There are two 10k races that place here each year that are hosted by Nice-Work and support local charity Porchlight, who provide much needed support to vulnerable people throughout the county. In February there is an off-road race and in August there is a road race. This blog is about the road race.
Although I had been mulling over entering this race for quite some time, it was only the day before the race that I actually entered. The Nice Work webpage linked to a few sign-up options but I opted to use the Run Britain online entry page - mostly because they do not charge a booking fee. As I am a club runner I paid the £14 affiliated entry fee while unaffiliated runners would have paid the full £17 for the pleasure of taking part.
On the day, car parking was available for all entrants in the large on-site car park within the grounds of Mount Ephraim. I collected my race number and timing chip from race HQ which was set up on the lawn outside the main house. Toilets were available for use just adjacent to the main house.
The ladies and disabled toilets looked fairly nice but the gents could do with a bit of a make-over. They were also out of toilet paper which probably caught a few people out. It reminded me how important it is to come prepared for the worst at races [always bring your own toilet paper, full change of clothes, safety pins etc...].
At 10.30am there was a short briefing and the race got underway - there was a special note made that the race is run on roads that remain open to traffic and that headphones are not allowed (UK Athletics are keener than ever for this rule to be enforced than in previous years).
It starts on grass and features a small lap of a cricket field before changing to tarmac and heading downhill past the car park and out onto the local country lanes for one large clockwise loop. The route undulates as it passes through the villages of Hernhill, Fostall, and Dargate. There are plenty fields, animals and orchards to be seen throughout the course.
The course was marshalled at all the important points such as junctions but I was careful to keep an eye out for vehicles just to be doubly sure to avoid any conflict. The drivers I encountered were careful enough around the runners and I didn't hear of any issues.
Just after Dargate, at around 5.5km into the race, the route has its longest stretch of continuous climbing and this lasts until around the 8km point where the highest point of the course is reached. From here the red-bricked facade of Mount Ephraim's country house can clearly be seen in the distance and it looked way further than 2km away!
The final 2 kilometres of the race are largely downhill, however there is a sting in the tail as the course turns back into the grounds of Mount Ephraim. Underfoot becomes a little gravelly and there is a fairly sharp uphill to negotiate before reaching the finish line just outside the house. You can view my full GPS trace of the course on Strava, here; Mount Ephraim 10k 2016.
As far my race goes, I had turned up with the idea to run this just under race pace as I have(had) the final race of the Run Dartford series just a few days later and didn't want to exhaust my legs before that. However, in the end I felt that I should really give the course an honest effort. So I did and I was very pleased with my pacing which I reckon I got spot on (ie I don't think I could have got around any faster). I'd say that runners should expect this course to add about 2 minutes to their current fast, flat 10k time.
The full results were posted online a few hours later and I had run a chip time of 43:20 (gun time 43:24). I finished in 22nd position out of 279 runners and was the 19th male finisher. At present there are a couple of issues with my result. Firstly, my name is spelt wrong.... twice. I am recorded as 'Stephen Stockwel' instead of 'Steven Stockwell' which seems a little sloppy to me.
Secondly, I registered as an attached athlete through my running club Dartford Harriers but my club's name has not been assigned to me. Again it all feels a little sloppy and I imagine that my details have been manually inputted as I registered fairly close to the advance entry deadline.
I have sent a message to Nice Work to ask about correcting my name in the results and at time of writing am currently awaiting for a response or for it to be actioned. I hadn't spotted the part about the running club when I sent the message so I haven't made a request for that to be added at time of writing. [I'll update this post when/if I have some more info].
Overall I had a fantastic morning. The weather conditions were perfect, the atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and the course was great. I spent some time exploring the gardens with my daughter after the run and it was lovely. I'd love to run the winter off-road version of this race [seems to be held in February], so I'm just hoping that it doesn't clash with any of the cross-country fixtures.