Goodbye, hello, Remembrance and mud

10 November 2018

The end of October brought the end of the warm weather. It had been one of the longest, hottest summers in living memory and getting out jumpers, hats and gloves seemed like a welcome change of pace. So, wrapped up warm against the chilly autumn air, we set off across a Common softened by mist and bathed in golden light for our second parkrun of the month. It was going to be a day for goodbyes.

Goodbyes are not usually happy occasions but, in this case, no one was actually going anywhere. John, the Southampton parkrun Event Director for the last three years and his wife Rachel who’s is a regular Run Director, had decided to step down. Overseeing one of the biggest parkruns in the country, regular Run Directing and being chairman and welfare officer of a running club while holding down full time paid jobs are far more work than most people realise. John and Rachel were well overdue a bit of time to rest and relax.

John’s favourite band, Ukulele Jam, had turned up to surprise him and there was a general air of festivity about the event. Before RD, Kate, got into her pre run briefing, Rob presented John and Rachel with a beautiful framed map of the parkrun course. Rob is one of Southampton parkrun’s most experienced RD’s and he will now he be taking over the ED reigns.

As soon as the goodbyes and hello’s were over I tramped across the grass to the Old Cemetery. This is always my favourite part of Saturday morning and, with the hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I coming up, I had more than an inkling there’d be something interesting to see. The still misty morning light burnished the autumn leaves and turned the cemetery paths into a cathedral of colour.

My aim was the chapel at the far end of the main path but the scatterings of bright berries, the moon in the deep blue sky and dappled sun on interesting graves threatened to distract me with every step. The Old Cemetery is difficult to walk through with any purpose, there is just so much to see everywhere.

It was well worth persevering and ignoring all the things that caught my eye along the way. When I reached the chapel I discovered one of the interesting commemorative sculptures that have popped up all over the city. These cast iron figures were created by the Royal British Legion to mark the centenerary of the armistice as reminders of all those who died.

This one was a suffragette. She caused a bit of a stir amongst those who didn’t fully understand the role the suffrage movement played in World War I. Before the war some women waged a campaign of civil disobedience, violence and hunger strikes. In 1914, when war broke out, the suffragists and suffragettes put aside their battle for equality and did all they could to help the war effort. They set up hospital units in France and helped at home by taking on jobs that would previously have been done by men. Their actions proved, once and for all, that women were capable of doing men’s jobs and more than worthy of the vote.

While the statue in the Cemetery was no surprise to me the tea lights candles and lanterns all around the war memorial were unexpected. There were dozens of them, many actually alight, in all different shapes, sizes and colours. Who put them there is a mystery but it was a beautiful and moving tribute to those who died. For some time I stood looking at them and thinking about the sacrifices made in those dark days.

Much as I’d have liked to stay a little longer and maybe visit some of the other war graves, I had to get back to parkrun. There was just time for a quick look at the Belgian soldiers memorial. This too was surrounded by glass lanterns.

A few spots of rain were falling as I walked back across the grass. They didn’t come to anything though, apart from a rainbow over the parkrun finish funnel. Tempting as it was to go off in search of a pot of gold on the trail around Cemetery Lake, Commando and I had to leave quick smart. We had another race to go to in the afternoon.

The race in question was the next Hampshire Cross Country League event in Aldershot. Commando had never been there before and my only experience of it was a brief visit in June 2012 to see His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the Aldershot football stadium. Suffice to say we got lost. It also began raining torrentially which didn’t help matters much.

Eventually we found the place but couldn’t find a way into the car park. In the end we parked up at the side of a lane some distance away and traipsed through the rain and mud to the start line. It didn’t look like it was going to be a fun afternoon in the slightest.

The course could best be described as a quagmire, there had been two earlier races so the wet ground was well churned up before the race even began. The rain was so hard I abandoned any thought of getting my fancy camera out and, instead, stood dripping, squinting through my foggy glasses and tried my best with my phone. Commando was almost gleeful at the sight of it. He’d just bought some new spikes for his running shoes and was pleased to be able to test them out. Have I mentioned that runners are very strange people?

If lap one had seemed bad, lap two was even worse. The rain had been falling steadily and the runners had turned the mud into a dirty pond. Photos were getting harder and harder to take, mainly because everyone was so covered in mud it was difficult to recognise them.

There was a third lap, but, by then, I’d put my phone away and given up trying to take pictures, although I did whip it out once, to capture a very wet, muddy Commando heading for the finish. This was undoubtedly the muddiest cross country race I’ve ever watched. Later I learned there was a small stream on the woodland part of the course. On lap one it was easy to step over. By lap two it required leaping. On the final lap the stream had grown to such proportions the runners had to wade through. Still, it did wash off some of the mud briefly.

At the start of the day, in the soft mist and dawn light, putting on a jumper, hat and gloves seemed like a pleasant novelty. What I hadn’t bargained for was needing a dry robe and waders by the afternoon. Suddenly autumn and cross country race spectating didn’t seem quite so charming after all.

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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

Slip sliding to the final running school 28 August

28 August 2018

Today was my final Running School session and I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or sad. The previous sessions had all been extremely tough, pushing me to my limits but there was something almost enjoyable, in a masochistic way, about being tested and getting through it. Maybe enjoyable isn’t the right word and maybe the joy part when they were over was more about having survived. Either way, I set off this morning with mixed feelings. For once there was a good chance of getting wet along the way and I was actually wearing a thin raincoat. Continue reading Slip sliding to the final running school 28 August

Setting up camp at Thunder Run

20 July 2018

Frankly, a three hour drive to Walton on Trent was probably not the best thing for my back. Two or so hours in, when we reached Warwick Services, I could barely get out of the car. There was some hobbling around, a loo stop, some much needed food and coffee and then it was back to the car for another interminable, painful hour. At least there was a hotel at the end of it and a chance to walk around, albeit like an old lady who’s lost her walking frame. No photos were taken, apart from one of the hotel door so I’d remember the number when I came back from my hobbling. All this, was yesterday and it was just the precursor to Thunder Run, a twenty four hour endurance race. As far as I could see, at that point, I’d already endured quite enough and it hadn’t even begun yet.  Continue reading Setting up camp at Thunder Run

Storm Damage

23 April 2018

Back in 2016, when Commando, CJ and I worked so hard to build my summerhouse, we could never have dreamed it would end this way. Nothing lasts forever but, as we painted and hefted and built, we believed the pretty little house would grace our garden for many years to come. It was the perfect place to sit in the shade on a sunny afternoon, a place to plant seeds, relax and sometimes even write. When we got back from the marathon and inspected the damage inflicted by the storm and the flood though, it was clear there’d be no more relaxing, planting or writing.  Continue reading Storm Damage

In which we are entirely surrounded by water

21 April 2018

The peculiar heatwave that began on the night of the RR10 and baked us in thirty degree heat on our walk to Hamble continued for the next couple of days. It had all my running friends a little worried. The Southampton and London marathons were coming up. Everyone had trained in nothing but cold wetness. This morning weather warnings were posted. Marathon day was going to be hot, possibly hotter that the record breaking marathon day in 1996 when temperatures hit 22.7C. Heat is never a good thing when you’re running a marathon. Thunderstorms and heavy showers were forecast for this afternoon too but nothing could have prepared us for what actually happened.  Continue reading In which we are entirely surrounded by water

An accidental run in the woods

18 April 2018

The beginning of April was less April showers and more April downpours. The world seemed to be all about huge puddles, gloopy mud and perpetual dampness. It was also cold, so, just when we should all have been thinking about light spring jackets and losing the layers, we were wrapping up in big coats, scarves and hats instead. None of this made me relish the thought of the first RR10 of the season at Victoria Country Park but, as it was the Spitfires marshalling event, at least I wouldn’t be standing still in the cold and rain.  Continue reading An accidental run in the woods

An amazing perspective on the old walls

28 March 2018

After the snow came the rain. It seemed as if the sky was constantly dropping something on us. Everything was wet. Everything was muddy. Walking was a chore, to be got over with as soon as possible with the least amount of getting wet. Easter was fast approaching but nothing felt very springlike. Miles were travelled as I went about my daily business but my phone stayed firmly in my pocket and my camera stayed at home. Then I read about something I couldn’t bear to miss, rain or no rain.

Continue reading An amazing perspective on the old walls

Lovely weather for ducks

15 March 2018

After the snow came the rain. It seemed to go on and on with one cold, grey, damp day following another. Walking was something to get from a to b as quickly as possible rather than an enjoyment. There was plenty of it but nothing that warranted pulling my phone out of my pocket. Today though, there was a brief dryish spell and I had an errand that took me along the riverbank.  Continue reading Lovely weather for ducks

Five run fifty at fifty – heading for half way

9 February 2018

We passed the runners with loud cheers and honking of the horn as they made their way through Netley Village.  Their next stop would be the Common just after eleven o’clock. We had two hours so we headed to the nearest Starbucks, on London Road. Sitting in the warm drinking coffee felt like heaven after all the standing around in the cold, even if there was a touch of guilt thinking about our runners still pounding the chilly pavements.  Continue reading Five run fifty at fifty – heading for half way