I completed an event to replace the Book Day challenge that I bailed out of after 9 miles and I am so glad I did this instead as it was really different. It was not the sort of event I'd usually enter though; it was one organised by the Kent group of the Long Distance Walkers Association and there were options to complete 15, 20 or 30 miles so I chose the 30.
I've never done one of these events before and I was rather worried about the navigational side of it but the lovely Bryan volunteered to guide me along with Kirsty and Liz who I've seen at a lot of events in the last 12 months and we had a n excellent day out.
With most of the running events I do there is a strict cut-off time and although there was a cut-off for this event it was much more generous to allow walkers enough time to finish (10 hours). Our strategy was to run the bits that we could, walk the uphill sections, have a good natter and enjoy the scenery and that's exactly what we did.
The event started just outside Sevenoaks, an area Mike and I used to visit frequently when we lived in London many years ago and dreamt of moving to the countryside as there are some beautiful areas around there. As it was only about 50 minutes drive I didn't have to leave at the crack of dawn either which made a nice change.
Race HQ was West Heath School, in a lovely setting, and we started and finished there. I met up with Bryan, Kirsty and Liz inside. At registration we were given a card with our number on and we had to have it stamped at each of the checkpoints.
|Kirsty and Liz always look lovely and bright. Their rucksacks contained enough food to feed a family!|
|Bryan with his exceedingly heavy rucksack|
|Some of the entrants - a mix of runners and walkers with several familiar faces|
|Photo courtesy of Kirsty as I dropped mine into a gulley when I slipped on a bridge and couldn't reach them!|
The house itself is well worth a visit as it contains some fabulous 17th century tapestries and furniture alongside paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough & Reynolds. Mike and I have visited there many times in the past and it was lovely to actually run through the grounds.
What I enjoyed most was the variety of the route - we went up and down hills of varying steepness, went along flinty paths, some across hard clay, some with lots of mud, across fields with hummocky grass, and along the side of hills where one leg felt longer than the other as you were at an angle rather than on a flat path!
We passed through part of the grounds of Ightham Moat another property maintained by the National Trust. If I remember correctly it has a Grade 1 listed dog kennel in the courtyard quite apart from the interesting interior and grounds.
|Striding out towards St Giles' church Shipbourne across a rather muddy field|
|"Are you taking another photo of my bottom?" shouted Kirsty as she climbed over the stile. Tee hee!|
|David was either just in front of us or just behind us most of the way round.|
|The weather was mostly dull and cloudy with a few bursts of sun peeping through. We were just glad it didn't rain!|
Quite apart form the glorious scenery, we also had a few sections along lanes and footpaths by houses and we saw some amazing properties. The only downside for me was that on occasion we could hear the traffic roar from the A21 and the M25, aka the London Orbital or the world's first circular car park as it's famous for traffic jams!
There were 5 checkpoints en route where we had our cards stamped and our number checked against a list. The marshalls were all lovely and very friendly and there were hot and cold drinks plus goodies to eat at each one.
Poor Liz was feeling rather poorly all way round but she was such a trooper that although she had to slow down and stop occasionally she showed true grit kept going right until the bitter end. I found some of the walking bits painful as I'd developed 2 enormous blisters on the inside of each heel at around 5 miles. I managed to burst the one on my right foot, which brought immediate relief, but the one on my left foot remained stubborn and refused to oblige. I dealt with it when I got home and wondered why it felt so much better when I got rid of the fluid that was supposed to protect it?! I rarely get blisters so it was a shock but I suspect that I hadn't broken my new trail shoes in properly so I'll be wearing them a lot more in the coming weeks as I have some more off-road marathons to come.
|Ouch! I should add that after I'd drained the fluid I smothered the blisters in antiseptic cream, to keep them moist, then put dressings on top to protect them and the next day they felt right as rain.|
On the way back we ran on the footpath alongside the main road into Sevenoaks and then crossed over to pass through a heavy wooden door into the grounds of Knole. I wish I'd taken a photo 'cos it was like going through into a secret world.
This time we ran through the valley part of the grounds and we were surrounded by herds of deer. They are so used to visitors that they didn't pay any attention to us as we ran past and we got some lovely photos of them.
|Their bottoms look like faces don't they! I'd guess that must be to confuse predators.|
|They were quite well camouflaged against the bracken|
We finally reached the finish in 8:53 and it really had been great fun. There wasn't a medal but we were each presented with a certificate showing our finish time. This event had been all about 'time on feet' and was ideal preparation for my next long distance event.
There were refreshments at the finish too and I was very impressed at the whole event. I enjoyed it so much that I emailed the organisers to say a big thank you to everyone involved.
What's next? The Fowlmead 50 miler in 3 weeks. This weekend I'll be doing 20 miles on Saturday and Sunday and then reducing my mileage during the following 2 weeks ahead of the big one!