6ª CARRERA POPULAR BENIJOFAR PREMIO CASAS MANUEL

Jo was flying back home on the Saturday & I had another 5 days of training to knuckle down to! The plan was to continue the alternate hard days but having received an email from the organisers of the previous week’s Medio Maraton Torrevieja I started to have a quick scan online for any local races & the event organiser from Club Atletismo Benijófar got straight back to me on Friday saying I could still enter their race.

Safe to say Jo was gutted to be missing out, & even more so when we went to collect my number on Saturday. I hadn’t done much (any!) research into what the event was other than the village was about 5 miles from our apartment & the race would be 7.85km! So it was a little alarming to drive into the edge of the hills & get a glimpse of a village perched on a steep hillside with the majority of streets crossing the main through-road looking to be about 20%. Anyway, nothing to worry about & we duly collected my number together with the race t-shirt & bottle of local red wine that would go down well after.

Back to the apartment after a final lunch with Jo on the beach & before my second run I did a bit more digging on the race… After initial alarm at translating a mountain race I calmed down a bit when I read it was half road & half trail along the river. Although rough trail by my standards I’d spent a week running on similar by the lake so no big deal. Next I found the race profile & indeed we would be climbing – & descending – several of those steep streets in town. A good test for my hamstring & glute!

After driving to the edge of the village I had a walk through the start/finish area & tried to find a map but it was clear this was very much a local village race…or was it? I did manage to confirm which direction we started in, & that we finished the opposite way (my limited Spanish based on cycling coming to the rescue).

A long warm up taking in the small lap in town & out onto the flatter roads on the outskirts & I made my way towards the start in good time to get some strides done. From the small village race I had left before warming up I returned to a main road full of runners of all abilities with large crowds on either side!

10am Spanish time (approximately 10.10am) the countdown started, the gun was fired & dozens of canons filled with confetti exploded into the air to send us on our way! Given the distance & nature of the course I was very much here for a hard, fast run. After some initial jostling off the start line I found myself at the front of the race, but this time closely followed by what felt like a large group of runners.

The start was a slight uphill & after approximately 500m there was a left turn up one of the steep side streets. I continued to push the pace up here, across the top & back down to the main road. After the first 1km the effort up & down that hill had reduced it to a three horse race but although the other two were pushing the pace they showed no signs of coming to the front. The cheers going back through town & down towards the trail path to the river were immense.

2017.03.05 IMG_0217 first lap

Taking it on from the front

A bit more steep downhill & a few hairpin bends got us onto the river road/path where we swapped the hills for the uneven trails. This was quite a long stretch & after 3km we were still tightly packed but I could feel/hear the others struggling. However we were running into a stiff breeze so I pushed a little harder to try & establish a slight gap & as soon as I got that I could feel the gap grow quickly without me having to do much more.

On turning left off the river it returned to tarmac & we were sheltered from any wind. Although it was quiet in this middle half there were still supporters along the route shouting encouragement.

A steady climb towards town & then a right turn to take us up the hill back into town, the large crowds & the enthusiastic race commentator. Through the town centre & back under the start/finish banner the noise was unbelievable given what I had expected! The commentator & others from the organising club were especially enthusiastic & I was able to pick out the odd shout of ‘record’. With no idea what the course record was there was no time for showboating the last mile so it was head down & empty the tanks over the last couple of hills. I was aware I had a significant gap by now though so there was no risk of being caught.

Back up the same steep hill & down the other side for the final 500m. I was moving reasonably well but the cheers & shouts of ‘record’ with members of the club on the course shouting meant it was what currently counts as a sprint finish for the line.

2017.03.05 E4AB820A-1C05-4AF0-A648-F2BE0035CE15 finish

Not a picture of elegance trying to muster a sprint downhill!

A second win in the space of a week & another fine spread at the finish line. A few handshakes, some attempted Spanish to thank the organisers & supporters over the PA system & a quick check when the presentations were. First though a plate of fine Iberico ham freshly carved at the finish!

The presentation was some time later with around 700 runners to finish. At least this time I was prepared for the amount of trophies to be presented! Another (huge) trophy & some vouchers on the podium with a good crowd staying for all the presentations. I still didn’t know what my time was & it was only when the man with the microphone asked me to wait that I remembered about the record. I was then presented with the cheque for the course record (fastest average time as I believe the course was previously 7.5km) & told of a couple of the previous winners – Eliseo Martín & Chema MartínezResults & Records.

2017.03.05 47F8A326-A390-43E5-BFB4-6C3AE80F72CF

Hoping there’s some cash as well as the presentation cheque

So from a small village race that I entered for something to pass the time after Jo went home I came away with a second win, course record, €125, trophy, t-shirt, wine, meat, bag, buff, drink, gel & an assortment of sausages from the local butcher Jaime. There was endless fruit, water, Coke, Fanta, beer & meat in the finish area as well although with driving it was just meat & water for me. Following the presentations there were half a dozen children’s race as well, so literally a whole day of racing that the village closed roads for & came out to support.

Another superbly hosted race with banners the length of the main road, great support, closed roads, lead car & police motorbike, friendly atmosphere & all for €10 (€8 if I’d entered sooner!). I’m also proud to say I was asked to be an honorary member of Club Atletismo Benijófar so I returned to England with a club t-shirt that I collected from Jaime’s the day I travelled home…together with two more packs of sausages.

You’d be hard pushed to find a better race on your travels for a low key enjoyable race as part of a holiday/trip away. And once again I got through the race in one piece & was able to put in a reasonable session the following morning.

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