One of the best parts about volunteering at Cape Wrath Ultra earlier this year was getting to see all the competitors achieving (or even exceeding) their own goals as the event went on. For some it was a solo journey, while for others they buddied up out on the route. One pair that I saw finish every single day together were Jean-Philippe (Jeep) Cornet and Bénédicte Saintier who had come together all the way from France to the North-West of Scotland to take part in CWU. It took a little while after the race, but I managed to have a chat with them, so here it is!
Congratulations again on your CWU finish and thanks for making the time to answer some questions for the Miles Together blog! Let’s start with by finding out how you got into running and how you met?
Béné: I started running 25 years ago when I was an expat in Taiwan. I joined a Hash club and initially I was more interested in the drinking afterwards, but gradually I became a good runner and most importantly I loved it, and started loving every outdoor sports : mountain biking, cross country skiing, etc…
Jeep: I started running at school with cross country then longer races until the half marathon. After a break of 5-6 years to play volleyball, I started triathlon when I entered the Faculty of Sports in Montpellier. I practiced for about 5 years.
I continued to run without competing, and I registered for my first long distance, 70km at the Templier race in Millau in 2008.
Béné: We met during an ultra in the South of France 4 years ago. I noticed this good looking guy at around 45km (he says he’s the one who noticed me), by 70km we were running together, he helped me through a rough patch at 80km, I dropped him at 100km and we reunited at the finish.
It’s a big step up from 100km to an 8-day, 400km race. What led to you signing up for CWU?
Béné: I heard of it on the internet and because I love Scotland and I love sporting events with a story, a meaning, a good route, a journey so it was immediately on my radar and it was obvious this was something I wanted to share with Jeep.
Jeep: This adventure seemed too beautiful to say no.
I hope it lived up to your expectations! Did you always plan to run 100% of the race together? Did it work well or were their times you would have preferred to separate?
Béné and Jeep: We weren’t always sure beforehand and changed our minds several times. However, after the first day it was obvious that we wanted to stay together and part of why we came to Scotland was to share the trail and the landscapes.
It worked really well mainly because our aim was to enjoy and finish more than real competition (at home we usually separate after 10min from the start and meet again at the end!). But we love running together and we did most of our training together.
It certainly is an awesome trail. What were some of your highlights from the race?
Béné and Jeep: Getting to the top of the last climb on day 6 and seeing where we’d come from. The light, the view, the company were just perfect at this moment.
The camps, our tent mates (tent 7 rocks!), unlimited chips, the amazing volunteers and especially the welcome at the end of each day, showers with a different view every day (yes, we enjoyed washing in lochs and rivers every nights!) and the weather (I know, we were so lucky).
Most importantly, the landscapes every day were beyond amazing.
We were super happy to get the lighthouse but we loved the journey more and we would have liked it longer (even if at the time we were sore everywhere).
Nice to hear you enjoyed the welcome back to camp 😃 I’m sure it wasn’t all highs, though! What were your worst moments and how did you get through them together?
Béné and Jeep: There wasn’t really any difficult moments except times where we were tired and it was a bit long. But we go through these times by just getting stuck in until it passes.
The worst moment was the bad weather on the headland between Glencoul and Glendhu on day 7. We were both digging in hard. We were cold and progressing very slowly. But then it stopped raining, and things looked up (like they always do)!
Good old fashioned positivity and hard work got you through then. Any advice for other people taking part (either solo or together) in future? What did you learn from the race?
Béné and Jeep: Learn to run off trails and if possible in bogs. Prepare your body for shin splint. I think 80% of camp was rocking K tape on the shins!
Jeep: I learned a new life philosophy – to always go and see what there is after (pain, doubt, joy, night, hunger, etc….). Thanks to Laurent, our tent mate, for this outlook on life.
Béné: I learned that I was strong and that this impossible race was actually totally doable with good training.
Amazing what you can do together! Now it’s a couple of months since you left Cape Wrath. How did your recovery go and what have you got planned next?
Jeep: We were tired for a couple of weeks afterwards but a couple of months later did a 178km race in the Alps with 11,000m vertical climbing. It went well (especially for Béné who completed it in under 45hours).
Béné: However, we also planned to be volunteers on races. After the care we received from the amazing team we decided it was time to give back. So, this winter we’ll be volunteering! We hope to be volunteers at the CWU one day (Jeep says he’s going to learn English).
That’s a great idea, you’ll love it. And your English is just fine Jeep 👍
We hope you enjoyed meeting Béné and Jeep – maybe it will inspire you to take on a challenge of your own! In the mean time, keep enjoying more Miles Together 👋