The Forest of Alice Holt was the venue for the fifth Southern cross country league race on Sunday 26th of February. As a local favourite running spot, it was no surprise that Alton Runners turned up in high numbers to run and support.
A great turnout of 25 men and 14 women saw the club take third place and continue to climb the league ladder. The club’s XC captain Abbie Hook said, ‘As a team, we absolutely smashed Sunday at Alice Holt and with one last race to go, we’re currently sitting sixth in the league’.
Well known for being a challenging course, approximately 500 runners from 23 clubs took to the forest pathways and woodland tracks for the five-mile run. With sunny conditions to keep spirits up, many runners managed a smile for the camera despite a steep climb beforehand. However, some were caught out by the dry conditions, with February usually ensuring that Alice Holt is full of ankle-deep mud. Club member Adrian Lambeth commented, ‘There wasn’t as much mud as last year; it had set like concrete. Had I known, I would have worn road shoes instead’.
Many runners attend the Alice Holt Parkrun on a Saturday, so parts of the course are very familiar to them, not least the notorious Dragon Hill. Diane Urquhart said, ‘My highlight on the race was going down Dragon hill for a change and not up it!’
Other runners got to enjoy club camaraderie. James Kidwell said ‘ It was my first time since joining the club to participate in an event other than being a marshal at Chawton House XC. The hills were brutal, the weather was glorious and just when I was fading in the final quarter, to have fellow club members cheering me on, some who had already finished, some who were still running and some who were spectating and encouraging me were exactly what I needed to push on to the finish line. A great team effort all round.’
Some club members decided to take a less active but equally important role and volunteer for marshalling duties instead. Philip Scrase and Helen Chapman stepped forward to help see runners safely around the course whilst offering cheers and support. Helen said, ‘Upon arrival, I went off to find Craig, the race director, to be told he had chosen a good spot for me because he knew I could shout! I was lucky enough to see the runners twice as I was one of the first marshalls, but by the time I saw them again, they weren’t so happy and smiley. I was at the bottom of a hill which was covered in tree roots and then a sharp, slippery corner. So my mantra became, “slow down, tree roots, horrible slippy corner”. Luckily most listened, but some didn’t and ended up with very muddy bottoms!’
The final XC race in the season takes place at Holywell Estate in Fareham on Sunday the 5th of March.