In short: Wonderful marshaling, challenging terrain, just the right distance and utterly rewarding. In full: Last year was my first Benfleet 15 and despite the snow and harsh conditions - I was hooked. In some ways, I felt a little cheated by the weather last year as this race is somewhat known for the muddy conditions - that make it all the more challenging. If I felt cheated by the weather last year then Mother Nature put that firmly right this year.
Frankly, I knew it was going to be muddy - but could not have imagined just how muddy it would be. The first 3 to 4 miles presented every type of mud known to man - from runny and slippy to firm and deep (the type that'll pull your shoes off). As you turn back out onto a very short road section, you get some respite. And, in fact, the real deep stuff didn't start again until the return leg from Canvey Island (about 10 miles in).
The last few miles were incredibly tough - with some of the steepest climbs of the day - made all the harder by the underfoot conditions. In fact, on one very short ascent (from a lower path - up through a gate) we were all on all fours - grabbing at roots!!
The uphill finish really does feel like it's going to finish you - but the crowd support at the top was something else.
And then, of course, once it's all over, you get that treasured Benfleet 15 Running Shirt - to proudly wear and let everyone know how much you like to suffer.
This is an exceptionally well organised event. The atmosphere is wonderful, the marshals are in a league of their own and the run and reward top drawer.
The Benfleet 15 is now a firm fixture on my annual calendar - thanks BRC for bringing this together every year. Date of review: January 20, 2014
In short: A fantastic race through undulating terrain. When you start to suffer, those fantastic marshals will keep you going. In full: As a relatively new runner (8 months or so) this is the first time that I have entered the Benfleet 15 - and I am mightily glad that I did.
This is a race that will challenge you. The terrain rises and falls and, at times, can be hard going underfoot. But the route takes in some great trails and really good views that soon draw your mind away from the punding you are giving your feet (assuming that you don't have to run it in a blizzard, that is).
Personally though the thing that made this race for me was the organisation and marshalling. Despite heavy snow on the morning of the race - it all went ahead and ran like clockwork (take note, train companies). And all the way around the route, the team of friendly, encouraging marshals gave me just the lift that I needed to keep going. Given that these poor guys had been standing around in driving snow and sub-zero temperatures, I amazed how they kept their spirits up - but they did.
The sharp climb behind Benfleet Station (Station Road, I think) was a real challenge - coming somewhere around 13.5 miles. But the water stop at the top with supplies of jelly babies and chocolate was incredibly well positioned (and well worth losing 20 seconds off of your time for).
Even better, at the end of this you don't get just another faux metal medal - you get a very nice running shirt - which you can then wear to let everyone know you've finished the Benfleet 15.
Top work Benfleet Running Club - this is now a firm fixture in my diary. Date of review: January 24, 2013