So, as we start the second week of 2017 and what is likely your first full week back at work thoughts must quickly turn towards longer days and the Spring and Summer months. If you want to keep your running ‘on track’ then now is the time to set yourself a goal which will help to keep your mind & body motivated and what better way to achieve this than to sign up for a local race!?
Having taken part in a number of local races (mainly in Kent) over the past 4 years, I would like to share my past experiences with you which I hope will allow you to make a decision as to which distance, terrain and time of year you would like to race.
In the first section of this two part blog I review those races that I have taken part in during the first 6 months of the calendar year. The second part of this blog will follow in due course with a further 11 races which take place during the months of July through to December. I have included the entry fees in brackets (the first figure is for those entrants who are not affiliated to England Athletics and the second is for those who are) and where the date is confirmed this is also stated.
Ashford & District 10k – Sunday 5th February 2017 (£17/£15)
A relatively flat race run entirely on road. I have only run this once, in 2014 when there had been torrential flooding over the winter. The race still went ahead but the route was changed due to roads which were unpassable – therefore my evaluation of the route is based on that which I ran in 2014.
Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon – Sunday 19th February 2017, 9am (£24/£22 early entry or £26/£24 late entry)
I volunteered at this event in 2015 and made my debut at this distance in 2016. It is a very well organised and popular race which attracts around 2,000 people. The course is mostly undulating, with one steep descent into Penshurst (at around 4 miles) and then a long, winding hill up through Fordcombe (at around 7 miles) and back on to the A264 into Tunbridge Wells. There are some road closures in force and the course is very well marshalled to prevent cars from obstructing the runners. I imagine that headphones would not be permitted due to the fact that the course is not entirely closed to traffic.
Hartfield 10k – Sunday 2nd April 2017, 11am (£10 in advance, £12 on the day)
I have run this twice, the first time was in 2014 and then again in 2016. The route is entirely off-road with a short section along a country lane. It is a challenging, but enjoyable race with plenty of scenery to take in and the final couple of kilometres take you along a section of disused railway that is used by walkers, cyclists and runners. The event has a real local feel to it and quite a small field of runners (there were 127 finishers in 2016) and there is also a childrens fun run which takes place on the field where the main 10k race starts. Car parking is free and located right next to the Race HQ and start/finish area. This is a race that I would highly recommend and I shall enjoy returning either this year or next (dependent on other race commitments).
Hildenborough Road races (5 mile or 10 mile) – 1st May 2017 (May Day bank holiday) (Price TBC)
This was in fact the first organised road race that I took part in, back in May 2013 and I have run the 5 mile every year since with the exception of 2016 when I went for the 10 mile. It is a great event which starts and finishes at the recreation ground on Riding Lane in Hildenborough. There is plenty for friends and family to do if they don’t fancy racing, with a BBQ, bouncy castle, farmers market, stalls, competitions and a raffle. There are also fun runs for the children and a shorter 2.5 mile race option (for all ages). The course mostly takes place on country roads around the village and is generally flat with a couple of gentle hills to contend with, but nothing too challenging. Please bear in mind that the roads are not closed to traffic and therefore headphones are not permitted. The course is very well marshalled and there are a couple of drinks stations available. The 10 mile route is 2 laps of the 5 mile. I would say that this is the best value for money race in the local area, with entry costing less than £10 – (in 2016 I paid £7 for the 10 mile race which included a £2 reduction as I am an England Athletics affiliated club member).
Darrent Valley 10k – Sunday 7th May 2017, 8.30am (£15/£13)
I have run this just once, back in 2015 and would describe the course as undulating – there are very few flat sections. It is run mainly on road but does also include a section that crosses Lullingstone Country Park and in fact takes in a short part of the Lullingstone parkrun route (not the hilly part). The race HQ is a good size and the event was well organisted. Certainly one of the more challenging 10k races that I have completed!
Maidstone Riverside Run – 28th May 2017 (£17in advance, £20 on the day)
Beginning with a train ride which takes you from Race HQ to the start line, this trail run starts from Wateringbury Marina and finishes outside David Lloyd Health club in Maidstone Town Centre. It is a beautiful run with a distance of around 8.5km and as the route goes alongside a river it is flat, though there are a few stops and starts due to ‘kissing’ gates. It is very well organised and entrants are able to make use of the changing facilities in the David Llod Health Club which is a bonus, although from memory there is a charge for car parking.
Staplehurst 10k – Sunday 11th June 2017, 10am (£17/£15)
I have run this race on two occasions, once in 2013 and again in 2014 and this is in fact where my 10km Personal best time of 39:28 remains! It is a flat and fast course run entirely on country roads around the beautiful village of Staplehurst – one of three excellent road races that take place each year (the other two will be reviewed in part 2 of this blog). If you are aiming for a PB at this distance then this is definitely the course to do it on! Again, very well organised and marshalled but due to the fact that roads are not closed to traffic I expect that headphones are banned.