There are a couple of reasons I’ve headed off to a different parkrun today and I’m glad that one has led to the other as it was a kick up the backside I needed.
Next week I’m running in the QE Spring Marathon. I’ve never done any running around QE Country park, I know it’s a bit hilly but the reality is that I have absolutely no idea of what I’ve let myself in for. So what better way to rectify that than head up to QE parkrun and do a bit of parkrun tourism. Yes, it’s only just up the road and yes, it’s probably closer than my home parkrun, but it still counts as tourism.
QE is just a short trip up the A3 for me, it takes me probably less than 10 minutes to get there. I park up in the main car park by the reception building and cafe and obtain a ticket to stick in the car. Whilst paying for parking I spot plenty of neon clad runners, including Graham Bowpitt from Denmead Striders with a group preparing to recce the marathon route. I give him a wave before heading down to the start.
It’s easy to find the start as there are other runners heading that way, you basically head down past the main building towards the bottom field/car park, you really can’t miss it. There are signs down there informing you that you’re going the right way. Looking up the hill there is a gathering of runners and marshals so I make my way up there.
I was one of twenty four first timers, including six who were new to parkrun, the rest were from as far a field as Australia, New Zealand and Bromley to name a few places, and from this point the parkrun tourism seed was sewn. I’d heard the term before obviously as we welcome tourists at Havant ever week, but this time I was one, and I liked it. It was nice attending a new runners brief and getting that warm welcome from the volunteer crew. I like this feeling, having attended a lot of races on my own this sense of inclusion is almost tribal, I’m a part of something much bigger!
The course is undulating and is run on a mix of compacted gravel paths, grass and forest trails. The course consists of two loops. From the start (green pin), head up a short incline on the gravel path. After approximately 200m take a right turn onto a grassy downhill section. This is quite steep at the bottom so caution is advised. At the bottom of the hill take a right turn and follow the perimeter trail back to the start at approximately 2km. This completes the first loop.
The second loop ascends the initial incline up the gravel path. This time instead of taking the right turn from loop one. Continue on the gravel path for approximately 1km. At the crossroad adjacent to Holt Pond take a right turn onto a downhill trail. At the bottom of the hill turn right on to the perimeter path. This will join the end section of loop one and take you back to the finish funnel (red pin).
I’d heard quite a lot about the course from some of my parkrun family at Havant. I knew it was hilly and potentially very very muddy. Today it wasn’t too muddy as we’d had some clearer weather so I opted for my Hoka’s, these are what I’m planning on using for the marathon next week, so not a bad idea to see how they handle the conditions.
The start is on a hill, so that sets the tone for the rest of the course really. It’s basically up or down with very little, if any, flat! 9am arrives so no time to think about that as we’re off up the gravel path, 92 of us hardly souls and a couple of dogs too, it is a canicross friendly course.
QE country park is beautiful, it has some stunning views and scenery and I focus on that rather than the signals that are being sent to my brain from my legs! If you love a bit of trail running then this is the right place for you, it really is a lovely place to be. Yes it is hilly, yes it is muddy, but doesn’t that beat pounding away on tarmac hands down! It’s the adult equivalent of jumping in puddles as a child, it’s food for the soul.
I didn’t have any idea on how to pace myself here but made sure I left some in the tank for the last stretch! I got round the course in a smidge under 26 minutes and 30th position, my highest parkrun finish ever, yay! My splits were terrible, very inconsistent, but admittedly my Garmin hadn’t got GPS and hadn’t started properly.
Queen Elizabeth parkrun results for event #152. Your time was 00:25:57.
Congratulations on completing your 24th parkrun and your 1st at Queen Elizabeth parkrun today. You finished in 30th place and were the 25th male out of a field of 92 parkrunners and you came 5th in your age category VM40-44. Well done on your first run. We have set this as your PB.
Once I’d finished and recovered sufficiently I headed back to the main building and stopped off at the cafe for a coffee. This was really nice as I got chatting with a nice couple, Emma and Matt Hanlon, and sat with them chatting about our shared interest. We were later joined by the run director and some volunteers. It was an entertaining run postmortem.
I even made it into the run report, that’s a first!
So in summary, QE is a stunning location, the parkrun is small and very welcoming and friendly, the course is challenging but worth it. The facilities on site are superb, there is plenty of reasonably priced parking, toilets and cafe. I spent £5 all in for parking and post run refreshments. Would I come back and do it again, oh yes!! Am I looking forward to next week’s marathon? No, no I am not!!! It’s going to hurt!