Sunday 14 February 2016

Horsham parkrun

Horsham is a market town in West Sussex. There are two possible meanings of the name, the first is 'Horse Ham' meaning a place where horses are kept, and the second is 'Horsa's Ham' which relates to a Saxon warrior who was granted land in the area.

horsham park house

In the centre of the town lies the grade 2 listed Horsham Park House. In 1928 the local council bought the house and its grounds (approx 60 acres) which are now Horsham Park. The park features a combination of open grass fields, outcrops of trees, children's playground and closer the the house some more formal features such as a maze and a human nature garden. There is a pond in the middle of the park which is home to ducks and swans.

st leonards forest dragon

If you get a chance it is worth visiting the maze and working your way to the centre so you can get up close to The St. Leonard's Forest Dragon. The forest is just to the east of Horsham was home to St. Leonard the dragon slayer c.770AD. Legend says that he was injured in the forest while trying to slay the last dragon in England (although there were still reports of dragons long after this time) and lilies of the valley still grow in the area where his blood fell - the area is called lily beds.

the meeting point - horsham park bowls club

Moving swiftly back to the centre of Horsham, the park also features sporting facilities in the shape of tennis courts, skate park, football pitches, a trim trail, a table tennis table, and a volleyball court. On 6 September 2014 the park gained a free, Saturday morning, 5km parkrun and this event regularly attracts in excess of 200 runners (sometimes even over 300). At time of writing plans are also under way to bring a junior parkrun to the park.

pre-run briefing

I visited Horsham parkrun with my friend Richey in February 2016 to take part in event number 78. We drove from Dartford which took us approximately an hour. Once in Horsham we parked in the 'Pavilions in the Park' leisure centre car park and this cost £1.60 for up to three hours. As I understand it we could have parked in the Horsham Superbowl car park for free up until 10am.

from the day's start looking towards the first windy gentle undulation

For anyone wishing to travel by train, Horsham train station is just across the road from the park, which is very handy. There are some toilets in the leisure centre which were the ones we headed for. I hear that there are also some more toilets over near the Superbowl car park. For cyclists there are some bicycle racks in the park just outside the Conservatory Cafe which is also the post-tun social venue.

course was well marked

The day we visited, the weather was a little miserable and it rained the entire time we were there, which actually brings me quite nicely onto one of Horsham's claims to fame - On 5 September 1958 a hailstone fell in the town which weighed 140g and was the size of a tennis ball. The estimated impact speed has been calculated to have been 224mph. It holds the record for the heaviest hailstone ever recorded in the UK.

one of the football pitches

The meeting point for the run is outside the Horsham Park Bowls Club and this is where the run briefing took place when we visited. The runners were then walked across to the start line. If you look at the official course page you'll see the standard course showing the loop of the park plus start and finish tails. This would usually be the standard course, but from what I've seen on various Strava traces the exact positioning of these two tails can vary so it's probably worth checking where the finish funnel is before the run starts.

a wider path towards the end of the lap

The bulk of the course is made up of three laps of the park which contain quite a few twists and turns that keep things interesting. Underfoot is mostly tarmac but there are a few brief sections where the route leaves the paths and cuts across grass (these sections were really muddy when we visited). There were some minor course alterations made when we visited so please refer to the official map rather than my Strava readings if planning a visit.

the metallic tree

The lap contains two mild undulations so during the course of the run there are six extremely gentle ascents to negotiate. Towards the end of the lap, the route almost feels as if it has left the park as it goes in-between the Superbowl building and its car park. You'll also run around the metallic tree here.

the day's finish line

It's worth noting that the paths are extremely narrow especially during the first half of each lap and I found the lap 1 to be extremely congested. This makes lining up in an appropriate position at the start vital. The course is totally manageable with a running buggy but those narrow paths and large number of runners make it quite tricky - fellow buggy runners need to be very careful to avoid hitting other runners' heels.

there is some toast there. honestly [photo: richey]

After the run we popped into the Conservatory Cafe for some beans on toast and a drink, and by the time we had finished discussing our visit our parking ticket had just about run out. So we grabbed a quick moment with the day's run director Simon to thank him for their hospitality and we then headed back towards the car. It was still raining and continued to do so all the way home.

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