The one with the double funnel. Another Saturday another parkrun, this morning was a trip down the coast to the port city of Southampton. Southampton has probably the largest parkrun in the south and, like Bushy Park, operates a double funnel system at the finish. There are multiple different courses run there throughout the year depending on the conditions underfoot, they do have a fair amount of space to play with. It’s an event for road shoes as its mainly on paths with a short section of hard packed trail before the finish.
Southampton parkrun is held on Southampton Common, this a large area spanning 326 acres of woodland, parkland, rough grassland, ponds, and wetlands. It has nature trails, a paddling pool, a children’s play area, a model yachting pond and a fishing lake. I had no idea it was so vast having only briefly run through a bit of it doing the inaugural Southampton half marathon. It’s a lovely place to be on a Saturday morning.
Getting into the city is easy enough at around 8am on a Saturday morning, I had no bothers at all and ended up getting there earlier than expected. I parked up on Cemetry Road in the car park there which appears to be free on a Saturday, but also offers up 4 hours free parking, nice! Postcode for there is SO15 2TJ if you’re going to pay a visit. There are 127 spaces but as I was early I had no issues parking up. Walking from the car park on to the common the first thing you notice is the huge finish funnel pictured above.
Shortly before 9am you realise just why the finish funnel is so huge as all the participants start to group up. They have had over 1000 people at one event, today was not quite that many, but still a healthy 740+ runners and a small army of volunteers. There is a first timers brief and the figure 8 course that we are running today (course D) is explained to us. The main brief is a different matter, that is delivered by megaphone to the massive group, pictured above. There’s are a couple of runners celebrating their 100th runs, the volunteers are thanked and we are ready to run!
The start is a little bit busy, with the whole path and surrounding grass being taken up with runners for the first few hundred metres. To be honest I was quite surprised at how quickly it thinned out and how uncongested it felt once we got going. I actually felt less cramped than I did at Lee on the Solent the week prior. The course is well marshalled and well marked out, they even have a lead cyclist (I only know this as he passed me at about 4K in). It’s not flat by any stretch of the imagination, but the gradients are very small and you go up a bit then down a bit then up a bit. It’s a fast course, the lead runner finished today in a supersonic 14:58 chasing down said lead cyclist!!!! Simply amazing running, that’s 4.49 minute miles!
The double funnel at the end is employed to cope with the large number of finishers, I thought it slightly too wide really, giving lots of opportunity for people to switch places, accidentally or otherwise. Whether that happens or not I don’t know as I didn’t experience it myself, but just an observation. There was a good number of barcode scanners in operation to process everyone in short shrift, it worked well. My number was processed in next to no time.
I wanted to do a large run for my 20th different parkrun and Southampton was certainly large. I have to say I didn’t find it to be as welcoming as other parkrun’s I’ve attended. I wandered round a bit before the start, as I normally do but didn’t manage to strike up a single conversation with anyone, which is rare for me. I also didn’t spot any other tourists whilst mooching about, I felt a bit on the outside looking in. It’s clearly very social as there are lots of groups of people clustered together, I just didn’t manage to engage with anyone. I have no idea if there’s a bit of a social meet afterwards for coffee as there was nothing mentioned in the run brief about that, so I just headed off on my way at the end like everyone else seemed to be doing.
All of that aside I did enjoy it, it’s a lovely place for a run and the organisation of what must be a logistical nightmare to run was impeccable. The course is nice with pleasant views and is quite fast. The marshals are great and very supportive when you pass them, you can’t fault that side of things. The processing at the end is like clockwork too. 10/10 in that regard.
Congratulations on completing your 46th parkrun and your 1st at Southampton parkrun today. You finished in 227th place and were the 201st male out of a field of 741 parkrunners and you came 20th in your age category VM40-44.