Itchen Valley Country parkrun mudfest

In recent months, I’ve been running 2 or 3 times a week and although I decided to start parkrunning again towards the end of 2019, I couldn’t find the motivation to get up on a Saturday morning and travel to Southampton Common or Fleming Park. I much preferred a lie in and the opportunity for a run later in the day.

However, it was with great interest that I found out a couple of months ago that there was going to be a new event in the local country park, Itchen Valley Country Park. This came as quite a surprise as when I was looking for venues to replace the parkun at Lakeside in Eastleigh several years ago, Eastleigh Borough Council were not keen on opening an event at IVCP due to poor ground conditions during the winter. Instead, they offered Royal Victoria Country Park as a venue and I founded that event and then Southampton parkrun.

I contacted Sergio, the Event Director, for more information about the event and a route map and he kindly gave me more info. The route looked complicated!

Shortly after the announcement about the event opening at IVCP, there was a message on the park’s Facebook to say that the event was being delayed. In the meantime, we were regularly dog walking in the park and witnessing the very wet and muddy conditions.

Since the announcement, we’ve witnessed more rain and poor conditions and the park conditions were far from perfect for running. However, the inaugural event took place last weekend. I had wanted to go but heavy rain the day before meant that I made the decision to not attend. As many running friends posted about their attendance on Facebook, I was beginning to regret my decision to not attend. It looked like I’d missed out on some muddy fun. This led to the decision to make sure I attended the 2nd event.

In honesty, during the week leading up to the event, I started to find excuses to not attend. The main one was not wanting to run through lots of mud. It was on Friday evening that I made the decision to get up and make sure I made it to the event.

The park is a mile from home and it’s mostly a gradual downhill to get there. I decided to run/walk there to save energy for the energy-sapping mudfest. As I got to the entrance of the park, a car stopped and an Eastleigh parkrunner, Keith Whitaker, who I’ve known for years offered me a lift. I declined as I wanted to run/walk. It was very kind of him to offer. As I headed to the start area, I spotted the Run Director for the event, Luis, who I’ve also known for several years and chatted with him. It wasn’t long ‘til Carl Iszatt came over to say hello. Carl was one of the Run Directors at Southampton junior parkrun when I was Event Director there. It was great to catch up with Carl. I also say Mel Holloway (from Eastleigh Running Club) and Pat Rogers.

Over a period of about 15 minutes, a stream of people I have known from parkrun and local running clubs came over to say hello. It was lovely to see Emily and her mum, Wendy, there as well as several members of Southampton Running Sisters. Claire and Aaron who were regulars at my Saturday morning coaching sessions and my Tuesday evening S&C sessions for Lordshill Road Runners were there so I chatted briefly to them too.

As the first timer briefing started, I spotted parkrun royalty, Danny Norman, across the field. I’ve known Danny for several years and we’ve seen each other at many events over those years.

The first timer briefing was delivered by Helen Rees and it was brilliant. Very amusing and expertly delivered. Having volunteered at over 250 parkrun events, I can wholeheartedly state that it was one of the best FTB I’ve heard. Well done Helen!

Once the briefing was over, it was time for Luis to do the pre-run briefing. Again, very amusing, especially his remarks about International Womens Day!

Before we knew it, it was time to start our parkrun! I’ll not try and describe the course. Any description would simply get confusing after the first couple of directions. Just follow the person in front. Even the first straight involved several muddy puddles. I could feel them trying to suck my trail shoes off at every opportunity. The course takes you around the perimeter of all of the fields in the park as well as through several trail sections. The trail sections are certainly much nicer than some of the mud baths you have to negotiate during the run. There are a few tight turns and several opportunities to slip over. There was one fellow runner who slipped over more than once! Trail shoes are a must in these conditions. Tightly laced!

I’ll admit to walking some sections of the course. I can normally run 3, 4 or 5 miles without running. However, the mud was energy sapping and I needed a couple of walk breaks.

Before I knew it, the finish funnel was in sight. I spotted Danny Norman holding position tokens and said hello and shook his hand. It wasn’t until a couple of minutes after exiting the finish funnel that I realised I’d not collected a position token! I have no excuse! I managed to go back and collect my token that had been pocketed by Helen’s son who was handing them out.

I took the opportunity to speak with Emily and Wendy again and then made the decision to run/walk home as I had to get back home by 10am due to other commitments. My legs and trail shoes were covered in mud. Thankfully, the warm water tap in the garden and hose meant I could clean myself off before going inside.

In summary, IVCP parkrun is going to be brilliant. If you like mud, make the most of it over the next couple of months. The venue is going to be lovely when the ground conditions improve. Until then, it’s going to be a challenging event. Well worth a visit though. I’ll be back next Saturday to see if I can improve my finish time.

Tri 70.3 training week 1 plus Eastleigh Aquathlon and my parkrun CV – part 1

With Challenge Weymouth Half distance triathlon 16 weeks away, this has been my first week of training for the event.

As I mentioned, I’m using a plan from IronFit Secrets for Half Iron-Distance Triathlon Success and adapting it a little to fit in with the days I already swim.

This week’s scheduled sessions consisted of the following:


I’ve done fairly well so far.

Monday -45 min run in HR Zone 2:

As it was a Bank Holiday, I decided to get up early and do the session on the treadmill so it would not impact on the family. That worked perfectly. Also, the treadmill meant I could concentrate on keeping within the right heart rate zone.

Unfortunately, as it was a Bank Holiday, there was no STC swim session so I had planned to do a lake swim on Tuesday morning instead…

Tuesday – lake swim and brick session

So, the plan to lake swim didn’t work out. Although I had everything prepared, Daniel joined me for a cuddle at about 5am and as he’s unlikely to want Daddy-cuddles for much longer as he’s 8, I thought that the opportunity shouldn’t be spoiled by rushing out for a swim. It was the right decision. I’ll have plenty of opportunity to swim when he can’t stand the sight of me in his teens.

However, cuddles didn’t derail all my plans as I had a lunchtime session comprising a 30 minute ride and then a 15 minute run.

Having had my gears reindexed, the bike ride went well and it was great to get back on the road. The transition went well too and I got out for the 15 minute run. Both sessions were supposed to be in Z2 but after the bike, my HR was elevated and I crept into Z3 on the run I wasn’t too concerned.

Wednesday – STC swim and 45 min bike ride

Another double-session day. The first session was the early morning STC swim session with Sonia, Jan, Neil and (briefly) Jon (he moved up a lane mid-session). The session consisted of lots of 100s and 50s with lots of use of ‘toys’ (pull buoys, fins, paddles). It was yet another good session.

At lunchtime, as the weather was a little ropey, I decided to do the 45 minute bike session on the turbo trainer. This gave me the opportunity to catch up on a couple of Sky+d programmes whilst getting some bike time in.

I forgot to put my HRM on so couldn’t tell you if I was in the right zone but I probably wasn’t!

Thursday – Rest day

Although my plan calls for a rest day on Thursday, it’s Run Camp day so a little opportunity for some extra training. I drove to Southampton Sports Centre and was joined by Steve, Jules and Liz. A very select few. The session consisted of:

2 min effort: 490m (4:05 pace)
1 min recovery
4 min effort: 940m (4:15 pace)
1:30 min recovery
6 min effort: 1310m (4:35 pace)
2 min recovery
4 min effort: 860m (4:47 pace)
1:30 min recovery
2 min effort: 460m (4:24)

I over-cooked the first interval and suffered a lot later in the session but can’t complain. It was another great session!

When I got home and changed, a reporter from Breeze FM came around to interview me about the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. The reporter had 4 questions to ask and them left. A little short and he clearly had little idea who I was or why I’d been chosen as a Baton Bearer and was simply fulfilling his brief… to the letter.

Eastleigh Aquathlon:

In the evening, I’d originally planned to compete in the Eastleigh Aquathlon. However, the start time wasn’t until 7pm and I had to chair a LRR Committee meeting at 7:45pm in Redbridge Lane which meant I’d not be able to do both.

I decided that I still wanted to be part of the event so headed down at 6:15pm to spectate and give some encouragement to friends taking part.

As I parked at Lakeside Country Park (also known as Eastleigh Lakes), Chris Stocks drove in. We walked to registration and, on the way, bumped into Donna who was just heading back to her car to collect her wetsuit. At registration, we said hi to Chris Rees and Ben Cook from TryTri, the organisers of the event.

Then I spotted Teri and Nick and spoke to them. Before long, we were joined by Tamsyn, Stuart, Katherine, Liz, Ian, Paul Hammond (who was taking photos), George Sellors, Sergo, Sonia and Kev Yates (later joined by Alice) and several other friends.

As everyone got ready, putting on their wetsuits and setting up for transition, I felt a little sad that I wasn’t competing. Next time!

Ben, who was Race Director, gave his race briefing and then the competitors made their way to swim entry.

Having tentatively walked, staggered or bum-shuffled (it didn’t go unnoticed Sonia) their way into the lake, there was time to do a warmup, swim to the start line and then they were off.

I moved from swim entry to swim exit and chatted with TryTri’s MD, Chris Rees, while waiting for the swimmers to exit the lake and head to transition.






Having taken photos of everyone I knew, I made a move at 6:25pm and headed off to Oasis Academy for the committee meeting.














Friday – 1:15 ride

The Friday session of my plan is probably going to be the most challenging mainly due to the fact that the session duration on the bike starts at 1:15 hours and works up to over 4 hours. This is likely to be the part of the week where I have to compromise the most. However, today worked well. I started work early so I could take a slightly long lunch. I’d mapped out a 32km route and prepared for the ride.

Fortunately, the weather was on my side and again, it was great to get out on the bike.

My route took me from West End to Hedge End, Botley, Horton Heath, Colden Common, Fair Oak and then back home.

It was a lovely, undulating ride and I managed some half-decent riding until my gears started to play up. I simply couldn’t change to the larger cog on the front derailleur. Grrrr! It seems that this is a weakness of the gearing on the Boardman with the SRAM Apex. I did some googling and it sounds like a cheap solution is to change the cable set which several sources claim lets down what is not a bad set of derailleurs. I am planning to try this, or at least, getting someone mechanically minded to do so!

In the evening, I prepared for Saturday morning’s activities. Whilst doing so I got a message from Ian Fearon. Ian is a runner, a triathlete and Run Director at Southampton parkrun. Although Ian knew I was fairly actively involved in parkrun, he was asking more about my involvement – most likely to try and understand why I’d been chosen as a Commonwealth Games Baton Bearer for Southampton. I’m sure lots of people are wondering why I was chosen including many friends I’ve met in the last year or two so I racked my brains trying to summarise what my parkrun CV consisted of.

In a nutshell, it goes something like:

May 2010: attended my first parkrun at Eastleigh
Summer 2010: started volunteering at Eastleigh parkrun
October 2010: unofficially became Event Director at Eastleigh having built new team of Run Directors
Winter 2010: organised move to Southampton Uni Sports Ground for winter season
Spring 2011: have advice to Poole parkrun team on setting up a parkrun in Poole
March 2012: founded Netley Abbey parkrun in 10 days and became Event Director
July 2012: founded Southampton parkrun and became Event Director
Winter 2012: helped secure funding and helped set up Winchester parkrun. Helped secure funding for Alice Holt parkrun
Spring 2013: stood down as Event Director at Eastleigh, Southampton and Netley Abbey parkruns. Helped with set up of Brockenhurst parkrun and Queen Elizabeth parkrun and became parkrun Ambassador
March 2013: completed by 50th parkrun
Summer 2013: helped set up Southsea parkrun
Autumn 2013: set up Southampton junior parkrun and became Event Director of that event

When summarised, it seems like a fair amount of parkrun-related activity alongside the opportunity to run 80 parkruns to date. As I’ve said many times, I love parkrun, it’s helped change my life and I love having helped open several new events and seeing the event teams make each event a success. Each success is down to a passionate event team, lots of great volunteers and the amazing communities that quickly build around each event. Although my involvement over the last 4 years has involved several hundred hours of volunteering, many more hours have been spent by the Event Directors, event teams and core volunteers to ensure their event’s success.

A year of achievements

It’s customary to look back at the end of a year at achievements (and what you wish you’d achieved) but with December fast approaching, I haven’t got many more goals for the year so thought I’d look now. It’s probably been my most achievement-laden year to date particularly with regards fitness and related goals.

Here’s a quick list with links to related posts:

March 2013 – Ran the Eastleigh 10K and almost achieved a PB but gained an age-graded PB

April 2013 – Winchester parkrun opened. This was an event I had quite a lot of involvement in behind the scenes until its inaugural event when Tansy and Dave Gill took the reins. Also helped organise the first ever Lordshill Mile Series Event and created the website to help administer the results for the series

May 2013Swam in the lake in a Lakeside for the first time and continued to swim there regularly through the summer and autumn

June 2013 – Completed my first Triathlon, the Eastleigh Open Water Triathlon. I loved it and went on to complete another 2 triathlons. I was also fairly active behind the scenes on the LRR 10K committee which was held on the same day. A great event. Also, held the 2nd Lordshill Mile Series event.

July 2013 – Ran in the National Lottery Anniversary Run (not once but twice) and got to cross the finishing line in the Olympic Stadium for my 2nd and 3rd time. The 3rd time was extra special because I ran it with Daniel and Denise.

September 2013 – Completed my 2nd Triathlon, the Valley Leisure Tri, and helped organise the 3rd LRR Mile Series event and got a mile PB. BOOM! Also, organised a Magic Mile singlehanded at Southampton Sports Centre and did my 30 day ‘cut the cr@p challenge‘. Also, became Vice Chairman of Lordshill Road Runners and joined a triathlon club, Southampton Tri Club. Finally, I completed my final triathlon of the year, the HOWSC 100 Sprint Triathlon.

October 2013 – Completing my longest cycle ride in the 70 mile New Forest Sportive

November 2013 – Race Director for the Lordshill 10 Mile Road Race, the Southampton Juniors parkrun trial, a PB at the Gosport Half Marathon and Southampton Juniors parkrun opened

Add to all that about 1130km of running, 740km of cycling and 140km of swimming as part of the training for the events above (roughly 200 hours) and also helping to start Winchester, Queen Elizabeth and Brockenhurst parkruns (and now helping with 3 – 4 more in the local area – more about those in early 2014), it’s been a busy year.

I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve achieved to date this year and don’t have any more hard goals for the rest of the year. Time for a month off 😉

Junior parkrun course recce

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.

20-09-2013 13-05-02

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.


Relatively wide paths and clear route

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.


The Pavilion (being photobombed by Daniel)

We passed the Pavilion after 4 minutes. It was deserted.


The deserted Pavilion

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.


Gravel path. A little uneven in places but adds some variety


The end of the gravel path before heading right onto the main tarmac path again

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.


Connor leading the way

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.


The finish area adjacent to the car park

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.


Panorama view #1


Panorama view #2

Southampton Junior parkrun gets a step closer

Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve been looking for funding to start a junior parkrun in the area and have struggled. The local councils, who in 2012 had a focus on sport and getting their residents active, have had to tighten their purse strings and, in some cases, jobs have been lost in the departments where decision about funding for community sport were made. It seems the Olympic Legacy didn’t last very long in the Civic Centres locally.

Let me quickly explain what a junior parkrun is. It’s a timed 2km timed run aimed at participants aged from 4 to 14 years old. There are currently a handful of these events in the UK and the intention is to open several more I’m the next 3-6 months if there’s the demand and funding available.

Currently, the events are held monthly but 4 time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington who is working hard to expand and enhance the Junior parkrun series has the vision of making these more frequent to ensure they’re a part of the participant’s weekly schedule.

Some ask whether there’s a need to have a separate event from the main Saturday morning parkrun and that it could cause a loss of families at those events. However, I disagree. There are many children, typically 11 and under, who struggle to complete the 5km parkrun distance. From personal experience, Daniel loves parkrun but it’s often a challenge (often requiring some bribery) getting him to complete the 5km course if he’s tired or just not feeling it. We always adopt a run/walk strategy and, he probably runs about 2.5-3km of the 5km. As a 7 year old, that’s pretty impressive in my eyes. I know he could complete 2km relatively easily as he’s done so at the Eastleigh Fun Run, Olympic Anniversary Family Run and at Bushy Junior parkrun. I think he, and many children, would excel at an event of a shorter distance than parkrun’s 5km.

To be honest, I’d almost given up in trying to find the necessary funding to start a junior event. However, I passionately believe that in order to stem the childhood obesity epidemic that the media keep warning us of that has the potential to cause untold issues for the health of our nation in the next 30-40 years (and the associated financial cost of dealing with the healthcare resulting from increasingly obese and inactive generations) we need to find ways to engage with our children now and give them the opportunities to enjoy sport and physical activities with no or low barriers to entry. Junior parkrun fits the bill nicely as it’s aimed at the right demographic, free to participate, has a great and supportive community feel and, just like its grown up version, can, and will hopefully change lives.

Of course Junior parkrun isn’t just about the 4 to 14 year olds. It’s about getting parents to take a more active involvement in their children’s physical activity and fitness. For some, this may also encourage the parents to get off the sofa and get more active themselves. After all, some of the 4-14 year olds are going to feel more comfortable running alongside mum and/or dad. Having seen their siblings enjoying Junior parkrun, older brothers and sister may consider taking part in a grown up parkrun event. Before we know it, everyone will be at it!!!

Not only does it look likely that we have funding for the event but were starting to build a strong volunteer team and several Run Directors have come forward. There’s an ongoing discussion about potential single or 2-lap courses too. Hopefully within the next week, we’ll have the core team, the funding and a course chosen. If all goes well, we could have the new event starting in several weeks. Wish us luck!

A trip to Bournemouth parkrun for their inaugural event

The news of a parkrun in Bournemouth has been bubbling for a while and they held their inaugural event this morning. I wasn’t sure whether I’d be able to make it so was pleased that all the other plans for the day allowed Daniel and I to take the trip down to King’s Park.

I woke early and got myself ready to allow Daniel a longer lie-in. He’s had a very busy week of long day trips and I’m sure he’d have loved a lazy morning at home. It’s been over a month since we last ran at a parkrun after a couple of weekends away camping and 2 weeks of volunteering at parkruns.

The Bournemouth parkrun is at King’s Park which is just outside the centre of Bournemouth. The park is home for several sporting venues including a football stadium and an athletics track.

As it’s a Bank Holiday weekend, I expected there to be a fair amount of traffic on the roads heading down to the coast. However, the weather is hardly glorious and that meant a very reasonable 35 minute journey from home.

The event’s website mentioned that parking was free on park roads. However, where these were was a bit of a mystery. We ended up parking in a pay and display car park and paid £1.50 for up to 3 hours parking.

We took a very short walk from the car park to the Athletics Track which acted as HQ for the event. On arrival, we started to several familiar faces including Danny Norman, Rex Troop, Mike Cure, Robert Spencer and James Sawyer. It was also good to see Martin Yelling.

It was clear there would be a good turnout as more and more parkrunners converged on the the venue. Several fellow Lordshill Road Runners started to turn up including Neil, Jim, Irene, Kev, Alice, Emily, Katherine, Julian and Sue, Kirsty and Tony. It was great to catch up with lots of parkrun friends.

As expected, parkrun über-tourists Colin and Elaine Brassington were checking out yet another inaugural.

When I spoke to Sarah Ngugi (Event Director at Poole parkrun) who was volunteering at the event, it was clear that there was a problem with one of the barcode scanners. Fortunately, I normally carry one or two scanners to events just in case they have too few scanners for the number of runners so lent them one.

Before too long (and not a single ‘how long ’til it starts?’ from Daniel) it was time to head to the start area and start the run.

There was a little confusion on where to leave baggage (either in the cafe at the track or at the finish funnel).

The course is 2-laps (obviously 2.5km each) on a mix of (mainly) tarmac paths, grass and compacted gravel. The course is mostly flat with a couple of gentle hills (one per lap).

Daniel did well for the first third of the run and then realised just how far each lap was. He wasn’t too keen on having to run a 2nd lap and kept asking how much longer ’til the end. At this point, we had to adopt a 20-second run, 20-second walk strategy to get us to the end which, at that point, was over a lap away.

About 4/5th through the lap, the course crosses the entrance to one of the main car parks in the park. This shouldn’t have been allowed as this means runners could meet a public vehicle. There are several restrictions that each parkrun must avoid:

– runners must not run along a road or anywhere they could meet a public vehicle
– runners must not cross a road
– runners must not have to run up steps

Clearly, the current route wasn’t acceptable and amendments will be made to correct this. This may involve closing the car park (if possible) or re-routing the course to avoid the hazard.

As we approached the end of the first lap, we were lapped by the front runners including James Sawyer, Jim Davies and Kev Yates.

The 2nd lap was mostly about getting Daniel around the course to the finish. The 20 second run/walk strategy worked fine and before too long we were back at the finish straight. With 100m to go, I told Daniel to go for his trademark finish sprint. He was a little reluctant at first but with a little encouragement from spectators he revved up a gear.

As we approached the entrance to the finish funnel, I clipped the back of his running shoe and almost tripped him up. Unintentional!! Honest!! It didn’t go unnoticed by the marshals, Danny and assorted LRRs at the finish!! Fortunately, Daniel kept upright and crossed the line ahead of me.

When we’d finished, he got a little tearful. This was partly down to being tired from his busy week, me almost tripping him up and also the fact Daniel ‘doesn’t like 2 long laps’ or flat courses!

Once we’d finished, it was time to do a little socialising in the cafe and then head home. We made good time on the journey home arriving about 20 minutes before Denise had to head out for her appointment.

Overall, Bournemouth parkrun was great. A fast but slightly (only) challenging course with a great venue with cafe, toilets and changing rooms at the start/finish area. Ample parking in the pay and display car parking around the park and (allegedly) free parking also available. I’m sure that the event will be very popular and potentially see attendances grow to 400+ once established.

A visit to Andover parkrun

Although I’ve been to many local parkruns (easy as I founded or helped to found most of them), I’ve neglected a few too. These are:


These events are just a little too far away to enable me to get to/from in under 40 minutes and that’s the excuse I’ve given for not visiting before.

However, 2 weeks ago while in conversation with parkrun UK MD, Tom Williams, he mentioned that he’d be visiting Andover parkrun and I checked my diary to see that Daniel had other plans so decided to make amends and tick another event off my list.

On what turned out to be the hottest day of the year, I left home at about 7:45am and drove up the M3, A34 and A303 to Andover.

Finding the venue was slightly more complicated than I’d hoped as the postcode on the event’s course page didn’t take me quite to the location of the parkrun. Fortunately, once I got there, it was pretty clear so I parked and then headed to the start area.

Although it was 8:25am, other than a couple of dog-walkers, I was the only person there. At first, I wondered whether I was at the right place and then across the field walked a small group of people who then erected a gazebo. Could they be the set up team? None were wearing running gear and there wasn’t a parkrun club T-shirt being worn. I did wonder whether they were a family setting up for a fun day in the sun for a day but I then spotted the white plastic stakes commonly used for the finish funnel. I was in the right place after all.

As I wondered across, I spotted Jon, the Event Director, who’d recently added me as a friend on Facebook. As I approached and said hello, he introduced me to the other Run Directors. A really friendly bunch including a couple of Ironman T-shirt-wearing triathletes.

As they set about setting things up, I spotted the black 100-club T-shirt clad Tom Williams pushing his daughter, Rosie, in a buggy, closely followed by his wife, Helen.

Next up, we started blowing up balloons. The event were celebrating their 2nd anniversary a week early as on their actual anniversary date, the main RD team were not available. After blowing up a few balloons, Tom asked if I wanted to go for a warm up. This was a little scary!! Tom is a very good runner and I was unsure whether he’d want to jog around with me (plus warm ups normally kill me)!!

We set off for one lap of the 2-lap course trying to work out where the course went as we ran. There were no direction arrow on the course but there were some parkrun wooden posts and blue slabs set into the ground. We (kind of) managed to work out most of the way but, as it turned out, made a couple of mistakes.


The 2-lap course is a mix of mostly grass around the playing fields, some tarmac paths and some loose gravel. Part of the course takes you around the perimeter of a lake which looked very pretty but wasn’t inviting for open-water swimming.

As we jogged around, Tom and I caught up on a few parkrun topics. It was a great opportunity to have a chat. It was really nice to hear that he’d enjoyed my ‘parkrun Corner’ about running with Daniel. I do wonder whether they’re read at all!!

After 1.5 miles, we got back to the start area at about 8:55am and the field was much busier with parkrunners. I spotted Paul Hammond with his camera and also fellow-LRR members, Kev and Alice Yates so wandered over for a chat.

Before long several other friendly faces emerged onto the field including Elaine and Colin Brassington and Matt Lane.

To be honest, other than the occasional ‘hello’, I’ve never really spoken with Alice although we’re Facebook friends. Being FB friends meant that we knew of each other and resent antics and that broke the ice quite well and we decided to run together.

Before the start, the pre-run brief was really good and Tom said a few words too.

Once we started, it was getting really warm. I was already sweaty from my warm up and was dripping by the time we set off.

As we ran, Alice and I chatted. It was really nice to have some company. I love running with Daniel and do miss him when he’s doing other things on a Saturday morning but tend to find that when he’s not there that I run solo and even in a pack of 100, 200 or 500 runners and knowing lots of people, it can be a little lonely running by yourself.


We didn’t overdo things and kept our pace steady with 9:05ish minute miling. This meant that we could chat – although by the 2nd lap, this had almost stopped due to the soaring temperature.

Alice insisted that I run at my pace if I wanted to but I was enjoying the company and knew that running any faster in the heat was likely to lead to me blowing up or bailing out. In honesty, having Alice running with me kept me going when I may have been tempted to ease back into a walk.

As we headed for the finish funnel, there was just time to re-adjust shorts for a finish sprint photo and then we crossed the line.


By that time Kev had sampled every celebratory cake in existence and appeared to have received a medal for his efforts!! In reality, he deserved several medals the way he was tucking in to them!! (It turned out that all finishers received a medal (a nice thought) for taking part in the ‘anniversary’ event).

Another great idea was that all finisher’s position barcodes were used in a draw to choose the Sweatshop prize winner of the month. That was a great way of keeping runners at the event.

After cooling down in the shade, we headed down to a local pub for the post event food and beverages.


Overall, a lovely course, a great parkrun, some great company. All on a very hot day.

A parkrun-filled weekend

This weekend was filled to the brim with parkrun.

On Saturday, Daniel and I attended the 1st anniversary event of Southampton parkrun along with 511 other runners. With a total of 513 participants, this blew the event’s attendance record out of the water and was the UK’s 2nd largest attendance of the weekend. In fact, it was the 3rd highest attendance worldwide over the weekend behind Bushy and Newy in Australia who had 519 runners. If that wasn’t enough, the attendance record was the 6th highest recorded UK attendance ever and one of the 10 largest attended running event in the UK over the weekend. Wow!!

As always, the event was extremely well organised by Run Director, Tamsyn Smith, along with the many volunteers.

Daniel and my run weren’t perfect with Daniel getting a stitch after about 3km. Hmmm! That last minute apple before we left home wasn’t a great idea in hindsight. Never mind. As always, he finished ahead of me and got a course PB in the process.

Although the event team had organised a celebratory picnic, we had other plans so dropped into the cafe to help untangle some results processing issues before heading off. In reality, we missed all the unpicking of issues caused by runners crossing the finish line after only one lap, etc, etc.

On Sunday, Daniel, Connor and I went to the Junior parkrun in Bushy Park, Teddington. The event is currently held monthly and is only about 75 minutes drive away from home. As the run of 2km only takes about 12 minutes, we organised to make a day of it with some extra activities thrown in after the parkrun.


I’ve been to Bushy Park before (for their last anniversary) so was familiar with the layout. However, that didn’t stop us struggling a little to find the start/finish area. Anyway, we found it eventually thanks to the course map and Google maps!’


When we got there, a few children and parents had arrived and the finish funnel was taking shape.

As the boys played with some sticks, I spoke to the Event Director, Peej, about Junior parkrun, Chrissie Wellington’s influence and my hopes to set up an event in the Southampton/Eastleigh area.

Just before the start, I spotted Danny Norman in the finish funnel and had a chat with him and ‘The Imaginary One’.

After a warm up followed by a shuffle back to the right side of the start line, we were off. Connor complained of achy hips after about 250m and we struggled on to about 500m. Daniel was keen to carry on though so we watched as he ran off into the distance.


The course is an out-and-back with 1km in either direction. We waited for Daniel to see us at the 1.5km mark before he headed back to the finish funnel. Connor and I then ran/walked back to meet him.

Daniel enjoyed the event especially running with other kids. It was great that he’d completed most of the run by himself and had the confidence to get scanned. It was also good that he’d not felt the need to hold my hand all the way (impossible as I wasn’t there for 75% of the run!)


Daniel was keen to do another parkrun and have one much closer to home. Result.

Once the run was over, we spent the rest of the day walking, swimming in the Hampton Open Air Swimming Pool with hundreds of others and cycling in and around Bushy Park. Lovely!!

South Hampshire Longest park run and a bouncident

It’s been a funny weekend.

It started on Saturday at Royal Victoria Country Park where I was volunteering and looking after 4 children whilst Denise, Kerry and Helen ran their first parkrun to raise money for Help4Harvey.


Just before the end of the first lap, Helen slipped and ended up badly spraining her ankle and was rushed off to A&E. Denise and Kerry did really well though and finished in about 46 and 49 minutes respectively. Most importantly, they raised £250 for Harvey.

On Saturday afternoon, I took Daniel and Connor to Fleming Park so they could ride their bikes. Halfway through the ride, we stopped off at a playground where the boys had lots of fun on a submerged trampoline running, bouncing and jumping off. They wanted me to do it so I did. Each time I started running to it, Connor would grab my legs.

On my only attempt where I got to the trampoline, I bounced and Connor ploughed into the side of me and I fell landing on both wrists before falling to the ground where I was joined by Connor who playfully bundled on top of me. Children!!

My first concern was the grazing on both hands. That certainly hurt and, at the time, I didn’t notice any other pain.

It wasn’t until I was subsequently pushing a trolley around the Asda Hypermarket in Chandlers Ford that my wrists ached quite badly.

Being a man, I grinned and bared it rather than going straight to A&E. in fact, I drove home with some difficulty and tried to get on the best I could.

After an evening of RICE, I went to bed with both wrists on ice in the hope that sleep would cause a dramatic recovery. My main thoughts were that next weekend’s triathlon was in jeopardy. 😦

On Sunday, I woke late. I didn’t want to get out of bed and the pain in my wrists hasn’t subsided. I decided that a trip to A&E was called for so Denise and the boys dropped me off.

I was seen by the emotionless Triage nurse (who most likely thought I’d sustained the injury during a drunken evening the night before) in a few minutes and then enjoyed the ambiance in the waiting room before being properly examined by a nurse. Having poked and prodded my arms and hands, the nurse declared that my wrists weren’t broken and most likely sprained and that should be rested with painkillers for several days. The nurse said that competing in the triathlon should be possibly but would, mostly likely, be painful.

I rang Denise who picked me up and spent most of the day avoiding washing up and mowing the lawn whilst wearing a pair of snowboarding wrist guards. As it turned out, they were Denise’s pair which explains why they were so uncomfortable to wear and added chaffing to the pain in my hands!! Great!

Sunday was also the day of South Hampshire’s Longest park run. This is an event that I’d ‘organised’ consisting of the opportunity to complete up to 7 5km runs at 6 different parkrun venues in one day.

I’ve put ‘organised’ in inverted commas as it wasn’t much to organise other than to decide on a structure for the day in terms of which venues to visit and in which order and, if necessary, get permission from each of the parks to do this. As it turned out, some of the parks weren’t too keen as they are typically busy during the day on a Sunday. However, having sought clarification from HQ, it was clear that the event was very informal with no need for volunteers, marshals, timing etc, etc. Due to this, I ploughed ahead and defined the order events would be visited in with the schedule shown below:

Eastleigh 9am
Winchester 10:30am
Queen Elizabeth Country Park 12 noon
Havant 1:30pm
Netley Abbey 3pm
Southampton 4:30pm
Eastleigh 6pm

I had hoped to attend a few of the events during the day but the accident (or bouncident) meant that driving was challenging and, as most of the morning was spent in A&E, it looked unlikely I’d make any.

Fortunately, Daniel has his swimming lessons at Fleming Park on a Sunday at 6pm so as Denise had to drive, I asked whether she’d mind if I went over from the Leisure Centre to the Old Golf Course to watch the runners in their last event of the day. I was both a little surprised and pleased when Denise said yes (thankfully I asked when her mum was there as her parents had popped over for lunch).

So, at 5:30pm, we left for Fleming Park.

As I walked across the playing fields to the parkrun venue, there were about 15 people waiting at the start. More arrived shortly after I got there and it was great to see lots of familiar faces. Several shook my hand before noticing the wrist guards so it was a painful experience saying hello! :-S

I’d taken a camera and took about 100 photos as the runners enjoyed the course.


It was great to have been able to get to the last event. Most of the participants most likely didn’t have a clue who I was or that I’d had a small part in each and every one of their own home parkrun events over the last 4 years. In fact, it’s probably no exaggeration to say that without that involvement as either (one-time) Event Director (Eastleigh, Netley Abbey and Southampton) or having been involved in the ‘selling’ of the parkrun to the major stakeholders (e.g. councils and park management teams) and the subsequent setup of the events (Winchester, Havant and Queen Elizabeth), 5 of the parkrun events may not exist. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that.

Anyway, I’m really proud to have helped bring parkrun to each of those communities as well as now supporting each of them as the Hampshire parkrun Ambassador.

It was great to see 30+ enjoying the day and to have 19 or 20 complete all 7 runs (35km). The latter all looked both remarkably fresh (although parkrun fresh) and very pleased to have completed all events. Well done all.


Hopefully, the event have some of the participants the opportunity to try out courses they’d not had the opportunity to try before.

I hope to be able to organise the event next year. Or maybe organise a similar event later this year.

In summary, it’s been a weekend of ups and downs. The highs were seeing Denise and friends complete their first parkruns for Harvey and getting to the finale of the Longest Day park run.

As I type this at 4am, my wrists are feeling better. That is better than I’d hoped for. 🙂

parkrun changed my life

Yet another attention-grabbing headline alongside ‘Aliens addicted me’ and ‘Miracle weight-loss with no effort’…

Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook:

I can honestly say that parkrun has changed my life in more ways than any other. Fact!

This raised a couple of eyebrows!

I stand by my original post!!

Without parkrun, it’s unlikely that I’d have continued running. I’d therefore most likely not have started swimming. Or cycling. I certainly wouldn’t be thinking about getting up a 5am for an early morning lake swim!!

I would most likely not have gained the many friends and acquaintances as I’ve subsequently made due to parkrun, running club etc.

I’m unlikely to have been involved in giving something to the local (running) community through both setting up (or helping to set up) several parkrun as well as other related events such as the Magic Miles or ‘worked’ with some incredible people.

I doubt I’d be as fit or healthy as I am (but with more room for improvement). I wouldn’t have contemplated competing in triathlons or a marathon.

And, I most likely wouldn’t have experienced the shared joy (and proudness) of running with Daniel and Connor all with smiles on our faces as we ‘raced’ on the Common against each other for (hopefully) the first of many times.

parkrun for me is far more than a run in a park. It’s unlocked my life and it’s changed it considerably.

For many non-parkrunners (and, in fact, even many parkrunners), it won’t be conceivable that a weekly 5km run could change a life but for me, it has. Hopefully for the better for not only myself but also (hopefully) for my family.