Before Christmas I was running at the weekly Eastleigh Parkrun 5k event pretty regularly until the really bad weather set in and the course got too muddy (or snowy) to keep one’s feet. There is nothing more frustrating than wanting to have one last push but unable to for lack of traction in the mud. Eastleigh have now set up an alternative course for the winter, but in the interests of variety, I thought I would check out the Basingstoke Parkrun event as an alternative as well on the recommendation of Tim and May.
The Basingstoke Parkrun course is run in The War Memorial Park in Basingstoke which is pretty easy to find, pretty close to both the town centre, the A30 and the M3. First thing to note is that car parking is not as extensive as at Eastleigh – we shared a car between four of us and got parked but it could get tight if arriving late.
Terrain-wise, the course itself is a mix of concrete pavement with some grass where the course cuts across alongside football pitches and some gravel pathway. I wasn’t 100% sure whether to run in road or trail shoes, opting for road shoes in the end. With hindsight, trail shoes probably are a better bet on balance since there is enough slippy stuff to make it worthwhile having the extra grip. Will definitely don the trail shoes next time.
Rather like Eastleigh the course consists of laps of a loop, with the full 5k comprising roughly 2.5 laps rather than the 2 laps at Eastleigh. Scenery-wise, the Basingstoke course is in a park on the edge of town rather than the country park setting at Eastleigh. I personally quite like the country setting as its nice to get away from roads, buildings etc but that said Basingstoke was pleasant enough. Not too many other runners, walkers or dogs on the course either which was good, nor is there the railway track to negotiate that there is in Eastleigh which could be a good or bad thing depending on your taste. The course mainly follows pavement and gravel pathways and where it deviates across grass white plastic cones and markers form lanes to keep you on track. I noticed they also used the same markers to make sure runners didn’t fork off the path at the wrong time!
It may just have been this particularly day but the start seemed a little more ragged than at Eastleigh, for example I didn’t hear the brief or start very clearly. Not a huge deal but when you’re tracking your time on a Garmin or such like it is nice to try and synchronise your start with the official start if possible. The starting point is quite nicely placed on a gentle slope down to get some momentum before coming round a bend to a tight slope upwards past the ultimate finishing point. You then pass over the brow of a hill, past some buildings and the car park and then switch terrain to grass as you go past the football pitches. This was the point I wished I’d run in trail shoes as this got a bit slippy in road trainers. The course then bends around to the right and back onto pavement where it runs parallel to the Ringway South (see map). As you head towards the roundabout end of the Ringway, this leg of the run has a sneaky incline to it that both Tim and I commented on at the finish. In fact it was only at the finish that we stopped and looked and could actually see the gentle incline in the path. At this point you link up back where you started and you’re into the next lap.
On completing the first loop the striking thing is that the course seems much more undulating than that at Eastleigh. There are a quite few tight slopes and hills that pull on the legs, quite rapid drops and inclines around bends which gives a nice workout, as well as the longer slope alongside the Ringway. Eastleigh is much flatter by comparison, and so on balance I felt in this respect Basingstoke probably gave me a better workout. The added dynamic of 2.5 laps of the course adds to the effect too. I uploaded my GPS map so you can compare Eastleigh with Basingstoke on dailymile.com to check out the differences in elevation.
At the end of the race I was personally quite pleased as I have been trying to manage my pace better, and pick the right pace for the short and distance runs. The funnel is set up at the top of quite a tight incline so if you’re planning a sprint finish make sure to allow for the slope. One thing to note is a slight query on the distance. On stopping the Garmin, I had clocked a distance of 4.94k, and May and Tim both reported under-measurement on their respective GPS systems too. We’re not talking about huge margins here (and I am an hobbyist not a pro!) but we all commented on it. I’ve not done Eastleigh since I had the Garmin but I’ve heard it’s pretty accurate. I’ve uploaded the GPS map and statistics from my own run to Garmin Connect as well for completeness.
As you might expect from Parkrun, atmosphere was good with a nice mixture of ages and friendly people collecting barcodes at the end.
All in all a really fun morning, good company, nice change of scenery and worth getting up the extra half-an-hour for on a Saturday.