13 November 2019

Cross country training camp on the South Downs

Sevenoaks runners enjoyed a trip to the South Downs over half term where they ran over 40km over three days.

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Arriving at the South Downs Bunkhouse in Houghton, we first got a sense of where we would be eating, sleeping and running for the next few days. The buildings, functional and communal, were not dissimilar to those of the Global Sports Camp in Kaptagat, Kenya. You could easily have mistaken the facilities and training to be those of professional athletes training overseas rather than a group of under 16s!

The first morning, after optional early morning run at 7am for seven intrepid souls, we began our technique session. Mr Witton delivered some theory on good running form and we then analysed ourselves by filming one another in slow motion so we could identify things that we would be able to work on. In the first training session, we ran a total of 10km and also tackled a tough hill session. After lunch, we headed up Monarch’s Way to the South Downs Way for a short, fun relay along the top of the chalk tracks. In the evening, we enjoyed a well-earned pizza night and the inspirational movie ‘Without Limits’ on the life of Steve Prefontaine, who set American records at every distance from 2,000 to 10,000 meters in the 1970s.

The following day there were, perhaps not surprisingly, only five takers for the muddy 7am morning run through the drizzle! We then learned about the importance of core stability in running as well as the kind of exercises we could do, even while brushing our teeth. With the high amount of sessions, it was important to keep up stretching in order to avoid injury and so we had a short pre-run yoga session before heading out. The morning training session was our longest of the trip, the jog out to the The Burgh for our paarlaufs, the session itself, and the return run coming in at almost 14km! The afternoon session was a lighter one as a result, with a jog up to Houghton Forest and a short fartlek session. We had certainly earnt our celebratory pub meal at the George and Dragon and I think that everyone was ready for some rest that night.

As the final morning of the camp rolled round and we headed out en masse for our 7am run, I couldn’t help but feel impressed. Not just by the views and the rainbow over the South Downs and River Arun but by the resilience that everyone at the camp had shown throughout the week. I was particularly impressed by the determination of the youngest runners, who had taken the 40+ kilometres of running over the three days in their stride. Everyone had earned their rest after the camp but from the effort put in on this trip they can be sure that improved fitness and results will come throughout the rest of the season.

Fenton Davoren, Year 11

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