Bewl 15? 15 what? Miles? Hang on so, it’s further than a half marathon and it’s not as far as a marathon? Fifteen miles? Who’s idea was that? You know if it was 2 miles shorter I could say I’ve done another half marathon. What can I say after this? Uurrr, I’ve done another running race of specific yet incomparable distance?
Bewl Water? Bewl Reservoir?
I guess the reason the Bewl 15 is fifteen miles is because that’s how far it is to run round the Bewl Reservoir in East Sussex. Organised by Wadhurst Runners, the race is a popular one every year at the beginning of July. I took part last year and it was tough. Mostly flat but very humid and slippery under foot with some hurty hills at the end. This year I was going to have it easy. I had been asked to film the race by Wadhurst Runner James Byford, so I wasn’t going to be taking my heart rate too near maximum.
Richard, Tanya and I arrived in the pretty village of Wadhurst with dark clouds in the sky. It was spitting with rain and it looked like the heavens might open. But it was warm and there was certainly no need for jackets. Race registration is in the Uplands Sports Centre on the main Wadhurst High Street. It’s then a 5-10 minute walk down the narrow Blacksmith’s Lane to the start. We were led there by a bagpiper, and a brass band was playing on the field when we arrived. It was packed.
Race start is 10:30. It seemed ever so late to me given some of the race start times I’ve experienced recently. 6am for Transvulcania, 6am for the South Downs Way 100 and 5:15am for the Arundel Castle Triathlon!! Richard made his way to the front. Tanya and I held back a little. The hooter sounded to start the race but there didn’t seem to be an awful lot of movement! It is a narrow lane and getting over 700 runners moving takes a little time!
The route heads down a farm track to the banks of the reservoir where we take a left to follow the Bewl Water footpath. This was the most congested part of the run as people backed up at a style at the bottom of the track. From here it started to spread out and running became easier. I do usually try to get near the front in races so I don’t often experience this bottle-necking. Not that I minded and I don’t think anyone around me was that concerned either. If you want to go fast then you’ve got to get up front at the start. That’s it. It’s all chip timed though, so the wait to get over the start line is not such a big issue.
As the race unfolded the weather got better. It started out spitting with rain, but gradually got warmer and sunnier. The ground was dry underfoot when we were out in the open. However, when running under the cover of the trees it was often very muddy and wet. It was definitely a race for trail shoes. The course soon opens out to reveal the beautiful site that is Bewl Water or Bewl Reservoir or Bewl Lake. Referring to it with any of these names seems acceptable. I think the official name is Bewl Water.
Bottles or cups or something else?
Aid stations are plentiful en route, every 5k or so. This year they were stocked with water and Lucozade, both in bottles. There were also jelly babies at various points and sponge stops too. The good thing about bottles is that they are easy to drink from as opposed to cups, which really are a nightmare. However, the waste is a big issue. Many of us simply take one or two gulps and that’s it, the bottle is discarded with most of the water or Lucozade still inside. There must be a company somewhere able to produce very small bottles specifically for sporting events. 100ml bottles would be perfect, made with recyclable material rather than plastic.
Anyway, back to the race. Early on I passed Tanya (Richards wife) doing her furthest distance yet. Somewhere in the middle I passed Laura, and Paul with his GoPro. You can see his Bewl 15 video here. Then about 10 miles in I passed Deborah from Worthing Harriers and had a chat to her. From 11 or 12 miles the race leaves the lake footpath and, for the next three miles, is run on quiet country lanes. This is where, just when you don’t want it to, the route becomes quite hilly. At the backend of a trail race, a lot of ups and downs can really sap the legs. I was lucky, having taken it relatively easy for the majority of the run, I still had something left, but there were a lot of people walking up those final inclines.
It was very nice to bump in to a chap called Lee, in his Eastbourne Rovers vest. Lee was the person who handed me my Centurion Buckle at the end of the South Downs Way 100 a few weeks ago. Another runner, Phil, told me he was running to prove he’s not dead yet. “Mid-life crisis?” I asked. “Of course” he replied “Isn’t it the same for most of us?”. I also enjoyed meeting the effervescent Lizzie and Ellie Baxter, who are twins and were running 15 miles for the first time. I chatted to them on camera at the beginning of the race and then came up on them towards the end. We were at the bottom of a steep hill and as I approached they both shot off literally sprinting up the road. It was all I could do to stay with them. Amazing effort girls!
By now the sun was really hot and I didn’t find it easy on the final ascent back up to the finish. The year before I had finished in 1 hour 51 minutes. This year I came in at a leisurely 2:13! But it was worth it to chat to some nice people, enjoy the scenery a little more than if I’d been caning it and to capture some nice footage for the film. At the end there’s plenty of cake, biscuits, coffee, tea and beer if you like! You get a medal coloured Gold, Silver or Bronze depending on your finish position I think. I got silver. There’s a technical t-shirt and goodie bag with the usual bits and bobs. I think I saw some people getting a massage at the end too, whilst listening to the Wadhurst Brass Band play Teddy Bears Picnic!
Big congratulations to Worthing Harrier, Paul Loader who finished in 1:45 and to Richard who came in just 5 minutes after that. Well done to Wadhurst Runners who put on this great event every year and to the volunteers and marshals who look after us on the day. Thank you all. Great job. This year apparently was a record turn out for the Bewl 15. Let’s see if we can make 2017 even bigger and then we’ll have to walk the entire first mile!! They may have to start sending people off in waves! You can read more about signing up for next year here.
As always, if you have enjoyed this Bewl 15 race report and video please do share it with your friends and those who might want to take part next year. Give it a ‘like’ or if you still use Google Plus, a +1! Also if you get a moment I’d love it if you would subscribe to the Film My Run YouTube channel here. Thanks for reading.