The one with the hovercraft. Since the end of my word challenge I’ve been at a bit of a loss with where to go next on my parkrun travels. I’ve had a trip to the Isle of Wight to visit Medina parkrun on the list for ages but had always skipped past it due to that pesky strip of water that separates us from it, the Solent. It’s often said that it’s the most expensive stretch water in Europe to cross, sometimes the world, it isn’t, that said it’s not cheap either. This weekend an opportunity presented itself that meant it was finally time to tick this one off the list. Due to festival season the course has moved to Ryde, a 15 minute walk from the hoverport, which makes it very simple to get to.
It’s a yearly occurrence hey have to move parkrun to Appley Park in Ryde, it’s due to the IOW Festival. In fact it does move about a bit to various locations so as with any bit of parkrun tourism it’s always worth checking the parkrun site and Facebook before making any plans. The course change to Appley Park, not only making it easier to get to, also sounded quite intriguing, “Please be prepared for the sandy sea-wall, the concrete revetment in front of the beach-huts, the uneven moat path and the wooded areas around Appley Park too – a bit of everything in this pretty, single-lap sea-side route!” How good does that sound? I was sold and the tickets were booked up Friday night.
Saturday morning I was woken at around 4am to a bizarre lightning storm and torrential downpour. The sky a deep orange colour with lightning flashing and deep rolling thunder, it reminded me of the opening scenes of Flash Gordon (there’s a film I’m surprised hasn’t been rebooted). I won’t be travelling to parkrun with Dr Hans Zarkov, but instead will be jumping in the parkrun rocketship and heading to Hovertravel in Southsea for the 10 minute crossing to Ryde. It’s my daughters birthday on Sunday and she wants to go to the I.O.W., so in a rare occurrence I’m being joined by some of the family on my latest parkrun adventure.
Once the crossing was done it’s roughly a mile walk down the promenade to a Ryde Rowing club (PO33 1ND) which is right next to the start/finish area located in Appley carpark. It’s about a 15 minute walk so not too much of a rush, the hovercraft leaves Southsea at 8am and takes roughly 10 minutes to cross, which gives you a bit of leeway. It’s a pleasant stroll alongside the sandy beaches down to the rowing club and a short climb up the hill towards the start. There are toilets there by the beach huts and if you have a car the carpark is plentiful but isn’t free, I think it’s only a £1 or so though.
The parkrun community feel here is strong, you can tell that they’ve been established for a while. Looking around there are loads of little personal touches in place that separate it from others. This is the home of the crocheted bar code scanner covers, a novel little idea to keep those temperamental scanners cosy during the winter months. We were provided with a set to take home with us to Waterlooville Junior parkrun which is so nice. They also have crocheted U11 & guardian sashes which is a lovely idea, the runners get paired up with these. Another thing they had was a key store, somewhere to leave your car keys whilst you’re running and a bag drop tarp too. This is one thing I always worry about, dropping my car keys somewhere on a course, I double and triple check my keys are stowed safely in my shorts beforecthe run starts and often check a couple more times whilst I’m running, this takes away that worry and I really like that.
There was a healthy number of tourists and first timers at the new runners brief. The course was described in detail though admittedly I didn’t take much in after they’d listed the first few turns. It sounded like quite a complicated course so I made the conscious decision at that point not to try and come first, just in case I got lost. This has served me well in every single one of my 78 parkruns to date. I’ve never finished higher than 12th and I’ve never got lost, so it is a strategy that clearly works *cough*.
I’ll try my best to explain the route, it is one lap but it is full of twists and turns. The course starts off at the top of the park and you run east before dropping down the hill slightly and looping back up past the start on to the top path that runs parallel with where you started. Are you with me so far? You then drop down on to the promenade via a quite steep hill and head towards the Ryde pier, you get as far as the cafe and then do a 180 turn, dropping down into the lowest path and run along it away from Ryde.
You then get to a cross roads where you head sorta right and down into the moat, this bit is particularly lovely, this runs alongside promenade that you do a 180 turn on to and run back along till you approach the cafe again, before you get there you hang a left and battle your way back up the hill towards the start, but you then have to hang a left and run back along a more shallow incline to then loop back towards the start/finish area. You see, sounds complicated doesn’t it? It’s actually not that difficult, honest. It’s also quite a scenic route too, even on an overcast morning like this morning.
We met up with Nikki and James Yeo Fareham in the hoverport, we know each other from the local running community as well as being members of the UK parkrun tourists Facebook group. We also met Sian Whyte, who is godmother to Beth Hall from my home parkrun of Havant, she was visiting from Buckingham spotted my Havant top and asked if I knew the Hall’s, it’s a small world. We also met Peter Loose from Milton Keynes, another UK parkrun tourist group member as well as first time tourist David Penn from Pennington Flash (cool name) parkrun near Wigan.
Ellie had an amazing time, first time on a hovercraft, first time at a ‘senior’ parkrun, helping sorting tokens at the end. She wants to do big parkrun but has decided she’s staying with Juniors until she is 14, which she informed me mater of factly, is 7 years tomorrow! Love her so much!
Once the final runners were in we headed down to the cafe for post run coffee, conversation and ice cream whilst watching the world go by on the promenade, I could get used to life like this. Such a welcoming community, we met some lovely locals and regulars and I can’t recommend enough that you pay them a visit. It’s another parkrun with such a friendly vibe and some truly lovely quirks. I’ll be back again for sure, maybe a family weekend in the island rather than a flying visit next time. A big thank you to all the volunteers and core team at Medina for making it such a pleasant experience.
Last but not least, I treated myself to a posh ice cream today, a double scoop of strawberry cheesecake, and it was lush!
See you next time.