Benfleet 15 is our featured race this weekend in the runABC South area. There were 658 finishers last year in this challenging, multi-terrain 15 miler over Hadleigh Downs and it looks like there will be a record field on Sunday as 1,000 runners are signed up and entries are now closed.
The Benfleet course starts with a scenic tour through Hadleigh Mountain Bike Course before heading across Hadleigh Downs for Belton Hill Nature Reserve. Runners then turn past Two Tree Island towards Benfleet, beside the waters of Hadleigh Ray and Canvey Island sea wall.
There is a sensible, official short-cut option at 8 miles, which avoids a four mile dog leg beside Castle Point Golf Course and any runners taking that option have to report to the marshal at this point. The final run-in features some of the toughest hills as the Mountain Bike Course at Hadleigh Country Park comes back into view.
Last year's winner and the only athlete to manage sub-six-minute miling was Paul Molyneux (Thrift Green Trotters, 1:28:58) and the ladies' champion was Springfield Striders' Nikki Brockbank (W35, 1:46:52).
Despite the severity of the course and some particularly testing weather conditions an impressive 126 runners beat two hours and Linda Coombe, Tina Boswell and Eleanor Deslow helped each other round to finish together in 4:25:14. Fortunately, the forecast for Sunday is sunshine and a dry day with around 7C.
Different touches at Benfleet 15 include the colour coded medals with gold, silver and bronze awarded as follows: Gold for the first 100 men and women; Silver for the next 150 men and women and Bronze for every other finisher. Free NHS health checks are being offered to all participants and supporters and there is a technical T-shirt for every finisher as well.
Looks like a good race over an unusual distance to help prepare for those Spring marathons. Let's hope the weather forecast is accurate because it hasn't been for the past two years. Look out for our race report in runABC South next week.
Image courtesy Andrew Kenyon/Benfleet 15