My choice of parkrun at this time of year is determined by one factor - the need to stay away from the M25! Britain’s busiest motorway is bad enough at any time of year but when the holiday season starts, particularly the sections around Heathrow and Gatwick, it lives up to its reputation as the world’s biggest car park. So this morning I was headed south on the A3 to the small town of Whiteley.
You could be forgiven for not having heard of Whiteley as it is a place that didn’t really exist until around thirty years ago. It’s in the south of Hampshire, just north of Fareham, in fact technically it’s part of the Borough of Fareham. Whiteley belongs to the M27 corridor. The M27 runs along the south coast from just east of Portsmouth to just west of Southampton. This is a very busy and thriving corner of the country which encompasses two major ports (Portsmouth and Southampton) and several more large towns (Cosham, Fareham, Bursledon, Thornhill etc. etc.) Consequently there has been an awful lot of development in this area. Villages have become towns. Small towns have become large towns and communities have sprung up where there was virtually nothing before.
Whiteley was built on an area of woodland and farmland just to the north of Fareham. This is an area that does not have a lot of history attached except for one moment in June 1944, when the troops heading for D day were assembled in makeshift camps here. First to be built was a business park in the mid 80s followed by some residential estates in the late 80s. The rate of building eased off during the property slump of the early 90s but eventually resumed again. Whiteley now has around 3,000 homes with more planned in the near future. The town seems to have a high proportion of younger people (79% under 44) Certainly it would be an affordable place to buy a first home. A three bedroom house here would cost maybe 3 to 350,000 pounds, which is cheap for the south east. I had a little drive round before arriving at the venue and struggled to spot any building older than twenty years. I’m not sure I’d want to live in a place with no history but, as a community, it is clean, modern, prosperous and thriving.
At the heart of Whiteley lies a huge shopping centre. I’d guess this would be the major source of employment in the area. It began as a designer outlet centre but, for whatever reason, it was completely rebuilt and reopened in 2011 as a traditional shopping mall. You’ll find most of the well known stores here along with many of the top restaurant chains. If you fancy a coffee after the parkrun then you are spoilt for choice as there is a Starbucks, a Costa and a Café Nero. In one corner there is a cinema complex so you could come here, take part in the parkrun, do your shopping, have something to eat and watch the latest films. Sounds like a good day out to me!
Just next to the shops is the Meadowside sports centre and adjacent to this is a broad area of sports pitches with a tarmac path around the outside. This is where the parkrun takes place. The course consists of three laps around the outside. Because one lap of the sports pitches comes to slightly less than a mile, it also includes a short out and back section, out along a side path. This part of the course is currently under review as there have been complaints from the neighbours about the noise. On the one hand I appreciate that you should be considerate towards the neighbours. On the other hand I wonder “why buy a house next to some sports fields and then complain about the noise from sports events?” The course is largely flat and mainly on tarmac so it ought to suit me well.
Whiteley parkrun has been going for just over a year and seems to have proved popular with an average of around 200 starters per week (211 today) It was another warm sunny morning - I am beginning to forget what it is like to run in any weather other than warm and sunny. There seemed to be quite a few fit looking younger runners and they shot off very fast at the start. I thought I was going quite briskly but they seemed to be sprinting away! The first finisher today broke the course record with a time of 15:59. I found myself in around twentieth place, which is a bit further down than I’d normally be. I’d have to wait till the end of the first lap to see what sort of pace I was on. The first lap came up in 6:15, which ws faster than I had been expecting. I slowed a little on lap two - 6:30 and then a little more on lap three -6:45. I crossed the line in thirteenth place in a time of 19:30. I was happy enough with that - it was my second fastest time of the year. I am moderately hopeful that when the temperatures come down I shall be nearer nineteen minutes. I enjoyed Whiteley and might well go there again someday. It’s only around forty minutes drive from where I live and, if you need to do some shopping, it’s the perfect venue!
My statistics for today - that brought my total of parkrun venues up to 170. I was first in my age group and second overall on age graded scores.
There don’t seem to be any videos of Whiteley parkrun so I shall conclude with a few photos borrowed from the website. There was a photographer there from the Portsmouth News so maybe I’ll have something better to show you next week.
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