Unperturbed by atrocious weather conditions, the Up & Running sponsored 7Oaks7 attracted the largest number of entrants seen for many years, as runners from all over the South East attempted to pit their fitness against the challenging 7-mile Knole Park course. Overnight rain left standing water across some of the paths, softening the ground sufficiently to ensure that course records would not be threatened despite a star-studded field which included some of Kent’s best club runners. A few minutes into the race and the skies opened again to ensure that wet feet were the least of concerns for the runners and officials.
Right from the gun, Peter Tucker from Dartford Harriers set the pace. Tucker has been in exceptional form throughout 2015 with a string of race titles under his belt, and he clearly intended to also stamp his authority on the 7Oaks7 with only a very small handful of runners willing to take up the early challenge. However, James Mason from Sevenoaks AC was determined not to let Tucker dictate this race as he had in so many others. Mason surged into the lead as the runners hit the first major hill and from that point the race was on, with Mason using his superior strength to extend his lead on every hill, while Tucker closed the gap on every downhill segment. In the end, Mason (40:47) was able to hold off the fast finishing Tucker (40:54) for one of the tightest finishes seen for several years at this event. Jim Ashworth-Beaumont from Serpentine RC completed the winner’s podium in 41:38.
For the fourth year in a row, the women’s event was again dominated by Maria Heslop (45:11) from Paddock Wood who never looked like relinquishing her crown, winning by over a minute from Rachel McGuinness (46:28) from Derwent Runners. In fact, the real tussle in the women’s race occurred for third place. The marshals had been keeping all the front runners informed of their positions, and with one mile to go Hannah Roberts from Petts Wood had one hand firmly on the minor trophy. Unfortunately for Roberts, she hadn’t fully reckoned on the determination of the more experienced Claire Day from Paddock Wood who surged past in the final straight to take third place by a matter of seconds in 48:19.
Although not featuring in the major medals, the depth and strength of the large team from Dulwich Runners saw them take both the men’s and the women’s team trophies. Dulwich Runners also won many of the age-group categories with Laura Long first FV35 (51:15), Nicola Richmond first FV45 (48:35), Charles Lound first MV40 (43:46), and Tony Tuohy first MV50 (43:48). The other age-group prizes were won by Sally Shewell from Sevenoaks AC (FV55 in 57:12), Mark Taylor from Tunbridge Wells Harriers (MV60 in 50:39) and Jim Fitzmaurice from Sevenoaks AC (MV70 in 1:03:28).
Once again Sevenoaks AC will be donating the majority of profits from the race to the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. Race Director Duncan Warwick-Champion noted that record participation in this year’s event was bolstered by local runners who were not affiliated with any club. “Non-club runners may not overly trouble the scorers, but to me they are the ones we organise this event for. This is a local event for local families supporting a local charity – and that’s exactly what I saw today with the weather unable to dampen the enjoyment of running around this fantastic park”.
Sevenoaks Athletics Club would again like to thank Lord Sackville for his kind permission to host this event within Knole Park. The race results are here.