13 July 2016 4 Comments

How to watch Ironman UK


This Sunday 17th July sees the 8th time Ironman UK has visited Bolton, and it will be my 3rd effort at this event. It would be fair to say that the original 2009 race was met with a mixture of bemusement and ignorance by the locals, and I well remember running down through town with only the occasional onlooker leaning over their garden gate with a mug of tea in hand entirely unsure what to make of these strange lycra clad individuals shuffling past. Even the finish area had a slightly unreal air about it as despite there being plenty of families and friends out cheering at the finish late into Sunday evening, none of the local food or coffee outlets had twigged that here was a major retail opportunity going begging. The same could be said of pubs along the route which remained resolutely closed.

I haven’t raced at Bolton since 2010, but I gather things have changed spectacularly for the better and I have noticed as I have cycled around the route that pubs are advertising their suitability as a place to watch the race from. So, whether you have a loved one or friend competing, or just want to get out and experience Ironman racing at first hand, here are my top tips for viewing the race.

Disclaimer: I have not checked opening times of pubs or cafés, nor have I checked road closures and access. Please check the official Ironman site for full details of road closures and event timings etc. Official Ironman UK spectator guide.

The Swim

To be honest, you have to be displaying a serious amount of dedication to want to get down to Pennington Flash for the 6am start (location on Google Maps), but if you want to, you’ll need to be there before 6am. Road closures will be affecting the A579 Atherleigh Way but you should be able to find places to park in the areas around the Flash. The best place to view will probably be in the exit of transition as people jump on to their bikes heading north up the A579. Free parking is also available at Morrison’s on Atherleigh Way but once in you’ll remain locked in until 8:45am.

The Bike Course

There are loads of places to watch and I will highlight a few. I have deliberately tried to pick places with easy access to exit routes so that you can change venue or head to Bolton town centre for the run.

COLT Alley 

COLT (City of Lancaster Triathlon) Alley has become a legendary part of Ironman UK. It is here that all the members of COLT who aren’t racing congregate to support their clubmates and all the rest of the competitors. One of the locals was so impressed by the club that not only does he throw a barbecue all morning (bring something to throw on yourself) but he actually entered and raced the Ironman last year! If it’s a Tour de France style atmosphere you want then COLT Alley in Adlington is the place to go. Note: because of the crowds and proximity of the riders it isn’t a great spot for young children and dogs. (Location map). Parking is in the streets around Babylon Lane and the first riders will be coming through at around 7:30 am. This is the only place on the circuit that all competitors will pass 3 times.

Sheep House Lane

The iconic climb of Ironman UK is Sheep House Lane and athletes will be climbing this steadily twice (first riders about 7:45 am I should think). Parking in the car parks around Rivington should be easy enough early on but you’ll probably have to approach from the south via Horwich and there will be plenty of road closures in the area so be be prepared for a walk. There are some great cafés in the area which I imagine will be open fairly early for breakfast. (Location Map). An alternative approach would be to walk up Sheep House Lane from Belmont or sit at the Black Dog pub in Belmont itself (Location map)

Hoghton Arms

This pub is just off junction 3 of the M65, so it’s an ideal spot for easily accessing the motorway to move to a different venue or decamp to Bolton. I think the first riders will be passing at about 8:15 am. Besides Chorley Road (closed) there are two other roads off the roundabout so I would think it will be possible to find a spot to park and walk to the pub. (Location map)

Malthouse Farm, Whittle le Woods

Situated on the canal, Malthouse Farm (Map location) is a good spot for Chorley residents to view the race. Either walk out of Chorley northwards, along the canal, or find a parking spot in Whittle le Woods itself and walk down to the pub (note road closures on a section of the A6). Access to the M61 is also easy from here. If you fancy a walk, then carry on northwards up the canal to the Top Lock pub (map location) which from experience I can tell you serves an excellent pint of beer. The course crosses the canal at this pub, but beware as riders will be travelling quickly at this point.

Rigbye Arms

Right on the other side of the course at the top of the second major climb is the Rigbye Arms. This should be a great spot to view if you are coming from the south or west of Bolton. The pub has been supporting competitors by encouraging free refills of drinks bottles for the last couple of months and has a sign up encouraging spectators to visit so I imagine it will be open from fairly early morning. I would expect the lead riders to be passing here on the first lap by about 9am. (Map location)

Run Course

Viewing is straightforward: the run starts at Bolton Wanderers football ground south of Horwich then heads to Bolton town centre down the Middlewood Trail and A673 Chorley New Road before looping back up Chorley New Road 3 times and finishing outside the town hall (location map). The leaders will be starting the run from about mid-day and the finishing chute will be full of crowds, loud music and emotional scenes as friends and families urge on their Ironmen and women to the finish until well into the evening.

Park in one of the free car parks in the town centre.

My race number is 2013 and I will be wearing the distinctive black COLT kit with a broad white stripe across the chest as I did at Ironman Wales last year (see pic below). So, if you see me, or one of the other 26 COLTs out on the course, be sure to give us a shout. I can assure you it will be appreciated!

Into the finish straight (all rights reserved. Finisherpix)

Into the finish straight (all rights reserved. Finisherpix)


4 Responses to “How to watch Ironman UK”

  1. Rachel garner 13 July 2016 at 3:11 pm #

    Gutted we can’t come and watch this year especially as you have given us a top guide for spectators! Good luck for Sunday we will be cheering you on in spirit I may even wear my tshirt “team john!”


  2. john sutton 13 July 2016 at 3:32 pm #

    You’ll be missed! I’ll post a link to the athlete tracker and live stream. The video you posted last year of the finish at Ironman Wales from your armchair was epic! Do you still have it?


  3. Rachel garner 13 July 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    I’m not sure I’ll have a look as it may be on the laptop. We are currently just trying to work out how we can get over to watch some of it!!!


  4. Phil Taberner 17 July 2016 at 12:53 pm #

    Great blog. Wish you all the luck in the world. It’s a fantastic event to participate in or to spectate. Particularly love being on Chorley New Rd for the marathon. Last year I pulled off the course on the bike; spent the rest of the day with my 12 year old daughter and we set up an impromptu feed stop part way along Chorley New; the runners loved a bit of fresh fruit or a spare jelly baby or 2!

    All the best to you and the Colts.

    Cheers from Japan, can’t make it home this year but hope to compete next; I’m following the race via the official live site from 6000 miles away and feeling gutted I’m not there!!!


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