The one with the end of a challenge. What is parkrun to you? To some it is a time trail, a battle of the fittest, to get across the line before anyone else, to test your mettle against other runners, break records and set times. Watching these guys run is like poetry in motion and is awe inspiring. Those who get round the course in 17 minutes or less are amazing. To others it is part of a weekly exercise regime to help lose or maintain weight, or the culmination of a couch to 5k program. Watching the hard work and determination of the guys at the middle and back of the pack is also just as inspiring as the frontrunners gliding by. To many it’s a weekly social, a chance to catch up with friends they have made in the local running community, the opportunity to meet new and likeminded people from all walks of life. There are also some who just come along to volunteer and give up their time for the greater good. parkrun needs every last one of them to thrive and survive, the competitors, the socialites, the middle of the packers, the party at the back and the volunteers. There is something for everyone, everyone has their own goal or target, no individual purpose being more important than the other. parkrun is for everyone, it’s more than just a run in the park.
For me my 4th tourist trip to Portsmouth Lakeside was the end of a daft personal challenge. To me parkrun has been about seeing new places, meeting new people all whilst doing something I love. I’ve been touring parkrun locations in a particular order so that the first letter of each, when read in a line downwards on the results page, spells out a word. To explain this further I have a thing where my post parkrun treat is an ice cream, normally a Cornetto, whatever the weather, whatever time of year. This all started with my sister back in 2009 when we ran the Great South Run together in my mothers memory and to raise money for The Brain and Spine foundation. They are the wonderful people who looked after my much missed mother when she had a brain tumour. I’d never run before, I was overweight, morbidly obese, tipping the scales well in excess of 21 stone (the scales only read that high). Training was hard, starting with couch to 5k and I lost 5 stone in the process and managed to get round the 10 miles. At the end of the race we mucked about taking selfies of us with celebratory ice creams. I’ve basically been doing this ever since after races, with Cornettos, as a bit of a tribute to that day. This crept into parkrun when I started touring, I started posting selfies with #parkruncornetto as the label. So what better word for me to spell out! I must also add that I am a huge fan of ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’ movies too.
“Do you want anything from the shop?”
I was gifted the shirt pictured above detailing my travels by a chap who I met through parkrun tourism and I now have the pleasure of calling a friend. I had no idea he had gone to such trouble to commemorate and embrace my daftness. He even cancelled his own plans to come run at Portsmouth Lakeside with me. Hats off to you Ian GREGORY, you’re a top man.
Portsmouth Lakeside is a fast flat course that takes you alongside the picturesque lake, it’s sort of one lap with a bit of an out and back with a mix of pavement and hard pack gravel trail, road shoes all year round here. There’s plenty of free parking on site and there are toilets available in the main building reception that are open to the public. I got there early as I’d volunteered to help with course set up. It’s an easy but essential part of any parkrun, get the course laid out before everyone arrives. It’s a role that also allows you to run so everyone’s a winner. I’d offered to do the far turnaround point which then allowed me to get in a nice mile warm up run back to the start finish area. Give volunteering a try, it’s fun and you meet so many lovely people.By the time I’d got back there were stories of “parkrun course killers”, some visitors had accidentally driven down the start of the course in error as the bollards were down in preparation for the Dragon Boat races the next day. I won’t name names to save any embarrassment! The 17 volunteers that had got there early had been joined by a small army of brightly coloured runners and walkers, 234 of them to be precise, the new runners brief completed, the run director calling for quiet and getting proceedings underway by way of megaphone.
Once the runners were released at 9am just after the brief 234 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 42 were first timers and 53 recorded new Personal Bests, including one for me, my first since Feb 2016! Representatives of 25 different clubs took part. There were tourists visiting from too many places to list them all, Gunpowder, Guildford, Woking, Homewood, Chichester, Bognor, Netley Abbey and visitors from the slightly nearer Lee, Havant, QE and Southsea. One tourist, Robin Campbell, visited Portsmouth Lakeside for the first time having visited no less than 187 different parkruns out of the 209 he’s completed, even more amazing is that he’s in the VM75-79 age category. Brilliant.
As it was a special(ish) occasion for me I laid out some treats for anyone to help themselves to after the run to accompany their coffee. Spreading the #parkruncornetto love. Thank you once again to everyone that makes Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun happen every week, I always enjoy my visits there.
Next week I have no idea where I will be, perhaps Queen Elizabeth for their 4th Birthday. It seems very odd not having a plan or structure! I’m up to 39 different events now so perhaps focus on my cow. I don’t know, maybe another stupid challenge.