The parkrun takes place in Southampton Common, which is pretty close to the city centre. It’s a mile from the train station, and there are plenty of nearby bus stops too.
When choosing a hotel for a weekend away, I look at 3 things: what are the reviews like on trip Advisor, how much is it, and how close is it to the nearest parkrun. Occasionally, I hit a bingo and all 3 of these combine. The Blue Keys Hotel is rated in the top 3 places to stay in the city, it was offering a decent weekend rate, and it was a short and pleasant 10 minute stroll to the common.
There is some car parking by the Northlands Road entrance, but most people seemed to arrive on foot.
There are toilets in the Hawthorns cafe, which at least DOES have access before 9, and many people meet there afterwards for a coffee.
Southampton is a big University town, meaning that there are more charity and kebab shops than you can shake an amusing T shirt bearing the slogan “Never ask an atom , they make up everything” at. It also affects the average age of parkrunners here.
The event began in 2012 and attracts big numbers – there were 533 on the day I visited, their record attendance was 942, and it is often the second biggest attended event each week after Bushy. An educated guess suggests that the record numbers co-incide with the start of University term, when fresh faced students are eager to maintain a fitness regime.
I managed to get a photo with a fellow cow-cowl wearer, and another “parkrun tourist” wearing his round his neck and sporting a 100 shirt gave me a thumbs up as he passed me on the course. And I spotted a few Antrim visitors in their apricot tops. There were a couple of doggies and a few pram-pushing dads.
Big crowds need a lot of volunteers, and I was impressed at the turnout of high-viz vest folk (all 41 of them!), who were very friendly and helpful.
The Common looks wide, open and flat.
There are a number of routes around the grounds which can be used depending on weather conditions; I experienced Route C, which was basically 2 laps, incorporating a sneakily hidden hill behind the trees. The surface was all tarmac and the paths were wide.
The big crowds mean that a double funnel system is operated.
Strangely Appropriate Song On Shuffle:
Big crowds can mean a lot of hemming in at the start, and I did struggle to find a good spot to run at my desired pace. But a woman in front of me seemed to know how to weave her way through the crowd, and so I attached myself to her, as Nicky Byrne was crooning “Hold on to me and let me hold on to you” from his Eurovision entry “Sunlight”.
I’d opted for the purple Jog Lisburn top with matching skort, the cow cowl and matching leggings, and I left my jacket in the little cart by the finish line. I noticed on the walk to the event that my shoes are starting to squeak, so I think it’s time to start breaking in a new pair.
The results were processed really quickly.
I usually aim for around 30 on a first visit to a new parkrun – I can manage this without too much strain, and it leaves me room for manoeuvre should I ever return. And I was pretty content with my time of 30:22, just making it into the top 400 with finish token 399.
All my parkruns:
And the rest….
We had a super weekend in the town, enjoying visiting the Sea museum to hear the Titanic story from the viewpoint of the port it had sailed from, and where most of the crew came from. Being familiar with the Belfast side of things, this was a thought-provoking visit. And we had a drink in the Grapes pub, where 3 brothers famously spent too long on a final bevvy before joining the fated ship….which they missed. My son was born in Belfast on 31.5.91, exactly 80 years after Titanic was launched there, and it’s rather poignant that he’s now working on a cruise ship based in Southampton.
Sadly fog settled onto the airport on the Sunday evening, and our flight was cancelled. But we were transported to and put up in a nearby Hilton, and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast next day in Beefy’s (the hotel is next to a cricket stadium), and then availed of a special offer of the executive lounge for a tenner, which was just fabulous – local cheeses and chutneys, yummy traybakes, chilled white wine, and a lop-eared rabbit making its way to Guernsey. Sure where would you get it?