Eastleigh parkrun

The one with the tomatoes! Saturday is upon us which can only mean one thing, yes it’s parkrunday! This weekly timed 5k event has become a part of the weekend ritual, in fact it’s one of the things I look forward to most each week. There is always a great vibe around parkrun, whether you are visiting a new one on your own as a parkrun tourist or running with friends at your home parkrun, there is always a great vibe and this morning was no different.

OK stay with me on this. I had originally planned to go to Lee-on-the-Solent for their 100th event today with the guys from Havant cake club, but then on Friday evening plans changed, I was going to travel up to Bracknell as I had something to do there. Saturday morning 6:30am plans change again with me ending up in Southampton at 08:20. When I got there I found that Southampton parkrun was cancelled due to Race For Life being held in the same location the next day. Serves me right for not checking the Southampton parkrun page before I left, always remember to check the website/facebook first folks! This meant yet another seriously late change of plans. I was back in the car and off to Eastleigh which fortunately for me is just a stones throw from Southampton, my insistence on being early everywhere has once again paid off!

So I arrive at Fleming Park old golf course with 10 minutes to spare, after a little detour on the way there from Southampton, but we won’t talk about that. I don’t get lost, I just discover new and interesting ways to get places without going directly there *ahem*. There is a car park on site as well as a cafe and toilets. I’d actually parked a little way away on the street, probably a bit of a faux pas, but there was plenty of free parking spaces. There is a table laid out in from of the building that houses the cafe, as well as a small tent to use as a bag drop, which is a nice touch. There is a good number of people congregating there already. As Southampton is cancelled the numbers are swelled more than usual. At the new runners brief there are a few first timers and quite a lot of tourists from all over, not just Southampton. The course is described to us in detail, it’s up and down the old fairways and up a hill and do this three times. It’s pretty much all grass, but it’s not at all boggy which is handy as I only have my road shoes with me.

The run director calls everyone to order and welcomes all the tourists to what is run #314. There are a couple of milestones announced, and something I’ve not seen before anywhere I’ve been, milestone T-shirts actually presented to the runners there and then, there was a Junior 10 and a senior 100! There was also a birthday announcement and an open invite for cake and coffee afterwards. The run director was wearing her 50 shirt today too for a special reason, it was the 50th parkrun that she has directed which is just awesome, parkrun volunteers are simply the best. Queue the health and safety bit, children under 11 to escort the adults, dogs on a short leash and some last minute info about the state of the course underfoot. We are then ushered off to the start, all 315 of us.

As I’m just following the crowd I’m positioned quite a way back from the start which is announced with the ringing of a school bell, I like that too. Down the first fairway is pretty congested with people running through the longer grass on either side, you’ve got to keep your wits about you doing this as there are quite a few holes and divets that you could turn an ankle in. At the end of the fairway there’s a left hand turn and you’re running back in the direction you just came down an adjacent fairway. It’s such a good use of an old golf course, I love being out in open green spaces. At the end of the fairway, sort of back near the start the course then turns right and takes you up a bit of an incline, they did warn at the brief about the hill, but it’s pretty gentle so much so having gone up it for the first time I was still wondering where the hill was when I realised I was almost back at the start. So, once up the incline it’s a nice run down to another right hand turn and back along a fairway to the start again. Do this 3 times and you’re finished. I say it almost every week, I’m not a fan of loops, but again I didn’t really mind this one, even if I did get lapped at just past the 3km marker by the lead runner, who must have clocked the course in circa 16 minutes.

The upside to the loops at this course means that there is a nice cluster of supporters near the finish funnel that you pass each time. The marshals around the whole route were great, very friendly and very supportive. I love the bell ringing as you went past too. Once I’d finished, had my barcode scanned and handed over my token there was time to grab a drink from the cafe before having to head off. As the cafe also sold Cornetto’s it would be rude not to have one, and I’d just run 5k after all! Cornetto demolished I wander over to thank the run director and have a quick chat. Whilst talking with her I get offered a tomato by a guy wandering around handing them out to weary runners! I’ve never had a post run tomato before and I have to say I really enjoyed it, very refreshing and just a little random. Brilliant!

I ran it fairly steady this morning, not pushing too much as I’ve got the Stansted Slog half marathon tomorrow and my shoulder still isn’t right. Mustn’t grumble though as I can still get out there and knock out these runs without too much bother. Today’s time was 25:13, which saw me finish in 88th place, 76th male finisher and 6th in my age category. 

My split times are reasonably consistent, 8:10, 7:55, 7:57, the first mile being a little slower due to the congestion at the beginning. Having run it and seeing the conditions you can probably get away with road shoes most the year round.

I really enjoyed Eastleigh, some nice little touches, what with a nice course, easy (free) parking, cafe on site, post run cake and tomatoes, bag drop, milestone t-shirt distribution, bell ringing and great support what more could you possibly want from a parkrun!

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