The one with the ducks. This morning was location #13 on my parkrun tourism spree and true to form I changed my mind last minute yet again. I had originally planned on a trip to Rushmoor Park as I wanted to view a car nearby, two birds and all that, but it was cancelled so Guildford was the next nearest. Given that both Rushmoor and Woking were cancelled, at 7am this morning I decided against Guildford, as it was going to be busy and opted for a trip along the A272 to the lovely city of Winchester. It’s a 22 mile drive so relatively close in the grand scheme of things. Reading the website and Facebook page it’s a flat 3 looper around North Walls recreation park with a mix of grass and tarmac so the Hoka Rapa Nui 2 Tarmac shoes were pressed into service along with the trusty apricot Havant home run shirt. As sure as eggs is eggs I arrive in Winchester early, which is handy as I hadn’t read up about parking beforehand (doh!). Forget trying to find a side street near the park, just head straight for the leisure centre (SO23 7DD) and park up there, plenty of parking on site and only 90p for 2 hours. You won’t find on street parking as it is all permit holders only.
So having arrived early and parked up, I’ve got time for a little wander around, check out the route and say hello to the ducks as the Itchen River runs through the park and there are ducks and swans a plenty. I do love river banks and weeping willows, it always brings in fond memories of Swallows and Amazons and childhood adventures.
The core team are busy setting up and getting ready for run number #170 but happy enough to spare time for a chat and very welcoming. There is talk of the hills of Havant and the Black Slope is discussed in depth a few there having had the pleasure of it! A couple of the volunteers are running in the Wyvern 10k the next day so we have a little chat about that as I ran their inaugural event back in 2012, good luck to them both. There are a couple of regulars there dropping off cakes as they are there running their 100th runs, sterling effort and worthy of a high five! I love this about parkrun tourism, meeting new people and having a chat with like minded people. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, there is always a common interest.
With 9am looming it’s time for the new runners briefing and there is a healthy crowd of people there, only a couple of actual first timers but quite a few tourists. A big crowd from Hatch Warren running club making the trip down from Basingstoke, a group up from Yeovil and quite a few more besides. The volunteer giving the briefing runs us through the course details and the usual parkrun details and then asks if there are any tourist birthdays, there are actually two, details are taken for the main brief, which is nice.
The Event Director makes his presence known from atop a set of ladder steps and calls everyone to order. Thanks to the volunteers, always appreciate this moment, without the core team and the volunteers we wouldn’t have these wonderful events every week across the globe. New runners are then welcomed, as are the tourists and the tourist birthdays are announced, which is met with applause. Then on to the milestones and more applause, two centurion runners today, such a wonderful achievement, well worthy of applause and cheers. Winchester parkrun isn’t on next week due to other events going on so that is announced, nearby parkruns are detailed for those wishing to partake in a bit of tourism (Havant and QE aren’t far away). I can’t recommend tourism enough, it’s a lovely way to see and experience places that you would never normally visit.
With very little fanfare we are off, the start is a little bit chaotic as we sort of just started from where we were being briefed, there was a little bit of a bottleneck at the cricket nets, but in no time the field was spreading out and winding it’s way off and around the course. The course is 3 loops of 3 interlinking fields, the first being the cricket pitch, then back on yourself and around the adjacent playing field, left turn over a bridge taking you over the water and into the larger field, around the outside of that, alongside the water and under the weeping willows, back over another bridge and back into the cricket pitch area. It sounds a bit complicated but it really isn’t and it is well marshaled. I thank each of the marshals as I pass, as is correct and proper, and repeat the loop two more times. As we come past the start a marshal is there calling out the time, which I find very useful as I’ve left my watch at home, doh!
In a little under 25 minutes I’m across the line and getting my barcode scanned, this is all done very efficiently and smoothly. People are respectfully asked to move away from the finish tunnel and die elsewhere so that they can keep the flow of runners passing through without any hold up. People are cheered over the line and congratulated. There is a great sense of camaraderie post parkrun with groups of friends standing chatting and congratulating each other, oh and there is cake, sweet delicious cake. parkrun isn’t parkrun without a bit of cake!
My Winchester parkrun experience was a nice one, everyone was very friendly. The course, being loops and very flat is quite quick, but the few sharp turns and switchbacks would make a PB quite difficult. I would have liked the course more if in the large field we stuck to the path alongside the waterway a bit closer, but I can totally appreciate why that wasn’t done as there would be potential bottlenecks. It does look like they’ve utilised the space that they’ve got in the best way possible. Parking is cheap and plentiful, you can use the leisure centre facilities afterwards too. I nipped in for a coffee afterwards (£2.10) and if I was a more organised sort going for a post parkrun swim would be quite nice. If you have the family in tow there is a play area for the smaller kids there too. I didn’t see anyone running with dogs today so not sure how much of a thing that is there.
Next up, Worthing!