|sunrise and southend pier|
There was some debate in the household as to whether the ladies would come with me. In the end the chance to see the world's longest pier and to get some fresh sea air won them over. We were treated to a beautiful sunrise as we drove along the seafront at Southend, so this was an unexpected bonus.
|information board at gunners park|
So. We arrived at the venue at just after 8am and parked in the spacious car park, which is free of charge. If travelling by train we would have travelled to Shoeburyness station. For those lucky enough to live locally, there is a fantastic network of segregated cycling paths that lead to the park. Anyway, off I went to explore...
|a quick chat|
The land that is now the park was previously used by the military as an experimental range and has quite a history dating back to 1849. Its human history dates back much further and there is evidence to suggest there was a settlement built by Danish leader Hasten in 894 AD.
|the long snaking line of runners heading to the start|
The area is now known as Gunners Park and is also a nature reserve, which was designated a 'Site of Special Scientific Interest' 1987. The land is divided into various habitats which each support a broad range of wildlife.
|...and we're off|
After exploring the course, I went back to the car park and bumped into the very friendly organisers, had a quick chat and they pointed me in the direction of the toilets which are
|heading along the sea wall|
The runners all meet up in the car park and a few minutes before 9am are lead down the footpath to the briefing area. Once the briefing is complete everyone moves across to the start area. The number of participants at this venue is fairly large (225 on the day I visited) and the start area isn't particularly wide so lining up sensibly is crucial.
|me going through the only puddle on the course|
The course is very simple to follow. It's 3 anti-clockwise laps plus a little finish straight just off the main loop at the end. It's a flat and fast course and is almost entirely on tarmac paths. There are marshals at key points plus there are directional signs in place around the course.
|the slightly muddy bit|
From the start you head along the tarmac path, which meanders gently around to the first corner, a left hander. With the corner behind you, you are now heading directly towards the sea - I found there was a head wind coming from the sea along this stretch, but it wasn't too bad on the day I visited.
|lap two, i think|
When you reach the sea wall, there's another left hand turn. Now you run with the sea on your right and a lake on your left. The path continues with its meandering nature along this stretch before reaching an old disused military building. If you look around you'll see many other clues to the military's presence here.
|around the bend and past the start area|
After the building there is a tiny stretch which is on grass/dirt/mud depending on the conditions. On the day I visited it was mud. Nothing too bad but worth being prepared for if it has been raining. You stay on the mud as you do a wide u-turn and emerge back on another tarmac path. Again this meanders around and shortly after you arrive back at the start area.
|all done for another week|
The course is perfectly fine for buggy runners - I think there was one out there today. I did have our running buggy in the car but in the end decided not to run with it. The little one meandered around the course with my wife taking photos (thank you) instead.
Anyway, after completing the lap three times you take the path on your left down towards the finish and then you're done! Barcode scanning is taken care of on the grassy section adjacent to the final stretch.
|beep and beep. thank you.|
I had to hold back slightly on the pace because I had signed up for a 10 mile race the following day, but this would be a great course for a time trial as long as the wind coming off the sea isn't too strong. I found the volunteers very friendly here and I got a few cheers of encouragement along the lines of 'looking good, tourist' as I went round the course. I was one of only two 100 clubbers present and I think the 100 club t-shirt helped them to remember me as I passed by. The encouragement was much appreciated and we had a great morning - Thank you!