Yesterday morning gave an opportunity to check out one potential course for Southampton’s junior parkrun.
I’ve been in fairly regular contact with the events team at Southampton City Council and had made contact with Nick Yeats, who heads up the Parks Department. Nick is quite difficult to get hold of but replied on Friday.
Prior to this, I’d spent a little time looking at possible courses on Southampton Common, mapping them out, checking distances, considering risks, defining marshalling requirements and listing pros and cons for each. I’d also shared these with the embryo event team for their feedback. Although I’d focussed on the Common, I also looked at other venues. One that stood out was Riverside Park which was an option that had been put forward by SCC as a venue for the main event. It was discounted as it didn’t really provide enough space for a reasonable 5km course. However, 2km was easier to accommodate.
The Common clearly had plenty of advantages including its centrality, catchment area and the cafe. However, Riverside Park is flat, almost entirely tarmac paths and a couple of miles from Central Southampton. It also has a good, although different, catchment area. It does have a couple of disadvantages; namely that it is busy on a Sunday morning with football matches and has no cafe at the venue.
Nick’s email arrived and said that he had concerns over the use of the Common as it has a sensitive ecology and although the main parkrun was very popular and he fully supported it, he wasn’t keen to have another weekly running events at the venue. Nick suggested Riverside Park as an alternative. I passed this onto Sport Solent and also the ‘team’ and everyone seemed supportive.
At that point I decided to squeeze a visit to the park in on a Sunday morning at 9am to see how busy it was. As Denise was away, this meant encouraging Daniel and Connor to come with me. It was an easy sell when I suggested they take their scooters.
We left home at 8:40am to travel the mile or two to the park. There are 2 or 3 car parks at the park and these were quiet with only a little footfall of dog walkers. We unloaded the scooters and set off.
One of my main concerns was that the park would be heaving with 100s of footballers using the 4 pitches. On arrival, there were none. Phew.
On the course I’d focused on, the route included one large lap and one small lap.
The large lap meant passing the sports pavilion once at 200 or so metres from the start. As I was walking the route, I hoped I’d match the speed of our slowest participants particularly as my walk involved trying to coax the boys into scooting the whole distance.
We passed the Pavilion after 4 minutes. It was deserted.
About half way through the first lap I spotted a couple of runners heading towards us. One had a running style I recognised. It turned out that I was right. It was Kirsty and Pete from Lordshill Road Runners. We had a chat and then headed off in our own separate directions.
The first lap is mostly tarmac with one short section of gravel path. The path is a little uneven but it adds a little variety.
The 2nd lap is different and shorter. Psychologically, this should help many participants. This lap is all on tarmac apart from a very short grass section.
As we finished, the boys headed off to the mini skate park before I asked what they thought. Both gave the course the thumbs up. Result.
Although I’d still prefer a course on the Common, Riverside Park is a strong alternative. If there was a cafe, I’d give it my full backing. Without one, it loses a little appeal but is still a good contender.
A final decision hasn’t been made yet. Will keep you informed.