With Upton House parkrun cancelled last Saturday, I took the opportunity to go on a parkrun road trip. I wanted to go somewhere fast and local where I’d not been before. The Great Field parkrun in Dorchester held its inaugural run at the end of October and so it became my parkrun of choice.
The Great Field is located in the Poundbury part of Dorchester, which is famously linked to Prince Charles as it is built on his Duchy of Cornwall land and supports his architectural vision for building better towns.
The journey was a simple trip along dual carriageways and A-roads taking forty minutes and given its simplicity I was able to memorise the trip from a quick look at Google maps. So, as I drove through Dorchester and admired its historic qualities, without Satnav assistance I unexpectedly arrived at The Great Field and, well, it really is just a great, big field.
Parking was easy with a line of bays facing the field. Getting out of the car I unexpectedly bumped into SteveD, who’d parked a few spaces down, which is ironic because every week at Upton we park only a metres apart and run in together. So we jogged and chatted for a warm-up lap of the parkrun and neither of us was sure about the quality of the three lap course.
It certainly wasn’t flat but it didn’t seem that hilly either. But these things can be deceptive as Strava asserts my last parkrun at Upton House had 121ft of ascent, while TGF turned out to be 123ft. The difference is at Upton most of the uphill is done in four noticeable short climbs; in Dorchester it was a longer, more gradual 300m long climb and with some other undulations thrown in.
Having warmed up we then began to bump into other familiar faces. With Upton closed, others had come here as a replacement but there were also some from Poole. We attended a Visitor briefing and then I elected to go off and do some strides for extra warm-up before returning for the main pre-run speeches.
It was always my intention to go all-out so I made my way to the front of the pack and discovered a very British thing. No-one wanted to stand on the actual Start line, standing instead a few feet behind it. It’s a peculiar reticence of us Brits that no-one wants to appear too keen. Imagine that happening at the Olympics! But I’m less reticence than most and I don’t see any point in losing a second running the extra so I stood plumb on the start line. The Run Director counted us down and, on the G of the GO, I was gone. First off the line and leading all the way to the photographer who was situated about 100m up the path.
As we reached the first corner a flock of six better trained distance runners flew past me and I dug in for the long haul. I had one or two other runners go past and by the 400m mark I counted eight or so ahead of me. It was then I was passed by a young girl who was barely five foot tall and with a big, high back kick. I wasn’t having that so put in an effort to get past her and kicked on to catch a younger, bearded chap. I stayed with him for half a lap, aided by a long downward stretch, before having to admit I wouldn’t be able to hang with him. After that I was on my own.
Early on the second lap, I was overtaken by another runner but from there onwards, I didn’t pass anyone and no-one passed me. At least I didn’t pass anyone ahead of me but, on the third lap, I caught the backmarkers just beginning their second. Fortunately the paths were wide enough for all and I got by.
By now, I was physically beginning to feel the strain. Breathing hard, legs filling with lactate and the body sending all sorts of fatigue signals to the brain to try and entice me to slow down. The temptation was there but I managed to resist.
Due to the separated nature of the start and finish you get to begin a fourth lap which gives you the extra joy of a fourth run up the long gradient. As I began it, I sensed a runner close behind me and was determined to stop him from passing. It’s always good to have these sort of distractions to give you a reason not to give in to the fatigue. I was aided by having all the back markers on the left side of the path to make it harder to pass.
Once we reached the highest point, I knew we had perhaps 100m to go and I kicked. At least, I tried to kick although I’m not sure my legs had much left. I was already breathing hard but at least it was a short downhill tarmac stretch which enabled me to hold him off by a second to finish in 12th place in an official time of 20:26. Fantastic. An improvement of twenty-nine seconds over two weeks ago at Upton and almost a minute over four weeks back. The First Finisher clocked 17:18 and it was a field of 325 runners on only The Great Field’s fourth event..
As usual, I went for a warmdown lap against the flow of runners. It might sound a little crazy but it’s a nice way to get to see and encourage other runners.
Once completed I stood outside the Pavilion, drank coffee and chatted to my fellow Upton runners on what was a lovely, mild November day. I can imagine, come the summertime, it will be great to sit out on the grass and enjoy the ambience. Looking around I realised the original blandness I’d perceived in The Great Field is more a lack of maturity and cold weather. In ten years’ time, all the trees lining the paths and around the cricket pitch will have grown up. It’ll still be a large open space but much more scenic with beautiful, leafy trees providing an aesthetic backdrop.