Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (The Atlantic “sea”quel)

As with all great sequels you wonder whether they’ll match up to the original. My first experience of the Woolacombe Dunes parkrun (WDp from now on) was September 2021, so, seven months later here I was eagerly awaiting my second experience of this breath taking course.

Breath taking in terms of the location and views, breath taking in terms of the sapping sandy beach and sand dunes !! Once parked I strolled along the Marine Drive headland looking down at the never ending waves rolling in from the Atlantic Ocean currents. Yes the weather was overcast but the setting was undeniably stunning.

Woolacombe is a glorious, award winning beach, however, it is also quite exposed, so the flapping National Trust flag was definitely a indication of the onshore breeze . Would the wind be in our favor, of course not, ha ha !! I’d anticipated a challenging 5K and the elements, as well as the course, were living up to the billing.

As I approached a cluster of volunteers they were discussing last weeks large Easter Bank Holiday turnout, I myself, was on a family visit so I could also class my attendance as parkrun tourism. Once I’d chatted and thanked the guys they mentioned there were two runners from my local area and sure enough I bumped into a couple, one with a Stubbington Green top and one a Hedge End runners top, small world.

While warming up along the first section of the course I was reminded of a question from twitter that I’d been asked, “with this being badged as a beach run, would a barefoot runner manage”. Well the headland road is made of pretty rough tarmac and there’s a number of loose stones so unless you have leather feet then perhaps not.

On listening to the course briefing I spotted Simon Oliver who was the organizer of the AONB North Devon marathon when I ran it in 2013. I introduced myself and as we chatted I glanced down at the time 8.55, all ready for the “off” and then I mouthed under my breath, “shit, barcode !!” So, I legged it in a very unprofessional way back to the car, rescued my parkrun barcode from the glove compartment and returned slightly red faced but luckily just in time for our final instructions and the 9am start.

The first significant change of direction at WDp is a sharp diagonal right hand turn that drops quite quickly down into the sand dunes. Inevitably, our well spread out initial numbers, would need to channel onto this path which would fit three abreast, with a push. The excitement and impending need for positioning got the better of me and I started of far too quickly !!

We’ve all done it but by now you’d think experience would play a part in a more measured strategy, nope, I over cooked it. You live and learn ha ha !! . As I caught my breath the solid path then gave way to a left hand turn with undulating sand as we worked our way down towards the beach. It’s worth noting there’s quite a steep final ten meters or so of shifting loose sand that brings you onto the more compact beach sand.

As this photo suggests the field was already well strung out after the first mile and while this would have been impressive on any day the fact that the wind was most definitely against us meant the guys ahead really were performing well. I came into this run with limited expectations so I wasn’t going to fret about the distance between me and the leaders, I figured I had the advantage of more time to enjoy it !!

We’d be advised that there might been horse riders on the beach, and to take care, but I didn’t spot any, only the white crests of the the waves which as I child I remember us calling sea horses.

Following Issac Newtons laws of gravity I figured that whenever you go downhill inevitably you’ll need to go back up again and there, looming in the distance, was the famous dune of doom. In a weird way I was a little disappointed there wasn’t someone capturing our tortured faces on film, a bit like those flattering theme park rides photos you get just before your stomach rises towards your throat.

I commented to the chap next to me how the sand dune felt like a sadistic game show, what was it ? Takeshis Castle ? The lung bursting and calf screaming was, however, only momentarily painful as we made our way across the dunes, parallel with the beach and back towards that steep downhill path which again thanks to Issac was now our final uphill slog.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I love pushing myself and questioning my ability, by definition a challenge accepted is a challenge to embrace. I reverted to “walking with purpose” which can be quite effective. After thanking the marshal at the top of the hill, honest, I did thanks him, it was the final rough tarmac leg before accepting and handing in my token.

My final photo is of the Porthole cafe that has seating inside and out as well as toilets on the right hand side of the building which means parkrunners can use “all” of the facilities. A large queue formed quite quickly for the refreshments which is always a good indication.

So, in summary, I thoroughly enjoyed my second experience of the North Devon coastline “rollercoaster” also know as Woolacombe Dunes parkrun. If you are in the area it’s a bucket list box ticked. Thankyou to everyone that made the run possible. I will no doubt return for my hattrick of parkruns here at these three and a bit miles of sandy smiles.

Thanks for reading ….. Roger

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun – A sandy challenge !!

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun, lets take these three words one at a time. Woolacombe, is a seaside resort on the North Devon coast. The resort beach has a fantastic two mile stretch of golden sand that faces the Atlantic Ocean and draws in tourists all year round.

The dunes are the area of sand between the beach and the headland that have been blow into mounds or small hills and require a good amount of energy to scale. The 230 feet elevation gain might not sound too much but the majority of the course is sand and the icing on the cake is the Dune of Doom !!

parkrun is an all inclusive, 5 kilometer, world wide phenomenon for anyone that wants to run, jog or walk that distance on a Saturday morning at 9 a.m.

This is my run review of a course that sites in National Trust land, includes the South West coastal path and proudly relishes its North Devon AONB status (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).

Woolacombe Dunes parkrun has been labelled the toughest in the UK and it has been on my bucket list for a while, I can confirm that the event lives up to its billing and on top of the difficulty the inspiring views almost make up for the lung and calf busting test that you experience.

Parking on top of the headland the beach’s full glory takes your breath away, facilities wise the Porthole cafĂ© has toilets and naturally tempting food and drink on offer. I arrived early so as to get my bearings and have a chat with Paul Cooper the race director. Parkrun simply wouldn’t exist without the volunteers who cover all that’s required to give us a great run, so thankyou to Woolacombe’s volunteers.

Our run briefing was informative and entertaining, lets say we all knew what was in store and we all knew we were in good hands.

142 of us set off in an orderly fashion due to the width of Marine Drive, at the standard 9 a.m. time. The first 400 meters were slightly quicker than I’d planned but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who did this, however, it allowed us to space out. A sharp right hand turn took us onto a compacted track that was no more than ten feet wide and quite steep. In no time at all we took a sharp left hand turn onto the South West coastal path, a sandy undulating track that immediately introduced you to the “sand factor” that would play a part in the rest of our run. The ferns and rough grass either side of the track made it easy to see where the trail was heading.

Apparently according to studies running on sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on a hard surface. Yes, our friend “Lactic acid” was about to kick in. That burning sensation in your lungs and muscles is a sure sign you really are trying your best.

The undulating path then took a steep drop down to the beach, so care was needed as your momentum meant your feet sunk quite deeply into the shifting sand. As we hit the beach it was a magnificent sight, no wonder it’s an award winner !! This was the first mile done and with hindsight, the easiest mile of the three.

Next a mile of beach running and what immediately struck me was just how far the leading pace setters were ahead. However, first things first, this is a run and not a race. The sand was reasonably good underfoot but still with that slight “sinking” sensation. We had lots of room with it being out of Summer season, no jellyfish, children’s sand castles or Dad’s buried up to necks to avoid !!

The white water of the breaking Atlantic waves, the squawks of seagulls overhead and the salty taste in the air all added to the seaside vibe but even though nature was trying to offer us wellbeing and mindful distractions the inevitable trip back up the sand dunes couldn’t be disguised.

The golden sand is clearly what beings tourism to the area and I, like the majority of the parkrun tourists that have run here, contemplated how lovely it would be to live here.

As the two mile mark approached so did the Dune of Doom. A twenty meter incline that had our names nailed on it, character building, yes, painful, yes but that said, an experience to remember.

With seventy odd runners already having scaled the dune with was a mixed blessing. The imbedded footprints were almost like stepping stones to aim for so as not to interrupt new shifting sand but at the same time where the sand had been churned up it gave you an unbalanced feeling.

The lactic acid in my lungs and calves had hit in big time and there was almost a sense of an anxiety dreams when you are running with lots of effort but not actually getting anywhere !!

What encouraged me was the fact that I overtook a coupe of people with my fast walking and once at the top there was definitely a “Rocky” moment when he runs to the top of those stairs in the film. However, there was no time to dwell on reaching the top it was a case of trying to get back into a rhythm and trying to even out you breathing.

We were once again on the sandy Coastal path with a repeat of the undulating trail until, as I suspected, we joined the compacted path that that took us up the headland to Marine Drive. The speed that I generated on my return was in stark contrast to almost having to put the breaks on coming down.

Again, aggressive fast walking and some slow running were required. Thankfully the lactic acid kicked in for the final time. However, with only the prospect of 400 meters left once summitted this spurred me on to dig deep and find my “inner fell runner”. Once we hit that home straight it was still curiously uphill when it felt quite flat at the beginning of our 5K.

I guess these are the tricks our mind plays on us when we are fresh and when we are done in, ha ha.

I took out my parkrun barcode, thanked the volunteer for scanning the tags and briefly thanked Paul the Race Director with my final words being “I’ll be back”. The event is a great partnership between the National Trust land and the spirit of parkruns inclusive community running . Naturally there are hundreds of parkruns up and down the country but this is a special one.

Time wise 33.40 and position wise 76th out of 142 wasn’t too bad but I know I can do better now I know what’s involved. Whether this review has wet your appetite or confirmed that you will be steering well clear thanks for reading.

In summary, if you look up the words scenic or challenging in the dictionary there will be a picture of Woolacombe Dunes parkrun but it’s the same picture when you look up rewarding too . A great day, a tick on my bucket list and a pleasure writing about it.

Cheers, Roger

The Parkrun Spirit, #HNY2020

Image-28It’s January 1st 2020 and it’s 9 a.m. , why is that time significant …… because it’s parkrun o’clock. Fareham parkrun is about a miles jog away from me so it was the perfect choice for a New Years day run.

I talked to at least twenty people most of who I knew but also a few that I didn’t because it was that kind of a day. Like minded people gathered together with their hopes, targets and expectations for 2020 all ahead of them and with running being the common denominator.

Up and down the country thousands of runners would have been looking forward to running into 2020 with a double parkrun (10.30 a.m. being the second option) however, I had to be back on “Dad’s taxi duties”. I wanted to blog about my morning run because I left with a real glow of running community spirit.

Now, I must stress that I don’t actually run many of these 5K events that have revolutionised running over the last decade but in many ways this allows me to make fresh observations.

From the minute I arrived there was a buzz, positivity filled the air, smiling faces, laughter and enthusiasm could be seen in abundance, it was almost as if this was an awards ceremony or maybe a wedding !! The impression I was left with was that this was the start of a decade and that people were enjoying the moment but looking ahead to future possibilities. All 480 of them !!

New Years Day is naturally a day for looking forwards, for hope and new beginnings but couple that with healthy exercise and a commitment that had made everyone consider their previous nights celebrations, just so that they could attend a run at nine a.m. the following morning, then you have a truly special occasion.

At this point I think its really important to say that the parkrun movement wouldn’t work without the constant offers from all the volunteers and today was no exception, again, up and down the country. Hats off to all the volunteers.

If you could bottle and sell this atmosphere you’d be a rich man, in no time at all 🙂

You may have noticed that I’ve used a generic parkrun photo and that’s because I didn’t take any photos and that’s because I didn’t use my phone. This fact was the other overriding impression I was left with, people were actively talking to each other, engaging, discussing and most of all enthusing 🙂

The run itself is an out and back route which perfectly lends itself to yet more positivity with name checking, high fives and banter being exchanged.

On this occasion I won’t be quoting who I talked to, times or positions because the occasion was what I wanted to write about. I know the other fifty one parkruns a year are positive but I just felt that todays date had extra meaning.

The couple near to me on the start line summed the morning up, “who’d have thought we’d have been doing this a decade ago !! “, yes, I suspect thousands of people would have either said this or contemplated it today.

On a personal note I’d like to say thanks to Francis who approached me and said, “you don’t know me but I enjoy reading your blog” that was very kind and I really appreciated it. Thanks to everyone that reads my blogs 🙂

Happy New Year #2020 the running community is in good hands with the phenomena that is parkrun .

HNY Rog

 

 

 

Cancer Awareness & the Parkrun Spirit

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Saturdays 14 miler had just about everything that’s great about our local running community and the unseasonably warm weather complimented the warm welcome that the 5K Your Way – Move Against Cancer guys received from regulars at the Lee-On-The-Solent Parkrun 

My plan for the morning was ……….

Head over towards Titchfield village, then along the canal to the sea, follow the coast along to the parkrun, meet Sue and her Cancer Awareness group, run the 5K and then head back home.

So, first things first, who are 5K Your Way- Move Against Cancer ? Well, “in their own words”, they are a support group with a difference. A community based initiative to encourage those living with and beyond cancer, their families, friends and those working in cancer services to walk, jog, run, cheer or volunteer at a local 5k Your Way parkrun event, on the last Saturday of every month.

I first became aware of the group after seeing a twitter post by Sue Rourke and then reading the following page on the Lee parkrun website … Click on this link !!

Considering that we live in an age when small deeds are labelled as “epic” or someone that buys you a pint is a “legends” Sue, really is, inspirational.

I’d encourage everyone reading my blog to click on the link above and take the time to read about a lady who has incurable cancer and is fighting it on her own terms by encouraging others to come along. Sue, who has run 5K’s and up to a marathon is part of a national network of such groups that parkrun has embraced.

The seven miles that took me to Lee included a favourite stretch of mine, the Titchfield Canal. I met Keith from Fareham Crusaders on route and then saw a number of other running friends as I looked for Sue and her group.

112leeTo be honest I was quite surprised at the size of the 5K My Way group and as Sue lined us up for the photo that starts my blog it was clear a good 50 extra people would be participating in the parkrun.

I chatted to Sue and her passion for the project shone through.

Some ran, sum jogged, some walked but everyone followed in the parkrun tradition of encouraging each other. Becky from the group gave everyone new to the parkrun experience a briefing and then this was followed by a warm introduction from the event director.

Lee parkrun is an out and back course so there are numerous occasions on which you pass each other. Naturally this meant “well done” “thank you” and “keep going” were all terms used over and over again.

Unfortunately, on this occasion, I couldn’t hang around at the end to chat more because I still had a few miles left to run but luckily I saw both Sue and Becky as I headed back up the coast. I stopped and chatted to both ladies promising that I’ll be back in four weeks time (April 27th) when I can spend more time getting to understand their supportive work.

I recognised a whole host of Fareham Crusaders, Gosport Road Runners and other friends from our local area that all share and contribute to the parkrun spirit. As of today another fifty people joined our community and I’ve got a feeling the two groups will benefit each other.

Lets out run cancer together.

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This is my Strava map from today with the parkrun being the furthest stretch along the coast. With the breaks in my running the pace dropped off a bit but hey !! “who cares”, today was a memorable morning.

My family, just like so many others, has been affected by cancer which is why I was keen to write this blog.

Thanks for reading and please, follow those links for some truly inspirational reading.

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

QE Parkrun – Running through the countyside

qeqeSaturday 9 a.m. used to be no different to 8 or 10 a.m. until parkruns appeared. A parkrun is just that, a run in a park, there isn’t the pressure of a race number and it really is all inclusive.

Last week myself, Paul and Nikki had planned to visit Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP), starting with the QE parkrun and then carrying on along the South Downs Way for some extra training.

This post is a thank you to the volunteers that hosted the event and a description of our experience which I’d thoroughly recommend. Parkrun tourism has become quite a feature of the 5K revolution so I hope this wets your appetite for a visit !!

QECP was originally planted in the 1930’s and the forested rolling terrain extends for quite a considerable area. The predominantly beech trees are managed by the Forestry Commission and the whole area sits within the wider South Downs National Park.

With BBQ’s, picnic areas, adventure playgrounds and an assault course, for “older children”, why limit yourself to just running the 5K, take the family and make a morning of it.

With a visitors centre full of local information and a café you really are spoilt !!

qeHave I wet your appetite yet ??

Once I’d mentioned on social media that we were visiting QECP I had tweets from both Dwayne and Paul, who are local running friends of mine and are part of the team that volunteers.

As we gathered for the pre run address we were told to expect gravel paths, trails and grass which was music to my ears. Joanne also joined us for one of Paul’s photo opportunities. Running through all that nature has to offer is such a privilege and a joy. The trees sway with the chilly breeze, there’s occasional bird song and you are breathing in clean crisp air.

The course is a two loop route with some challenging elevation but nothing that can’t be walked with a purposeful stride or run depending on your level of fitness. We were ushered slightly further up the first gravel hill so as to reach the official start point.

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Runners of all ages, abilities and motivations stood like coiled springs ready for the 9 a.m. start. Quite a few canine companions we wagging their tails in anticipation and we were off !!

The adrenaline soon kicked in as we climbed this first hill, conversations we quickly replaced with the huffing and puffing of the task at hand. This first hill didn’t last too long and naturally following the premise that what goes up must come down we were guided to quite a long downhill section.

Luckily the weather has been dry so a fair amount of caution could be thrown to the wind as we plummeted down the grassy slope. Turning right at the bottom of the hill you are presented with a combination chalk and grass to run on, as you make your way back to the start, and the end of the first smaller lap.

Climbing the original hill is now more taxing as you start from the bottom and follow the trail for longer up to the 3K marker. That said, you have the benefit of the marshals and well wishers at this half way point to spur you on.

Hills are a great training exercise so my advice would be to treat them as just that. Repeat after me … “hills are good for my running”. Down land areas break up some of the forest so as to give you views through the trees and maybe even a deer if you are lucky.

Once past the 3K mark you benefit from a more gradual drop in elevation and then you are back to the chalk and grass. Through 4K its a case of mustering what you have left and concentrating on your breathing.

This is the home straight as you approach the tokens and barcode finish, you’ll be emptying the tank from this point.

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So, this parkrun in the beautiful countryside comes highly recommended, throw in some hills and you have an all round workout for the body and mind. As an introduction to trail running the QE parkrun is an excellent starting point and scores highly on my wellbeing chart.

You may not come away with a personal best but you’ll be rewarded with a morning running through nature and pondering just how soon you’ll be returning.

Thanks, as always, must go the volunteers who make this, and every other parkrun work.

Enjoy your running …. Roger

Running 5k the Parkrun way

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Five kilometres / 5,000 meters / 3.1 miles, however you look at it this distance will now forever be associated with parkrun .

Fareham’s Cams Hall estate had a cold and crisp feeling to it but when combined with the Autumn sunshine and the waters edge track, it makes for a great location.

With 342 people eagerly awaiting the standard nine a.m. start I observed the multi-coloured assembly of people in their running/walking attire. I pondered what do these weekly events mean to people.

To Mo Farah it’s a 13 minute romp, however, with the average Fareham parkrun time being 30.20 this shows what an all inclusive fitness phenomenon parkrun has become and ………… it’s free !!

Now, it’s worth saying at this point that I’ve only done 16 parkruns, however, I’ve been running for thirty years and I can honestly say the fact that no one has a race number pinned to their chest “really” does make a huge difference. Taking away the pressurised feel of a race means you can run/walk or jog at its purest form. You are running for you, whatever your goals are.

An unbelievable 1,803,378 people had participated in parkrun ahead of this Saturday, that’s in the UK – not Fareham !! 🙂

 

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What also makes parkrun unique is the army of volunteers and the core teams within this. Setting up, marshalling, token sorting, result publishing and packing up … it all takes time, effort and dedication. These volunteers are the ultimate reason for parkruns success.

I bumped into numerous local club runners, some who I see on the trails and some who I haven’t seen for ages. There were people from work and complete family groups who’s kids I’d never met before.

The course quickly skirts Fareham creek and runs parallel with the golf course. Another enjoyable feature is that it’s an out and back route so you get the chance to say hello or well done to potentially every single person taking part !! The track is fairly narrow so be warned as the fast boys come back towards you at quite a rate 🙂

After the initial rush of blood I found my pace and eased off slightly. Three miles need pacing just the same as a marathon !! Set off too fast and you’ll regret it. As we passed the boats bobbing up and down in the creek my first mile was 7.55 and I had Martin and Debbie that I know as markers ahead.

The pace meant my lungs were certainly being worked harder than normal and as I passed Alison marshalling at half way I knew I’d need to maintain this effort. The motivation of numerous shout outs, given and received, can’t be underestimated and even though the second mile dipped a little I geared myself up for the final push. In the end I was just outside my pace but regardless of this I had a big smile on my face.

I generally run my marathons at a 9/10/11 minute pace so a time of 25.06 was quite pleasing (8 minute miles) and so was my 85th position. Talking with Dave and Amy that I know, below, we all agreed Fareham is a great location and the 9 a.m. start sets you up for a productive day.

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So, in summary, to all my running readers we know parkrun is a great community event and its worth making time to pop along more often, I know I will.

Secondly, to the wider blogging community if you’ve heard about parkrun but haven’t ventured along ….. as a famous clothes manufacturer says #justdoit !! The benefits aren’t just physical, there’s a whole new community waiting to welcome you.

Find a parkrun near you with this map UK events

Thanks for reading

Roger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE talks Parkrun

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Solent University’s huge lecture theatre screen gave the 100 + guests attending an evening with Mr Parkrun himself, Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE the opportunity to watch and hear from a man who has realised his running vision. Hosting the evening was Mathew Fleet (who’d invited me) a lecturer at Solent, a fellow Fareham Crusader and an avid parkrun enthusiast.

Mathew underlined just how parkrun Southsea has had a huge positive effect on his family with photos of him running with his daughters and his brother, a nice personal touch when introducing Paul. The photo below is of our host, our speaker and the funky Solent University.

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The running community were out in force this evening, bloggers, parkrun directors, junior parkrun directors, running event organisers, dedicated parkrun volunteers and park runners. I recognised a good ten people from our local area.

What I liked most about the evening was that Paul Sinton-Hewitt (lets go with PSH) charted the emergence of parkrun right up to its current position of potential world domination with frequent references to the many contributors that make up the slices of  a parkrun pie.

Naturally a large slice is PSH himself, he currently holds the title of Founder which seems to suits him very well in that he can spend time talking to audiences such as ours, while still having an influence on the wider activities of this ever expanding phenomenon.

The parkrun pie first came out of the oven on October 2nd 2004 with 13 runners attending the Bushy Park time trial. This free, timed, 5K run with results and coffee to follow was pretty much the same as it is today. It expanded through the London suburbs, spread to Leeds via Marathon Talks Tom Williams, through the UK and around the world.

The ingredients for the parkrun pie haven’t really changed from the list PSH cooked up in 2014. Community running for absolutely anyone in the community, no charges and an open invite to return whenever it suits you.

From listening to PSH he talked with both affection and pride regarding probably the biggest slice of the parkrun pie, the volunteers. After all the runs quite simply wouldn’t function without these guys. When he said parkruns were free in every sense of the word ultimately I guess volunteers are free to come and go but they appear to have built up their own separate community. Paul used the phrase “giving something back” which sums up the volunteers contribution.

He mentioned the fact that naturally runners volunteered but many of the people who contribute never run themselves.

With PSH developing the registration system from his IT background then this really did enable him to keep everything at the grass roots level. Paul also acknowledged that the post run coffee and conversations were as much a part of the volunteering as the encouragement.

I’ve only volunteered once but I must admit but they certainly were “giving” me all I needed.

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Finally the runners, walkers and joggers slice of the pie comes in all sorts of flavours . PSH noted the positives, female participation is higher in parkruns than club races, families run together, Dads cheer on their wives and kids, both parents look on with pride at the junior parkruns, buggy and dog runners are welcome, disabled runners are catered for and the list goes on and on.

The nature of a weekly event means progress can be measured from walking to jogging to running. Whether this translates into entering races is more of an invitation than an expected consequence.

Most importantly a parkrun is just that, a run, through pleasant surroundings and not a race. PSH clearly felt this was a major key to its success.

With parkruns in prisons, parkruns in less advantaged areas and doctors being urged to prescribe the running social engagement of parkruns rather than pills the future looks bright.

So in summary his audience listened with 100% attention and followed it up with a variety of interesting questions. I intend to post this blog to as many non running social media outlets as running ones because parkrun has so much to offer the people that haven’t discovered it. Thanks for reading.

ALL

Generally speaking pies are frowned upon were healthy living is concerned but the parkrun pie has changed lives, probably extended lives and developed a community that’s free to access at 9am every Saturday.

An inspiring evening from an inspiring man.

PSH …….Mr Parkrun, thank you.

 

 

Parkruns : Something for everyone

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As I left Fareham parkrun the one thought that struck me was just how many people it had catered for. In essence a parkrun is a timed 5K, marshalled and organised by volunteers and open to anyone that has registered. We all had our barcodes and we’d all be running but there can be so many motivators for attending.

I thought I’d share my observations on just how well parkrun serves it’s loyal members, without necessarily naming all the people involved !!

Naturally this applies up and down the country and for that matter, across the world.

  1. Family runners. These are such positive scenes with mums & dads encouraging their kids to run. It’s a shared interest, it’s healthy and it’s a great confidence builder.
  2. The first timers. An officially organised race can often be a step too far for people who are working through their walk/jog/run phases. Parkrun is the perfect starting point to chart distances walked, jogged and run. It also offers countless encouraging voices.
  3. The returning from injury runners. Testing your progress outside of a more pressurised race environment can be invaluable.
  4. The returning to fitness runners. Not having run for a while doesn’t always follow on from an injury. Discovering your lost “mojo” in a friendly 5K can make all the difference.
  5. Speed, whether it’s “out and out running speed”, running to complement another sport or like me, it’s good to throw in some lung busting as an alternative to my long steady runs and,
  6. My final observation was simply the communal parkrun spirit that the returning weekly parkrunners share. I don’t parkrun that often as marathons are my distance but “I’ll be back”.

The speed of the results and the fantastic free photos, that are invariably available too, make the experience one to repeat.

Thanks very much to Fareham parkrun, Julie Salt and her team. I enjoyed my run, I loved my photo and I’ll also be back to volunteer at some stage.

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#flying #fareham 🙂

Volunteering at Fareham parkrun

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For all details relating to the Fareham parkrun e.g. location, parking, facilities and todays results you can visit their website here http://www.parkrun.org.uk/fareham/

If you want a relatively flat trail parkrun with estuary and harbour views then you won’t do much better than Fareham. Today I was volunteering as “half way turnaround marshal” which meant I walked out with my orange cone, two signs, hi viz vest and official lanyard.

This blog is also the race report but I thought I’d do something different by writing it from a walking volunteers perspective rather than an actual runners. My aim is simply to encourage more people to both run and volunteer at Fareham and other parkruns

The Fareham parkrun course

After setting off from the Cams Mill public house / car park area there’s a good 360 metres for the runners to string out before taking a right turn onto the Fareham Easy Access Trail which weaves its way around the outskirts of the golf course for a mile. The initially enclosed tunnel of trees and bushes soon gives way to views of the golf course to your left and Fareham Quay to your right. This compacted surface underfoot is also good to run on. By the first 1K you may not have noticed the track has gradually dropped down because you’ve been taking in the views. The next 1K is flat and the views ahead stretch out further down the golf course and across the water where various wading birds can be see.

The end of the Access Trail (2K) is signalled by two benches and the terrain becoming less even underfoot once you start to run on the original coastal path for the remaining 500m. The harbours yachts can now be seen for quite some distance as well as Portsmouth’s Spinnaker Tower on the horizon. The trails wide open views are then reduced by bushes on both sides and this is where I placed my “slow down, turn around point, 20 metres ahead” sign as well as my orange cone, 20m later, to signify half way and hopefully no one falling as they rounded the cone.

Granted an almost “dead” stop to turn around a cone isn’t ideal but with my encouragement ringing in their ears people were soon on their return trip. Naturally the leaders were now returning on the left hand side of the trail. The 3K mark is virtually as you’ve joined the better surfaced trail and the 4K is when the trail bears around to the right. At this 4K point you will defiantly notice the gradual incline, it’s not a hill but if you’ve gone too hard too soon this 500 ish metres will seem a “fairway”. All that’s left then is your original 360 metres back to the finish and a well earned “subsidised” tea or coffee from the pub in its lovely surroundings and patio.

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My “experience” of the Fareham parkrun

Parkruns “do what they say on the tin” they are a run, not a race, in a pleasant area but they also offer more too. As a marshalling volunteer my motivation was simply to “give” something back to our local running community that I enjoy so much but I hadn’t bargained on getting so much back. As soon as I arrived and collected my various accessories (see the photo below) I was thanked by Andrew Smith, todays run director, for offering my services. While I was awaiting my final instructions another chap turned up out of the blue and asked if there were any roles that still needed filling and he was assigned traffic control. I chatted to volunteer Ros, who I know, and not only was she the tail end runner but she was helping set out the start too. Volunteers are “givers” !! I missed Alison that I know from twitter but I saw her at the end, she was timekeeping.

So, as I left the start line and headed out towards my half way marker I was keen to offer my enthusiasm and support. I certainly got some strange looks from a number of walkers, cyclists and a “couch to 5K” lady. They all received my parkrun smile and a quick summary of why I was carrying numerous day-glow banners and an orange cone. The “couch to 5K” lady said she’d definitely return when she had built up her confidence, #converted 🙂

I received countless “thank you marshal” comments as I both encouraged runners and advised them to watch the stones near the turning cone. Numerous Fareham Crusaders got name checked (17 I think) and I have to name Paul Pickford who was running with his guided co runner Richard Twose, this partnership summed up the day really, one runner helping another. As I was at the half way point naturally this meant the inbound runners coming towards me and the outbound on the left running back out.

The parkrun “love” was again evident with the encouragement of fellow runners passing each other in different directions whether they knew them or not. High fives and shout outs are very much a feature of parkruns and it’s great to watch and be a part of, even as a standing volunteer. As Ros came into sight with the two people that were furthest away from the leading runner it was almost disappointing that my involvement was over. Ironically as I walked back thinking this I met up with Chris (photo’d above) who was also marshalling at the 2/4K point and we chatted about how positive the morning had been.

It wasn’t just the lovely surroundings that made today enjoyable it was the parkrun spirit that’s so infectious. Whether you run or volunteer it really is a different kind of running. Old/young, quick/steady, experienced or a novice, as Nike would say, “Just do it” !!

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Fareham’s First parkrun !!

Fareham parkrun has arrived, with the venue being Cams Hall estate and the course being an out and back route along the Fareham Creek Trail . For anyone thinking about running this event the car parking is only a short distance away in the Lysses car park (70p an hour).

Naturally with today being the first running of this event it attracted both local runners, parkrun enthusiasts looking to add a new venue to their list and “first timers”. Armed with my barcode I bumping into fellow Fareham Crusader Nikki Yeo (fresh from last weeks Paris marathon) and Martin de Wied in the car park, there must have been 25 or so Crusaders attending as we gathered near the Cams Mill pub for a photo. The nature of parkrunning also mean quite a few “junior” runners were there too.

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Parkruns are reliant on volunteers and driven by people who want to give the community a chance to improve their fitness. Julie Salt and her team (including Crusaders Sarah Moulding and Tracey Morrison) deserve great credit for the smooth running of this event which, I’m sure, will go from strength to strength. The volunteers also included Alison who I talk to on twitter, great to meet you 🙂

A century ago, Cams Mill was an operational tidal mill. It has recently been recreated in the same style, including traditional features to ensure its history lives on, quite a setting. This sign also caught my eye, naturally it will only apply to a select few runners 🙂

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As the start area filled up (219 ran today) I spotted Stubbington Green runners Andy, Simon, John & Jayne. I also spotted club vests from a number of areas quite a long way out of our local area. With the  starting line being close to the pub this meant there was a good 350 metres or so of wider paths before the route joins the fairly narrow gravel trail. Naturally these 350 metres strung out the field and this worked well to avoid bunching.

DSCF4448There were a certain amount of puddles with some people skirting around them but the path is flat underneath so I personally go straight through the middle. With the early morning sunshine and birds singing in the bushes this all complimented the boats bobbing up and down on the creek to make the 5K very scenic. Crusaders Mike Gilmour and Aaron Sutton both passed me in the opposite direction’s top 15 after a mile or so but it was the huge number of smiling faces and shouts of encouragement that summed up the parkrun spirit. An out and back route really makes an event “all inclusive” rather than the whippets disappearing into the distance.

The last 250 metres bring you in sight of the pub and the finish, I realised I ought to try for 25 minutes so I picked up the pace as if it was close to “last orders”. In the end I clocked 25.19 and was pleasantly surprised this was good enough for 66th out of the 219. Just for the record a young lad got under 17 minutes to come first !!

The patio area outside the pub was soon full of runners relaxing and having a drinks while chatting about how successful the morning had been. So it was a well earned “Cheers” to the whole parkrun team and as an Austrian film star once said, “I’ll be back” !!