Parkrun tourism, a return to Lee-on-Solent

22 June 2019

As the Race For Life was being held on Southampton Common this weekend we had to find another parkrun. There was a great deal of discussion about which one, with suggestions of various events we haven’t been to before. In the end though, we settled on a return to Lee-on-Solent, mostly because it was fairly close to home and didn’t involve getting up at silly o’clock. At least not for Commando and I.

The last time we visited this parkrun was May 2016. We were with a large group from the old running club. Much has changed since then though, mainly for the better. Today there were just two of us in the car. Commando and I planned to meet Rob at the start line. Hoping to get some training miles in for Thunder Run in July, he was running the fifteen miles or so there and then running the parkrun. We would be taking him home in our car. At least he hoped we would. As a plan it sounded slightly mad and, in the end, it didn’t quite work out.

We spotted him somewhere around Titchfield I think. My eyes were barely open at this point and I hadn’t had a coffee so my memory is hazy. Wherever it was, he was just about to run up a very large hill and Commando, looking at his watch, didn’t think he was going to make the parkrun on time. We pulled over and offered him a lift. He was reluctant but also slightly lost so got into the car. It was a good job because the route he would have taken would have added lots of extra miles and he’d have completely missed the parkrun. As we drove on a compromise was worked out. We took him up the hill and back on track to make the start, then we dropped him off again. If it sounds completely bonkers that’s probably because it is.

Obviously, we arrived first. While we waited for our nutty friend to join us we had a stroll along the shore. It was a beautiful sunny morning with barely a whisper of breeze. Perfect for running, or walking come to that. We passed the set up team drawing a chalk start line including a few motivational words. Then I headed up to the little walled area where I’d taken photos of the runners last time. The shots I got, with flowers in the foreground and runners in the background were some of my favourites and I was thinking of trying something similar today.

Last time the little wall was topped with low mounds of pink daisies. Now there were red geraniums, very pretty, but too tall for my purposes. While I was looking around for another likely spot, I heard someone call my name. By chance John and Rachel had decided on the same alternative parkrun as us. As Rachel is still recovering from her surgery, this meant I had some company on the finish line too.

Rob appeared at more or less the same time and, while the boys chatted, Rachel and I found a good vantage point on the grassy shingle just off the path. Moments later everyone began gathering for the start.

Pretty soon hundreds of feet were thundering past us. Somehow I found John, Rob and a slightly trailing Commando in the crowd. Lee-on-Solent is a fast flat course, great for PB’s if it isn’t windy and wet. Today though, was just about the joy of running. The three friends weren’t really bothered about record breaking and Rachel and I were so busy chatting we almost missed them as they came back along the shore to the finish.

Luckily, we did spot them and I even managed to get some pictures. With the running all done we went off to get a coffee. The only problem being choosing from the huge number of cafes close to the finish. Then it was time to head back to the car, with a little joking about Rob enjoying his run home of course. For some reason he didn’t find this very funny. So, with three in the car instead of the two who’d set out, we headed back to Southampton.

If you’re a runner looking to do a little parkrun tourism, you could do worse than Lee-on-Solent. You’d be wise to check the weather forecast first though. On a wet or windy day, five kilometres up and down the seafront there can feel more like ten. If you’re looking for a PB course, this might just be it but beware, it can get quite congested for middle of the pack runners. The big bonus is the number of cafes around the finish line for your post parkrun treat.

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All about races

October 2018

October seemed to be all about races. First there was the Ageas 10k. Actually that one was right at the end of September but let’s not quibble about a day or two. Commando was pacing a very slow, for him, fifty five minutes and I was supposed to be taking photos. As I was still suffering with the lurgie this was not as simple as you’d think. 

Runners are quite a germ phobic lot, mostly because they always seem to have important races coming up and don’t want to get sick. This meant I had to try to stay away from everyone so I didn’t spread my germs, whilst still getting as many photos as I could. There was some degree of success and a lot of coughing.

The next weekend was taken up with the Bournemouth Half Marathon. It was a stupidly early and slightly chilly start but, once I’d taken team photos and watched Commando walking towards the start line, I had a nice walk through Boscombe Cemetery.

You all know how much I like wandering through a cemetery, and this turned out to be the best part of the whole day for me. The Cemetery, designed by architect Christopher Crabbe Creeke, was opened in 1878. Entering from Kings Park, my first view was of the Jewish Chapel, looking rather atmospheric in the early morning light.

From there I took the main path towards Gloucester Road, stopping to admire the chapel in the centre of the cemetery. This beautiful building with its central tower and spire, looks more church than chapel. It was built in 1877, before the cemetery was opened, and contains both the Church of England and Nonconfirmist chapels. In the golden morning light the Purbeck and Bath stone almost seemed to glow. Unfortunately for me, the door was closed so I couldn’t get a look inside.

Frankly, I could have happily spent the whole day wandering around the cemetery looking at graves. There are more than forty three thousand to look at though and I had a half marathon finish line to get to at some point. In the end I had to content myself with a quick walk around the war plot. As Remembrance Sunday was fast approaching, this seemed fitting.

The plot is enclosed by a low box hedge with the war cross on the west side. The rows of plain white stones made sobering viewing. Most of those buried here died in Bournemouth’s auxiliary and private hospitals and are from World War I but seven are from World War II.

While my route to the finish line was going to be far shorter than Commando’s I knew I was bound to get tangled up in runners at some point. A quick look at my watch told me I really should get a move on so, rather reluctantly, with a quick stop to photograph the little stone lodge, I headed for the gate.

Luckily, I more or less knew the way due to previous Bournemouth Marathon adventures. Now my main plan was to get to the centre of Bournemouth as quickly as possible, get a coffee and find somewhere to watch the finish. Once I’d crossed the railway bridge and Christchurch Road I took what I hoped would be a shortcut through Woodland Walk. This turned out to be a mistake and gave me rather a longer, but probably prettier, walk than my previous route would have.

When I eventually got back on track I met with the first runners. Commando was not amongst them and I had no idea whether he’d already passed by or not. What I did have was quite a long and frustrating detour to get around them and onto the beach side of the road.

Eventually I made it and the cliff path was in sight. It was just a matter of walking down it onto Boscombe Promenade. In theory, this should have been when things got far simpler and my progress much faster. At first, getting to the finish line before Commando looked like it was going to be a breeze. There were barely any runners on this part of the course and I could almost taste the coffee. The sun was shining. There were beach huts, sea and sand to enjoy…

Things didn’t go quite to plan though. When more and more runners began to appear I had to decide which side of the course to walk on. I made the wrong choice and ended up at a dead end by Boscombe Chine Gardens. Only runners were allowed in the gardens and spectators weren’t allowed to cross the course. I had to turn and walk all the way back, past Boscombe Pier, and find a way across there. If only someone had thought to put up signs for spectators this frustration could have been avoided, along with the extra walking. On the plus side, I did see Commando and Rob twice on this stretch of the walk.

After the Boscombe Pier debacle I was stuck firmly on the beach side of the course and, fairly soon, there were so many other spectators I couldn’t see much of anything. So much time had been lost on the various detours I now had to rush if I wanted any chance of making the finish line before Commando. I might have done it too, if it hadn’t been for the chaos by Bournemouth Pier.

The crowds around the pier were so thick I could barely get through them. To get to the finish line I needed to cross the course but there were impenetrable barriers stopping me. The pier turned out to be a dead end. The only way past was to walk onto the shore and under it. On the other side there were no runners or spectators but the promenade was lined with barriers in preparation for the full marathon later in the day. On and on I walked in the sandy beach, getting further and further from the finish line. My legs were tired and I was looking desperately for a gap in the barriers. For a while I thought I was going to have to go all the way to Sandbanks. Eventually, after about a mile, there was a crossing point but now I had to walk all the way back up the other side of the course. By the time I reached the finish line again Commando had already crossed it. After lots of dashing back and forth, pushing my way through crowds, I finally caught up with him and a few other friends in the Lower Gardens.

The pleasant beachside stroll and relaxing coffee I’d anticipated never did materialise. Commando, Rob, Kim, Nicole, Mark and I had a quick bite to eat in MacDonalds. On the plus side, Commando enjoyed the race and got a half marathon PB. On the minus side, I walked over twelve miles trying to catch up with him and I never did get my coffee.

The next weekend it was back to Bournemouth for a Hampshire Cross Country League Race. As Bournemouth is actually in Dorset it seemed like quite an odd choice of venue. Thankfully this wasn’t such an early start but we did get stuck in a horrible traffic jam on the motorway and were almost late. Commando enjoyed the race. I’m not sure I enjoyed standing in the mud taking photos of him running round the same tree three times but I got some good photos, even if there was no chance of a walk.

Of course, in between the races there were all the normal Saturday morning parkruns too. All in all, October seemed to be nothing but one long whirl of runs. The biggest one came at the end of the month but it really deserves a post all to itself…

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Winchester and Storm Ali

23 September 2018

At the end of the driest, hottest, sunniest summer since 1976, it was a touch disappointing when the day of the Winchester Half Marathon turned out to be one of the wettest, windiest days of the whole year, thanks to Storm Ali. The doom and gloom weather warnings didn’t exactly fill us with confidence but Commando was pacing the race so we wrapped up as best we could and set off bright and early. Continue reading Winchester and Storm Ali

Winchester, the last of the parkrun tourism

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.  Continue reading Winchester, the last of the parkrun tourism

Lymington, parkrunning and fairy doors

25 August

For three whole days after my last Running School session, I could barely walk. On day one, Commando laughed every time I groaned and winced as I tried to get out of the chair. It was slightly better on day two but I still looked like an elderly lady who had lost her walking frame. Yesterday I managed to get up the big hill without stopping, but it was slow, painful progress. Oddly, my Achilles hadn’t hurt at all, throughout this epic DOMS extravaganza, my calves were the problem. Today, apart from a little residual calf tenderness, normal service was more or less resumed and we were off to Lymington for another spot of parkrun tourism.   Continue reading Lymington, parkrunning and fairy doors

Parkrun tourism, a return to Cams Mill

11 August 2018

There are hundreds of parkrun venues all over the world and, in Hampshire alone, there are nineteen different parkruns to choose from. Usually we go to the Southampton parkrun because it’s easy for us to get to and we know almost everyone there. For ages though, we have been talking about doing more parkrun tourism. This weekend Rob decided he wanted to see what Fareham parkrun was like. We had actually been before, back in June last year, but we both liked the venue so we said we’d go along too.  Continue reading Parkrun tourism, a return to Cams Mill

Below Bar deckchairs

31 July 2018

CJ and I had spent the morning walking in large circles up and down town from the precinct to Bedford Place looking for giant deckchairs. So far, with quite a lot of doubling back and grumbling from CJ, we’d found all the chairs at the top end of town. Now we had a proper map, rather than a badly cropped photo on my phone, the Below Bar chairs should be a little easier to find. In fact, I’d already seen the next three on the list on a shopping trip with Commando at the weekend.  Continue reading Below Bar deckchairs

Giant deckchairs and a beach in the city

31 July 2018

On Thursday, after my missed Running School appointment, there was an Itchen Spitfires Run and Talk event. Commando and I led the very small, but select, walking group, of injured runners Rosie and Maria. There is a giant deckchair trail going on in the city centre so, to make things interesting, the runners were dashing off to see how many of them they could find. As the closest deckchair was around one and a half miles from our starting point at The Feather our slow, slightly hobbling, group didn’t quite make it. We ended up resting our weary limbs in Queens Park instead. We walked back via Oxford Street, where Commando amused some lost American Tourists with the tale of his great grandfather missing the Titanic. Continue reading Giant deckchairs and a beach in the city

Thunder Run miles and miles

21 & 22 July 2018

When the runners finally began to emerge from their tents, blearily rubbing the sleep from their eyes, I was sitting under the gazebo in a garden chair alternately reading Joanne Harris’ Runelight on my kindle and dozing. My dawn walk of the course felt like a strange dream but there were a handful of photos on my phone to prove it had happened and my leg and back felt better for it. Now there was a burst of activity. A big, one pan, breakfast of sausage, bacon, tomatoes and eggs was cooked, mostly by Kim, hot chocolate and coffee was consumed. Running gear was put on along with race numbers and timing chips were strapped to ankles. At midday the race would be starting. Continue reading Thunder Run miles and miles

A sleepless night and a walk on the Thunder Run course

21 July 2018

In the end the rain last night came to nothing much. We moved our chairs under Rob and Kim’s gazebo and sat sipping hot chocolate and eating peanuts waiting for the thunder to start. It was certainly humid enough for it and watching a storm under canvas might have been fun. As it was, there was just light rain for a while and the smell of warm dry earth soaking it up thirstily. It was all over before we went to bed. Continue reading A sleepless night and a walk on the Thunder Run course