A run report by John Craig.
I had a whole raft of excuses as to why I put off doing a parkrun until I was 47½ (too busy with work, needed the Saturday morning lie-in, didn’t like running in a crowd, etc.) - all of which turned out to be wrong – but, having finally joined the parkrun community at the end of January, I am already a convert after just six runs. Noting that I am a relatively newcomer to parkruns, I thought that it might be helpful to pitch this run report at others who are either setting out on their parkrun journey or who are debating whether to make the trip to Bordon to have a go at the Hogmoor Inclosure course. With that in mind, I thought that it might be helpful to break my report into sections, to pre-empt some of the questions that those thinking of visiting the course might have.
Firstly, the course location is easily accessible. The Inclosure is not only well-positioned for locals, sitting between Bordon and Whitehill, but is also straightforward for drivers to reach from the A3 (using the well-written directions on the course webpage) and - while the entrance to the car park is not particularly easy to identify on GoogleEarth - the entrance to the car park is easy to spot as you drive along Hogmoor Road… even if it might look as though you are turning into a cement factory at first glance!
Secondly, the facilities are more than adequate and will only get better when the new café opens. The car park is spacious (and free), with more than enough room for the 194 runners and accompanying supporters who attended today, and – while the café is not yet open – the park authorities have thoughtfully positioned several Portaloos at the edge of the car park… or, from a runner’s perspective, near the start! The Inclosure itself is stunning, with well-maintained paths in a beautiful forest setting, artistic sculptures dotted along the paths and some impressive play-park facilities to keep any accompanying children entertained.
Thirdly – but most importantly, as the run could not take place without them – the volunteers were as excellent as ever. The pre-start briefs were well coordinated, with the attention of the runners being captured by some enthusiastic ringing of the “PB bell,” and the briefs were clear and succinct. Unlike many courses, where you simply follow a looping path from the start to the finish, Hogmoor Inclosure is criss-crossed with dozens of other paths that, to the uninitiated, look remarkably like the route that you are supposed to be on. The volunteers prevent runners from becoming “lost in the woods” by turning up well ahead of time and placing clear directional arrows at regular intervals so that there is never any doubt about where you should be going. Marshals were well positioned around the course to offer reassurance and encouragement to runners, with a particularly shout-out to the lady in purple at the bottom of the sand-dune section whose motivational shouts made everyone run a bit a faster… which will hopefully make us all look a bit quicker in the pictures taken by the photographer standing next to her! The finish section was well managed and, thanks to a clear briefing at the start, the runners who had finished kept well out of the way of those still going.
My fellow runners (all 193 of them) represented a wide range of running types, from the obviously athletic, who disappeared rapidly over the horizon in search of a new PB, to the clearly prepared (with “Liss Runners” standing out today in their bright red shirts), to small groups of friends enjoying a leisurely chat while building their fitness in the pleasant forest setting. The Inclosure is perfect for runners with dogs, with paths that are wide enough to avoid tripping over leads (and plenty of sticks for frisky dogs to fetch while waiting at the start), and the running surface is ideal for youngsters, with a pre-schooler having no difficulty “helping” her Granddad around the course, although the sandy terrain is a bit more challenging for buggy-users, even though a couple of runners with off-road variants were making good time today.
Saving the most unique element of the parkrun for last, the course itself is outstanding. Like many first-timers visiting a new course, one of things I look forward to as I leave work on a Friday evening is searching for information about the course that I will be running the next day. My reviews of the course webpage, the Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun Facebook page, the images and videos obtained from a Google search, and the run reports written by my predecessors all highlighted one aspect that stands out above all others: the sand. Some runners will love the idea of powering across compacted dunes, as it reduces the shock of impact during foot-strike, while those in search of a 5k PB might be less thrilled at being unable to push off hard in areas of softer sand, but the compacted nature of the sand means that the majority of the course is more akin to running on a forest path than slogging through sand dunes in the Sahara. That said, there are two parts of the course where the sandy surface does stand out. The first is a brief uphill section as you start the southern loop, where a bit more effort than usual is required to climb to the top of the path, although this should not worry anyone unduly, as it is more like climbing a dune at the back of a beach than training for the French Foreign Legion. [This may well be the part of the course alluded to on the course Facebook page in a quote that says “That’s not a hill… it’s an upwards flat section!”] The second part of the course where the sand stands out is a gently rolling section that passes over some rounded dunes, at which point my imagination called to mind the beach scene from the classic running movie “Chariots of Fire,” so – if I appeared slower on this section than on others – my excuse is that I was mimicking the slow-motion sequence from the film… rather than just being slower than a tortoise wading through treacle. The paths themselves are wide and, even when there are runners coming in the opposite direction, there is plenty of room to pass (or, as I often find as I near the home straight, to allow other runners to pass!)
In summary, while this was my first visit to the Hogmoor Inclosure and only my sixth parkrun in total, it was also the sixth course I have run on in the last couple of months (the others being Havant, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Fareham, Portsmouth Lakeside, and Fareham) but was by far the most enjoyable location I have visited and I will definitely be coming back. Even the weather behaved, being dry, not too hot and a lot less windy than recent weeks. All in all, a great run at a great venue.
Hogmoor Inclosure RD: Thanks John for a great run report. Rob Hannam took some great photos today (thanks to Rob too) - you can see them here.