In our rough ‘plan’ of serial tourism, event 24 was pencilled in as Southwick Country Park. We’ve been to the area before and so are happy with the terrain for a week we need buggy tourism. It’s a reasonable distance away though, and the day before the intended trip we were feeling plain tired. Tourism seemed so unappealling. So we did the natural thing and opted to go for a parkrun even further from home.
Salisbury parkrun was chosen not for its hour and a half drive but for its social potential. We’d seen on Facebook that someone would be joining the Cowell Club (100 different events) there that weekend. Driving 10 minutes further each way to chat to some fellow tourists seemed well worth it.
On arrival at Churchill Gardens, which has its own car park, the venue failed its first test. Due to some vandalism the toilets were disgusting. However, that’s not something that will be the case every week, and there are alternative toilets in the retail park down the road. We made our way towards the start area (aka followed everyone else) and spotted various bits of path that were clearly part of the course.
The winter course at Salisbury is 4 laps entirely on tarmac paths. This didn’t seem particularly enticing, but then we’d been pleasantly surprised the last time we’d done a 4 lap course (Skipton). The new runners’ briefing confirmed that the most difficult part would be, in fact, keeping count of laps.
The route starts on a nice straight section, and then essentially follows the path around the edge of the park. With a multi-lap course the role of marshals is even more important – if one is grumpy then the impact is multiplied. Happily the marshals at Salisbury were cheery, and most of them were equipped with plastic hand clappers to help save their actual hands.
Laps 2 to 4 take a slightly different (read longer) route near the start, taking in more of the park’s interior. That and, you know, making up the distance. The park itself was nice enough to look at, with just about enough features to keep track of where you were in the lap.
Being lapped was inevitable. In fact, the first few finishers lapped me twice. It was pretty chaotic at times with so many people on different laps, and also demoralising each time a pacer lapped past. On a practical level, two 25 minute pacers running side-by-side also created an extra bit of congestion.
This was quite a sociable run for me. I spent part of the first lap talking to a lovely lady running with her twins in a buggy. Then for the latter half of the final lap I chatted to the 40 minute pacer – a lovely guy who it turns out is a fellow tourist.
Near the end of lap 4 the course peels off to finish inside the loop. Support at the finish line was pretty good. Salisbury pride themselves on being an inclusive parkrun – they have quite a few walkers and have also had a run/walk pacer. This means that slower runners feel less like the course is being taken down behind them.
After a celebratory glass of bubbly (for Ben, not me) with the other tourists, we headed over to the nearby Starbucks. We were happy to discover that they offer a discount for parkrunners, and also that the social atmosphere continued post-run. I’m pretty sure it’s the longest we’ve ever stayed behind talking to people after a parkrun. And the second longest that we’ve spent driving back home…