The two of us had planned to go away for the long Easter weekend, and possibly some of the following week. Originally we had Wales in our sights, and so I was of course thinking of Conwy parkrun for some amazing scenery and another parkrun course. The weather hadn’t been great (and our fence totally blew down and the bill for a new one is rather high), so we decided to save Wales for when the weather could have been better, and head south instead. Now I am keeping half an eye on the parkrun alphabet (still loads of letters to do – D, I, J, N, Q, U, V, Y, Z) and so I looked into Queen Elizabeth Country Park parkrun (I think it’s the only Q in the country?). There are no hotels nearby but we found one around 20 minutes away, so we planned to head down on Friday stopping off at a few places on the way, drive there on Saturday morning, I’d do the parkrun and then change in the toilets after (I would not be running too fast as it looked like a slippery and steep route), and then we could head off for the day. Anyway, as the weekend got closer we had more and more rain, and it seemed that the parkrun would be a total quagmire. It then turned out that the hotel we booked (the Village hotel close to Portsmouth) was right by the start of Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun, so it seemed sensible to change plans and do that one instead.
We ended up heading into Southampton town centre on the Friday- the traffic was awful driving down and it was still pouring so we wandered around the shops for a bit (I needed some new trainers for general wear as my current ones are years old and have started to rub the back of my foot) and had dinner before driving to the hotel.
I did get confused as on the course page it mentions the Starbucks where they get a drink after, and I thought it was the Starbucks in our hotel lobby, but it turned out to be another one. Of course this made me panic for a bit but when I looked at a map it was 0.3 miles away and really the next block of buildings along the road. All I had to do in the morning was walk across the car park to the path (the photo above is of the hotel from the path) and then I’d be on the parkrun course. As I was a little early I did a bit of a warm up jog around the lake.
Here is where I wished I had packed my trail shoes as there were some big muddy puddles.
Not too bad but my ID is now covered in mud and you can see how deep some of the puddles were.
After my warm up I headed to the start area- nice and easy to find. The route is sort of an out and back, as you go along a path to by the hotel, turn back on yourself and run towards and around the lake, then back around the lake, back along to the hotel, and then back to the finish.
I went to the first timer briefing where they explained the course and welcomed lots of first time parkrunners- always good. Then it was time for the main briefing. I tried to stand about half way back but it was hard to work out where exactly to place. They had a sort of siren thing to get everyone’s attention, but the megaphone was not helping at all. Everyone near me was quiet, but I could only hear a muffled noise, with pauses for claps. You can of course fill in the gaps yourself (thank the volunteers- clap- well done for someone reaching a milestone- clap- well done for someone else getting a milestone- more claps) but it’s a shame to miss out on this because I think this is where the community feel comes from. Otherwise it’s more like a normal run if that makes sense? I’m not sure what the solution is really, but it’s a shame that even with people being quiet they can’t hear the briefing. Anyway, onto the run.
It was all very flat (at one point you run under an underpass but that’s it for elevation changes) although it felt very busy. I started too far back (behind some walkers it turned out) and it was hard to overtake as the paths were narrow, and you had to keep to one side because of the faster runners heading in the other direction. At one point everyone was told to keep left, as there were runners heading back, but this one girl (wearing headphones) was still over on the right. All the runners were shouting at her to move left as the first runners were charging towards her, but she didn’t hear and so the lead runner actually bashed into her and knocked her over to the grass. She looked pretty surprised, and I do feel that they are both partly to blame because she really should not have her music on so loud that she can’t hear people shouting to her, but then both of them should have seen each other as it was a straight flat path.
The route was quite enjoyable, as it was good to run by the lake, however it was close to a busy road and you could hear the loud drone of traffic the entire time. Someone kept on shouting “go Maria” from the other side, and it would confuse me for a second before I realised I was running close to someone else named Maria. I ended up chatting to her at the end as she was cheering on her mum and dad, so was walking next to the course as I was walking back to the hotel. I managed to keep overtaking people the whole time, with splits of 9.39, 9.06, 8.40 and then 7.55 for the final bit, so I felt pleased with that. 28:36 was my official time. Of course the bonus of visiting a new parkrun is that you “PR” in all of your Strava segments.
I could see a few runners on the far side of the lake as I walked back to the hotel.
All in all a successful bit of tourism and it finished with a Starbucks from the hotel lobby. You can’t get a hotel much closer to the start line (the Village hotel in Maidstone is also very close to the start, with the Premier Inn being even closer). If only hotels would post their closest parkrun it would make touristing so much easier.
Do you know any good hotel/parkrun combinations? What did you get up to over the Easter weekend? How does your parkrun make sure that everyone can hear the briefing? When I went to Bushy they had speakers in the trees, but seeing as they have 1000+ runners it is not surprising that they need them. At Ellenbrook the RD just has to climb onto a gate and shout, but then with less than 200 runners and a fairly wide path it’s not too hard to hear.