20 years of the Sevenoaks 7

 Origins

The Sevenoaks 7 was first held in 1993 as a replacement for the Sevenoaks Half Marathon.

This moved the race from the busy Sevenoaks roads to the tranquility of Knole Park and quickly established the Sevenoaks 7 as one of the Country’s finest off-road races.

200 competitors entered the first race and over its 20 year history there have been 6896 finishers – the race peaking in 2005 with 482 finishers.

Winners

Famous runners from all around the Southern Counties have run the Sevenoaks 7 including Bruce Tulloh (former European 5000m champion) in 1998.

No-one can remember who won the first race, but the fastest woman was Sue James who had recently moved from Blackpool.

In 1994 & 1995 Roy Smith from Blackheath Harriers triumphed, but was beaten into 2nd place by local athlete Darrell Smith in 1996 and again in 1997 and 1998.

Since then, Darrell, who once finished in the top 10 in the American Cross Country Championships, has won the race a further 3 times.

He now uses Knole Park as a location for his personal trainer business and is hoping that 2013 will bring his 7th win.

In the women’s competition, Tina Oldershaw from Paddock Wood has had an impressive series of performances since being fastest woman in 2000 – fastest again in 2001, 2007 and 2010, second in 2008 and 3rd in 2011.

Darrell Smith, 6 times winner said, “ I love this race because I know the course and just love running in Knole Park”

Route

In 1995 the race was moved from July to May as “runners kept collapsing with heat stroke” according to one of the organisers.

Although challenging, the race takes runners through some of the most beautiful countryside in England. Knole Park is one of the Country’s few remaining Tudor deer parks, similar to Richmond Park but quieter, where up to 400 fallow and sika deer roam the 1000 acres of grass and woodlands, including the largest oak tree in the UK.

The race starts down the valley to the West of Knole House. From Knole Paddock it turns right and winds its way uphill round Echo Mount, past the North side of the House, up the gentle incline of Broad Walk to the highest point near the top of River Hill.

From there competitors have a delightful canter down “The Gallops” to a turning point where they turn right and ascend Broad Walk again. This time the incline doesn’t feel gentle, but they can storm down The Gallops to the welcoming finishing line near Knole’s main entrance.

Runners World Survey

In Runners World surveys 96% of competitors said they would run it again.

They particularly liked the fantastic scenery, friendly efficient organisation and promptly published results, as these comments show:-

Really enjoyed myself today. It is an excellent scenic run with very encouraging marshalls. A great way to spend a Sunday morning. Thank you”. Dr Steve

“One of the best. Hard work but worth all the effort.” Racer Dan

“The first 3 miles seemed to go on forever and then the last 4 went by in a breeze.
Well organised, friendly marshalls - I'll see you next year.” Chrisg9

The 2013 Sevenoaks7

This year’s race will be held on September 1st starting at 10.30 am.

Race Director Duncan Warwick Champion said, “Runners from everywhere will be welcome to test their speed and strength on Knole Park’s hills. This year all entrants in the main race will receive a special memento to commemorate the 20th running of this event.

Afterwards, competitors and their families can enjoy a picnic in the park, visit the historic Knole House, the largest house in England, with its 365 rooms and 52 staircases, (owned by the National Trust) or simply relax in one of Sevenoaks many pubs and restaurants.”

Entries cost £11 for UK Athletics affiliated club members and £13 for others.(£15 on the day)

There will also be a junior 2.5km race for 11 to 15 year olds with entries on the day only at £2

Entry forms are available online here and when completed should be sent to Race Administrator, 19 Cavendish Avenue, Sevenoaks, TN13 3HP with entry fee and a 240mm by 165mm SAE.

Entries can also be done directly online or through Runners World.

Jim Knight

April 2013