Eridge Park 10 Trail Challenge has a 21 year history of pushing runners to the limits of their endurance and mental resolve. The distance may be a mere 10 miles but the varied terrain, with steep, rutted and narrow climbs, has been bruising egos for more than two decades!
After 21 editions of this classic race, Nick Barrable (Tonbridge AC) stands proud as the sole athlete to have completed the course inside an hour. Barrable's record (59:51) has prevailed since 2007. Lucy Reid (Tonbridge, 1:09:45) set a women's record in 2017 before improving to 1:07:04 last year – winning outright from her Tonbridge team mate Nicole Taylor (1:08:47).
Billy Hobbs of host club Tunbridge Wells Harriers 'won' last year (1:09:54) behind the Tonbridge female internationals but in good underfoot conditions on Sunday (1 September) he ran his best time for the course (1:04:45) to savour the spoils of victory alone this year.
Hobbs was primarily a parkrun specialist until joining TWH in 2017 and he looks ready to revise his marathon best from 3:11:47 at Copenhagen in 2016. His podium partners at Eridge on Sunday were TWH team mate Will Levett (M40, 1:05:03) and former Paddock Wood stalwart Paul Hasler (M40, 1:08:58).
The women's race was more clear cut as Tonbridge newcomer Helen Gaunt (W40, 1:21:11) took the honours from Suzy Whatmough (Ranelagh Harriers, 1:24:13) and W45 Heather Fitzmaurice (Sevenoaks, 1:24:45). The winner later blogged: “10-mile hilly trail race this morning. For a road runner it was a bold (slightly un-researched) choice so I stood by the start line, reviewing the course map, actually laughing at the craziness of it! Steep narrow climbs, perilous rutted downhills and muddy bogs”.
There were 351 finishers with M80 legend Bryon 'Spud' Taylor (3:17:51) acting as sweeper.
The event has unique access to normally private parts of the Eridge Park Estate, family home of the 6th Marquess of Abergavenny. The estate is steeped in history, being reputedly the oldest enclosed deer park in England and listed in the Domesday Book under the ownership of Odo, brother of William the Conqueror. Fitting then that another William (or Billy) has conquered the undulations and ankle traps of this beautiful High Weald parkland with breathtaking views over the Sussex Downs!