Overtaken by an Elephant by Helen Rees There was a brisk breeze along the south coast this morning, but despite quite a wet week, the sun decided to make a beautiful appearance above the trees as we gathered for the start of Portsmouth Lakeside parkrun #136 this surprisingly fine December day.
I’ve run at Portsmouth before, back in the summer, but it’s the first time I’ve been there in a while. The RD and volunteer team are as friendly as ever; I met members of the lovely Cole family and we soon got chatting about our various parkrun tourism adventures. I started to wonder if those glasses of prosecco I enjoyed last night at a social event with friends might have been spiked, as I was convinced I spotted an elephant in a pink running vest listening carefully to the first timers briefing… I vowed to be more restrained on future Friday nights (parkrun eves), and took my place in the middle of the field in the start area (huddling together for warmth having shed the pre-run layers, as I knew we’d get warmer pretty quickly once we were underway). With the pre-run briefing complete (including cheers for those doing their 100th parkrun, and the usual applause and gratitude for our band of hi-vis hero volunteers) we were unleashed into the beautiful lakeside park.
This was only the second time I’ve worn my GoPro camera to capture a timelapse video of a parkrun course (having used it for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I visited Chester) but it was such a beautiful day, I knew it would come out well. Check it out on YouTube here. I think it’s a great way of planning for a parkrun if you’re new to a particular event, you’re touristing or just want to know what it’s like. As we approached the underpass for the first time, a flash of grey and pink came past me (look out for this on the video at about 20 seconds in) – there was that elephant again, complete with entourage!! At this point I realised it wasn’t the prosecco after all, but in fact ‘Ellie the elephant’, an intrepid fundraiser supporting @FOPICU at Southampton Hospital. Look up #ElliesAwesomeRunning on Twitter to find out more if you’d like to support their cause. About 1km in, I got chatting to someone who’d spotted my UK parkrun tourists group yellow ‘cow cowl’ (you may see examples of these at various parkruns) and was interested to know where I was visiting from. I know Eastleigh isn’t that far away in tourism terms from Portsmouth, but I enjoy doing different parkruns and Eastleigh’s calf-deep mud in the winter is just a bit much for my knees! It turns out this was another member of the Cole family – John – who is clearly a well-known regular, as he gave a cheery name-call of encouragement to many of the other runners we passed on our way around the lake. Puddle-dodging was the name of the game today, although the course was easily navigable without the use of waders and it was an enjoyable experience, even with the headwind in the last straight before the finish. Barcodes scanned, volunteers thanked and co-runners applauded as they continued to come through the finish funnel, we made our way over to the nearby Starbucks to congratulate ourselves with a hot beverage and a delicious muffin. At which point Ellie made an appearance again, only this time without costume head and clearly enjoying cooling down from what must have been a very hot running experience. It’ll go down in parkrun memory anyway, seeing an elephant in a pink running vest, perched on a bar stool in Starbucks enjoying a coffee… congratulations to him and his support team for their run and for raising awareness of the charity. Big thanks to Portsmouth Lakeside for another enjoyable parkrun, a friendly and supportive RD team, fabulous volunteers, and the opportunity for us all to enjoy the parkrun experience.