The one with Private Ryan. Saturday is upon us once again, storm Doris #notdoris is lashing the south coast of England with wind and rain and many parkruns have put out cancellations including two of my destination options. I’m collecting an E this week so had planned on visiting Eastleigh again and was even on the volunteers roster to do some run reporting, but alas it wasn’t to be. Cancelled due to a waterlogged course, Exeter Riverside parkrun was similarly cancelled. This got me looking on the events page for alternatives courses. I had Eastbourne in mind as it was the next closest E after Eastleigh, but downside there is can take some time to get to. That’s when Ellenbrook Fields popped onto the radar. Yes, it’s 86 miles away compared to 70 miles to Eastbourne, but is at least 15-20 minutes quicker to get to, with a journey time of 1 hour 30 minutes. That’s looking like a distinct possibility to collect the E I require! Everything starts with an E!
A short time later, following a bit of research I’ve made my mind up, it’s definitely the one. It’s run at an old airfield steeped in avataion history, it was also used for filming Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. It is rumoured that Forrest Gump himself, Tom Hanks, whilst filming there, used to run up and down the old taxiing strip that is used today as the finish section of the parkrun course. The course is also pretty much pancake flat, which will make a nice change, possibly pretty muddy, this is sounding better and better. Chuck in the fact that there is free parking and facilities nearby I’m reaching for the sat nav! Destination chosen, fire up the parkrun rocketship, let travel commence!
Turning up at a parkrun you’ve never been to before could seem daunting. Trust me, it needn’t be, don’t let nerves put you off, turn up with a smile on your face and greet the volunteers with a hearty ‘good morning’ and you soon get chatting. Ellenbrook Fields is no exception, I was warmly greeted by the run director, Maxine GOOLD and very friendly chap, Chris MCGURK. I was given a run down on the location and it’s history which was really nice, I love a good back story. I was also warned that it might be a little muddy round the back of the course. Whilst we were chatting we were joined by fellow parkrun tourists, Raymond KO, who had made the trip up from Worthing and Helen EDWARDS from Wycombe Rye, which was a nice surprise, it was great to see Ray again and lovely to meet Helen in person, we’re all members of the ‘UK parkrun tourists’ Facebook group, all of us having run more than 20 different places. The prerequisite for joining is you have to be on parkrun UK’s ‘most events’ table to join.
There was a healthy collection of runners at the first timers brief, a mixture of tourists and first time parkrunners, no less than 41 first timers at Ellenbrook Fields. There were 16 runners completely new to parkrun along with 7 runners completing that testing 2nd run today, well done to you all, keep at it. At the other end of the spectrum there were two tourists from Cambridge, Katie SAMUELSON and Darren GILLMAN who have recorded 518 runs between them, amazing! Also worthy of a mention is a milestone run by Jim DAVIS who ran his 100th parkrun today, well done Jim, congratulations centurion. There were 114 runners in total today enjoying the fresh air and wide open spaces at the old airfield. 15 of them walking away with shiney new PB’s too, congrats!
First timers brief out the way it’s time to get into position for the main brief and the run itself. Sadly, something I’m experiencing more and more often is people chatting through the run brief. Is it really so difficult to hold your conversations for a couple of minutes whilst the people that are giving up there time to allow you to run give the brief? Some of us haven’t heard it before! Anyway, I digress, during the brief tourists were welcomed, volunteers thanked and requests made for next weeks roster. If you’ve not volunteered before then give it a try, it opens up another layer to parkrun, get involved. Further warnings about muddy sections of the course were given and before you know it its time to run!
The course is a little loop, then a big loop and is predominantly on hard pack trail or concrete, though there are some muddy segments to be wary of. I wore some light trail shoes which were ideal for the job, the muddy bits weren’t too extreme. The little loop takes you round a pond/small lake, over a bridge and take a left back down towards the start, the big loop takes you the same way but instead of turning left you go right and head out into the open countryside to loop around the airfield. This is mainly solid path underfoot but there’s a bit of a muddy section at the far end before you get into the taxiing strip and run like Forrest for the finish, be warned, the straight is deceptively long! Push push push and you’re into the finish funnel.
It’s a good run, in fact I’m pretty sure that it’s my fastest this year with an aesthetically pleasing 33rd place on my 66th run, nice. With firmer ground this has great potential to be a PB course for many. I like the mixed terrain and the small loop/big loop layout. It’s a lovely big space to run around and the marshals and volunteers out on the course are very supportive, some were armed with clappers, some had bells and other noisy things to encourage runners round. There was also plenty of support at the finish with runners waiting around and clapping others in, which is always nice. It’s a really pleasant and friendly parkrun, hopefully on a return visit there will be somewhere to go visit after for that all important apres-parkrun conversation, coffee, cake and Cornetto!
Thank you to Maxine and her wonderful crew of volunteers for making us feel so welcome. See you next time.
Next weeks exciting instalment will be brought to you by the letter N. Not sure where just yet, but I have a few options available, Newbury, Nonsuch and Northala to name a few.
Ps. this weeks #parkruncornetto was a Strawberry number solely down to lack of choice, hopefully something different will be available next week as that’s three weeks on the trot!