Raising the Bar 2016
Raising the Bar is one of the most popular events in the UK. This year's 180 spots sold out within 5 minutes of registration opening. It's not hard to see why. The team behind the event have worked hard to make this a fun and inclusive Masters event - which hasn't lost its community vibe, despite its success.
Today, we're catching up with one of the founders, Jane Holgate, to find out more.
Photo credit: Jon Kendrew
When did you start Raising the Bar, and why?
Way back in 2011 I started a blog – called Raising the Bar. At the time, this was aimed at older athletes, particularly women. I felt there were specific issues affecting older women doing the sport, who were in the minority, that were not generally mentioned/discussed in the wider community.
The feedback was great and in 2012 five of us were chatting on line when Maz Glover suggested we organise our own master’s competition.
We giggled, and then got on with it… The five of us were Maz, Tess McKenzie, Sharron Lowe, Jules Stirling and me. We held it at Dragon CrossFit in Cardiff, where Tess is a member, because Andy Edwards was keen to get involved by hosting and programming for us.
We eventually had 60 masters – aged from 40-63 – competing. It was a one-day event and went really well. We were asked to do it again the next year and within days of opening the registration we were full with 100 athletes taking part.
We had one more year at Dragon and the numbers rose to 120. In 2014 it became a two-day competition - and last year we moved the event to 3D in Manchester as we wanted a venue more accessible to the amount of competitors coming in from Europe (we have a great regular contingent from Sweden as well as Holland and Spain), and we had 150 competitors.
We are back at 3D this year and we sold out of 180 spots within 5 minutes of registration opening.
The demand is exceptional and underlines the popularity of masters specific events. That gives the older age groups as much credence as the younger. This year, we have 5 women competing in the 60+ age group – which says it all to me!
To give us a bit more insight into Raising the Bar - how long does it take to organise, and who are the team behind it?
We are pretty much down to a 4-man committee for the setting up of the event, which is Rob and Sharron Lowe, and my husband Gaz and I.
I think the fact we're now in the fifth year of organising makes it easier – we know what needs to be done and when. We are lucky because Raising the Bar has earned such a great reputation we don’t have to sell it. People, athletes, sponsors and vendors want to be involved. In fact, we were thrilled when Reebok approached us this year to ask if they could be involved as a major supporter. They are providing athlete and judges shirts and prizes.
This year Ed Whieldon has stepped up to be the Events Director. He sets the WODs, manages the competition floor and is generally the boss during the actual event. We are really looking forward to seeing the WODs he comes up with!
What about you personally - how did you find your way into this world and what keeps you here?
I was very lucky to be in the right place at the right time and actually was introduced to the sport in 2007 (along with Sharron, Rob and Gaz)!
We were all members of a gym in Didsbury. The person who ran the boot camp class we attended, Mark Beck, partnered up with Karl Steadman to open the first box in England – CrossFit Manchester.
We all trundled up for a free trial week and were totally hooked!
I still love it and particularly love playing my role within the master’s community. I am approaching my 57 th birthday and don’t think I have ever been fitter! That’s what keeps me here!
How have you seen the world of functional fitness change over the years and how has it influenced Raising the Bar?
I think it’s great that it is now so mainstream, that people are generally recognising the benefits of functional fitness and the fun of competition.
The boxes are much bigger now, and I think the community aspect has been lost a bit.
At Raising the Bar, we have tried to stay true to the original principles. We don’t have qualifiers because we want everyone to have the opportunity to compete if they want to - whatever their level.
We have some of the best master’s athletes in the world competing side by side with relative novices, but it adds to the fun and excitement.
What makes Raising the Bar so special?
The master’s community makes it special – as you get older you have less to prove and appreciate the challenge and fun of taking part a lot more I think.
As someone described RtB last year: “here people are competing with each other – not against!”
What is your favourite moment from past events?
There have been so many, watching people achieve things they never thought they would – smashing pbs’ and just getting stuck in always makes me smile. But perhaps watching Tess McKenzie, Anne Brannigan and Ann McAllister in the 60+ group battling it out in a final a couple of years ago with so much energy and enthusiasm – it was truly inspirational!
What are the plans for the future?
To be honest we take each event at a time, although we have been talking about the possibility of holding two Raising the Bars next year as there is definitely a demand for it!
This year's Raising the Bar takes place next weekend - Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th June. Athlete spots are sold out, so make sure you keep your eyes peeled on Facebook for next year's dates!