Castle Park parkrun in Bishop's Stortford returns after absence of 70 weeks
The running community in Bishop's Stortford reconvened en masse on Saturday for the first time in 16 months for the return of Castle Park parkrun.
The free 5km (3.1-mile) event was one of more than 500 parkruns that resumed in parks, beaches and other open spaces across England after Covid restrictions ended, having been suspended since March 2020.
Rain did not dampen the spirits of the 262 runners, joggers and walkers of all ages – from primary school pupils to pensioners – who gathered at the bandstand in Sworder's Field for the 9am start. Some took part with their dogs on leads.
They headed out on a circular two-lap course to Grange Paddocks that had to be slightly revised because of the ongoing building work on the new leisure centre.
Run director Kevin Watson said: "We didn't know in March last year it was going to be the last parkrun for 71 weeks! But it's good to be back."
He acknowledged the support of landowners Bishop's Stortford Town Council and East Herts Council throughout the 16-month hiatus and their assistance in bringing back the event.
Although parkrun is not a race, it is a timed event. First home on Saturday was Andrew Mynott in 17 mins 36 secs, some 46 seconds clear of Mat Hudson (18:22) in second and almost a minute ahead of Steven Prosser (18:35) in third. Kathryn Chapman was first woman home in 21:46. The top six beat 20 minutes, 55 finished inside 25 minutes and 155 were under the half-hour mark.
The field of 262 included 39 first-timers – including a couple who recently emigrated from South Africa – and 26 who recorded personal bests. Representatives of 17 clubs took part. The event was made possible by 31 volunteers, or "hi-vis heroes".
Among the participants, Kate Foster said: "Thanks so much to all the volunteers. I don't think I was the only one who felt a bit emotional to be back." Naomi Holloway added: "Was great to be back. Got a little emotional when I thought about how long it’s been." And Darren Smith said: "It was magical to be back in the parkrun community."
The event was unofficially graced by a flypast by RAF aerobatics display team the Red Arrows en route to an air show at Duxford up the M11 from Bishop's Stortford. Runner Rachel Turvey quipped: "Can’t believe the Red Arrows came out for the return of parkrun!"
Castle Park parkrun takes place every Saturday at 9am. The course will continue to be tweaked in coming weeks and months to work around building activity and other events in Sworder's Field. To register, visit www.parkrun.org.uk/register/?section=form. Registration is free and needs to be done only once. Simply complete the online form, print off your barcode and head down to your local event.