Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Bolt Round The Holt Review

My most recent race was Bolt Round the Holt, which took place on Saturday 6th April at Alice Holt Forest in Surrey. Saturday isn't the usual day for a race, more often they're on Sunday and as such the venue's parkrun was cancelled but for the greater good I think. I like to hope that some of the parkrunners came along and took part anyway.

Bolt Round the Holt is a collection of races run over the course of the morning organised by AllAboutTriathlons. There's a 1km kids race followed by cani-cross, 5km, 10km and 21km races which all set off within a minute of each other, run on a 5km loop through the forest. The course is somewhat hilly (evil hill of note just before the 5km point) and mostly on packed gravel paths. The prices vary according to the distance, from £5 to £25 and for this you get a technical t-shirt, free parking a few minutes walk from the start, chip timing, and GU gels on route if you're doing the 21km distance. I felt this was good value for money.

We were blessed with the warmest, sunniest day so far this year, which made a huge difference to my enjoyment level of the race. The forset is very picturesque and the start area is near to a cafe which serves excellent bacon butties (according to my dad) amongst other delicious foods. Race numbers, t-shirts and timing bands, which are worn on the wrist, are collected on the day and although there was a queue for registration it moved quickly and a good system was in place. You could even switch distance on the day and these requests seemed to be handled well.

Over near the start point there was a PA system set up playing lively music, most of which could have been lifted straight from my own running playlist, which added to the cheerful and relaxed atmosphere. Everyone seemed chilled, from the kiddies who'd already run to those gearing up to set off. Even after the event there were still plenty of people relaxing and enjoying the forest and the sunshine. There seemed to be no queues for toilets whatsoever, even though I don't remember seeing that many of them.

There was a bit of a delay to the start time but no one seemed to mind. There was a brilliant warm up which everyone, not just the girls, took part in and then it was time for the off. We were instructed to arrange ourselves according to distance, with cani-cross runners and dogs at the front, followed by 21km runners then 10km runners and so on. I was entered in the 21km distance and somehow ended up hemmed in by 10km runners so had to elbow my way to the front and was a comic sight as a lone runner trying to catch up to the pack. Otherwise, all went smoothly. There were plenty of walkers in the shorter distances, notably one older lady in skirt and pumps, and the course didn't feel at all crowded. There were water points at two spots on the course which meant there were plenty of opportunities to have a drink over a multilap distance. It got a bit lonely after the second lap as the shorter distance participants has already finished and by the time I was on my last lap I was thanking all the marshalls for still being there! That said as I approached the finish I discovered a lady I had caught up with had one more lap to go! Now that's dedication.

There were plenty of marshalls, all doing a fantastic job, as ever at these events, and as the day wore on and more members of the public started using the paths that made up the route it was notable that everyone was very considerate and didn't get in the way of the race. Because of the volume of people taking part the organisers had requested that no headphones were worn, soemthing I adhered to although I spotted a couple of people with iPods. It was the first time I'd run that distance without music but in the event I didn't miss it. And the laps mean that you get to pass your supporters frequently. Any more than four laps could have been very tedious so I think they got that spot on.

On finishing everyone recieved a medal, although not one specific to their distance, and a banana. No goody bag but the t-shirt more than made up for it in my opinion. A race video and some unofficial photos were up on the site and facebook that afternoon as were the results.

I thought it was an excellent race with a wonderful friendly atmosphere. I recommend it and I would certainly do it again.

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