Fantastic parkrun community made century great
It's been six years in the making and on Saturday I joined the parkrun 100 club.
A great turnout of running friends ensured it was a hugely memorable occasion.
The weather was perfect, always a crucial factor at Southsea parkrun, and to my delight the milestone was crowned with a very satisfying new personal best of 19min 37sec.
Dan Del Piccolo, one of the many great parkrun supporters in Southsea, and my brother Rich, who visited from Bournemouth, paced me around the seafront course to achieve my first sub-20 time.
It’s only taken 100 runs to get it and I never thought it would be possible for me this year.
Undoubtedly the training with my fantastic club Portsmouth Joggers has been the key to getting fitter and faster.
It was great on Saturday to also see Southsea parkrun personal bests for Joggers club-mates Adam Barlow, Pete Collins, Ainsley Rood, Derek Powles, Naouele McHugh, Pete Birch, Nicky Thomas Gissele Leishman, Kathy Bailey and Julie Eames.
In total 352 runners finished the run, with Mark Furniss also completing his century, while Colin Rowland and Cecily Nichols did their 50th parkruns.
Our parkrun events are all about supporting each other and it was friends and family who made Saturday’s run so special.
The sense of community is the reason these fantastic 5k events have flourished so much.
Participants of all abilities, with different running and fitness objectives, come together to take part.
The volunteer roles also allow more people to be part of the community, giving something back to others.
One of the many plus points to parkrun is the variety of different events.
Back in 2010 when I did my first parkrun we only had the original Eastleigh event down here. Now we are truly spoilt for choice.
Queen Elizabeth parkrun has a beautiful course, with one of the toughest and, when you finally get to the top, most rewarding hills you’ll find on a 5k anywhere.
The Havant event at Staunton Country Park provides fun, twists, turns, and some undulations.
In good weather Southsea is ideal for quick times, with spectacular sea views adding to the appeal.
Lee-on-the-Solent offers a similar setting, with a bit of shingle to cross just to add to the mix, while Fareham’s course is positioned fantastically between the creek and the golf course, with the Cams Mill pub a great place to chat with other runners and volunteers after.
Portsmouth Lakeside provides a lovely run around the lake as well as several chances to cheer and high five friends running in the other direction, with three out-and-back sections.
I’ve been lucky enough to visit 23 different courses and have had great experiences at all of them.
In 2014 I had the pleasure of going to Bushy Park, the home of parkrun in London, and I had a great time at the fantastic Yeovil Montacute course.
I’ve battled my way up the challenging Chiltern hills of Tring parkrun, and enjoyed several superb runs at Black Park, a lovely flat, fast one-lap trail run.
Every new course you do brings a different experience and a different story to tell.
I saw the mayor handing out prizes at Aldenham parkrun, tried Cranleigh parkrun on the day they held their spooky halloween special, while I was at Alice Holt when they had a junior volunteer takeover.
For me, having now joined the 100 club, the next milestone of 250 seems somewhere way off in the distance.
But with parkrun it is the journey to get there and the people you meet along the way that really count above everything else.