So after last years miserable performance of 2:18:55 I swore never to do the Benfleet 15 mudfest ever again! But I decided a few months back that I had unfinished business with the race and so decided to book myself in for Jan 2011.
The dreaded day arrived and I felt ok. I set myself what I felt was the achievable target of 2hrs 10mins. That doesn't compare favourably with my 10k and HM PB's but cross country and the Benfleet 15 are a very different kettle of fish compared to a nice flat road race.
The race start is down a steep slope so I got to the start line early to make sure I could navigate my way down safely without hundreds of watching eyes. I made it down safely and then the masses arrived.
The race started on time and we were away on the easiest part of the course. The first 5 or so miles is along the seawall, fairly flat and only the odd puddle to avoid. During this period I was running at sub 8 min miles, I need 8:40's for my 2hrs 10 target.
You then arrive at Benfleet train station where u hang a left and slog it up a decent incline on your way to the start of the Hadleigh Downs. I took over a group of 4 or 5 guys and felt good up the hill. I probably over cooked it, but I do enjoy attacking the hills. Once onto the Downs I coasted the first downhill or so to get my breath back after attacking on the hill.
The next 4 miles are what gives this race it's status as a very difficult mudfest slog. Having run it last year, I had an idea of what was to come but even so it's still a shock when the mud and water start sucking at your trainers. I could feel the time flowing away as at points you were reduced to walking, particuarly the hill after about 7 miles. But I tried to keep calm and I was still ahead of my 2hr 10min target. The first five miles had gone so well I had revised my target to sub 2hrs, but after the mud I knew that just wasn't on.
As you leave the Hadleigh Downs and head towards Leigh station you pass the 9 mile marker. Just 6 hard miles back along the sea wall. I think the terrain is fairly similar to the first 5 miles, but my trainers now weighed twice their original weight and my muscles were aching from the hammering of slip sliding in the mud and the different stresses this puts on the muscles.
I settled into a rythm, the field had thinned out considerably and I was running alone for large parts of the homeward leg. A guy got chatting to me with a mile or so to go and that distracted me from the slog. I managed to pick it up as I passed the 14 mile mark, 2hrs 5mins was now out, but I was looking for something in the 2hrs 7mins region. The school and finish line were insight for the last half mile and that kept my legs moving, over the hill and then pushed for the line. Got a cheer from Lauren as I neared the line, she was only able to see me start and finish as the course isn't spectator friendly. She had me strip down in the carpark and got me into something warm before getting me home safe.
The offical results have just come in and I did big 12 min PB and finished in 2:06:41 and finished 203 out of 583. A very pleasing mornings work all round!