I had the pleasure of running at the inaugural Hoblingwell event on 15th July 2017, along with 214 other runners. More typically, it has around 50-60. The course is one of the more complicated – on the map at least (it’s fairly straightforward once you get going, especially as the marshals and signage all give very clear directions). The park is called Hoblingwell Wood Recreation Ground and as the name suggests, it’s not a landscaped, ornamental park. It’s a mix of football pitches, a bit of scrubland and some woodland around a series of low, brick buildings, and surrounded by the Orpington suburbs.
The start and finish is located on grass a few metres from the Orpington Rugby Club car park at the top of a big field. The friendly Run Director briefs new runners, and then the participants set off for an initial one and a half laps of the field. There is a slight downhill on the out section, a couple of tight turns at the furthest point, back up past the start/finish, and out again. This time, instead of running back towards the start/finish, you join a tarmac path that runs alongside the field, run to the far end of it (next to the Rugby Club) and bear right for about 50m on grass, before turning left up a short but very steep incline (which gets tougher in wet weather).
At the top of the incline, there is about 500m run on scrubland in a gentle loop which runs alongside Leesons Way. As the road curves away to the left, the runners bear right down a weathered tarmac path for about 100m, which is a brief and welcome opportunity to pick up speed on a downhill, and then bear right again into a dirt track through some woodland – which looks like it can get very waterlogged and muddy in wet conditions.
Coming out of the woodland, runners bear left onto a cambered stretch on grass, which is actually one of the most challenging sections. After another 300m you join concrete pavement for a short incline before re-entering the park and running up a grass straight and turning right to rejoin the second lap just before the short, steep incline.
At the end of lap 2, instead of turning right, you turn left, running back on the opening ‘loop’ – across grass, back down the tarmac path adjacent to the start/finish field, back round the field, and finally through the funnel in the opposite direction you set off.
It’s not an easy course – the variable surfaces and some short but tough inclines on grass and concrete make it challenging, and the second time I ran (in November 2017) the grass was wet, the woodland section was muddy, and the tarmac straight was surprisingly slippery which meant I felt like I was running in football studs. Typical first position times are around 19-20 minutes, and this is not a course for London PBs.
There were no buggy runners last time I ran, and I imagine it would be very hard going, especially on the uphill scrabble and through the woodland track. I have driven to the run both times – there is a big, free car park for the Rugby Club just a minute’s walk from the starting line. The Rugby Club also has toilets, and is open for tea afterwards. Travelling by public transport is possible however the nearest stations are St Mary’s Cray (0.8 miles) or Petts Wood (2 miles), so you would need to leave about 30-40 minutes to walk and warm up.
Overall, I find Hoblingwell a pretty challenging course. But because it’s still very new and growing, it still has a lovely community feel, and is very welcoming to tourists. The last time I ran it, it was one of the organisers’ birthdays and there was cake offered round. The Run Director also really kindly mentioned my LonDone marathon in her briefing.
Number of runs: 2
Best time: 22:10
Best place: 10th
Surface: 2 (mixed tarmac, track, field)
Flatness: 2 (undulating)
TFL Access: 1 (nearest station is around 20 minutes’ walk)
Facilities: 4 (Rugby Club has toilets, tea, coffee and food)
PB Potential: 1 (No chance!)