Whilst winter sees the winding down and end of many sport’s seasons, spring sees them splutter and cough back into life. The beginning of the year is dark and drab, with infant sporting seasons slowly gaining momentum. But by spring, they’re in full swing. The days are brighter and the climate is warmer, which means that both spectators and sportspeople alike can begin to enjoy themselves again. So, with this in mind, here are three of the best spring sporting events in the UK.
The Grand National
The jewel event of the National Hunt has been held at the Aintree Racecourse annually since 1839. Competed over four miles and with 30 fences to tackle over two gruelling circuits, the Grand National horse race is one of the toughest and most challenging racetracks in the world today. That is especially the case when considering that the racetrack features much larger and therefore more imposing fences than those normally found on other National Hunt tracks.
The Grand National has been broadcast since 1960 and attracts between 500 and 600 million viewers across 150 countries each year. Moreover, betting for the event regularly crosses the £100 million mark. Considering this impressive amount of revenue, it is unsurprising that thousands scour the web for Grand National tips each year – with Rebecca Curtis-trained Teaforthree being the punter’s favourite for the 2015 edition.
Whilst there is plenty of fun to be had, both on the computer and TV regarding the Grand National, nothing quite beats being a live spectator. You cannot appreciate from your living room armchair the speed that these animals can achieve and the intensity of the jockeys that ride them. The looming obstacles of Becher’s Brook or Canal Turn are made almost timid looking when broadcast. But from close-up, their imposing presence is fully realised. Moreover, such as in the case of last year’s heart-stopping first-place finish by Pineau De Re, you cannot feel the emotion, the excitement and the electricity of that final gallop over the finish line if you are not there to live it and breathe it yourself.
The Grand National, which raised its prize money to £1 million pounds in 2014, is a spectacular event and is dripping in history and character. From the eccentric fashion to the frantic betting, this event is classically British, unapologetically indulgent and wonderfully flamboyant.
Queen’s Club Championships
The grass court season, which has been extended to six weeks in 2015, is the shortest but most prestigious stint of the tennis year. Naturally concluding with the iconic Wimbledon Championships, the grass court season consists of a series of warm-up tournaments to this world famous competition. The most important and well-respected for these warm-up events is the Queen’s Club Championships.
Won last year in the male category by flashy shot-maker Grigor Dimitrov, the Queen’s Club Championships takes place on pristine and classically treated grass courts. Given the quality of the courts, it is unsurprising that the tournament regularly features legendary contemporary players such as Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.
Located in an intimate and small venue, watching tennis at Queens is like stepping back in time. The stands are always overflowing with spectators and the clubhouse is always packed. This image has been largely unchanged since the tournament’s inception in 1890. Whilst not as grand or as imposing a venue as Wimbledon, Queen’s small courts mean you will get a closer, more detailed look at the action.
For those who want to complete rather than spectate, this is the 2014 spring event for you. The London Marathon has been held each year since 1981 and is currently sponsored by Virgin Money and will take place this year on the 26th of April.
Winding through the diverse and vibrant streets of the city of London, this test of endurance and speed is played against a stunning metropolitan backdrop. The atmosphere is always friendly, communal and encouraging. Meanwhile, the event is exceptionally well-run and carefully monitored to ensure the safety and enjoyment of both runners and spectators.
Even if you aren’t planning on running yourself, supporting those who are is a rewarding and enjoyable day out in its own right. The joy and relief on the faces of those crossing the finish line is always infectious while the cheering and applauding is life affirming. Moreover, if rumours are anything to go by, you may see a certain young royal crawling over the finish line whilst you’re there!