was founded by Henry III in 1261. If things had turned out differently, Northampton might have become a great seat of learning like Oxford or Cambridge. However five years later, Henry chose to withdraw the charter, following objections from other colleges. Northampton therefore had to wait until the twentieth century for the return of higher education.
The current University of Northampton is the result of an amalgamation of several colleges within the town. Northampton Technical College was opened at a site in St George’s Avenue in 1924. A School of Art was added in the 1930s. In 1972 Education Secretary, Margaret Thatcher, opened a teacher training college in the town. This later joined with the technical college to become Nene College of Higher Education. In 1992 it incorporated the St Andrews School of Occupational Therapy and in 1997 it added the Sir Gordon Roberts College of Nursing and Midwifery. It became University College Northampton in 1999 and it gained full university status in 2005. The university was based at a number of sites around the town but in 2018 most departments relocated to a shiny new campus on the south bank of the River Nene.
Northampton has since established itself as one of the more successful of the newer universities. It tends to specialise in the courses that are more vocational than purely academic. It’s a good place to go to study nursing, medicine generally, event management or sports science. At the Waterside Campus you’ll find nice modern facilities for studying and socialising. Northampton is currently home to around 12,000 students.
Since the summer of this year the campus has also been home to a parkrun. The run starts outside the Senate building then heads northwards through the campus. You cross a bridge over the River Nene and then enter a small park, where you do three laps. Then back over the bridge and back to the finish. It’s all on surfaced paths so it ought to be reasonably fast. The park though is on a slope so there is a moderate climb on each lap followed by a gentle descent.
This parkrun hasn’t been going very long so of the 158 starters this morning, quite a few were first timers. We were fairly fortunate with the weather. On the journey up the rain had been lashing down but by 9 AM in Northampton it had reduced to just a light drizzle. It was also a bit milder than it has been. So off we went. I had to run a little carefully in places as the paths were still very wet and covered with damp leaves here and there. I wasn’t a fan of the wooden bridge either. You get a hundred runners charging across at the same time and it can bounce alarmingly. Once I was across and into the park, I settled into a steady pace. Coming back towards the finish I thought I might manage another 23 minute time. I hadn’t appreciated that we would have to do another little loop around the Senate building before we crossed the line. Anyway I got there in the end. 41st place in 24:14. I enjoyed visiting the University of Northampton and I just wish I could have seen it in drier conditions.
My statistics for today. That was parkrun venue number 301. I was second in my age group and fourteenth overall on age graded scores.
If you would like to catch a glimpse of the course, here are our old friends Ian and Iona visiting the university recently. They enjoyed the same weather as I did!
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