Runner Profile: Seamus Bennett
Well, this is a surprise! Nominated to do FRR’s first runner’s profile of 2024 by the mighty Dan G, who I actually know through swimming, is quite an honour for someone who sees himself and is generally known more for (coaching) swimming. But it’s a nice opportunity to reflect on running, as opposed to swimming, and what it means to me – after all I could run before I could swim – just.
In contrast to Shabba, I’ve only really been an FRR member since Spring 2023, but it’s true to say I’ve always been a bit of a runner. I was born in Fleetwood Ave, Felixstowe, and in Y1 regularly ran away (home) from Fairfield Infant school during the school day – for those less familiar with the local geography, it’s only about a quarter of a mile, but for a 5-year-old, with busy Beatrice Ave in between, it was quite an adventure. I believe the motivation for those early escapes was a combination of running away from the school (one teacher in particular) plus running back to my beloved home (the house where my mum still lives) and just for the love of running. As I’m sure we’ve all felt, that joy of running as fast as our legs will carry us is one of life’s intense, simple joys and one we all cherish and wish to hold on to as long as possible. Well my running journey started then, aged 5, hurtling home from my first school – which I grew to love in the end by the way.
And there were a couple of running moments I still remember at my next school, Colneis. One was in Y4, sprinting out of the school building and out onto the playing field with my football team pals to play an early match against another school team – probably Causton. Fifty years on, the memory of my heart skipping a beat in that moment of freedom, expectation and speed, is still fresh.
Then in Y6 I had a less cheerful experience as I contrived to lose the one-lap “long-distance” race at Sports Day – having won all the practise runs – by hanging right at the back and leaving it too late to catch up. Schoolboy error, literally, and another running experience burned deep in the memory.
There were Sports Day experiences at Deben High school too. As you might gather from the above, I was (maybe still am?) more of a dasher than a marathon runner, so always preferred the sprints, with a PB of 11.7s in the 100m in plimsoles on grass and a school record of 11.9s which stood for a decade or two. In those days and at that age there wasn’t really training as such – I just loved running and was blessed that it came naturally to me. Strangely I’m a bit of a reluctant (and slow) walker – is that common among runners?
That may have been a reason why, as a teenager coming home from a party in the small hours, I got bored walking and decided to run (sprint) for home. A police car pulled up and stopped me for no other reason than I was running – that was a learning moment as I realised the innocent act of running fast can also be seen as threatening or suspicious.
Another youthful running memory is much further from home – New York City in fact. In 1992 I took the opportunity of friends living there to enter the Empire State Building Run-Up, organised by New York Road Runners. A fit 27-year-old bounding up the 86 floors took just 13 memorable minutes – the event still happens, and I still sometimes wear the cool black T to remind me of those carefree days before I’d even heard of calf niggles!
A couple of years later I was living in Budapest and on a whim – about 6 weeks before the event – decided to enter my first (and still only) full marathon – the Buda Marathon, very flat, mainly alongside the River Danube from Szentendre back to the city. It was bonkers really, entering a marathon that soon before the event, but who’s not fearless at 29? The race was in April, but the weather on the day was more like August – over 30C and relentless sunshine. Fortunately, a few days before, I passed a sports shop and picked up a white baseball cap – otherwise, my 4hrs 15min finish time would have been a DNF. I still remember literally not being able to get out of bed, and missing work, the following day.
Well, you know how it is, life’s taken many right and seemingly wrong turns (where were the sensible route marshals when I needed them?!) since those carefree, injury-free, days when the world was just a huge playing field to run around on. And the good news is I now (since 2008) find myself back in the town of my birth, still able to run in my 60th year (hence joining FRR) and, lo and behold, Mayor of Felixstowe. I only mention this because it’s directly related to my current running focus i.e. the Wesel half-marathon on 07.01.24 and my first half-marathon since a Felixstowe Half in the 80’s. Wesel is our German twin town of 50 years, and as Mayor visiting in October I found out about their event and reciprocal entry arrangement with FRR. So, I’ll be excitedly packing the mayor’s chain and joining a small club posse for a European road trip and my first dedicated running event for many years. Ulrike, the indomitable Mayor of Wesel for 20 years, has promised to come out and support. https://www.marathon-wesel.de
Finally, just to say what a pleasure it is to be part of FRR. Club nights bring back (very distant!) echoes of those youthful running exploits and feelings, something that means more and more each year. And it’s cool to be part of a club that goes from strength to strength and is so well regarded in the town.
Thanks for reading and here’s to another great year of Felixstowe Road Running!
Finally, I nominate my swimming/running friend and amazing athlete, Samantha Fulcher, to be
the February runner’s profile. Sam and I were on the same ‘Felixstowe Swimscapes’ team of
4 who swam the English Channel in 2016 – amazing memories… now that’s a whole other