Monday, 13 March 2017

Clacton Seafront parkrun

Claccingaton (meaning: the village of clacc's people) is the first recorded name for what is now known as Clacton-on-Sea, which is in Essex. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it was recorded as the village of Clachintuna. Fast forward to the 19th century and Clacton was still a peaceful village. So when, in the 1860's, a large site of land was purchased and plans put forward to turn the village into a seaside resort, the residents of the village were not pleased.

Despite their objections, the plans for expansion were given the go-ahead. The Thorpe and Great Clacton Railway Act was passed which granted permission for the railway to be extended into Clacton and for the construction of a 300 yard long pier. These projects were completed during 1871 and they marked the beginning of the town of Clacton.

clacton seafront

In 1911, an archaeologist working in a palaeochannel ('a remnant of an inactive river or channel which has been filled or buried by younger sediment' - wiki) when he discovered the remains of a giant elephant and hippopotamus. Also discovered were 400,000 year old flint tools (the manufacture of these tools is known as Clactonian) and a wooden spear tip which is now on display in the Natural History Museum, in London.

The town has continued to grow and now has a population of around 50,000 - of whom a significant proportion are retired. Modern-day Clacton-on-Sea is very much an entertainment-centric seaside resort. The central part of the seafront and the pier is home to amusement arcades, fairground rides and fish and chip shops.

start and beginning of outbound section

Heading west along the seafront, the noise from the arcades disappears and everything feels a little more relaxed, and this is where we find Clacton Seafront parkrun. The event started on 15 October 2016 and is currently attracting around 100 participants per week. We drove over to Clacton and parked up on Marine Parade West which is the road that runs along the seafront - the spot we picked allowed parking for cars only (no caravans etc) for up to 24 hours free of charge.

The meeting place for the run is on the seafront promenade adjacent to the 'Martello coach and car park' (if you can't find a space on the road, park here) and the Toby Carvery which is clearly visible from the road. For anyone that has cycled to the venue, I spotted some cycle racks on the road side of the Toby Carvery. According to the venue's course information page, anyone travelling here by train will need to factor in a walk of 23 minutes (very precise!).

along the upper promenade

On the day I visited (also my last parkrun in the 35-39 age category), the run director gave the briefing a few minutes before 9am but as it was finished at 8.58am, we had just over a minute to kill before starting (the same thing happened just down the road at Harwich parkrun when I visited there - must be an Essex seaside thing! lol). So at 9am sharp we were sent on our 5k run along the seafront.

The course is run over three out and back laps plus a short start finish tail. Underfoot is tarmac so it's a road shoe course and buggy runners will be fine here. After heading along the short start tail, the course joins the 'lap' when it reaches the point where the promenade splits into upper and lower levels (just next to Greensward Adventure Golf).

the downward slope / lower promenade

The reason the course is labelled as three laps is because the outbound leg stays on the upper prom and the return is along the lower prom. While heading along the outward stretch, which is shared-use people-cyclist path, runners will not fail to notice that there is a slight incline as they run past the open grass lawn, children's play area and boat pond to their left. The lawn soon gives way to a series of themed gardens - a Sensory Garden, Mediterranean Garden, and a 1920's Garden.

There's also a Garden of Remembrance opposite the pier, but before reaching it, the runners do a 180 degree turn and head down a steep slope (quite narrow) which leads down to the lower promenade. Now adjacent to the beach, the runners head back in the direction they came from. There are some murals to look out for and some cool beach huts to admire during this stretch.

lower promenade

An important note that I'd make about the lower prom is that there did seem to be some (very slow) vehicle movement down here, so it's worth being aware of this. As the runners reach the end of the lower stretch they may notice a large stone on their right which marks the spot where a naval seaplane carrying Sir Winston Churchill made a forced landing.

Immediately after this, the is another tight right hand turn which returns the runners back to the outbound section of the course. When the out and back lap has been completed three times, the runners can then continue onto the finishing straight where they will catch a glimpse of a martello tower in the distance and find the finish funnel. If you run this all-out you'll be relieved to find that there is a small wall next to the finish funnel which you will feel compelled to can lean on while you try to take in as much fresh sea air as possible in order to recover.

end of lap / finish

When I visited, barcode scanning took place inside the The Beach Diner and this is also used as the post-run social and refreshments venue. This opens from 8.30am and parkrun participants can use the cafe toilets. There are other toilets on the lower prom, but the opening times for these are somewhat ambiguous, the small sign simply states that they will be open by 9am. When I arrived at 8.20am, they were open but obviously that may not be the case every week. There is another toilet block on the lower prom next to the pier (I did not check the opening times of this block).

With the run finished, we continued with our day-trip in Clacton. We went onto the pier which is mostly full of more arcades and funfair rides. The pier gives a brilliant vantage point for the Clacton Air Show which takes place during August and usually features a visit from the Red Arrows. To top it off, the event is free-of-charge - I remember visiting for the air show years ago with my parents and had a great time.


The results for event 22 had been processed and were online by late morning, so I had a look at those while we had some chips on the seafront. Afterwards we had a game of mini golf in 'Greensward Adventure Golf'. By mid-afternoon we'd had lots of fresh sea air and decided to hit the road back home. We'd had a very enjoyable visit to Clacton and may even return for the air show later this year.

As always I recorded the run with Strava, so if you want to see the GPS data, please feel free to do so, here: Clacton Seafront parkrun #22

Related link: The Essex parkrun venues
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