17 August 2019
Romsey is the newest parkrun in Hampshire and, since the first event back in March, we’ve been meaning to check it out. This parkrun is held on the playing fields of Mountbatten School, near the Broadlands Estate in Romsey, home of the Earl and Countess Mountbatten of Burma. The course is more or less flat and mostly on grass, which was good news for Rob who has been suffering with a heel problem since Thunder Run.
The downside to our trip was a very early start and a little bit of getting lost in the roads around the school. Eventually we arrived and, thanks to allowing plenty of time, we weren’t actually late. The sun was out, the grass was relatively dry and we quickly found the race start. There were several familiar faces, mostly Romsey Road Runners we know from various races. Then John and Rachel arrived and I took the obligatory team photo.
After a blissfully brief briefing, during which we learned there was a small stretch of gravel path amongst all the grass and that the course wasn’t suitable for buggies, the runners were off. There were surprisingly few of them. Later I discovered there were one hundred and twenty two, a few less than their weekly average of one hundred and forty seven or so. After the crowds at Southampton parkrun it seemed almost empty.
As I watched the runners disappearing across the flat field I chatted to one of the marshals and discovered the finish line was not in the same place as the start. As there was nowhere to go for a walk that wasn’t part of the course, the trek across the grass to find the finish funnel was quite welcome. It might not have been exactly interesting but it was better than standing around waiting.
The walk was short and the waiting seemed quite long. The course here is three laps of the field I was standing on. The plus side to this was that you could stand in the middle of the field and barely lose sight of your runner. The downside was it was really quite boring, at least from a spectator’s point of view. Later Commando compared it to a school cross country race, minus the smoking behind a tree.
Surprisingly, Commando was the first runner to come past. For a short while I thought I might have missed Rob and John, who are usually a little faster, while I was walking across the field. About a minute later though, they came past and I realised Commando was in the lead, at least in our little group.
A couple of minutes after that I spotted Kim and Rachel. In time honoured tradition, Rachel hid behind Kim as soon as she noticed me. Unlike most runners, she hates having her photo taken.
For the next couple of minutes I stood around cheering as the front runners came by on their second lap. Then Commando came past again, still ahead of Rob and John. He went through the gate onto the only part of the course that looked vaguely interesting.
John and Rob were more or less the same distance behind as they had been on the last lap but neither looked as if they were pushing their pace much. This was almost certainly down to Rob’s foot injury but I was sure Commando would be pleased to be in front for once all the same.
For a little while I chatted to one of the event organisers. This was when I discovered there was no where nearby to have a post run coffee. As downsides go, this is a fairly large one in my book. He told me the runners usually go to the cafe at Romsey Rapids to have coffee and process the results. As this is over one and a half miles from the school and not in the direction we’d be heading to go home, I doubted we’d be joining them.
From my spot by the finish funnel I saw Kim and Rachel coming round the corner on their second lap. Commando was right behind them on his third and looked to be about to lap them. A minute later John and Rob followed.
The first finisher came dashing across the grass to the finish line about a minute later, finishing the run in just under eighteen minutes. Shortly after this Kim and Rachel went through the gate for the second time and Commando came running across the grass towards me. Rob and John were a little way behind.
By the time all three men had crossed the line and got their barcodes scanned, Kim and Rachel were coming round for their final lap.
With such low numbers of runners the finish funnel was short and not at all crowded. This could be seen as a positive for those who hate queueing in the funnel. Sadly, not many of the finishers hung around to cheer other runners across the line though and, by the time Kim and Rachel dropped their tokens into the bucket there was barely anyone on the field, even though the slowest runners and the tail walker had still not finished.
We walked back across the field towards the car park wondering what this grassy course would be like in winter? With muddy grass or ice and a wide open field offering no shelter I don’t think I’d like to be there to find out. In fact, with nowhere to have coffee nearby, it isn’t a parkrun I’d be keen to revisit.
We didn’t go to Romsey Rapids in the end. Instead we headed back to the Bellemoor for some post run refreshments and a debrief. We arrived at more or less the same time we would have if we’d run at Southampton, queued for the finish and stayed around to cheer on the last finishers and pack away.