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It's been a great year for trail runners! We've been involved in a number of events with our good friends from Run, Walk, Crawl and we've heard many stories of triumph and heartbreak along the trails. But this particular story has definitely been worth following.

So far, avid trail runner, Ben Wernick, has taken part in three Run, Walk, Crawl events this year; Brecon to Cardiff 50 mile race, Cardiff to Ogmore-By-Sea 32 mile race, and the Pebmrokeshire 100 mile race. But he didn't do it for glory or simply for the love of calf cramp - he had a much greater cause to run this year.

Here's Ben's story in his own words...

The Cause
This year I will completing a number of ultra-marathon runs raising money for Devon Air Ambulance. There are many worthy charities out there, but an air ambulance is a special one. Able to land on a postage stamp these amazing aircraft do not care what colour you are, your religion, your age, nor how rich or poor you are. At some point in your life yourself, or worse still a loved one, will be in a dire predicament and based on geographical location and the injury they may require immediate hospital treatment. In this situation, the only thing you will want is an air ambulance.

Four and a half years ago I regrettably witnessed such an event, but for me unfortunately, after a week in hospital, my 16 month old son died. However, it was the air ambulance that landed in a small garden that got him to hospital quick enough to give him a chance, and for that, I can ask for no more.

I appreciate that not everyone lives in Devon, but then again neither do I, I was on holiday at the time. Furthermore the Wernick Group will match donations up to £500.

The First Race - Staying Competitive
On Sunday the 11th February I completed the first event, a 70km ultra from Brecon to Cardiff. The day started at 04:30, which gave me time to drive to the finish, drop off my car, then get the bus to the start location for registration and a kit check. I must admit, in advance of the race I was pitching myself as coming in the top 20 of the 340 entries; however, once I was in the registration hall everyone seemed to have travelled from across the country and all looked very professional. The race jackets the majority were wearing were £150+; I bought a ten pound one from Sports Direct the Thursday before!

At 08:00 the race kicked off. I purposefully started at the back to prevent myself from sprinting off and getting knackered early. The weather was snowy, windy and cold. However, wrapped up in my Sports Direct jacket I felt OK. The route followed the Taff Trail and at the start we followed a canal path. Over the first 30 mins or so I quickly passed the majority of the runners prior to the assent. The initial assent took at least an hour, and I was making good progress; I was kept motivated by two things, firstly raising money for charity, but also raw competitiveness. There was an absolute pleasure in seeing someone in front of me, having an internal dialogue, ‘I am going to have you,’ followed by overtaking them. I continued with this strategy for five hours when it transpired beyond my belief I was in 8th place. For the final hour my legs felt pretty heavy and I was filled with a desire to maintain my position, yet whenever I saw someone in front, competitiveness took hold!

In the end, I finished the race in 6 hours four minutes and came 5th.


The Second Race - Changing Tactics
On Saturday the 7th April I completed the second event, a 32 mile ultra from Cardiff to Ogmore-By-Sea. The route followed the coast from Penarth Pier to Ogmore along an amazing coastline – definitely worth a visit for a gentle stroll!

With the course on my doorstep, I learnt a few lessons from the previous event and I registered the evening before. Therefore the morning of the race started at a civilized 06:00, giving me plenty of time to drive to Cardiff and find the start position. On the previous race I started at the back and the funnelling effect resulted in at least a 10 minute delay, so this time I thought I would start at the front, so I gingerly made my way to the front cohort. Having come fifth last time, I externally rationalized that coming in the top 10 would be a resounding success; internally anything less than fifth would be a failure.

The race kicked off at 08:04, the weather was raining and the board walk was slippery. I quickly got into a comfortable pace and found myself in a group of four at the front. Within a very short period of time, we were going at an uncomfortably fast pace, over very difficult and hilly terrain. I kept up with the lead pair for a few hours, until my quads felt ready to pop, at which point I fell into a more sustainable pace. As I passed 26.2 miles it became apparent that the field had spread out to the point where I only had glimpses of the lead pair in front and no-one behind me. The last 7.8 miles hurt, particularly when I go to the 32 mile point, only to discover the course was a little longer than advertised!

In the end I finished the race in 4 hours 55 and came 3rd.