ALEX Benfield collapsed – bloodied and bruised – over the line at the Saucony Midland Cross Country Championships after losing his running spikes just seconds into the race.
Lesser mortals would have thrown in the towel when faced with a treacherous course armed in a pair of socks. But the Burton Athletics Club runner continued undaunted and celebrated his best ever finish at the Midland Championships, clinching eighth position in a time of 18.03.
The plucky Benfield also finished just eight seconds behind fifth-placed Declan McManus in the under-17 race.
William Monaghan joined Benfield to carry the flag for Burton Athletics Club over two laps of a Stafford Common course that had become a heavy, slushy mess.
Runners were quite tightly packed for the hill start and Benfield was well placed when he lost both running spikes in the first patch of mud.
Despite the ice, snow and sludge underfoot the Burton runner refused to drop out. Benfield picked up a few scrapes along the way as he attempted to keep his feet and avoid the other runners’ spikes.
The in-form Benfield not only completed the race against all odds but even made up positions in the closing stages before collapsing with blooded feet 17 places higher than his previous best at the prestigious championships.
Monaghan was not far behind, taking 23rd spot in a time of 19.19 to finish third Staffordshire runner.
By the time the men’s race set off the course was a quagmire with several Burton Runners unsure if they would be able to complete the challenging course.
Gordy Smith, despite recovering from a cold, was first Burton runner across the line following a sprint finish in 72nd place, clocking 39.48.
Eamon O’Hanlon, with his fingers still in a splint, next home after completing the 11k course in 248th place. Rob Sharrat was not far behind in 258th while Paul Mathie was 286th.
Earlier in the day, with the course covered in several inches of snow, Alec Stackhouse and Tom Benfield set off on the first race of the day for Burton AC.
Team Bath dominated the under-13 race from start to finish with and took the top three placings. Stackhouse ran well in tough conditions to match his 11th place finish in 2012.
Tom Benfield made up a few places in the latter stages to finish 88th.
With the course still covered in snow, Staffordshire county team qualifiers Cory Parker and James Latham were up next in the under-20 category.
The race was shortened due to the conditions which hindered Parker who would have hoped for a better placing after crossing the line in 27th place. Latham was 32nd.
Mollie O’Hanlon was in under-13 girls action and was pleased with a 38th place finish against tough opposition.