Monday 1 May 2017

Chichester parkrun

Chichester is the county town of West Sussex and also has city status. The city centre stands on the foundations of the original Roman town of Noviomagus Reginorum which was an important residential, industrial and cultural centre. The town had public baths, an amphitheatre and a basilica. The Roman town had been abandoned by the year 380, probably due to Saxon raids along the south coast.

It is thought that the name Chichester comes from a man called 'Cissa' who was part of the Saxon invasion of Sussex in the late 5th century coupled with the word 'ceaster' - the Saxon name for a foreign city, town or fort. However, evidence to support this seems to be a little thin on the ground, so it might not be correct.

noviomagus reginorum (chichester)

Of course, there are loads more interesting historic things for me to waffle on about, but I think it's best to skip forward to the reason of our visit, which was of course Chichester parkrun. The 5km run, based in Oaklands Park, had its inaugural event in August 2014 and had grown into a 200+ participant event by the time we visited in April 2017.

As we had driven to Chichester, we headed, as advised on the official course page, to Northgate car park which sits at the southern end of the park. At the time of our visit the parking fees were 70p for an hour or £1.50 for two hours - these would be sufficient for most parkrunners, but as we were planning to explore the city after the run, we paid £4.70 for 6 hours.

the meeting point in oaklands park

If we had travelled by train, we would have headed to Chichester Station which is just to the south of the town centre and walked the rest of the way. Toilets are located next to the car park entrance which is a few hundred metres from the start of the run.

From the car park, all you need to do is head towards the Minerva Theatre (check out the Minerva statue) and Chichester Festival Theatre. Oaklands park (and the parkrun start-finish) is located just beyond these buildings. The park is the largest public recreation space in Chichester and is essentially a collection of sports fields - you'll find 4 rugby pitches, 1 football pitch, 1 softball pitch and a cricket pitch. There are also a couple of children's play areas and apparently an orchard.

the start

If you are paying attention to the surroundings at the start-finish area, you will spot a rather theatrical, scantily clad statue here - this is Spartacus! At 9am on a Saturday morning, the parkrun starts on the grass outside the two theatres. Before the main briefing, I made sure to pay close attention to core volunteer Lynette's first-timer briefing.  The run takes place over three anti-clockwise laps which are mostly run on grass - As the conditions were dry, I wore my road shoes, but you may find trail shoes are handy when the conditions are less favourable.

The park isn't that big so each lap consists of quite a bit of weaving up and down the sides of the rugby pitches, plus a short section on a dusty path, on the way to the far end of the park. The journey north is ever-so-slightly uphill, but not really enough to be of too much trouble. As you go around you will notice that the parkrun has its own permanent wooden course markers (there are 15 of them).

early part of the lap

Once at the far end, the course heads back down towards the start-finish via the shared footpath/cycle lane which runs adjacent to the park. The advice is to keep to left on this path and keep an eye out for cyclists which could be coming from behind at a faster pace (especially as it is downhill). At the end of the path, the course turns back into the park right next to the start-finish area.

The long downhill tarmac section is perfect for a fast finish, and after three laps you can do just that. The finish line is found at the same place the run started just a short time earlier. When I visited, barcode scanning took place before the runners had left the finish funnel which you don't see that often (incidentally, the same procedure was in place when I ran at Bognor Regis parkrun, which is just down the road).

mid lap

With the run finished, it was time for some refreshments. The official post-run coffee arrangement is for a mobile coffee van to be present (and it was), but we had heard a rumour that a vegetarian cafe existed over in the town centre, so we headed over there instead.

Feeling refreshed, we spent the rest of the day exploring - we checked out Chichester Cathedral and saw some nesting peregrine falcons. We had a look around Priory Park which is very nice and while it is too small for a full 5k parkrun, it is home to Chichester junior parkrun.

end of lap

We also checked out Chichester's museum 'The Novium' where we saw the remains of the Roman Bath House and lots of other Roman artefacts. The British astronaut Tim Peake is from Chichester and we spent some time looking at the Tim Peake - An Extraordinary Journey exhibition on one of the upper floors of the museum - all free of charge.

The results for event 145 were processed and I received my results SMS and email while we were wandering around. 275 people had taken part which was a new attendance record, so it was nice to have been part of that. I also recorded the course GPS data and you can view that, here: Strava - Chichester parkrun

final corner and finish area

With our car park ticket about to expire, we headed back to the car and left with great memories of our visit to Chichester.

Link: The Sussex parkrun venues
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