26 June 2016
This morning we were up bright and early for the first race of the Itchen Spitfire’s Club Championship, the Lordshill 10k. The morning was overcast and muggy, not really running weather, but beggars can’t be choosers. For once we didn’t get lost. If we had it would have been the ultimate irony as the venue was the Ordnance Survey building at Adanac Business Park, one of the world’s largest producers of maps.
By the time we left the car in the car park and strolled around the side of the huge, curved white building, reassuring little wisps of blue had appeared on the horizon. Perhaps the sun would burn the cloud off for the race? Back in March, when I walked the Care for a Walk fifteen mile fundraiser we passed the building. It was the first time I’d seen it and I’d have liked a closer look. Today I got my chance.
The origins of the Ordnance Survey date back to the Jacobite uprising and the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, needed a map of the Scottish Highlands to track down the Jacobite dissenters. No decent maps existed but Lieutenant-colonel David Watson, assisted by William Roy, Paul Sandby and John Manson, undertook a survey of the Higlands in 1747 and produced the first 1:36,000 map, now held in the British Library. Then, in 1791, fears of a Napoleonic invasion led to the founding of the Ordnance Survey, which, under William Roy’s supervision, began to map the South Coast of England.
Originally the headquarters were in the Tower of London but, after a fire in the mid 1800’s, the headquarters were moved to Southampton. During the Southampton Blitz in November 1940 the city centre offices were destroyed but the headquarters remained in Southampton city centre and in temporsry buildings in Maybush. In 1969 a new headquarters was built in Maybush, employing four thousand people. The present incarnation at Adanac Park was opened in 2011. It’s certainly an impressive building set in a sixteen acre site. I particularly liked the high brick wall designed by Broadway Malyan, with panels of different textures. It made me think of a topographic map. The wall may be decorative but it’s there to block the sound of the nearby M27.
A room inside the building was opened to runners to use as a changing room so we actually got to go inside the huge headquarters, albeit briefly. It looked like a lovely airy place to work and I couldn’t help wondering exactly what went on behind all the doors I could see as I walked through the atrium.
A great deal has changed since those first maps were produced using trig points and men walking around on the ground. These days satellite technology makes the job easier but more accurate. The current surveyors number just two hundred and fifty but they make up to five thousand changes to the digital master map of Great Britain every single day, and their maps are accurate to within a few centimetres. Of course I was probably the only person there today thinking about maps. The gathered runners were all busy pinning on race numbers, stretching out and generally preparing for the race.
After a while everyone gathered outside for the obligatory team photo. In fact there were several because we kept realising people were missing and even the final photo didn’t contain every Spitfire who ran. There were rather a lot of them, probably because it was the first of the Club Championship races. In fact, out of three hundred and thirty nine runners thirty six were Spitfires.
Soon it was time to line up at the start and for me to find a place to stand where I wouldn’t get trampled and might manage to get a few photos. John, who is injured and wasn’t running himself, joined me to cheer the runners on.
Then they were off. The start of a race is the most difficult time to take photos, even with a fancy pants camera. The runners are all bunched together, vying for position and the whole thing feels like a disorganised melee. The best I could do was press the shutter every time I spotted a blue shirt and keep my fingers crossed. As it happens I did manage to capture a few of the passing Spitfires, among them Commando.
When Kim, the lovely smiley tail runner, passed us with a grin and a thumbs up I knew my job was over, at least for a little while. Originally I’d thought about going for a walk while Commando was running. There were a few problems with this idea though. Firstly, apart from the Care For a Walk adventure in March, I’ve never explored this area before. Back then I had Pete to guide me and he has a map for every occasion in his head. Alone I’d probably get hopelessly lost. I might also end up stumbling into the runners. I had no idea where the course went after all. Finally, the speed some of the Spitfire’s run, I wouldn’t have much time before the first one was crossing the finish line.
As it was I had Kylie to keep me company. She’d signed up for the race but couldn’t run due to injury. We decided our first priority would be to find the finish line so we knew where it was. The second priority was to find the loos. Thankfully there were lots to choose from and, with all the runners on the course, they were all empty. Then we spotted an ice cream van. It seemed rude not to have one.
Once we’d finished our ice creams and had a slow wander around all the stalls selling running kit it was time to head for the finish line. We got there just in time to see the first runner, David Coak, cross the line in just 34.13. The first Spitfire was hot on his heels, Scott Edgington finished just eight seconds behind him. That’s some spectacularly fast running! After that the blue shirts came thick and fast and I snapped away every time I saw one.
This time I actually managed to get a picture of Commando crossing the line. He finished in the first one hundred runners which is no mean feat to my mind. Of course, as far as he’s concerned, it was way too slow. That man is never happy with his time.
As usual, as the Spitfire’s finished running, they joined those of us lining the finish straight and cheered on those still running. Some rewarded themselves with ice cream first of course, and who can blame them? What had started off as just me, Kylie and John, soon became a noisy crowd.
The ever growing crowd meant that the slower runners at the back of the course got the most cheering encouragement. This is just as it should be to my mind. After all they are running for a lot longer than the speedy boys and girls. It seems to me it must take a great deal more courage and determination to set out on a six mile race knowing it’s going to take you an hour or more to finish than it does to know it’ll all be over in just over half and hour. In fact, the last runner to cross the line took 1:38:41. Kudos to her for finishing.
Of course, everyone gets a medal for finishing the race but this race has prizes too. Kylie and I spotted them lined up on a table when we were wandering about before the runners started coming back. They were rather swish star shaped crystal trophies and two of them went to Spitfires. Scott got one for coming second and Tash, Sam and Leah won the ladies team category. Seems to me there should be an endurance trophy for the last runner to cross the line too. If there was I might enter myself.
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