Looking at the weather forecast for this parkrunday it was clear the weather would be good, and we weren’t disappointed. We had the choice between 4 local, unvisited parkruns. My training plan called for a race pace effort, so I fancied a flat one. Unfortunately for me, Jodie was after her Jantastic ‘mountain goat’ badge. So we went to Alice Holt.
Much like the weather, we weren’t disappointed with our choice.
We’d visited Alice Holt Forest before to do the ‘Go Ape’ attraction, but this was different. Last time the car park was rammed (we visited in half term) and there were people everywhere. We turned up today to an empty forest car park. (Incidentally, you have to pay for parking, so take a couple of quid or a debit card)
Alice Holt Forest is owned by the forestry commission, and the visitor centre and amenities were fantastic. The run’s center of operations was a ‘hut’ and some picnic benches. It really was a lovely setting. We chatted to some of the runners and volunteers, as I wasn’t sure if road shoes or trail shoes would be best. I was recommended trail shoes, and they were fine, but road shoes would have been fine too.
The new runners briefing was the best I’ve experienced. The nice chap and his 2 young helpers eloquently and humorously explained about the course and the parkrun process (funnel, tokens, barcodes) with the aid of a couple of well timed props. He even warned us about the hill. It wasn’t a big enough warning!!
The main briefing was also well executed, and there were two young ladies running their fiftieth today, and one young lad running his 100th. Furthermore they are fundraising for a defibrillator, any donations welcome.
I had a strong feeling of ‘togetherness’ pre run, it really has a great community feel, and before long we were ushered to the start.
I was going for a ‘race effort’ so knew I’d be around the 21 minute mark so positioned myself quite near the front, but once the horn was sounded to start the run I wondered if I’d done the right thing as about 40 people sprinted past me! But time would prove that to be the wrong tactic…
The course itself is a 2 lapper, but on the second lap there is an additional loop of about a mile. It’s about 90% compact woodland trail, the rest being Tarmac. The run from the start is downhill for the first 700 meters or so, before climbing gradually back up toward the start. It’s the same downhill again the second time around, but half way around the second lap you hang a left for a large extra loop. Now the extra loop is about a mile long, but the first 500 meters are up a nice, big, long hill. Before a couple of right handlers, down the hill again to rejoin the original small lap, and an uphill section to the finish. They’ve had issues with people getting lost apparently- but God knows how, it’s extremely well signed, coned, and marshalled – you’d have to be not paying attention at all to get lost!
So there I was heading down the first hill overtaken by dozens of runners. As we reached the bottom and looped back round, every slowed down, but I was able to maintain a better pace and kept it steady. The first lap and a half absolutely flew by and before I knew it I was at the turn for the extra loop and there weren’t many runners around at all! Then I looked up and saw the beast of a hill. I tried to power my way up it, but I was really blowing hard and slowed quite a lot. It levelled off and I was able to pick the pace up and I started catching a couple of people. Then there was another right turn back down the hill where I passed a couple more and picked up a good pace. Turning back left on the original circuit there was about 500m left, uphill. I found it really tough, but the chap just behind me passed me by a yard or so and said ‘come on, dig in’ – and I listened. When it levelled off before rounding the last corner I managed to just sneak ahead of him before crossing the finish line. After we had our tokens I thanked him for his encouragement, and he thanked me – I passed him at just the right time and towed him along to a PB
This was just one example of the excellent community spirit and friendliness I found at Alice Holt. I can’t speak highly enough of the marshals and volunteers who were brilliant.
I ran a pleasing 21.07 and finished P5. Given the profile of the course, I reckon it’s worth a minute on a flat run!
Jodie was taking it easy, but she experienced the same encouragement when she had a stitch and was struggling up the hill, as another friendly parkrunner boosted her on.
We couldn’t stick around for a coffee and it’s the first time I’ve been disappointed not to be able to. It’s just got a good vibe. When we move to Hampshire we’ll be coming back a lot. It join’s my small list of ‘top parkruns’. Home, Lanhydrock, and now Alice Holt. (Yes I know all parkruns are equally awesome but these are my most awesome ones)
Thank you to all the amazing volunteers and good luck with your defibrillator fundraising. Thank you for having us.