The one with the Transit of Venus. This mornings parkrun adventure started with a 65 mile drive up to the capital to tick another O off the list, Old Deer Park. Today was their 323rd event, they’ve been holding parkrun here since 21st August 2010. Amazingly there are 10 alternative parkruns within a 6 mile radius from Old Deer Park including the birthplace, Bushy and Osterley, both I have previously visited on my travels. You don’t have to work too hard at parkrun tourism in this neck of the woods, there are plenty of options available for the would be tourist. I was joined today by another Havant regular and parkrun tourist, Ian, who is working through completing the alphabet and required an O. Coming up from the south it’s an easy drive and you get to come in past the home of England Rugby, the impressive 82,000 seater Twickenham Stadium, the largest dedicated Rugby Union venue in the world. This brought us over the Thames, with Richmond Lock and Old Deer Park to our left, we parked up in the car park over the road from the park as directed by the parkrun course page and used the curly whirly bridge to cross. I’d programmed in the postcode for Pools on the Park to navigate there, TW9 2SF. Parking was simple as the car park there is large with plenty of space, though I must mention within minutes of parking up there was a warden doing the rounds. I stumped up £3.70 for 2.5 hours parking as I knew we were planning on a coffee and a chat afterwards.
We arrived in good time this morning so we had time to have a little warm up jog around the park and have a little nosey around before hand. It’s always nice to have a little investigatory mooch around if you have time, especially when visiting places that you wouldn’t normally visit. This is one of the facets of parkrun tourism that I love, both improving your health and broadening your horizons. Whilst jogging around we came across an obelisk right in the middle of park of the park. I later found out that it was linked to the Transit of Venus and what was Kew observatory. The obelisk we saw is one of three in Old Deer Park situated north, east and west of the observatory and were used for correctly aligning the telescope, fascinating stuff. There’s a lovely story about the other two obelisks, legend says that they were erected in the 18th century as memorials to two men who lost their lives in a duel over a woman, who drowned herself in the river, ah romance just isn’t what it used to be…!
With our whistle stop tour of the park encroaching on time we hastily beat a path back to ‘Pools on the Park’ where the finish funnel had been erected and a small crowd was gathering. Old Deer Park is a nice friendly parkrun that attracts in the region of 90-100 runners each week, though they’ve had numbers from as few as 11 through to a whopping 553! Today there were 89 runners, of whom 6 were beginning their parkrun journey, 9 tourists visiting for the first time as well as a few more regular tourists from nearby parkruns and 12 fantastic volunteers. Another facet of parkrun tourism I love is that you never know just who you are going to meet. We had the pleasure of bumping into Paul and Joanne SINTON-HEWITT, Clare FOWLER from PR-HQ, who was marshalling with her daughter (who gives awesome high fives), as well as Jonathan ROURKE from the ParkrunnerPB group to name just a few of the lovely people we met today. In fact this was a lovely, friendly and welcoming parkrun from start to finish.
The run brief was given by the RD, Paula MAGUIRE, she started off by welcoming the first timers and the tourists and giving us a run down on the course and the parkrun basics, thanks were given and applause resounded for the wonderful volunteers. It’s a very simple 3 lapper around the park which is well marked out and well marshalled, pretty much impossible to go wrong. As it’s all grass with the odd path to cross I’d opted for trail shoes, one lad was running in football boots, to be honest you’d get away with normal road shoes as the surface was pretty firm underfoot. You start a short way away from the finish funnel having been walked over to it following the run brief. When given the go you then run back past the finish funnel before turning right 90 degrees and running down towards the Thames. There’s a tree-line there that you run through and then hang another 90 degree right hander, thank you marshal *high five*, over the footpath and along the tree-line before reaching another marshal where you hang a 90 degree left this time, thank you marshal, down past the small Obelisk, hang a 90 degree right, along a bit more, another 90 degree right and then run down the side of the park until you get to the playground fence back where we started. Repeat this twice more before then pushing on to the finish funnel, cross the line, stop your Garmin, collect your token, scan your time, thank all the volunteers. There we have it, parkrun!
Once scanned and all runners were home everything was packed away in good order and it was time to wander round to the front of the Pools on the Park building where there is a coffee hatch in the wall with a couple of tables outside it.
Had I had my wits about me after the run I would have noticed a chap wandering around with a white board taking coffee orders so that they would be ready by the time we’d made it round there. Never mind, it didn’t take long to get served and it’s a nice place to congregate for that all important apres-parkrun conversation. I had a nice chat with Julian HOLDEN from Ranelagh Harriers who filled me in a bit on the Obelisks and the Transit of Venus, thank you for your time today, it was most enlightening.
I had a good run today, which I was surprised about as I’d been ill in bed most the week and this was my first run in 6 days. I ran a very OCD pleasing 25:25, although I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t coughing and wheezing a bit on the last lap. Thank you to every one at Old Deer Park for being so welcoming and also to Paul SINTON-HEWITT for being a good sport and posing for pictures, it must get a bit tiresome.
Next week I’m in Malta for the marathon so no parkrun for me *gasp*!! However the following week I will be visiting Clair parkrun, which will leave me just one final parkrun in West Sussex to do before I complete that county. Well at least until the next West Sussex one pops up that is.