Parkrun tourism, Lakeside

30 June 2018

There was no parkrun on the Common this morning because the Pretty Muddy Race For Life 10k was going on. This meant it was time for some parkrun tourism. With so many parkruns within a few miles of home we were spoilt for choice but, when Teresa and Gerry said they were going to Lakeside in Portsmouth, we decided to tag along too as we haven’t been to the parkrun there before.

To be honest, if it had been a normal parkrun, on the Common, I might well have stayed at home. Out of the blue, my back started playing up a week or so ago. Overnight it went from the fairly normal twinge in my Achilles tendon with a few crampy aches thrown in to an agonising toothache like pain from my back right down to the toes on my right foot. It’s not the first time this has happened and, according to my GP, it’s because I have high arches. As I have had high arches in both my feet all my life I’m not sure why one would randomly start causing me so much trouble for no apparent reason but still. It came from nowhere. There had been no long walks, no lifting things, just general day to day housework and shopping. Hopefully it will disappear just as quickly as it arrived.

Despite the back pain, a bit of parkrun tourism sounded too good to miss, plus I was reliably informed there was a Costa, or maybe a Starbucks at Lakeside. This and the fact there were places to sit and real loos was the deciding factor, so I slapped on some sun cream and went along to cheer and take pictures.

Apart from a very small knot of volunteers setting up the finish funnel, we were the first to arrive. It was already stupidly hot and the Starbucks was not yet open, which was annoying. So, instead of drinking coffee, we took a little wander to look at the lake that gives the area it’s name.

There wasn’t always a lake here. In fact, the whole area was once mudflats that flooded when the tide came in. Then, in 1969, Portsmouth Council came up with a plan to reclaim the land and regenerate the area. Work began in 1971, canals and ditches were built to drain the water into a lake, a dyke was built to hold back the sea and the embankment of the new M25 was also incorporated to keep the sea at bay. Over the next few years a state of the art business estate, North Harbour, was built. It cost a staggering £17.2 million and was completed in 1976. IBM made it their headquarters.

Between 1979 and 1982 more buildings were added and the land around them, including the lake, became a wildlife habitat. If you have to work in an office it’s nice to have something interesting to look out of the window at and somewhere pleasant for a lunchtime stroll. This certainly fits the bill. Then, in 2004, IBM decided to sell most of its property in the UK, although Hursley Park, where the CC6’s and RR10’s take place, is still their headquarters. The buildings were all refurbished and new companies moved in to the rebranded Lakeside North Harbour.

Recently there have been a series of 5k races held at Lakeside. Commando has run a few, he even got a 5k PB at one, so it wasn’t his first time running there even if it was his first parkrun. As the 5k races were evening races and he went straight to work afterwards, I’d never been able to go along and watch and had never seen the venue for myself. Standing on the edge of the lake it looked like it would be a nice place to come for a walk. Today though, a hoard of parkrunners and my poor back meant there would be no walking for me.

Soon enough a few more runners began to arrive, but, as veterans of Southampton parkrun, everything from the finish funnel and set up team to the number of runners seemed much, much smaller. This is hardly surprising as Lakeside is a relatively new venue for parkrun. The first run took place in May 2016 and there have been just over a hundred runs so far. The average turnout is two hundred runners, a far cry from the seven hundred to a thousand or more who regularly run on the Common.

Some things were much the same though. Things like the flag and pop up sign are probably used at every parkrun in the UK. We wondered if they had the same problems folding their pop up sign down as we had? There was a bag tree too, although with far fewer bags than the one on the Common. The pre race briefing was fashionably late, as was the start. This made us feel quite at home as I don’t think I’ve ever been to a parkrun on the Common that’s started bang on time.

Soon enough they were off, with Gerry taking his normal slot right at the front. Commando and Teresa were a little further back but it was hardly crowded  so it would be easy enough for them to work their way forward.

The course is more or less an out and back affair, mostly around the lake. As soon as the last of the runners had gone past I made my way back to the edge of the lake, thinking I’d get a good view of the runners going in each direction. A man was sitting fishing on the far bank and I couldn’t help wondering if the thunder of runners feet would scare any fish away? It wasn’t long before the front runners appeared. I was fairly sure I saw Gerry amongst them.

Commando was easy to spot, I’d recognise his running style anywhere. He wasn’t too far behind Gerry and looked comfortable, at least from the opposite side of the lake. The runners kept coming, singly and in small groups. I was fairly sure I could see Teresa amongst them.

The fisherman carried on, seemingly unperturbed by all the runners. Just as I was wondering if there were actually any fish in the lake I spotted a huge one just below the water close the the bank. If they were all this big the fisherman was going to have a wonderful morning.

It wasn’t long before the first of the runners started to come back the other way. Predictably, Gerry was amongst the first. Now there were runners going in both directions, the fast ones coming back while the slower ones were still heading for the turning point. If I was running I’d be one of the slow ones and I wonder how I’d feel to watch the fast people coming back towards me? Commando was still hot on Gerry’s heels and I imagined Teresa wouldn’t be miles behind him.

Now I had the age old problem of trying to watch two different directions at once. Gerry would soon be appearing on the finish straight, along with Commando but I hadn’t yet seen Teresa coming back along the lake. In the end I missed her because there was Gerry speeding towards the finish.

A little while later Commando appeared. Because of the late start I couldn’t quite work out what his time would be but I was fairly sure it was a good one, especially considering how hot it was. By this time I knew I must have missed Teresa running back along the lake so I concentrated on the finish straight instead.

When Teresa did appear she looked like she was enjoying her run. This always seems a bit strange to me because I can’t imagine how running 5k can be fun. If I did it, not only would I be appallingly slow, but I’d probably look like I was about to expire by the time I got to the finish.

Once everyone was safely across the finish line we finally went to get our coffee. Of course there was also a critique of the course. All agreed it was a very pretty parkrun and mostly flat. In theory this should have made it a PB kind of course but none of the tourists got one today.  There are three sharp turns, one near the start when you run up to an underpass then turn and run back again, one when you get to the far end of the lake and the final one at the underpass again. These turns knock off precious seconds and slow runners down, so, although it’s flat and mostly on tarmac or packed gravel, it isn’t as fast as you’d think. Even so, it’s well worth another visit next time Southampton parkrun is cancelled. Then again, there are so many others we haven’t tried yet…

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

4 thoughts on “Parkrun tourism, Lakeside”

    1. It really is quite debilitating. I can only imagine what a fractured spine must feel like. You were lucky to have recovered so well.

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