Pieces of Eight

8 October 2017

With the Winchester walks, the Half Marathon and the CC6’s, it seems like years since I last had a nice quiet Sunday. When I went to parkrun yesterday morning I thought I’d be getting a lie in today. While we were having our post run coffee though, everyone was talking about races. Almost everyone was running either the Portsmouth Pieces of Eight or the Bournemouth Half Marathon. Everyone except Commando and Rob that is. All of a sudden they had a bad case of race envy. Before I knew what was going on they’d decided to try to get last minute places for Pieces of Eight and I was waving goodbye to the idea of a lie in.  

To be honest I wasn’t that unhappy about it. Commando has never run Pieces of Eight before and, from the photos on Facebook, it looked like a lot of fun. In the end getting places turned out to be fairly simple, involving nothing more than a couple of phone calls and a Saturday afternoon drive down to Portsmouth to collect race packs. Of course this morning, when Commando woke me up at six thirty, it didn’t seem like such a good idea but, once I’d had a cup of hot chocolate and got washed and dressed, I began to feel a bit better about it.

As it was such a last minute thing I was quite hazy about the details, although I knew the race ran along Southsea seafront. As we drive towards Portsmouth I was eagerly anticipating a little walk to the Costa in Southsea and a nice take away coffee to warm me up. It was a real Winnie the Pooh blustery day kind of morning, with a definite bite in the air. We drove right through Southsea though, past the canoe lake, the model village and the Royal Marines Museum. We carried on through Eastney, past Fort Cumberland and almost to the end of the little peninsula.

The race actually began at the RNLI Lifeboat Station not far from the Eastney Landing where the Hayling Island Ferry departs. My coffee was now more than three miles away, too far to walk, at least in the time it would take Commando to run eight miles.

There was a rather shaggy looking red haired RNLI mascot. His costume looked a touch cumbersome to run in, although Sammy Saint managed to run the Southampton Half Marathon in his costume so anything is possible. It also looked very warm, which seemed like a bonus at that moment. Just looking at the runners in their shorts and race vests was making me feel cold.

While everyone was talking race tactics I had a little wander. There were lots of interesting little boats moored up on Lock Lake in various states of repair. Some looked as if they were houseboats but whether anyone lives on them or not remains to be seen. This is an area I should like to explore more thoroughly. It was once the beginning of the Portsmouth Arundel Canal, built in 1822 to provide an inland route from Portsmouth to London. The canal was never a financial success and was closed in 1892. Unlike the Itchen Navigation, very little of it remains but there is a towpath and a brick built sea lock not far from the race start, although I didn’t get a chance to look for it.

There were actually two races going on at the same time this morning, the seventh annual Pieces of Eight, an eight mile run from the Lifeboat Station along to Southsea seafront, and the RNLI 10k, covering part of the course. My lovely friend Kylie had turned up to cheer on her friends running Pieces of Eight and also some other friends who were running the 10k. She was on crutches because she managed to break her foot at a recent cross country race. This is the second time she’s broken her foot the same way and she swears she’s never running cross country again. We shall see!

As you’d expect with a race called Pieces of Eight, there were rather a lot of pirates about and several Jolly Rogers flying. Some of the pirates may have been running the race. I think I even spotted Captain Jack Sparrow but that may have been wishful thinking.

After one final photo of the three wise monkeys, a.k.a Gerry, Commando and Rob, it was time for the small cheer squad to find a place to stand to watch the start. We managed to find a clear spot not far from the start line with a nice view across to Hayling Island. Commando and I spent our honeymoon there, in fact it’s the only time I’ve ever been there, so I took a couple of photos to show him later. While I was taking pictures of the island Kylie was busy taking photos of me. This was probably to get me back for taking a photo of her earlier. I’m not sure which of us hates having our picture taken more.

Moments later the race started and a mass of runners and assorted pirates came thundering past. I did my best to capture as many as possible. As far as I can tell both races started at the same time so some of the people streaming past were running Pieces of Eight while some were running the RNLI 10k. How you could tell which was which was a mystery. Right at the back was the RNLI mascot. For a moment it looked as if he was going to run one of the races but, after a few yards he stopped. I can’t say I blame him.

Once all the runners had disappeared up the road we had time to kill until they came back. Someone said there was a cafe a little way up the road so those of us who weren’t on crutches  went to investigate. Actually I felt a little bad to leave poor Kylie behind but the lure of coffee and a warm place to sit was strong.

The Marina Bar turned out to be a good choice. The coffee was good and there was even food for those who wanted it. We had what is possibly one of the best times I’ve ever had during a race, drinking coffee, chatting and laughing. It certainly beat all the standing around on a cold field I usually do. Note to race organisers, a decent cafe near the race start and finish is a great idea.

Of course we had to go back out in the wind eventually. We got back to the finish line just in time to see the first runners heading for the line. Behind them were a steady stream of assorted pirates and Commando, who was right up there with the fast boys.

While the runners were coming down the narrow road a small group of impatient car drivers sat with their engines running beside them. Why they were there when the road had been closed for the race is a mystery. When one car began to attempt a turn in the road across the stream of runners a marshal walked up and spoke to the driver. It made no difference. For the rest of the race there were cars sneaking down the road beside the poor runners and even a big white van turning round. Thankfully no one was hurt but it was more by luck than judgement. At least one of the cars seemed to be there to pick up a runner who’d finished. If our wonderful Kylie can get from the official car park and back on her crutches, there really is no excuse for that! All the drivers concerned  should be ashamed of themselves.

Anyway, rant over. Thankfully the rest of the runners made it to the finish line safely despite breathing in more petrol fumes than was strictly necessary and having to weave their way between the moving cars. As usual we waited until the last runner crossed the line, cheering like lunatics for every single one.

All that was left to do was walk back up the road to the proper car park and find our cars. Of course I couldn’t help stopping for a few snatched photos along the way. The little boats in the marina were too pretty to resist.

As it happened there was quite a queue to get out of the car park and the boys were doing their usual trick of talking non stop, so I took a few photos of Hayling Island while we waited. Maybe one day I’ll go back there.

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Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

2 thoughts on “Pieces of Eight”

    1. There is a little ferry that goes across to the island. Our honeymoon was so long ago now I can barely remember what’s there, although I have a vague memory of a shingle beach. Maybe in the spring I’ll go across and explore. I’m not sure what the drivers were thinking either, especially as some of them were picking up runners.

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