This Sunday I took a return visit to Benfleet 15, having done this last year (you can read about it here.) I knew what to expect. I remember really enjoying it last year and I must have blocked out the particularly challenging parts to it when writing that one up!
“A challenging 15 mile, multi-terrain course, incorporating sections of the Canvey Island sea wall, and the undulating Hadleigh Downs.”
The race started at 10:30am which allowed us plenty of time to arrive, get parked and pick up our numbers. Myself, John and Tina travelled together, with Gouldy being unwell and unable to run it meant today would not be a repeat of last year although it was great to see many of our club colours at the start line.
Wow, where to start – I wasn’t wrong when I thought this would be a test of my ‘fair weather’ running! It was a chilly morning, but I was really looking forward to this having remembered how much I enjoyed it last year. I knew there was rain forecast so I dressed accordingly (debatable, I was still wearing shorts but I find this easier than carrying around wet longs) and did a little warm up jog to get the legs going before the off.
As the race began we just had some drizzle, this was fine and it was already wet underfoot and nice and muddy up the early hills – of which I decided to take the approach of jogging half way then walking to the top. The first few miles actually whizzed past in a flash, me and T were running together enjoying a chat at a nice pace but then the hill towards the first set of jelly beans arrived, this was where the struggle became real. I saw some support in the shape of Pat from club which is always great and much needed especially when trying to climb up that gradient.
The temperature began to drop and the rain fell harder, unfortunately I lost T at about the 4 – 5 mile mark and I was alllllll by myyyyyyyself ( yes I was singing this in my head as I went 🎶). I had to find my pace and stick to it as best as I could, I got myself into the zone and somehow I managed to catch up with Morven, Lorraine and Stacy and we went on some of the sea wall stretch together. This was a godsend as not only is this the worse stretch of the whole course but it is where the sleet / snow began along with the wind blowing it directly into your face. The great part here (I say great – believe me it feels great when you are in that state of mind) is that you can see your team mates coming back towards you where they have done the turn around. It gives you the opportunity to shout out / receive some encouragement before hitting the 10mile point where another water station was positioned; here you climb off the sea wall going back on yourself with the advantage of being off the sea wall and enjoying some shelter from the wind.
With 5 miles to go and feeling the cold from the weather and the squelching underfoot from the wet ground as well as in your trainers from the wet feet, I knew it was time to get the job done. Head down and crack on, I used my distraction techniques in my head – counting, singing song lyrics whatever gets you through. My legs were feeling the ache from the uneven ground and my mind had quite honestly had enough of the pissing whether blowing into my face, it got to the point where you couldn’t see if that was wet snow creeping down my cheek or tears – it was snow alright.
With Gouldy unable to make this due to being unwell and having a ‘niggle’ I just had to do one thing for her and that was run up that last hill. I kept some back for it, it was slippery and there was a lot of others stacking it but I kept on my toes and managed a run (shuffle) to the top! So pleased to have finished not only because it meant I could get warm but also because I did a time I was proud of in those conditions and I actually felt pretty great for it!! Did I enjoy the run – absolutely!!
This was a very well organised run, even from the mashalls getting us into the car park safely to those who had to stand around in the horrendous weather to cheer us on, help us up hills and generally check we were all doing ok – they did such an amazing job.
- Marshmallows need to be put in a more accessible pocket 🙄
- Some days you need to run your own race even if you’ve started with or would rather be running with others 👭
- Snow is cold ❄️🌨
- If you are going to go over song lyrics in your head as a distraction choose wisely, some tunes become very annoying over 15 miles 🤨
- Always undo the zip on your top before trying to pull it over your head – otherwise it will get stuck 🤦🏻♀️
- “This is proper doing it” – there’s probably better advice to give at mile 14 😂