In the three and a half years I've been parkrunning, this is the second time I've joined in with the festivities down at Southsea parkrun on Christmas Day. Today, I'd arranged to go and pick up one of my parkrun buddies, Neil GODDARD, since he'd also been issued a parkrun Christmas Day pass.
Living on the south coast of East Hampshire opens a selection box of parkruns to choose from, even on Christmas Day, with local ones including Chichester (9:00), Fareham (9:00), Lee-on-the-Solent (9:00), Queen Elizabeth (10:00), Southsea (9:00) and Whiteley (9:00). Since I'd only completed the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon just two days before, Southsea, being flat and fast, seemed by far the better option, plus it was probably the closest of the six events I listed above, so off we went to event number 275 down at the popular seaside resort.
Neil and I arrived there in good time, so chose to have a warm-up on part of the course, spotting many running friends making their way to the start; it was great to see so many familiar faces, most of whom were wearing something festive to celebrate the fact it was Christmas Day. I already knew Steve HOLDER and Suzanne CONNOLLY were going to be there, and the same can be said for fellow running club buddies, Donna SHEPPARD and Robert LANGLEY (more about those two later).
After the usual announcements, Run Director, Grant DAY, asked whether there were any first timers to Southsea... out of the 356 participants, there were 48 who were new to Southsea, of which 12 were taking part in their first ever parkrun, what a fantastic turnout, especially on Christmas Day. We also saw three people celebrating their 50 milestone runs today, Aimee CHAMBERS, Sam MIDGLEY and Lisa CROSS, along with Spencer HAGEDORN who was celebrating his 100th parkrun, so a huge well done to each and every one of you. Massive thanks to each and every volunteer too for giving up such valuable time on Christmas Day so that all of us could have some fun on Christmas Day.
For those of you who have been regular readers of my run reports, you'll know that it's now time to share some interesting facts about where today's parkrun is held. If there are chasers of the various parkrun Google Chrome challenges, Southsea is great for your Compass challenge, however, had it been held here before the 19th century, it may well have been called Croxton Town parkrun, since that was the name of the Southsea area prior to it being developed as a fashionable Victorian seaside resort, so it would have been a great one for the Pirates challenge back then... the name Southsea actually originates from Southsea Castle.
Southsea parkrun follows the Esplanade in an easterly direction from Speakers Corner and passes several tourist attractions and landmarks along the 2.5km stretch before you head back in the opposite direction to where the course started. The first landmark is South Parade Pier, which first opened on the 26th July 1879 and its history has been incredibly eventful ever since then... several fires, for one, and it was also partly dismantled during the Second World War in an attempt to hinder any invasion. In 1974, it famously caught fire during the shooting of the film 'Tommy' and the pier also appeared in an episode of Mr Bean, entitled, 'Mind the baby, Mr Bean'.
After South Parade Pier, the course then passes Canoe Lake, an open space containing Canoe Lake and the Rose Gardens. The Rose Gardens are found within the remains of Lumps Fort, which were once part of Portsmouth's defences, the lake on the other hand was constructed from a remnant of the Great Morass, a large area of marshland, the majority of which was drained during the early 19th Century and opened as Canoe Lake on the 17th June 1886. There are lots of other very interesting facts about the route Southsea parkrun takes, however, this is a run report, not a history lesson!
First male over the line was Neil KEVERN in a very impressive 16:58, while first female finisher was Jennifer MILLETT in an equally impressive 19:40. There were 31 finishers today who recorded PBs, one of which was my mate Neil GODDARD, who I'd travelled down here with, well done to you and everyone else.
Other notable finish times, just because they're aesthetically pleasing, were Jonathan RACHWAL in 19:19, Naouele MCHUGH 21:12, Ian NICHOLSON 24:42, James RODLIFF 25:25, Georgina LEECH 25:52, Clare WELCH 29:29, Dave GILLARD 31:13, Vanessa WARREN-WEST 41:41, Jen HURLEY DUGDALE 48:48 and finally Kate WILBY in 52:52.
Think that's it, apart from one incredible piece of news... fellow running mate, Robert LANGLEY must have had a bit of a tumble once he'd finished his parkrun today, for he ended up on one knee and proposed to his long-term girlfriend, Donna SHEPPARD... I'm delighted to announce that she said, "Yes!" Congratulations to you both!