My parkrun A-Z: Itchen Valley Country parkrun

Itchen Valley Country parkrun banner.

My plan on Saturday had been to go to Southampton parkrun to celebrate its 400th event. Stuart was going to do a long run that finished on The Common and I was going to drive there with M. We had a busy weekend planned, so it fitted nicely into our schedule. However, we hadn’t allowed for the weather. When Pete and I were running on Friday we noticed that The Flats on the Common were waterlogged, so the decision to cancel Southampton parkrun was made. As a consequence, I chose to go to the next nearest parkrun that wasn’t cancelled, so that Stu didn’t need to cancel his long run. The nearest parkrun that wasn’t cancelled was Itchen Valley Country parkrun.

Several of my friends were already planning to attend Itchen Valley Country parkrun, so I agreed to give Pete and Khalid a lift.

Arriving at Itchen Valley Country Park

We arrived early and took the first parking space that we saw, rather than looking for one close to the start. After visiting Itchen Valley Country park with Liz a while ago, I was aware that I would need to pay to park and had brought plenty of change with me.

Even though we arrived early, there were already plenty of people there.

There were two ways to get to the start: over a hillock or through a gateway. I had M in the buggy and was guiding Khalid (he’s visually impaired), so I thought the gateway would be the better option, although it was completely flooded.

© Sarah Wilson
My buddy Pete before the parkrun. © Paul A. Hammond

Once we were onto the main field, we had plenty of time to chat with fellow parkrunners.

My friend Sarah was one of the high-vis heroes. ©Helen Rees

I also realised that my favourite local running photographer, Paul Hammond, was present.

© Paul A. Hammond
© Paul A. Hammond

The run briefing

Run Director Milz Dechnik before the inaugural briefing. ©Helen Rees

Milz, a fellow Run Director at Southampton parkrun, was the Run Director at Itchen Valley Country parkrun. She spoke clearly and described the course. It looks quite a confusing route on paper, but I figured that I’d have people to follow, so I wouldn’t need to memorise where I was going!

Before we started, a young girl came over and told me that she’d done the test run and that I wouldn’t manage to get around the course with a buggy. I’ve run at Itchen Valley Country park on a number of occasions in the past, so I felt confident that I could do it, even if it was a slow run. I also spoke with my friend Rachel, who usually runs with a buggy. She was child-free, so agreed that she would run with me and help with the buggy. I had seen someone else with a four-wheeled buggy and did wonder whether she would be OK.

The first lap of the field

The first 100m was ‘splashy’. There was standing water in some parts of the field and other parts were muddy. I saw a couple of people lose shoes, so I was grateful that I had on my Salomon Speedcross trail shoes with quick laces. M ended up with some mud splashed on her face, which she thought was hilarious.

Khalid and his guide Sergio. © Paul A. Hammond

I was feeling exhausted after my long run on Friday and I’ve not been getting enough sleep recently. M still hasn’t got over her chest infection and I’m still not 100% either. I was really grateful when Rachel offered to take the buggy at the far side of the field. She’s also been ill but is much fitter than I am.

After doing a full lap of the first field, we headed out into the woods. Although there were puddles and mud, this section was much firmer underfoot.

Rachel and I enjoyed catching up with each other and the novelty of the route. There were twists and turns along the way, which was a real change from the tarmac straights at Southampton.

© Paul A. Hammond

Out into the other field

When we got out into the second field, the ground was churned up and there was a large puddle. We decided to steer around it. It would lose us some time, but we knew we weren’t on for a fast time.

There was an incline at the far side of the field, which was probably the toughest part of the run. When Stu pushed M at Eastleigh, he found that the wheels on the buggy logged and he slid through the mud. We didn’t have that problem at Itchen Valley Country parkrun, but we both pushed the buggy up the hill.

Stuart heading towards the finish. © Paul A. Hammond

When we got to the 3.4km hairpin, Stuart was waiting. He had already finished, so we gave him the buggy. This meant that Rachel and I could run the last mile without the buggy.

The last mile

After running across the field, there was another woodland section.

© Paul A. Hammond

I think that if Rachel and I had got this far with the buggy, we would have found this section much easier than the previous part. My legs and lungs were aching, so we didn’t pick up the pace much.

So how did I do?

I hadn’t really thought about where the finish was, so when it came into sight, it was a pleasant surprise. (I’d just assumed that it might be back on the starting field, even though Milz had commented that the start and finish weren’t in the same place).

© Paul A. Hammond

It was a slow run, but one of the most enjoyable events that I’ve taken part in.

This was my 330th parkrun, but more significantly for me, it was my 50th different parkrun venue. It was also an I for my parkrun alphabet. I now just need to get J, Q, V, Y and Z. Depending on whether new events start this year, I’m currently planning where to do them and anticipate that it will be:

I’ve no firm plan for Z but think it’s most likely to be Zillmere. (This is slightly risky as it could become O’Callaghan parkrun in the future). Zillmere parkrun is 20km from where my sister lives in Brisbane and I hope we get to visit her in the next couple of years.

Pete and I with mud up to our knees. © Sarah Wilson
©Sarah Wilson

Despite all of the mud, I absolutely loved this run and will be back again when it’s a bit drier!

Did you do any parkrun tourism on Saturday?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

%d bloggers like this: