Battersea youth worker crowned Queen of jungle marathon during charity Amazon race

A mum-of-two has run, swam and trekked 290km through the harsh Amazonian jungle to raise funds for a Battersea youth charity.

Senior youth worker, Josie Benson, left for the Amazon at the beginning of October with the goal of surviving the Jungle Marathon and raising money for young people in Battersea.

She crossed the finish line of the world’s toughest endurance race not only as fifth out of an original 65 competitors but as the first female.

Having recovered from the ultimate mental and physical battle Josie chatted to SW Londoner about jaguars, her injuries and going ‘delirious’.

“I set out just to survive it and to finish every day, I didn’t expect in a million years that I would be the winning female, I thought that would go to some young, elite serious runner,” she explained.

The 42-year-old’s determination has proved inspirational to her colleagues and the young people she works with at Devas Club.

Among those first to congratulate Josie was Devas Club Trustee, James Devas. He said: “Truly incredible – I am full of admiration for you. What an inspiration.”

Jungle Marathon athletes had to keep their eyes peeled for anacondas, crocodiles and a whole host of other predators.

Becoming prey to the jungle’s many jaguars crossed the youth worker’s mind more times than she cared to remember.

“If a jaguar is going to attack you it’s game over in seconds – they are the most sophisticated killers out there,” she explained. “You can’t fight off a jaguar unless you have a rifle.”

Despite the constant threat from the jungle’s inhabitants Josie explained that giving up wasn’t an option.

She said: “I knew from when I got on the plane I was going to complete it. It wasn’t an option not to – I had that mindset ‘I will finish, I will do every stage, no matter what challenges I am faced with, I will finish’.”

On day five the prospect of completing the equivalent of three marathons in one day almost proved too much.

The final stage began at 4.30am and by 9.30pm they were still running and it was at this point that Josie admitted breaking down in tears from pain, chafing and sheer exhaustion.

“By a delirious end we walked round the corner held hands to cross the finish and broke down in tears,” she said.

Based on Josie’s previous race times she was crowned winning female with only 26 competitors managing to complete the race.

Like many people close to Josie her mum Helen followed her progress intently and admitted that at some points she was concerned she would never see her daughter again.

Both mum and daughter are delighted to be back to normality with Josie now focused on hitting her £5,000 target.

You can support Josie fundraising efforts via her JustGiving page.

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