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Queen Elizabeth parkrun

There was a strange feeling to this week's event. News of a new virus has led to lots of whispers that this could be the last event for a while. Storm Jorge also didn't want to pass by unnoticed, resulting in lots of events cancelling due to flooded courses and high winds. I had booked my hotel for Queen Elizabeth parkrun previously, and so all I could do was turn up and see what happened.

This was to be the first time I had booked a hotel with the main purpose being parkrun tourism, and so I arrived in the town of Horndean the night before, which meant my shortest trip to a parkrun on the morning so far.

The area

Queen Elizabeth Country Park is located on the outskirts of Horndean, near Portsmouth. The park forms part of the South Downs National Park, which is a form of chalk hills stretching from Hampshire to Eastbourne.

The area comprising Queen Elizabeth Country Park is a mixture of downland and woodland, with most of the resident beech trees being planted in the 1930s. The park is especially popular with walkers and mountain bikers, with a number of long-distance walking routes passing through the site, and a number of woodland mountain-bike trails attracting riders from far and wide. Butser hill, within the boundaries of the park, is the tallest point in Hampshire, which also draws a range of tourists.

The area is frequently used by the British Armed Forces for survival training operations, and as such, it's not uncommon to see people in full camo gear wandering the area (along with the South Downs in general).

The course

The course follows two laps (one small lap, one larger lap) through the extremely scenic woodland. The first lap begins with a steep uphill section, before veering to the right, down the same elevation, before looping back to the start along some trail paths. The second lap follows the same initial path as the first lap, but continuing until much further up the hill (approximately 1km of up-hill running)! Fortunately, the gradient lessens slightly after the first lap turn-off point, but it's still some tough running. The second lap reaches another turning point, where runners then proceed back down the hill, this time much less steeply, to rejoin the path followed on the first lap back towards the start, and the finish is just before you reach the start.

Scenic view of neighbouring hills

Paid parking is available within the country park, which also has an on-site cafe with public toilets.

The run

As usual, the the first thing was the first timer's briefing, which like Valentines parkrun a few weeks ago, consisted of a large cohort of tourists, who like me, were picking up their "Q" for their alphabets. We were told that the trails were very muddy, and we were warned that the first downhill section was exceptionally slippery!

As the run got underway, we set of up the first hill, and it started to hit home how challenging this run was going to be. I summited the first section and veered right onto the downhill section - I felt very glad to have worn my trail shoes! The only signs of there being a trail nearby was the opening in the trees - at ground level, we simply followed a mud slide (and some people did slide!) to the trail at the bottom, and back to the start.

I found the second lap much harder than the first, having spent my energy climbing the hill previously. I resorted to power-hiking a particularly steep section around the 3rd kilometer marker as it was quicker than my attempt at running, but fortunately we crested the second lap before too long. The decline was much gentler than the incline, as promised, and soon enough, the finish funnel was upon us.

Hills and woodland adjacent to the finish funnel

Completing this event means that I've now completed 20 different events, which means I can now join the facebook tourist group and claim my cow cowell. Hopefully we will still be running next week, so I can give the cowell its first outing!

Finish funnel with lots of finishers, many wearing tourist paraphernalia

A very special thank you to the marshals today - it can't have been fun to stand in the rain, even if you did have some cover from the trees!

Links: Results | Strava

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