“Keep going. Sometimes you may feel as if you’re not improving or you may be injured, but if you keep going, you will get there.”
James Boult interviews Briony Holt, who represented England in the 2017 Mountain Running Junior Home Internationals held in Peebles, Scotland.
Briony, first of all congratulations on your call up. Tell us, how does it feel to represent your country?
Unbelievable. When I first started running in my red pe shorts and Adidas t-shirt, I never would have imagined getting an England vest. To think that I was 9 when I ran my first BOFRA race, running through knee deep rivers and coming towards the back of the pack, I knew I enjoyed it despite how much I said I didn’t! As it turns out, that race is now one of my favourites!
Describe the Junior Home Internationals and how it felt to come away with the Gold?
It was an incredible experience and the perfect way to end a long season of running. When I first got called up about the selection, I was over the moon and immediately started thinking about what it would be like; my assumptions were wrong! The place we stayed in was an adventure campsite ( not your typical premier inn ), the food was delicious and the course was pretty much a cross country! But this all added to the overall experience and really showed how much of a novice to international racing I was! For our team to get gold as well was just the cherry on top. With half of our team being the youngest of the age group, we were hoping for maybe a bronze, possibly a silver, but never a gold!
It’s a testament to your amazing form that you got selected. You’ve consistently been one of the most successful Juniors in your age group and you’re a former British Fell Champion. To what do you owe your success?
Many people over the past few years have helped me along the way, whether it’s my parents becoming the weekend taxi, to the coaches and Clayton, to my fellow competitors, I’ve been given advice and support with training and racing which I will be forever grateful for. I think that as long as you have a passion for the sport, you will continue to excel in many different ways from your own ability right up to your own confidence.
And following on from that what is your long-term ambition? What is your main goal for the future?
My main over-riding goal would be to represent Great Britain in the World Mountain Running Championships. After seeing this event two years ago in Wales, it really opened up my eyes as to how far you can go in the world of fell running and how much people appreciate the sport. However, this year I’m focusing on passing my GCSE’s in summer and just maintaining a good level of fitness ready for the summer ahead.
How has the influence and support of your parents helped with your success thus far?
As much as I try not to be soppy, my parents do deserve a mention. They have supported me massively throughout the years, from driving me three hours up the country to buying me £70 shoes for me to rip them on a rock or something similar. Every time I’ve raced, I’ve always managed to spot them shouting encouragement on the side of a cliff whilst I’m hurling myself down it. So thank you mum and dad for all of the support. As much as I’m a typical stroppy teenager, I do appreciate it!
What first got you into running?
Curtis had started running at our local track, Seedhill. As any younger sibling would, I wanted to do everything he did so me and my friend went down with him. Because we we’re only young, we weren’t allowed to compete, however we could train, so we went down there every Monday night to just try out all of the different activities that athletics brought. This brought me on to trying different branches of running such as fell running and cross country which is where I am today.
What is your favourite race and why?
My favourite race has to be Coniston Gullies hosted by the BOFRA organisers. It’s a classic BOFRA race which is steep to the top and then try to survive on the way down, and that’s what I love about fell running. Afterwards, everyone goes in the lake for a swim which always adds to the friendly atmosphere.
What is your favourite pre-race meal?
On the morning of a race, I always like to have poached egg on toast as it sets me up for the race ahead.
Speaking of pre-race; do you have any rituals or superstitions?
I always prefer to race in my more mile lilac socks because I bought them at the Inter Counties cross country and that was where I had my best race that season! Also, I have a fear of losing a shoe so my laces have to be wrapped around several times and tucked in!
What was the main reason for choosing Clayton as your preferred running club?
My friend first told me about Clayton Harriers when we were going to the Astley Park mile races. Marion Wilkinson was warming up the juniors and despite me running for a different club, she still acknowledged my family. This feeling of inclusivity was one of the main reasons why we moved and have remained at Clayton for six years.
What do you do to relax / how do you spend your downtime?
Usually, during the evening I relax by going on my phone and messaging friends. I’ve also been hooked recently on the latest dramas on TV; my personal favourite being the tunnel!
How do you find balancing school life and friends alongside training and racing?
Due to me being in year 11, exams and revision have been my priority. Finding time to train has been hard but I’ve managed by either going for a run around my area or going on the turbo trainer. Racing is more easier to fit in as it’s usually at the weekends so I have time to revise when I get home or another day.
What advice would you give to any aspiring junior athletes?
Just to basically keep going. It isn’t about being a fantastic junior (although that is a bonus), it’s about keeping going and progressing in to your senior years where all of the opportunities come about, such as representing your country. Sometimes you may feel as if you’re not improving or you may be injured, but if you keep going, you will get there.
Q: What is your biggest achievement so far?
Probably gaining my England Vest last season, however, my best race has to be English Schools Fell in 2014 as it was my first English Schools and managed to get 2nd place.
Any comments / final thoughts?
Good luck to anyone who has any future races and I hope to meet some more of the adult fell runners as I progress in to a senior!