19 December 2022

History of the Knole Run

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The Knole Run: 1973 and afterwards

In the early 1970s, the Sevenoaks senior cross country teams travelled away to a number of relay races, such as one at Merchant Taylors. The teams ran very well and often won some minor medals, but the conditions we experienced were never ‘very testing’, a term Sevenoaks used as a euphemism for the sub-zero, windswept quagmire that can be Knole Park in early January.

The school and Knole Park hosted the Kent championships on two occasions around this time, providing an opportunity to see how Knole could accommodate a large number of runners. Both events proved successful, enjoyable, and something of an eye-opener to runners unaccustomed to such conditions. The decision was made. We would try to entice as many schools as we could to Sevenoaks and provide a six-mile course with testing conditions; a single lap of the park. Around 25 schools accepted the invitation, including schools from the distant north and from Scotland, about 200 runners in all. The race started, as it did for many years, with the then headmaster Alan Tammadge ringing an old school bell. The runners disappeared, and those who found the course rather demanding spent well over an hour finding their way around it. We timed everyone with stopwatches, and staff with their teams calculated scores in order to work out places.

Sevenoaks came third for the first three years. Three other local schools Judd, King’s Canterbury and Skinners ruled the roost for a number of years, keeping out of the top two places any schools travelling significant distances to the race. For that reason the school provided an additional cup, to be won by a team travelling from afar that was not one of the first three medal-winning schools.

Since those early amateurish days, many excellent runners have fought their way around the course, including some who have won the England schools cross-country championships. Great improvements have been made over the years: the two-lap course has been introduced; the race has nearly doubled in size with over 400 runners each year; and from 1996 a girls’ race has taken place as well.

One timeless, unchanging success is the marvellous tea provided by the parents’ association for competitors. Boarders looked forward to the Knole Run for many years, even though few were runners; parents insisted on providing sufficient teas for a cast of thousands and no boarders ever like to see waste!

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