The one with the chevron hill. Today we venture to Tilgate parkrun to rack up my 65th parkrun and tick off the 28th different location visited. Parkrun tourism is great, you get to see so many different places that you would otherwise never see as well as meet new people. I can’t recommend it enough. I always get excited in the days building up to it as I look things up and make the plans for my journey. I worked in Crawley for a while but never knew this park existed. I wasn’t interested in such things in my pre-parkrun days. What a lovely park, it has ample parking without extortionate fees (killer speed bumps though!), great toilets, a children’s play area, a Go Ape, a stunning lake and grounds and much more besides. This morning I am joined by a fellow Havant parkrunner, fellow tourist and alphabeteer, Ian. He joined me as wanted to tick a T off his list.
Having parked up for the princely sum of £1.30 and used the facilities to freshen up after the 55 mile drive we wandered over towards the park. There’s a Smith & Western restaurant as an easily identifiable land mark, we walked past that and then a Go Ape and into the park. As you wind your way down through the trees towards the start/finish area you are greeted with a lovely view over the lake. Even though it is somewhat tropical compared to last week (6 degrees compared to -1) the lake is still frozen over in places and there is a chill breeze coming off it that cuts through the clothes and makes it feel a lot colder than it really is. There is quite a large congregation forming there so we are clearly heading in the right direction. There is a large finish area and small PA set up playing a few tunes, I spot the RD, Keith and briefly introduce myself. I’m informed that there’s a new runners brief that will describe the course, but unless I plan on running sub 16 then I should be fine following others, I can manage that!
The new runners brief is a very organised affair with the course described in detail, loop the lake, loop the park, loop the lake again, finish, token, scan, job done! The loop the park section sounds interesting, there’s a gradual climb up a hill, then a short pavement section along next to the car park road, then back into the park and up the chevron hill. Instructions given were if you have to walk here then move to the right so faster runners pass you on the left, sounds ominous! If the animal/bird enclosures situated here were mentioned then I must have missed it (possibly velociraptors) and I’m still none the wiser to what was in there, but the top one was a bit pongy!
With the new runners brief done it’s time to head down to the start for the main briefing and to get ready to run. The PA that was playing music earlier was then employed to assist in the delivery of the run brief to the 470 runners and walkers gathered by the boathouse. There were a few announcements made, an amazing 250 milestone celebrated as well as a hundred, a few fifties and a brilliant junior 10. There were a couple of pacers out on the course today, a chap running 26 minutes and a guy walking at 30 minutes pace, I kid you not! They often do pacing events so keep an eye on their news page or Facebook page for details. First timers and tourists were then welcomed, I got asked by a few runners next to me where I’d come from having stuck my hand up, which was nice. It was all very welcoming, nice and friendly.
I always check the parkrun page and future roster before any visit. There are an amazing amount of volunteer positions on the Tilgate roster to be filled, over 40 of them, with many people filling more than one role and many roles covered by many people, four funnel managers for instance! There is a veritable army of volunteers. Sadly by the time I checked to see if there was anything I could do to help and still run, all positions had been filled. Every marshal I passed was very supportive and welcoming and I was asked by a couple of runners after if I enjoyed the course. Yes, yes I did, it was nicely undulating!
So here we have it, the course profile, you can see it’s rarely flat. We started at the boathouse and ran clockwise around the lake, over a dam and round the outside, over a couple of pretty wooden bridges and up the hill towards the restaurant, puffing and wheezing! Past that and over towards the carpark and along the pavement next to the access road, you have to watch for cars here but it’s well marshalled. Then back over the road, on to a bit of hardpack trail, then left up that chevron hill mentioned earlier, slog it up that, past the animal enclosures, to then drop back down into the park again to do another circuit of the lake and back to the boathouse to finish in a blaze of glory! This last section you lap slower runners so keep your wits about you and keep left this time (keeping right earlier) all as instructed by the wonderful marshals. It is a really nice varied route around a very pretty park, it must be stunning in the summer time, worth taking a picnic and making a day of it.
We’d bumped into a couple of other tourists whilst we were there, Carrie and Isabel from Southwick Country parkrun, so we had to grab a quick tourist group picture. Sadly I had to get off quickly today so couldn’t hang around to go for an apres-parkrun coffee and a chat at the Tilgate Forest Golf centre, I needed to get back for work. Shame as I hear they serve a cracking breakfast. Maybe next time!
However, I did manage to obtain a strawberry Cornetto, just the ticket after a nice undulating parkrun around a lake! #parkruncornetto it’s totally a thing!