Benfleet 15 Cross Country Race

Physio Sophie takes on a Tough 15 miles this weekend

Picture the scene, a crisp (2 degree!) Sunday morning, when most of us are still doozing in bed I am trying to keep warm on the start line of a 15 mile cross country race. I have been here before, and after the last time I swore I'd never be back - so what exactly am i doing?

Images lifted from Benfleet Running Club website

I see a friend who is also running, we joke about how mad we are together and both say ''Its just a training run today''.  For me it is a stretch more than a training run, as the longest run I have recently done is 10 miles with my local running club. I also did 6 days consecutive running over the new year period which lead to a horrible blister on the back of my left heel, taped up to try and stop it form re-blistering today

Another run gets past me and says ‘’oh we’re in for some fun today!’’ I like this upbeat sort of attitude and try and keep a positive attitude as we turn a corner and start climbing.

Feeling somewhat under-prepared we're off, the first 1/2 mile is steeply down hill, which is great for initial momentum and a bit of a confidence boost for speed but with the bad weather recently and the fact it's raining the course has become a mud bath before we've even started. Another run gets past me and says ''oh we're in for some fun today!'' I like this upbeat sort of attitude and try and keep a positive attitude as we turn a corner and start climbing.


The run course (up to 9 miles as my TomTom wasn't fully charged) is undulating to say the least, and I had decided to trial a new strategy today - more like a trial runner strategy of conserving energy by waking hills, and feed stations and walking downhills if necessary. Now normally I can't stand to stop, I only stop once its over, so today would be a test of wills as well as physical endurance!
 The first proper hill comes and I am disciplined and I walk it, along with a handful of other runners, this makes me feel less stupid and less like I've already given up less than 4 miles in! My reward is a handful of jelly babies at the top. Hurrah!


Feeling all too pleased with myself I start the descent with a run - big mistake, I'm over on my backside and use one hand in the mud to push me back up. Wonderful.
I fall again, flat on my back  about 20 minutes after the first fall when i decide i will run at the edges of the course where there is bracken and more grass for better grip, its more tiring but I'd rather that than fall again.

Images lifted from Benfleet Running Club website

Around 7 miles the course takes you along an old sea wall, where it is really exposed, now raining heavier and pretty cold.

My feet are wet from the mud and both gloves are now soaked from mud,sweat and the rain. I see a runner i know and we chat a little side by side until she says she needs to slow so I plod on. I somehow hit the 11 mile mark and pick up a vet runner who helps get me into mile 12 with some light chit-chat.

Another steep hill another walk and I hit the 13 mile mark. A half marathon distance in 2H04 Not too bad for this course.

By this point everyone is walking and after some encouragement from a marshal I reply with ‘’ I bet we look like the walking dead!’’

I then mentally tell myself  ''you have a park run to go'' I know the distance in reality is a bit less than that but the imagery of this helps me push on and try and keep running rather than shuffling along.
The final 2 miles are totally churned up and its painstakingly slow. There are switchbacks to navigate and a steep section with a handrail that I cling onto to just keep going. By this point everyone is walking and after some encouragement from a marshal I reply with '' i bet we look like the walking dead!''

Then there comes the final hill, with a crowd cheering you on from about halfway. I look around me and a runner is next to me who says '' i really don't want to run this'' I reply with ''me neither'' but we tackle it together, half way up he falls over with a good cheer from the crowd but I don't have enough energy to turn around - the top is in site as well as the finish line. I am drained but give it all I have left.
I am actually more than drained as when I cross the finish line I didn't even realised I'd crossed it and a Marshall had to tell me to stop running and give me a bottle of water. Uhoh.

All in all, a tough course, tough conditions - but great preparation for some trail runs and events later this year. A well earned day of rest before getting back into it!