Today it was an early parkrun start. Up at 6am, breakfast, wash and then out of the door for 7:10am. The reason? Alice Holt’s inaugural parkrun.
Alice Holt is the name of a large country park near Farnham. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/aliceholt is the event website.
My involvement with this parkrun started about 6 months ago when I met with the Sports Development Manager for Havant Borough Council about starting up a parkrun in Havant. The SDM, Richard, brought along his contemporary in the Farnham area and I took along Dave Williams who, at the time was a Run Director at Netley Abbey (and previously Eastleigh).
I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation covering what parkrun was, what the benefits are, a case study of Eastleigh parkrun and the steps involved in setting up a parkrun. It was an easy-sell. Both Richard and Kirsty were keen and had already secured a majority of the funding required.
Havant parkrun started shortly after in June with Dave as the Event Director. Due to the location, I wasn’t able to help bring Alice Holt to life so handed the hot prospect back to parkrun HQ to see if they could entice an event team out of the local runners. It wasn’t long before there was some interest and now, 6 months later, it’s the morning of their first event.
The course is described as a 2-lapper which is a little hilly. Oh joy!! Terrain is all off-road on gravel paths and trails. Am not sure which shoes are best so am taking road and trail shoes just in case.
Every parkrun is the best in the eyes of those that work tirelessly to make it happen. Or, at least, that’s what we like to think of our own parkrun offspring. However, as soon as you start to visit other parkruns, you find that isn’t the case. All parkruns are equal. Well organised and friendly. There are differences in them all due to the course, locality and the team that run them but all share the same essence.
What I have found is that it takes a few weeks for a parkrun to gel and start its own community. This is to be expected but inaugural events are always interesting as you get to meet more and more familiar faces and tourists from further afield. Today I’m expecting to see several Lordshill Road Runners as well as several other regular parkrunners from the Solent events.
Neil very kindly offered to drive and so a small contingent from Southampton (Di, Tamsyn, Neil and myself) headed up to Alice Holt. The weather was a little miserable on the journey with drizzle/rain but the conversation was good!!
We arrived at 8:10am with plenty of time to spare. Parking wasn’t particularly cheap but as parkrunners that cost could be offset by 10% off in the cafe. As we sat in the car keeping warm, the event team were setting up the finish funnel.
After some coaxing from fellow Solent parkrunner, David Blackman, who’d travelled up with John Maccines, we got out of the car at about 8:30am and headed to the start area. The start, finish, cafe and car park were all located very close together. Perfect really. Also present was Karen Hazlitt and several familiar parkrun tourists amongst many tourists who looked less familiar!
I had time for a quick chat with the Event Director, Martin, and one of his chief volunteers. I’d emailed them the evening before to offer some assistance but they clearly had everything in hand.
Martin drew the runners together for the pre-run briefing and then we walked the short distance to the start. It was good to see parkrun über-tourist Louise Ayling at the start. Louise had recently run at both Southampton and Netley Abbey.
The first 0.5 km was largely downhill and I ran with Di for most of this before she sped off into the distance. The paths were forest trails and mostly firm underfoot. There were plenty of puddles and I was very glad to be wearing trail shoes in places.
Given the downhill start, it wasn’t too long before a few climbs were needed. These were, as Danny Norman described them, playful. Challenging is another word I’d use!! Fortunately, the climbs were broken up by some flat sections and some gradual drops.
Marshalling on the course was good with marshals at all the key intersections.
As a 2-lapper, having to re-live the hills on the 2nd lap wasn’t particularly appealing but as a T-shirt run ( more interested in getting a run closer to the elusive 50 T-shirt than a PB), I had to cross the finish line. Given I now knew the course, I throttled back a bit further to ensure I got to the finish line.
At about 4km, parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt passed me with one of his dogs. As I headed for the finish, Di shouted some encouragement (having finished a couple of minutes earlier) and I sped up towards the line.
As I crossed the line, it wasn’t immediately clear where the barcode scanners were and that’s about the only issue I can think of.
Having been scanned, it was time for a post-run beverage and some cake. Briefly chatted with Danny Norman, parkrun’s UK Comminication Manager, and then went in search of food where we were joined by Robert Bryan.
Once cake was duly demolished, it was time to head home.
Overall, a great morning. A lovely park with lots of car parking. A playful course. Definitely one that’s going to thrive in the summer and early autumn but may be more challenging due to conditions in the winter and early spring. Certainly a more challenging course than Havant parkrun too which has a steep drop and a energy-sapping climb.