Fin Smith admitted he was thrilled to emulate former Northampton Saints fly-half Dan Biggar in crossing the finish line first on his debut ‘Blakiston Challenge’ attempt.
Since 2018, the Club’s players and staff have participated in the event at Castle Ashby, which pays homage to former Saints captain Sir Arthur ‘Freddie’ Blakiston and his life-saving heroics in World War I which earned him a Military Cross.
The sixth edition was held on Friday 28 July as dozens of participants completed two 2.5km runs in energy-sapping heat, either side of a gruelling 2km of 30kg and 50kg sandbag carries.
Finishing in the fastest time was 21-year-old Smith, who said: “It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve done in my life. I was having a mental fight in my head and wanted to stop completely about ten times during the whole thing. But I got there in the end.
“It was such a cool day out, shared with everyone at the Club and some of Blakiston’s family as well. Despite the running, which isn’t the most enjoyable thing.
“It’s such a good buzz when you finish, everyone getting around each other. It just shows what a tight-knit group we are. I really enjoyed it.”Fin Smith
Smith was closely followed over the line by George Furbank in second and Tommy Freeman came third. Fellow Blakiston Challenge debutant Tom Seabrook was fourth while two-time winner Alex Coles finished fifth overall, and was the top-placed forward.
In finishing ahead of the pack on the first attempt at the challenge, Smith emulated the achievements of Biggar, who was victorious in 2018.
“I did hear about that [Biggar],” said Smith. “Our Strength and Conditioning coach Ben Rhodes has been winding me up all week about how I had to win it because Biggs had. It was nice to give him a little wink at the end when we got there.”
Focusing on the toughest part of the challenge, Smith added: “It was probably when you finish the bags and you’ve got to start the run again, that was the hardest bit because your legs have had everything taken out of them with all the weight you’ve been carrying up and down and trying to get back into your breathing.
“Once you get to the top of the hill and you’re down on the home straight there, the finish doesn’t feel like it’s getting any closer for about five minutes. But it’s some feeling when you get over the line and fall to the ground.”
Despite it being his first taste of the Blakiston Challenge, Smith revealed he entered with a degree of quiet confidence that he could challenge for a place on the winners’ board, which also includes the names of Reuben Bird-Tulloch and Piers Francis.
Smith said: “I'm a competitive so-and-so, so I wanted to do well, I wanted to win it. I had Furbs chasing me down the last kilometre and I’ve been living with him the last month, so I thought I can’t let him win!
“Luckily, a few of the lads who were injured and so couldn’t run were pace making me for the last kilometres, telling me not to give up and to keep going which massively helped me get over the line.”Fin Smith
“I’m quite a slight build, not the heaviest, so I thought I would do okay at the running. I thought the bags would’ve finished me off, but I surprised myself with how deep a place I managed to take my brain to keep pushing on.
“You never know, I thought I had a chance. It was nice to win it. It was more just good for the whole group to get it done together.”