Ancient trails: Are you brave?

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Phil Benton from Rye was brave enough and here are his thoughts.

When did you start running and what was your motivation to do so?

I originally started running when I wanted to get fit for football, but it was short-lived over one summer and I didn’t stick to it. I was then talking with a colleague at work, saying I need to do something to get fit as my desk job meant I was doing very little. I have always struggled to keep my weight under control, my heaviest being nearly twenty stone previously, aged just nineteen. I now am a comfortable weight 9/10 stone lighter than that!

We started off with a lunchtime 5k run which was very much walking and running in a combination to finish it. That was it then, the benchmark was set and it took off from there. I set myself little goals to try and go further, faster or more often.

I have since run multiple events in the past three years, up to a 40-mile solo charity run in Rye Harbour raising money for JDRF (a diabetes charity). My motivation is simply to keep myself in the best condition for family life and to keep myself moving, but I am competitive so I will always chase times or positions where I can too.

Who do you run with?

I often run on my own. I am quite dedicated at following run plans and training for specific events, so can often plug in my headphones and go out to do different sessions. I have taken to running on my lunch break to ensure that I take one as a starter, but also to break up my screen time at work. At weekends where possible, I go out with a friend for a catch-up chat and run.

I have also managed to start dragging my stepson out occasionally, and he looks to have the bug too now, after doing some local children’s races and now completing his first 5k. He is Type 1 diabetic, so we are learning a lot about how to control his blood sugar levels at the same time, so I am usually saddled up with Lucozade and a pocket full of sugary treats!

Who, if anyone, has been your mentor in running?

I take inspiration from a lot of different runners, from those just starting out, and watching them hit milestones to those at elite level, trying to follow their training and understand what they are doing to reach their goals.

I have previously been a swimming coach so I can relate a lot to training cycles and preparing for events in a solo sport where it’s you against the clock. I talk to people who have been there and done it too: there is nothing more valuable than learning from people who have both tried and failed as well as succeeded.

The Ancient Trails event: tell me a little about it.

The Rye Ancient trails is an event organised by Nice Work race management who are locally based, taking in the different parishes. Starting from Rye High Street outside the George Hotel with the Town Crier, you head out across to Playden through fields and hills. Next on the route you head to Iden and loop around the back of the church where you get your first sense of flat and head out through the beautiful orchards towards Peasmarsh.There is very little road on the route, with a mixture of fields and trails and styles to navigate, and then you come out at Jempson’s Superstore, where the course breaks.

The 15k event heads back at that point towards Rye, the 30k event continues making its way around the lanes heading towards Beckley. Taking in some of the footpaths, you make your way to the bottom of Hobbs Lane and travel down the main road of Beckley. Making a sharp right, you continue offroad through fields some more, snaking your way towards Northiam where you reach the turning point of the course.

Heading back past runners in the other direction, you get the real sense of spirit, lots of cheering each other, congratulating and willing people on as the terrain gets tough.

Heading back you split towards Beckley church and take an alternative route back to Peasmarsh, with lots of wooded areas to navigate and tight twisty paths. Rejoining the 15k route, you have the final and toughest climb of the event, making your way up to the church overlooking the valley on both sides, before dropping down past the cherry barn and descending down with glorious views over sea and the town of Rye.

How tough was it?

I have run events that are longer in duration and distance which are easier than the ancient trails, but the route is stunning, with a real sense of adventure. Its terrain, elevation and climbing of styles and fences make it tough and technical. What you are rewarded with is plenty of views and beautiful scenery that a lot of locals wouldn’t even get to see. The marshals on the course were amazing, many of them volunteers, with plenty of aid stations containing sugary sweets and drinks.

Image Credits: Alecia Benton .

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