I had a weekend away booked with my wife and family, we were staying in Pagham, West Sussex. Recently when I checked out the Parkrun website I was delighted to find that not only was there a Parkrun nearby, I had a choice of two, Chichester and Bognor Regis. Both Chichester and Bognor are fairly new courses, starting on 02/08/2014 and 24/05/2014 respectively.
I was like a kid in a sweetshop, when I knew I could get my Parkrun fix, but how do you decide which one to choose. Firstly I looked to see which was one the closest to where I was staying, according to google maps, Bognor is 4.7 miles away (approx. 12 mins) and Chichester is 6.5 miles (approx. 15 mins). So, there wasn’t much in it, so next I thought I would look at the course details and see how many laps they both are, as I personally don’t enjoy multi lap events. I then found out that the course at Chichester is 3 laps and Bognor is 1 small lap and 3 bigger laps, oh dear. How I do choose now, I though I look at the photos of the two courses and see which is more interesting. I looked at the Flickr pages and no disrespect to Chichester, the course looked like it is laps of a rugby field, I’m sure it is more interesting than that, so I started swaying to Bognor as the background looked more varied. Then I stumbled across a video of the Bognor Parkrun, created by Parkrunner Dennis McLinden, shared on facebook. After watching the following video, my mind was made up.
On Parkrun morning I was up early and made my way to Hotham Park following my Sat Nav and found the park fairly easy. My Sat Nav took me to the London Road car park, which is a pay and display car park, which was only 50p an hour. However I had spent all my change in the arcades the night before, so I began to find somewhere nearby to park. On London Road there were parking bays with restrictions of maximum 2hrs parking, which was sufficient as I wasn’t planning on hanging around afterwards as my Wife and family would be waiting for me.
I made my way to the park and I followed a few other runners to the start area by the boating lake. I was there quite early and there were only a few runners at first, then more and more enthusiastic friendly people arrived and nearly all them had brought a cake with them. A lot of people smiled and said hello to me and I also got talking to a guy called Chris, (who I now know as Christopher Waller from the results page) he was a Parkrun newbie and he was asking me how the bar codes work, I was happy to explain. We were both talking how great Parkrun is and how it is accessible it is for all and it was great to see the youngsters lining up at the start.
Just before 9am we were briefed by the run director and for the first time I was able to put my hand up if there were any Parkrun Tourists, but what was more pleasing was the number of first time runners who put their hands up, hopefully they enjoyed their run and return to Parkrun again in the future. Then bang on time we were off for the start of the small lap, as we left the start area, we bared round to the right and we soon got to the hairpin turn, which I recognised from the video.
We were soon approaching the start area again, where the volunteers gave as all great support every time we passed. On the start of the 2nd lap we turned left and then exited the park boundary walls. On the outside we followed a footpath that ran alongside the boundary wall and then we turned right through the main gates back into the park. Then we followed a path that took us back to the boating lake and the start area. Then we turned left towards the hairpin turn, once passed here we turned left over the mini railway line and then ran parallel alongside the putting green, which took us to another car park. From the car park we entered back into the park and headed towards the clock tower. Once pass the tower the start/finish area is in sight and then it’s only two more laps to go.
Hotham Park isn’t the biggest but there are lots to see and do in the park, such as the Miniature Railway, Nature Reserve Area, Boating Lake and the Clock Tower of Sir Richard Hotham’s Chapel. The route is very quirky, it has lots of twists and turns, it is all on concrete footpaths and best of all, it is flat.
The Park is an area of 22 acres located in the High Street, Bognor Regis. It first became a public park on 1st January 1947, having been purchased by the former Bognor Regis urban District Council from the executors of the late William Fletcher.
Locally, the park is the most important heritage amenity in Bognor Regis. Sir Richard Hotham, the founder of modern Bognor Regis, built and resided in Hotham Park House and grounds. The House remains intact, and forms an intrinsic part of the heritage of the town.
Sir Richard Hotham, who developed Bognor from an insignificant hamlet into a fashionable seaside resort, having come to the area to partake of the beneficial sea air, built Hotham Park House in 1792. In 1787 he laid the first foundation stone of this new seaside resort thereby becoming the founder of Bognor. He was only to live here for seven years before his death in 1799. The fine mansion was named The Lodge at that time and had its own private chapel. The clock tower is the only remaining part of Sir Richard’s chapel.
Because the park it is flat it is quite a quick course, but it is quite easy to get too carried away and go off too quickly, just like I did. I was hoping to get a time similar to my other Parkrun times, approx. 27:15, which is an average about 8:50 mins per mile. After the first mile, my Garmin beeped and I looked down and to my amazement it said 8:17. After that I took my foot off the gas a little bit as I knew I wouldn’t be able to sustain it. At mile 2, I was either starting to feel the effects of going off too quickly or from the beer from the night before, my 2nd mile was 8:58 and then towards the end I was just shuffling along and my 3rd mile was the slowest of them all at 9:09.
When I crossed the line I was surprised with my time 26:50, which is quicker than my PB’s at Dartford, Maidstone, Orpington, Shorne Woods, Tonbridge and Great Lines. There is only one Parkrun course that I have ran quicker, which is Bexley back in August 2012, so I was well chuffed. Not long after finishing I sat down to try to catch my breath I then saw Chris crossing the line. We both congratulated each other and had a quick chat on how we both enjoyed the event. As first timers to Bognor we both thanked the Run Director and then made our way towards the car park.
I did really enjoy the race, the volunteers were amazing and done a great job ensuring that I didn’t get lost, which I worried about doing when we were explained the course. There was a very friendly atmosphere and a very close community feel amongst the runners, who have some amazing baking skills. Refreshments were available after the run at the lakeside kiosk, sadly I didn’t have time to stay and try some of the treats. I recommend anyone holidaying in the local area or someone looking to do some Parkrun touring to check out this unique event, it will not disappoint.