Last weekend - Sunday 2 July 2017 - I took part in a 15 mile race on the Kent/Sussex borders. My clubmates who had run it before told me that the Bewl15 was a great race, and they weren't wrong....
Everybody said it was well organised, and Wadhurst Runners did a great job, seemingly supported by signficant parts of the local community. Plenty of car parking and good facilities at the Uplands Sports Centre, sufficient toilets, water stations throughout and lucozade at two points on the course.
Everybody said it was a friendly and fun event - and yes, there was a piper to lead people to the start, free beer and cake at the end - not to mention a brass band and a technical t-shirt and medal. The race was started by Olympic legend Dame Kelly Holmes too. She let everybody start and then joined in, swiftly moving through the field - she passed me at about mile three.
|Kelly Holmes and piper|
Everybody said it was an amazing course - and yes we warmed up in a field with sheep bahing across the way, always good for us townies. After a start downhill along a country lane the course made its way around Bewl Water, the largest inland water in the South East of England (its actually a reservoir created by the flooding of a valley in the 1970s). The course, at least for the first ten miles, alternated between sections of shaded woodland and trails on the shores of the reservoir, where boats sailed in the sunshine. There were horses.
|Photo by Mark Reese of Hastings Runners - @the_real_reesey|
All very good but I must admit by the end I was reminded of that 1980s anti-drugs advert - 'when they told me how good Bewl15 would make me feel they didn't tell me how bad it would make me feel'.
Entirely my own fault of course. I headed off close to the front at a cracking pace that I knew I couldn't sustain, but I wanted to avoid a bottleneck in the first mile where the field has to file through a narrow gate - and where last year people further back had had to stop and walk. The heat was tough - I didn't put sun protection on and really should have, as I ended up with sunburnt neck and shoulders. I found myself slowing and then, at about ten miles in, the hills reared up. There are three significant ascents in the last 5 miles, including running back up the hill you run down at the start, all the way up to the finish line.
In the last couple of miles I got full on cramps in my quads, and while I was determined not to walk, I did have to stop a couple of times as first one leg then the other stopped working. I finished in 2:25:34 behind 458 others - many of whom streamed past me in the last third of the race. There were 835 finishers in total.
Bottom line is I failed to respect the distance, not for the first time. I only entered a few days before and had to google whether it was 15k or 15 miles - believe me it's the latter. I figured I still had the fitness from my London Marathon training but that was two months ago and though I'd run plenty since I hadn't done any long runs at any kind of pace.
Congratulations to Danny Kendall (Cambridge Harriers) who won the men's competition in 1:27:37, and to Tina Oldershaw (Paddock Wood AC), first woman in 1:44:46. Tina is a W50, so can't really blame my woeful run on my age category! Some great runs from my Kent AC clubmates, including medals for Che Compton (5th place overall and first male vet) and Zuzana Nemeckova (2nd female vet).
So yes, I strongly recommend Bewl15 but do some training - and wear sunscreen!