1 September 2018
We ended our month of parkrun tourism with a trip to Winchester. The original plan had been to run every August parkrun somewhere different but we squeezed an extra one in to help a young lad called Leo celebrate his hundredth run. As usual, getting to Winchester involved an earlier start than normal but we parked up close to Winnal Moors with enough time for me to dash past the Willow Tree pub, along Durngate Terrace to the High Street and grab a coffee and croissant to make up for missing breakfast.
Winchester parkrun is held at North Walls Recreation Ground, the fields on the opposite side of the bridge I’d dithered at on my last walk through Winnal Moors. The modern recreation ground would once have been outside the northern city walls between the Northgate and Durngate. Sadly, Durngate, Northgate and the church of St Mary above it, fell into decay and were demolished in 1791 and much of the city wall has also disappeared.
With my coffee in my hand and my warm croissant safely in my coat pocket I made my way back to the entrance to North Walls Recreation Ground. Although I wasn’t exactly sure where the parkrun started there were plenty of Lycra clad runners to follow. They led me along one of the many branches of the River Itchen here, to a small bridge, which, going by the bright yellow 2km sign, must have been on part of the course.
With an average of just 227 runners each week, it didn’t take me long to locate Commando, Rob, John and Rachel amongst the small crowd. They introduced me to Leo and his dad who were dressed up as the 118 brothers, complete with curly wigs and false moustaches, for the occasion. Leo was having a few difficulties with his moustache and seemed far too young to have racked up a hundred parkruns.
Despite the bright morning sun a few slightly squinting photos were taken to mark the milestone. Then it was time for the pre race briefing. Sadly, the Winchester parkrun sound system was not really up to the job so we didn’t hear Leo’s name called out, or any of the instructions come to that. Maybe they need a bigger megaphone or a louder RD? Then again, perhaps we should have pushed our way further to the front?
With the briefing complete, at least as far as we could tell, it was time to head to the start line. Then they were off and I was left alone trying to spot them in the stampede across the field. This has become something of a normal situation for me of late and, even without the fancy pants camera, I managed to snap them as they ran past.
The course is, reputedly, fast and flat and is run on a mix of grass and tarmac paths. From what I could tell, it is basically laps of three separate fields and, for spectators like me, there is a chance to see a fair bit of the runners as they go around the starting field twice. From a runners point of view, I’m not sure three flat fields is as interesting as it could be. Then again, it’s certainly a PB kind of course. Of all the Hampshire parkruns, it has the lowest average run time of 27.11 minutes.
There was still a certain amount of standing around on the empty field and I was sorely tempted to try to find my way to the bridge onto Winnal Moors. As I didn’t know exactly where it was, whether it would involve crossing the runners or how long I had before my little group finished, I stayed put. While I waited I snapped a few shots of the timekeeper, funnel managers and RD.
As it happened, I didn’t have too long to wait. Today there would be no PB’s, at least not for our little group, as the fast boys were all running alongside Leo and his dad. Even so, they all finished in a very respectable twenty three minutes, give or take the odd second.
Commando John and Rob crossed the line first, then stopped to cheer Leo across. There was a slightly hairy moment when the poor lad took a tumble in the final yards. For a second I thought he might have hurt himself but I think his curly wig took the brunt of the impact and, luckily, the grass was wet and soft. He was soon on his feet again and crossing the line as if nothing had happened.
A little while later Rachel crossed the finish line too and it was time for cake, followed by coffee in the River Park Leisure Centre. All in all it had been a successful morning, although I was rather hoping the post run coffee would have been in the Willow Tree. Maybe next time?
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