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Wickford Memorial parkrun

With only a single "W" event needed for me to complete this run through the East of England alphabet, and with only Wimpole Estate, Westmill or Wickford Memorial parkruns to choose from, as has become common practice, I opted for Wickford Memorial based on it being the eastern-most of the three events.

The area

Wickford Memorial Park is situated in the north of Wickford in Essex. As the name implies, the park is dedicated to, and contains many dedications to the memory of town residents who lost their lives in various wars.

Wickford Memorial park gates with the subtext: 'To the memory of the fallen'

The second world war especially impacted the town, with several rockets landing in the area, and to this day, a number of pillboxes remain in situ in the town, especially in the Wick Country Park to the south-east of the town.

Following an exodus from London at the end of the second world war, the modern town is primarily a commuter town, although the area is thought to have been inhabited since prehistoric times, with Roman and Saxon occupants assuming their mantals in due course.

Wickford is also the home of naturism in the UK, with the first gatherings commencing in 1924 - fortunately I didn't encounter anyone practicing naturism during my visit!

The course

Owing to the rain over the past few weeks, which has resulted in the normal finish area being extremely muddy, the course was altered today to avoid the mud, which meant that we actually ran slightly further than the normal route. Starting on the path north of the finish area, runners follow two-and-a-half laps of the perimeter of the park; the southern edge following the border with the housing development, while the northern edge follows the boundary with the River Crouch. The course is primarily run on tarmac paths, with a small section of grass to avoid running through a busy car park, and the finish area is also on grass.

Limited timebound parking is available at the park itself, but free parking is available in the town centre a short walk from the park (great for a warm up), with runners encouraged to utilise those facilities, leaving the park carparks for other park users. Toilets are available at the cafe near to the finish area.

A view of Wickford Memorial park

The run

It has been a while since I ran at Norwich, which was the last time I had run a course which was primarily tarmac, and so given Wickford Memorial's course is mostly tarmac, I intended to run hard today. It had been raining for several hours over night prior to the run, and so there was a lot of mud on the paths, in addition to the grass being saturated, but that wasn't going to stop me!

The muddy path adjacent to the River Crouch, visible through the treeline

After the first timer's briefing, and the main run briefing at the finish area, we made our way across the park to the start area, and without any real discussion, we heard a quick 3, 2, 1 countdown, and we were away! As is often the case at the start of events, the number of people looking for a spot on the tarmac exceeded the spots available, and so I ran the first couple of hundred metres on grass before moving onto the path. I was a little worried that even the path would be hard work today, as it was quite muddy in places, but fortunately, as runners spread out, more obvious routes along the path made themselves known.

As we settled down into our rhythm, I found myself trying to overtake runners ahead of me, one at a time, which was an excellent target to keep my mind occupied, but much easier said than done! With around one lap to go, I realised that the next gap I would close was over 30 seconds, and so I decided to just hold steady for the remainder of the run.

I'm really pleased that I was able to run hard today, even though the course seemed slightly long (which is fine given it was an alternative course), and my watch reported that I had averaged 4:30 per kilometre for a 22:30 5km - a new parkrun best - although my official finish time was 23:09.

Ian running

Thank you to all of the volunteers for another great event! Wickford Memorial park is a simple place, but the volunteers made this a great day!

After the run

As I had parked in the town centre, I took the opportunity to explore the area. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a market town, the town closes the high street on Saturday mornings to host a market, which included stalls selling wares ranging from food to coin and medal collections.

Market stalls along the high street which is closed to traffic

Links: Results | Strava

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