Title: A pleasure to organise
For nearly two years, Rural Running have been talking to the team at Ditcham Park School, about the possibility of holding a running event in the grounds and around the local roads and countryside trails.
The school sits high on the south downs, with stunning views, as far as the Isle of Wight to the south.
The school staff have been amazingly supportive, and most helpful, with Denise Allen, the Bursar, and her husband Jeremy, helping to set out the course and build the start/finish area, throughout the Saturday before the race.
On race day, I was able to dispense with my normal 4am start to set up the various aspects of a race, as it was mostly all done. All we had to do was place the final signs and set out the water station, and of course inflate our newly purchased race arch.
As runners began to arrive, most of which generously made a £2 donation for parking, the coffee 'horse box' started dispensing hot teas and coffees and some healthy cold drinks. Number collection was almost seamless, apart from a couple of small issues that were rectified quickly and easily.
We were lucky to have the Headmaster of the school with us, and so invited him to start the race, with the only thing we could possibly have wanted to use, a traditional school bell!!
The views from the start, and the first 1km of the course, 2 laps of the athletics track, were stunning. kilometres 2-3 were a good downhill, on tarmac lane, before the runners headed up along a mud and gravel track into the a small wooded area, carpeted with bluebells, with the occasional waft of wild garlic! Once they exited the woodland, the school came into view in the distance on the right, with more amazing views to the east.
It was a fitting end to the 5km race, with Ditcham pupil Harry Sage coming home in first place in 21:46 which considering the terrain, was a fantastic time. Natalie Bosch won the ladies 5k race, finishing 6th overall, in a very respectable time of 29:21
The 10k runners had , more hills to encounter during the second half of their race, that was after being able to enjoy the welcome by one of Ditcham's local neighbours, who went out of his way to lay out flags and banners to encourage the runners as they ran past his house.
The 10k route then took the runners onto part of the Staunton Way and through Coulters Dean, a small nature reserve, again with the strong smell of wild garlic and with carpets of bluebells to admire. Once back out onto the road, it was a 1km uphill back to the school before entering the school and racing to the line, and when I say racing, Neil Williams, the eventual winner, was able to just about hold off a final attack from Iain Cross, separated only by 4 1/100's of a second, with Neil crossing in a time of 36:38. If before the race I had been asked for a tip on betting on the winner of the ladies race, my money would have been on Fay Cripps, and it would have been a bet well placed, with Fay crossing the line first in a time of 39:02, with birthday girl Emily Iredale close behind in 39:45. Obviously energised by the pre-race rendition of 'Happy Birthday' sung to her by the other runners!
There were a small number of runners on the 10k who stated that they had recorded the distance as being short. I can only say that while we prepare our races, the early course planning is done with computer software, either Mapmyrun, or as was the case with Ditcham, we used Ordnance Survey mapping tools. Our final recce was done 1 week before the race, using a GPS watch, and a GPS enabled smartphone! Both these devices recorded distances of 10.03km. Coincidentally, in a newspaper some days prior to the race, I read an interesting article about the accuracy of some of the most popular running watches. It seems they can be as far a 20% out!! with the worst being the Garmin Forerunner!!!
I also have to say, that when we recce the course,we walk it. Having taken advice from the Association of Course Measurers. This means when GPS signal is lost, it is regained easier and sooner, meaning the distance error is minimised. When the same course is run, it is a different story. The distance covered whilst the gps signal is lost, throws out the accuracy. A good example of this is when we measured the 100 acres course. 10.08km using the GPS device, and 9.94km using the measuriing wheel!!
Ditcham Park was a great success, with some great reviews, apart from one runner who gave the scenery a score of 3/5. I am assuming that they spent the whole race locked in the toilet!
We are hoping to soon be able to announce the date of the 2019 event, which will include a childrens race before the main event!
Thank you all for your continued support of our races!