Box End Park in Bedfordshire is a popular training facility for triathletes and swimmers as well as a whole host of other water based sports. The venue boasts two exceptionally clean lakes and an off road cycling and running course amongst other things and have been putting on low budget triathlons since 2012. This year they have added an Aquathlon to their four event summer race series. This consists of a 750 meter open water swim followed by a 5KM run. With swim runs being something fairly new and certainly a bit different (but growing in popularity) we sent our Ironman Chris over to check it out.
I first visited Box End Park in April 2016 as I set about training for Ironman in July that year. I had done a bit of swimming in a pool the previous few months but that was my first ever experience in open water and I loved it. After Ironman I didn’t end up swimming again until the open water season recommenced in April this year. I am now training for Breca Swimrun in August (an event I’ll also be coving for Quirky Races) so thought this was a great opportunity to get some practice in within a competitive environment.
The event was just £15 to enter which is exceptionally lower than your average multi disciplined sport and was the same price as the triathlon which is even better value. They were also taking entries on the night. All the race series events take place on Thursday evenings at 7pm.
I arrived to see the park in its full glory with one lake taken up by waterboaders on the cable tow busting out some spectacular moves on the ramps, a speedboat whizzing round the other lake (which we were going to be swimming in a little later on) towing a water skier and the impressive aqua park full of school children having the time of their lives.
With the Aquathlon and the triathlon starting off at the same time I wasn’t sure how this was going to work with us runners and the cyclists both using the same course but with the simple instruction of ‘runners stick to the left and those on bikes stay on the right’ it all played out just fine with the width of the permanently laid out course.
Before that though came the swim. One clockwise lap of the boating lake starting in the water. I had no idea what to expect in terms of numbers of participants or standard of competition and didn’t have a lot to judge my swimming ability on. I know my swimming is fairly one paced and I’m better at longer distances so I was prepared to lose some time and didn’t think I’d be anywhere near the top half. What I wasn’t expecting though was to be right at the back. I would blame this more on the standard of my own swimming though rather than the level of competition which was a completely mixed range.
As I was preparing for Breca Swimrun I had asked if I could swim in my trainers (perhaps why I was a bit slower than most) and was told that this was fine. It meant my transition was almost non existent, which was a good job as I needed all the time I could get to catch up.
I was straight off into the run which was all on grass. Within a couple of hundred meters I started to overtake people. Running is my main strength and I was now feeling a lot more at home than I was in the water. After 2KM or so the good no gets a lot tougher with some rolling hills and several twists and turns. I thought to myself ‘I’m glad I’m not on a bike’. Other than a few very early on, who must have been slow in transition, only one cyclist overtook me so being at the tail end of the swim did have its upsides.
I continued to pass people throughout and in the end registered 8th place overall after recording the fastest run time of the night. I didn’t know any of this however until the results were posted online the following day and I never really got the feeling that this was in anyway a competitive event. Russ from Box End Park told us that the intention is to offer the races as a ‘no frills’ alternative to the increasingly expensive triathlon and Aquathlon series being run’ and that’s exactly what you got.
Just when you think your value for money couldn’t get any better as well as changing rooms, lockers and free parking, there’s also lovely hot showers.
I would highly recommend these events to anyone who is a swimming, cycling or running enthusiast and wants to try something a bit different in a competitive but relaxed environment with absolutely no pressure.