Sunday, 22 March 2009

The Sevenoaks Circuit -30 mile Ultra

My night's sleep was finished at 6.00 am this morning with the shrill sound of the alarm beeping in my ear, fearing I would oversleep I jumped from my warm bed and tentatively pulled back the curtains to check the weather. I was in luck, a fine mist covered the ground and through it I could see a beautiful blue sky which provided a dim auroral glow to the world outside.

Decisions made I jumped into my shorts and short-sleeved top, my Buffs were put in my sports bag and trail shoes placed by the door. A quick bowl of Frosted Shreddies and a cup of
coffee soon had me leaping to the door to get in the car to George's house.

Arriving at George's at 6.45 am we hot footed it down to the Vines, Sevenoaks, the meeting and start point. Check in was a dream and we were soon kitted up with a mug of sweet tea in our hands as
Peter from the club joined us for a quick chat. It was a really friendly atmosphere as it was highlighted that it was NOT a race and it was fantastic to have a laugh and joke with rival club members, it was commented upon that my club colours seemed to have changed from black and white to yellow over night!!!

At 7.55 am we were invited onto the path outside the cricket pavillion and we shivered quietly as we watched the mist burning off to what proved to be a hot, sunny day of running. We were off as about 30 runners slowly moved off at a sensible pace towards Knowle Park and entered one of the many gates to the 404 acre site. Within minutes we spotted our first of many Roe deer, a stag proudly, if not sure of a crowd of people in a multitude of coloured shirts, it was probably a little perturbed by my new club shirt in its glorious xanthous hues. Knowle Park at that time of day can only be described as stunning further enriched by the ground hogging mist and Knowle House popping its tower tops above the trees in the distance. We soon began to thin ou
t and found ourselves on familiar turf as we joined the Sevenoaks 7 (mile) route and cut deep into the centre of the park and out the other side onto outskirts of Sevenoaks and out to the trails that circumvent the town.

Running was slower than normal trail or road racing as this run was hosted by the Long Distance Walkers Association or LDWA and we were required to following written instructions similar to:

Fllw path TR at st X field (120)

After a while we found ourselves on rural trails and sun hardened fields undulating as only the North Downs will, strength sapping stuff and the weeks of training proved their worth. About 5 miles in we were directed onto a side track and in the middle of a woods we found a large umbrella laden with sausage rolls, a mountain of biscuits and squash, later on we came to check point 2 where we found a beautiful oust house and nestled inside the barn area was the check point.I thought the fayre was pretty good a mountain of biscuits and gallons of orange squash.

The paths soon turned to fields and numerous, styles and kissing gates each sapping a little more energy from our legs. By this time the sun was up high and it was getting hot as we moved on through the directions and we started hitting the hills big time running over undulating farmers fields, paths and up onto the escarpment and ridges at the north of the Downs. At around 15 miles I was beginning to feel the going get tough and I feared that the wall was beckoning so I took on a carb gel and I was coaxed along by George until I surfaced from my dark point and got a second wind and we were able to move though the pack of runners. We were then directed up the escarpment and that is when we had to drag ourselves up a 45 - 50 degree gradient from 50 fasl to about 600 fasl in a very short distance feeling our leg muscles complain but after the ascent we skirted the North Downs Way and found ourselves seeing seldom viewed sites such as the sandstone quarries and railways lines that skirt the M20 corridor.

In all the days run was a tough, hilly foot bruising run through orchards, hop farms, rutted farmland, 400 year old oak and birch woods and rock hard fields often rutted by which ever ungulate deemed to live there. If you want a good run then I thoroughly recommend it but if you don't want to go ultra then there is the 15 and 20 mile routes which proved quite popular.

If there is one conclusion I will make from the day is that the LDWA really know how to put on an event, at the last 2 check points we were met by tables of food from bananas, satsumas, cereal, yoghurt, cut sandwiches, hot cross buns, tea, coffee and squash out of your ears. Probably not runner’s food but certainly welcome at mile 25 on a 32 mile run.

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