A trip to Flanders pt 3: #401Challenge - a dedication to Ben Smith


The next stage of my trip to Flanders in 2016 coincided with an interruption to the inspirational 401 Challenge being undertaken by Ben Smith..........

Day 3

I woke up this morning to the news that Ben has had to suspend his 401 challenge due to back problems and my heart sank. Like many fellow runners around the UK, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and running with Ben during his challenge; in my case on New Year’s Eve last year when he ran his marathon in Derby. He’s a truly inspirational guy doing something that is about much more than just running, so let’s just hope he’s back on the road soon.

I was feeling Ben’s frustration when I set out on stage 3 of my jaunt to Flanders this morning, so it felt fitting to dedicate my day’s running to him, particularly as he’s now planning to drop in some ultramarathon days to get back on track. And you know what? When I stopped my watch on arrival at Watford this afternoon the distance read 40.1 miles! Spooky, but hopefully a good omen. So, this one was for you Ben.

What else can I say about today, other than it was another long stretch along the canal towpath?

Well, a mile from my destination for the day, and after following it for over 100 miles, I finally turned off and left it behind. Hurrah!! Whoop whoop!! That said, it’s served me well, and it’s actually a fantastic way to slip down the middle of the country, in a way that feels like you’re behind the scenes. Very tranquil and some interesting characters inhabiting some of the narrow boats. And much better than the alternatives.

Prior to that the highlights for the day were:

1. Seeing a heron swoop down and snatch a fish from the water. Unfortunately it had swallowed it down before I had chance to get my phone out to take a pic.

2. Passing under bridge number 118. For some reason just made me smile.

3. The poshest lunch of the trip so far at a nice little canal side cafe in the village of Marsworth.

4. Bumping into Sandra from Tring Running Club, who was 5.5 hours into a 6 hour ‘brick’ training session for an Iron distance triathlon she’s doing next month. Those 3 miles passed by quickly as we chatted about various swimming, cycling and running related topics.

5. Crossing under the M25, just because it made me feel that I had finally reached the south.

And the lowlights:

1. A stomach that was feeling a little queazy for the first couple of hours, probably due to a poor food choice last night. I knew I shouldn’t have ordered a side order of a 10 inch pizza. Got a quizzical look from the waitress though.

2. Well, that’s probably it really. The day went smoothly and I was in Watford with adequate time for a shower, rest and dinner before England v Russia. Oh yeah, there was another lowlight. Hmmmm.

And the stats:

Miles covered: 40.11 (123.89 accumulative)

Time elapsed: 7:54:46

Time moving: 7:05:26

Elevation gain: 410ft (a whopping 10 ft per mile).

Average pace: 10:36/mile (2 secs a mile quicker than yesterday).

Consumption during the run:

– 1 Banana

– Tuna mayo sandwich with crisps and side salad

– 1 Apple

– 2 litres of Tailwind mix

– 2 litres of plain water.

#Flanders #ultrarunning

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