FKT: Sean Francos - Tunbridge Wells Circular (United Kingdom) - 2023-08-17

Route variation
Standard loop
Gender category
Start date
Finish date
Total time
4h 20m 9s


  • Only what I carried: 2l of water (with some salt and lemon juice) in a CamelBak; 5 SiS gels; and a couple of Revvies strips (trying for the first time - would recommend).
  • Wore t-shirt, shorts, running belt, long compression socks and my Puma Deviate Nitro Elites - thought the long socks would save me from nettle stings (incorrect), and risked a non-trail (but grippy) shoe for a bit of extra bounce (almost turned an ankle several times, but always saved it, so I guess that worked fine!).
  • No one else supporting and cheering - though fellow trail-users often very considerately let me pass (probably after hearing my huffing and puffing).


  • A-goal: beat the self-supported time (c4h 6min) - was on track for this until about 33km... Great effort by Henry (and Kieran).
  • B-goal: beat the unsupported time (c4h 27min) - just about achieved!
  • C-goal: finish without injury and don't mess up my marathon prep.


  • Currently marathon training, and have been running the circular for my long runs, so thought it might be fun to try the whole loop, and count as my longest training run.
  • Probably should have respected the terrain and elevation changes a little more - took a full rest day yesterday, but otherwise a normal week, and didn't appreciate that trying to keep some kind of pace on those hills, particularly when they are grass/gravel/trail, is not easy (and had only really ran them slowly on my long runs...).
  • Downhills also pretty steep at times - a more confident trail runner could definitely have got some more momentum, rather than just blowing up their legs!
  • Picked today as whilst it was hot, the high was only 23C, and there's rain tomorrow... Definitely felt the heat, but could be much worse in August.
  • Started in Southborough, at a bench/tree near the common, as its not too far from home (and walked/jogged/ran to warm up - probably unnecessary in hindsight!). 
  • I really like the start here, there's lots of fun changes in terrain, and running under the viaduct is cool. Probably went out too hot though, eventually trying to settle into around 5:15/km (but maintaining effort not pace on the hills).
  • That said - there's a heck of a lot of stinging nettles here (and throughout!), and I tried to stay on the actual trail, which often went right through them (rather than the much gentler adjacent field!). 
  • Glad to have done some reccying - definitely a few bits that are confusing, like running through the school grounds about half an hour in (following the yellow bollards). 
  • GPS / my navigation also not great and think I added about a kilometer with wrong turns (annoyingly sometimes doubling back, and then doubling back again as I'd been right first time!). Often this was when I was following my watch, rather than looking for the trail markers (though there are times when these seem to be absent for long stretches!).
  • Enjoyed running through the apple orchards; past lots of nice churches; over bridges across railways (saw some nice freight) and past the tyre swing I often stop at in training!
  • There's also a few spots (one near Eridge) where you go from heavy tree cover to suddenly running downhill through fields, and the change from being enclosed to wide-open and in the sunshine is pretty great.
  • I was also lucky with one of the (many!) farms you pass through - they have electric fences and 3 gates to pass through, which is normally fine, but I was once stuck there for 5+ minutes on a long run whilst they moved a herd of cows from one field to another across the path! That said - very friendly, as are (most) people on the route.
  • Legs started feeling pretty heavy before halfway though, which was not a good sign (should have done a mini-taper), and some of the uphills got pretty tough (ended up walking a few, using it was a chance to drink or have a gel). 
  • By about 30K I'd moved to my B-goal mentally (and was sort of struggling to stay focused on that) - the last 10K in particular felt very slow, and finishing with all that uphill is killer...
  • During the last couple of Ks, you run through some suburbs (in Southborough) and then past a pond near Holden Corner. The stretch from here to the start point is pretty short as the crow flies (and would be if you just ran up Constitutional Hill Road, which is what the GPS says), but I am pretty sure (from maps showing the circular online) that the actual trail goes up towards Modest Corner and then through the woods, which is what I tried to do. Very tricky though as there seems to be barely any trail markers during this part!
  • Finally got back to my bench, sat on it and instantly cramped, staggered a little further and lay on the floor, eventually making it to the nearby Crown & Anchor pub to nurse a pint of Guinness, neck two pints of water, and stare at some salted peanuts...

Lessons learned:

  • Taper/rest more beforehand!
  • More trail running, specifically hills (up and down), at pace.
  • Don't get lost! Easier said then done, but maintaining a better focus would have helped, and reccying a few tricky stretches more, such as at the end.

Thanks to anyone who made it this far!


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Pub was the Imperial in Southborough - no idea where I got Crown and Anchor from...