Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Kent Fitness League 2016/17: Nurstead Court

Fixture 5 of the 2016-17 Kent Fitness League season took place at Nurstead Court, Meopham. This was the second time I had run at this venue, the first being 2 years earlier during the 2014-15 season. This venue is regarded as ‘proper’ cross country and features pretty much everything you could ask for in a cross-country race. It is held in the grounds of Nurstead Court, which is a grade 1 listed medieval building dating back to 1320 with a Victorian fa├žade that was added in 1825.

On race day, one of the open grass fields just off of Nash Street is put aside for car parking and there is ample space available. After a walk along a muddy, splashy path, the race HQ is found in a marquee which is pitched directly in front of the house and some portaloos are usually found just behind it. There is no other changing space available so bear that in mind when you arrive.

[photo: eden summers]

I find this course to be quite a tough mix of all of the various elements of cross-country racing. This is the only course in the entire KFL series which is 100% off-road, so I'd recommend sticking your cross-country spikes on for this one. The start of this 2-lap-course is outside the house, which is at the highest point of the course. After a hundred metres or so, the runners head downhill on a fairly wide grassy section which gets steeper towards the bottom.

At the bottom, the course heads straight back uphill for a short stretch and crosses into an adjacent field. The notable thing here is the very heavy camber which you could find yourself running on – I found it quite uncomfortable in places, but if you get your positioning right, you can find a nice flat groove to run along.

[photo: dawn granger]

Turning for another short climb, the course weaves around and drops back down to the lowest point where the headline course feature is to be found – this is of course, the water splash. It’s always cold and it’s always splashy, but you will find a lot of support here because what could be more fun for the spectators than watching a bunch of grown adults grimacing as they splash their way through a huge, freezing cold, knee-deep puddle. Plus if they’re really lucky they might even get to see a few people fall in.

After this, it’s time for another climb and this one can be quite exhausting with freezing cold feet to deal with at the same time. At the top another course feature can be found – the hay jump. Quite simply a couple of bales of hay across the path which require a little jump to negotiate. With that out of the way, there is some relief as the course heads downhill for a while.

[photo: dawn granger]

Once at the bottom, the runners swing to the right, through some trees and again sent back uphill along the edge of an open field. A brief section through some more trees brings them out on a very muddy, energy sapping, footpath – this must be a couple of hundred metres in length and finishes with a tight left-hander and a short, sharp incline.

Another, shorter section across a field and the runners head into the woods where the path twists and turns. There are all sorts of hazards to look out for such as log jumps, tree roots and low hanging branches. While the kilometre-or-so section in the woods undulates, there is a very nice stretch early-on that is ever-so-slightly downhill and I found this part felt amazing to run along (flying along, twisting, turning, hurdling, and ducking). More course features are found deeper in the woods – the bomb craters: If I remember rightly, there are four of them and all involve a very steep downwards entry followed by an equally steep exit.

[photo: dawn granger]

At the end of the section in the woods, there is another field to circumnavigate. This is followed by a tough incline to negotiate along the footpath which runs adjacent to the long downhill section from the very beginning. Once this section has completely broken you, you’ll have the pleasure of repeating the whole lap one more time before heading back along the flat start straight, and into the finish funnel.

I found the course really tough. I’d probably even go so far as saying that it was brutal and it hurt like hell. It undulates the whole way round, so whenever things start to feel good you know that another uphill section is surely right around the corner. While I was two-and-a-half minutes slower around the course than I was last time, it looks like I managed to pace myself better (there were only 30 seconds difference between my two lap times this year, whereas last time there was a full minute).

[photo: studio gecko]

My club, Dartford Harriers won the combined team competition and that makes it 5/5 wins so far this season. The full results were published the day after the race and I finished in 73rd position overall out of 356 competitors (65th male out of 246). My official time was recorded as 37.42.

Full results: KFL 2016/17 – Match 5: Nurstead Court
GPS data: KFL Nurstead Court

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