A weekend away means, as any good parkrunner knows, a chance for a little bit of parkrun tourism. Therefore, as soon as we arranged to head to a place just outside of Alton, Hampshire to go glamping with friends, my first task was to work out where to run. The choices being Alice Holt parkrun or Hogmoor Inclosure parkrun which were almost equidistant from where we were staying. Fortunately on this trip some of the friends we were with are also runners and after much to-ing and fro-ing and weighing up any pros and cons, we settled on Alice Holt.
Going since 2012, Alice Holt parkrun is a well established event and on the day we were visiting is was event #464. It’s held in the picturesque Alice Holt Forest which is run by Forestry England. They currently host 21 events across the country and this was my second after Dalby Forest parkrun.
We were woken on the Saturday morning to the sound of rain pouring down on to the canvas above our heads so it was looking like it might be a wet one. Fortunately however, by the time we arrived at the car park (£2 if you leave before 1030), the skies had cleared and it was turning into a beautiful morning.
The meet area is just outside the visitor centre so is perfect for a pre-run toilet break and after listening to the first timers briefing we got the main briefing. I have to say that the PA system was possibly the best I have seen at a parkrun event, no chance of missing anything. From here it was a short walk down to the start line.
I separated from my friend as he wanted to be up front (ended up 3rd finisher) and with my own fitness not quite being where I want it currently, and not wanting to go out too hard, I was starting a little further back. In hindsight I went a bit too far and found the first stretch I was ducking and weaving round people.
We had read before that Alice Holt parkrun is a more undulating event and almost straight away we were into a downhill section. When you are trying to not overdo it, keeping your speed in check when going downhill is never easy as I found earlier in the year at Penrhyn parkrun. Part of the downhill was down Brick Lane which had been warned about in the briefing as being especially slippery but I found it was ok although plenty of trip hazards. At the bottom of Brick Lane it was a right hand turn and then you started to regain the height you had just lost. At this point my watch buzzed for 1km. With the tree cover I wasn’t convinced we’d get a good GPS fix but the watch still said 4.36 so a bit faster than planned. The climb isn’t huge at around 500m but quickly starts to sap the energy out of your legs. On this stretch I spotted a sign splitting laps one and two so I knew this meant it wasn’t two identical laps.
At the top of the climb we passed the visitor centre and back through a little wood that included a statue of Mouse from The Gruffalo. It was then back down Brick Lane and start up the previous slope until getting to the split in the path. From here there was another drop but as soon as you see the next slope is named (Dragon Hill), you know it’s going to be a tough one. According to the Strava segment it is an average gradient of 5.8% for just over 0 5km and looking at a map, I think it reaches 11% at one point. If the legs weren’t shattered already, this hill wipes you out.
The next section is relatively flat and then you get to lose the height again. Strava shows it as quite a steep downhill but by now I was shattered and don’t really remember it!
Finally you get back to the previous split in the road and the final half a km is the same rise as lap 1 to bring you back up to the finish line. It was on the final stretch I did buckle and walked about 10m before kicking in again. Had I known quite how close I was to the end I probably would have pushed through.
I crossed in a time of 24:46 which is one of the slowest parkruns I have ever done without kids. However it is a tough course. On RunBritainRankings it regularly scores 4+ for difficulty and my friend was speaking to another fast finisher who reckons it adds about 90s to your time which sounds about right.
Despite being a really tough course I did enjoy Alice Holt parkrun. The location is lovely and we came back again on the Sunday to explore the park with the rest of the group. Definitely a challenge worth doing if you are in that area. If you have done this event then leave a comment below with how you found it!