My Running Story – Darrell Benge Pt II

In part I of Darrells running story, Darrell wrote about how it all started and his successful graduation as a runner. For part II Darrell takes us further into his running career so far…..

Darrell is a great example of what you can achieve if you put your mind to it. Currently sitting on top of our club championships having hit some great early season PB’s at both 5k Sprint and 10K distances. We can’t wait to see what the next chapter has in store for you Darrell…..

Part II

My running history – Running since Parkrun

What happened after the first parkrun? Did the running continue…..?

The bug must have caught, the following week after that first parkrun saw me back in Churchill gardens for another go, together with Saffie and Anne from the C25k group and a few other club members. Another carefully paced run and I took 25 seconds off the previous weeks’ effort.

Several of the C25k group continued to meet up on a Tuesday evening often joined by a good number of regular club members too. This was a nice gentle evening run usually around about 5 or 6k and meant we all kept the running habit. It proved to be popular enough that it was eventually made a full club evening and has continued with a good turnout.

I have since done Salisbury parkrun a total of 12 times now up to the last one on the 14th of March just before the national cancellation of all Parkruns. I have steadily managed to chip away at my times and have got it down now to 24.18 this I was happy with, never thinking I could get down below the 25-minute barrier!

I have also been a parkrun tourist. This is one of the benefits of parkrun that once registered you can easily run at any parkrun anywhere. I have taken part in Hadleigh parkrun in Essex, one local to Cheryl’s family. This is tough! It uses the Olympic mountain bike course as part of the route which as you can imagine is quite hilly! I have not yet managed to run the complete course, there are some serious climbs and just haven’t managed to keep the legs going all the way! I will one day! 

In June last year several of the C25k graduates entered into their first proper race! A 5k in the village of Heddington. This was the 2nd race in a series of evening races organised by Calne Running Club. and used a circular route around the village on relatively quiet village roads. It is a nice generally flattish course with a quick downhill start, so easy to get caught out on. It is a well-supported event and is quickly signed up with entries from many of the local clubs. This is a great event to get some race experience as it is a nice relaxed, fun event and you get lots of support from marshals and the other runners. I enjoyed the run and finished with Andy A sprinting with me to the finish. Maybe started a bit far out as my legs were giving out towards the end but made it up the last little climb to the finish line in a decent time 28.19.

I started to enter some more races my plan was to maybe do a 10k before the end of the year. Next up at the beginning of July was another evening race, the Chippenham river run 5k and I persuaded Saffie to enter with me. It was a really hot evening on a route that was a mix of trail and road, really congested on narrow paths to begin with but even twisting an ankle in a rabbit hole at about 2k we both stuck together to the end earning ourselves a rather bright lime green T-shirt for our effort.

The following week was the Heddington race number 3. This one I made the mistake of starting too fast, easily done on the downhill run with the rest of the runners. I was feeling it by the time I got to the 4k marker and had to have a short walk to let my legs recover, still I made it to the end only slightly slower than the previous months race. Looking on my Strava I hadn’t been the first to make that mistake, the last segment is titled “No energy after starting too fast”! My first k at 4.58 my last at 6.10. Lesson learnt.

The following month the Heddington race was a handicap event. Each runner given a start time based on their best 5k time. I had an idea I could do ok, I would be starting early in the running order and. I had been running regularly with our Tuesday group and had been doing some of the Wednesday training sessions, I’d even started venturing out on the longer Sunday club runs. I knew I needed to pace it carefully and not go too fast to early as the course was being run in reverse, so the usual downhill start was now a hard uphill to the finish. We all lined up in running order ready to be given our start signal. I set off at a comfortable pace and didn’t worry too much as starters from behind came past, I eventually started picking them off towards the final few kilometres. Hitting the hill to the finish I managed to maintain my pace crossing the line to collapse in a bit of a heap. Turns out I took 49 seconds off my 5k PB and ended up finishing 3rd male.

Headington Presentation

The next race was another challenge. I joined one of the club teams for the two tunnels relay in Bath. This was a 50k race and we had two teams of five entered – 10k each….so much for leaving the 10k till the end of the year! Still I was on good form and had been running regularly. I worked out my pacing, so I had negative splits. to start slow and building up the pace. I was aiming for a finish in around an hour and even wrote my kilometre times on my hand to help. I was in a team with Karen, Daman, Roxy and Lee. I chose to go second after Karen, and I used the time waiting for Karen’s return to have a bit of a warmup. It is a nice route following an abandoned railway line out and back through, as the name suggests, two tunnels one of which is just over a mile in length. I found my pace working nicely and felt comfortable, I took an energy gel at half distance where we turned for the return and there was a water station. I reached 8k feeling really good and picked up the pace slightly, I certainly felt that on the climb up to the finish field but kept going to pass onto Daman the next team member. I achieved my aim of finishing within the hour, just, with a time of 59.54.


My next race was due to be the Thruxton 5k a run around the track where I had spent so many years marshalling and knew so well having driven countless laps. I did a couple of club runs in the week prior, just at a nice and steady pace but found that I had pain developing in my left shin. On race day I put on some compression socks and made sure I did a good warm up but it was niggling all the way. It’s a tough 5k going the wrong direction around the track and finishing in the pitlane, I found the last climb really hard especially into quite a fierce headwind. There is a reason they built an airfield there! Still it turns out I ended up 3rd male again! It seems if you want a trophy enter races with small fields , most entrants were there that day for the 10k.     

The niggly shin had got very painful and was sore even to walk on. Turns out I had shin splints, swelling and pain down the front of my shin, often caused by overuse. Disappointing as I had been going so well. I saw Caroline for some treatment and some exercise and stretches to help but the only real solution was rest. Looks like no running for at least 3 weeks. This was slightly inconvenient as I had signed up with the Running School in Southampton for a 6-week course. I thought this course would help prevent injury not really planning on going into it with an injury to start with. Luckily Paul who runs the course is adaptable enough to work around it, but it meant less treadmill time and lots more exercises to strengthen the glutes. I could still feel the benefit of the sessions even though the shin was still sore.

Unfortunately, I was also due to run the clock change challenge 10k. Luckily, I transferred my place to another club runner so I decided, as I was due to be there anyway, I would volunteer to marshal instead. Always good to be able to help out and great chance to cheer on a what was a big turnout from Shrewton Running Club.

I made a gentle return to running at the beginning of November joining a friend of mine at the Andover parkrun. Another nice local parkrun and ideal as mostly relatively flat around a couple of large playing fields. One I must do again.

The following return event was not so gentle. I was entered for the Roundway Revenge in Devizes, an 8-mile trail run with two climbs up Roundway hill. This was tough! Not one I’m desperate to do again.

Really muddy and a horrible 2nd climb up the hill in deep mud. Maybe not so bad if I had gone into it fitter.

Towards the end of the year I had been asked several times about becoming a run leader. I wasn’t sure if I had had enough experience, but I did enjoy helping on our club runs and especially the continuing Tuesday runs. I signed up for one of the England Athletics courses together with Enid and Jason. None of us really knew what to expect but it was a brilliant day with us all completing the course to add to the club tally of run leaders.

This year started with the club award night where I was surprised to be awarded 3rd most improved runner for the past year. The following day was Lawrence’s 5k resolution dash handicap event which was a great fun way to start the new year.

Time then to plan the races for rest of the year. First up was to be the SMARTT Smasher 10k part of the Wiltshire Off-Road League. I originally planned to do another WORL event at the Bowood 10k in preparation for a visit to Milton Keynes in May for what was to be my first half marathon!! 

The SMARTT race is one I did enjoy; Karen and I were both running so off we ventured to Calne. It turned out to be a nice morning for a run, we gathered towards the back of the field for the start and set off. Again, a nice, flattish out and back route on another disused rail line, slightly muddy but still firm underfoot. I felt like I was running well and settled into a comfortable pace and went on to run it in 53.17, taking over 6 minutes off my 10k time. This was after taking over 2 minutes off my parkrun PB the day before. It seems the sessions at the Running School were starting to pay off, my running style had improved, the runs felt good and nothing hurt afterwards!

Obviously, things for this year haven’t quite gone as planned. I am still running during the week, though I find it’s not so much fun on my own and takes much more motivation. At least Cheryl has now achieved running 5k so now we can head out for a run together. On one of my runs I made it past the 10-mile mark even though my knees were not too happy about it. Maybe again a bit too much too soon…Oh well I will learn eventually (and maybe an excuse for some new trainers)!

What next……The half marathon is still in the pipeline if not this year then definitely next, but what I am really looking forward to is just getting out with the club for our great fun social runs.