Helen Ambrosen toughs it out at Pen Selwood 10k

Helen Amrbosen took part in the Pen Selwood 10k
Looking to try out some new races, Helen Ambrosen went over to the village of Pen Selwood to take part in the Pen Selwood Tough 10k Challenge

The Pen Selwood Tough 10k Challenge is a small local race staged in the village of Pen Selwood and organised by Gillingham Trotters, that same club who organise the Gilly Hilly race that’s in the Dorset Road Race League.

The capacity of the race is only 110 which gives some idea of the kind of scale we’re talking about. Since it’s close to the Stourhead Estate though, the course is very scenic and there is very little traffic out on route.

Looking to try out some different races that she hasn’t done before, Bournemouth AC lady Helen Ambrosen decided to head over there and give it a go. Helen has been really getting back into her running recently, having not perhaps done as much training as she would’ve liked over the past few months.

She’s been a regular on the Tuesday and Thursday night sessions over the past few weeks though and has been really enjoying the Thursday night sessions in particular, where the routines vary from off-road trails to hills on the seafront Chines.

It was only a week after Helen had had a somewhat disappointing run at the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon, where she completed the course in just over 56 minutes.

She fared much better in the Pen Selwood 10k though and – although it was a slightly shorter distance, she could tell by the runners around her that she’d improved by over a minute from her performance at the Easter Quarter.

Although the Pen Selwood 10k is quite a tough hilly course, Helen thoroughly enjoyed the run and came in with a very commendable time of 54:32. That put her in 47th position out of a total of 93 finishers. She was also the 2nd over 60 lady to cross the line on the day.

Helen was particularly pleased with her last mile which she did in 7:27. It’s always nice when you can finish a race strongly as bodes well for future races to come.

Helen gives thanks to captain Rich Nelson for the brilliant training sessions he puts on week by week which she’s been really enjoying recently. Hopefully if she keeps it up she’ll see even more improvement over the coming weeks and months.

Helen Ambrosen was in action at the Pen Selwood 10k
Helen was pleased to make a noticeable improvement on her performance from the previous week at the Easter Quarter, crossing the line in 47th place with a time of 54:32


Simon Hearn hits up Regents Park Half Marathon

Simon Hearn took part in the Regents Park Half Marathon
After the previous race he’d signed up for, the Reading Half Marathon was abandoned due to snow, Simon Hearn opted to go for the Regents Park Half Marathon instead

The Regents Park Half Marathon was a contingency plan for Simon Hearn after his target race, which was the Reading Half Marathon, was abandoned due to snow a few weeks back. Simon had even travelled up to Reading the day before and had booked to stay the night at a hotel so as it turned out he’d had a wasted journey.

Although he was disappointed that the race had been called off, Simon knew that it couldn’t be helped and it was all down to circumstances beyond the control of the race organisers. Of course, safety always has to come first in these situations.

That said, he didn’t want to let all the training he had done for the Reading Half Marathon go to waste so his response was to quickly line up a replacement race. That’s how he found the Regents Park Half Marathon.

It was billed as a fast, flat course which Simon thought would probably suit him well. As the day of the race arrived conditions were pretty good. Certainly better than they were at Reading a few weeks prior anyway! There was no wind present and only slight drizzle to content with.

On the whole Simon felt good, although he had a few slight niggles. The field consisted of around 300 people and the course was five laps of Regents Park, with each lap measuring at roughly 2.5 miles.

Simon started off okay and felt fairly strong. On the first lap though, he found that, although the course was supposed to be flat, there were a few undulations. He then thought “Pants! I’ve got to do this five times!!”

Despite that though, he managed to stay on pace and was running with the 1st lady up till mile 8. At that point he started to flag a little and his pace began to drop. He knew then that he’d have to make up some time if he was going to get a sub 1:30 time. Unfortunately though, he just didn’t have it in him. He got to mile 10 and then just had to hang on for the remainder of the race.

Once he’d finished his 5th and final lap, the race was complete and Simon crossed the line in a time of 1:31:28. That put him in 39th place overall and he took 7th place in the MV40 category, so not a bad result for Simon , all things considered.

Simon tends to be pretty consistent with his running and always looks to stay under 1 hour 32 minutes for a half marathon so he achieved that target. Finishing under 1:30 is always a bonus and he’s done that on many an occasion. This time it was not to be though.

His split times for each lap illustrate how he began to tire as the race went on and slipped off his earlier pace. He completed the first lap in 17:34 and the second lap in 17:42. The third lap was slightly slower at 18:05 but still roughly on track.

It was on the fourth lap that he began to struggle a bit, clocking an 18:42. Then once he knew he wasn’t going to make up the time on his final lap to get a sub 1:30, he cruised in with 19:22 final lap.

He still enjoyed the race though and was relatively pleased with the result. He said he didn’t think he’d do a multi-lap half marathon again though as he found it a touch repetitive. On the bright side, though, he got to know Regents Park very well!

Simon Hearn took part in the Regents Park Half Marathon
Completing the 5 lap Regents Park Half Marathon course in 1:31:28, Simon finished in 39th place out of 294

Rich Nelson and Pat Robbins grind out the miles in JP’s Exe to Axe

Rich Nelson takes on JP's Exe to Axe
Rich Nelson was back in long distance action at the JP’s Exe to Axe 22 mile race along with Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins

The year’s edition of the JP’s Exe to Axe featured two brave, budding Bournemouth AC bloomers in the shape of captain marvel Rich Nelson and ultra-extraordinaire Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins. The Exe to Axe course runs from Exmouth Sea Front and follows the South West Coast Pat for around 22 miles before finishing up on the Esplanade at Seaton.

The Exe to Axe race is now in its 16th year and is a brute of a race but carries with it the caveat of containing breath-taking views throughout from magnificent cliff top settings. The race is split into four different segments.

The first stage is 4 miles long and runs from Exmouth to Budleigh. On this part, you go past the Geo Needle at Orcombe Point. It measures 5 metres tall and marks the beginning of the World Heritage Site that the runners are about to go through.

After that it’s Budleigh to Sidmouth, which is 6 miles long and features some of those outstanding views along the way. This stage takes the runner inland toward the River Otter before working its way back to the coast.

Startline for the JP's Exe to Axe race
The runners line up on the start line for the 2018 JP’s Exe to Axe

It’s then Sidmouth to Branscombe Mouth, which is just over 6 miles and there is where the going gets tough. The runners must climb to the top of Salcombe Hill, then down towards Salcombe Mouth and onto Salcombe Beach.

The final stage is from Branscombe Mouth to Seaton, which is a little over 4 miles. The part involves some serious climbing up to the top of Hooken Cliffs. A landslip on the Old Beer Road several years ago meant to route had to be changed from what was previously a 20-mile distance to closer to 22 miles. It’s a downhill run towards Seaton and onto the Esplanade before the final stretch along the sea front leading to Axe Valley Sailing Club.

Having not really done any long-distance training in the lead up to the race, Rich Nelson was dubious about how he would fair on such a tough and lengthy course. But he was prepared to give it a go, citing a tactic of walking up the steeper climbs and running the rest of it.

Exe to Axe coastal path runs from Exmouth to Seaton
The Exe to Axe race runs along the coast line from Exmouth to Seaton and incorporates some breathtaking views

Rich has been suffering with ongoing calf issues for quite some time now which have really begun to hamper his enjoyment of running somewhat. But it is starting to look like things are on the upturn now and fingers crossed he’s over the worst of it.

With the lack of training that he’s had though, Rich knew he was always going to find it tough but he was hoping he’d be able to dig in and make it through. And that’s exactly what he did. Sticking to his tactic of walking the hills and running the rest, Rich was able to make it to the 17-mile point in reasonable nick.

It was the last 5 miles of the race that really hit him hard. It’s not surprising really. Most people wouldn’t dream of entering a race like this without an adequate amount of training beforehand. But Rich is an experienced veteran of many a marathon in his time and managed to find the resolve to see it through.

It was a feeling of great relief for Rich as he finally reached the finish line, completing the race in 4 hours 11 minutes and 51 seconds. That is not a bad time at all considering the enormity of the task and the circumstances it was under. It put Rich in 88th place overall out of a field of 201 finishers.

Rich Nelson in the JP's Exe to Axe race
Rich Nelson put in an almighty effort to make it to the finish and to his credit he came out of it with a fairly decent time given his recent injury woes

For Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins, there were no such issues. Pat is currently in training for the 24 Hour European Championships where he will be representing Great Britain. In preparation for that he’s really been stacking up the weekly mileage.

Given the challenge Pat is due to undertake when he hits the 24 Hour European Championships in Romania at the end of May, the 22-mile Exe to Axe race was a drop in the ocean. Of course, for Pat, just the same as everyone else, it still had its ups and downs.

Pat managed the race well though, crossing the line in 20th place with a time of 3 hours 21 minutes and 48 seconds. That put him 10th in the M Over 40 category. It was another step forward for Pat in his journey toward his big target race and no doubt they’ll be many other tough long distance runs he has to battle through before the big day arrives.

Pat Robbins in the JP's Exe to Axe race
The Exe to Axe race was merely a gentle training exercise for Pat Robbins as he is set to line up for Great Britain in the 24 Hour European Championships at the end of May

Dave Parsons and Ian Graham’s Guernsey Easter Adventures

Ian, Peter and Dave before Guernsey Easter Runs relay
Ian Graham (left) and Dave Parsons (right) made their annual trip over for Guernsey Easter Running Festival

BAC ‘supervets’ (explanation later) Ian Graham and Dave Parsons made the trip to Guernsey this Easter for the Running Festival which comprises four races in four days. It is fair to say that they are stalwarts of this event with Dave competing for his 20th successive year and Ian for his eleventh time in the last 12 years.

With Easter being so early this year, they were a little concerned about the likely weather (the forecast was pretty awful) and both were travelling with no great expectations as Ian had only just returned from a walking holiday in Yorkshire which had hampered his preparation and Dave had done very little training following a recurring calf injury which restricted his ambitions to merely getting through all four events without injury.

Good Friday dawned cool and wet although, for once, there was very little wind so the conditions were a lot better than expected. For the first race (5k road), the rain was quite light and Ian ran strongly to finish in 138th place (238 finishers) in 23:35. Dave found himself running quicker than expected and was going quite well until he was sick just before the 4k mark! Nevertheless, after a brief stop, he continued and was satisfied with his 174th place finish in 25:46.

Both were competing in the ‘super vet’ category which comprises all those over 60 and is based on ‘Age Graded’ performance. Ian was 3rd male with 74.06% and Dave 6th with 66.36%.

Ian Graham finishing the 5k in Guernsey Easter Runs
Ian striding towards the finish of the 5k
Dave Parsons finishing the 5k in Guernsey Easter Runs
Dave finishing a little while later

 The second race of the series was held on Easter Saturday over the ‘full course’ cross country course on L’Ancresse Common and is the only race which has remained the same every year of the Festival. Although very windy, the rain held off for the majority of the time.

Ian, knowing that he was now in with a chance in the ‘super vet’ category went off very purposefully and with the underfoot conditions much better than anticipated, ran a highly respectable time of 38:32 and finished in 69th place (125 finishers).

Guernsey Island Athletic Club have produced their very own ‘age graded’ table for this event (no idea how they have done this) and Ian was a clear winner of the Mens Super Vet category with 74.35%. Dave’s plan for the race was to start off steadily and see what happened. Unsurprisingly this resulted in an extremely steady time of 45:54 for 108th place and 7th male ‘super vet’.

Ian Graham in Guernsey Easter Runs
Ian looking far too cheerful at the finish
Dave Parsons in Guernsey Easter Runs
Dave making sure he didn’t get too cold!

After the first two races, Ian was now equal first in the Male ‘Super Vet’ category with Dave 6th, just behind old rival Brian Holden from Guernsey.

Easter Sunday’s event was the 4 x 1 mile cross country relay race on the far part of L’Ancresse Common and is part of the ‘Stonecrusher’ course. The good news is that this is not part of the overall series and so is really just an opportunity to mix with the younger (and unfortunately much quicker) athletes who seem to skip around the quite tough course with two short but steep hills.

Ian and Dave submitted a team sheet with just the two of them on it and the organisers of the festival found them two other athletes who were not part of any full team either. The second good bit of news was that the first of these runners was another Easter Festival regular, Richard Batchelor from AFD. Our final runner was to be a newcomer (an 80 plus year old) who had come last in the first two races and by some considerable distance at that!

This was fine in that there was absolutely no pressure on Ian and Dave. Ian ran the first leg in 7:14 (very similar to last year) and came in 35th of the record entry of 50 teams. Dave set off as hard as he dared on the very uneven rabbit hole ridden course and ran 8:23 and we had dropped to 41st team. Richard flew round in 5:22 and we were now up to 30th! As expected, Peter was by far the slowest of the day, however, he did manage to hold on to 49th place so we weren’t last!!

Ian Graham at the top of the ascent in Guernsey Easter Runs
Ian at the top of the first steep ascent
Dave hands over to Richard in Guernsey Easter Runs relay
Dave handing over to Richard Batchelor
Ian Graham & Dave Parsons in Guernsey Easter Runs relay
Ian and Dave ’relaxing’ after their legs! 

So now for the last race, the 10k road race on Easter Monday on the point to point course from Grand Rocks to St Sampsons. The early morning weather was atrocious with torrential rain and strong winds. Dave took the hire car to the finish and caught the second of the runners’ busses thankfully provided by the organisers. However, he arrived at the start with over an hour to go.

Meanwhile, Ian had opted to jog to the start from the nearby hotel. There was a baggage vehicle provided which left five minutes before the start. Dave managed to take off numerous layers of clothing that were needed to keep warm and dry and made the decision to keep wearing his leggings for the race to keep his legs warm and protect his calf. (He later confirmed that he just couldn’t be bothered to try to take off the leggings). Ian with the overall super vet title at stake, went off in very determined fashion.

For most of the race, the wind was favourable until turning towards the finish with 2k left when it became a strong headwind. Ian seemed to take this in his stride and finished in a time of 47:29 and 97th place (212 finishers) and was a very deserving winner of his category with 76.13% and thus the overall winner.

Dave was very happy to get round with his calf intact and although it was his slowest ever 10k race by some considerable margin, he was happy with 54:30 and 153rd place (64.95%) and with Brian Holden about one minute behind, Dave was 5th male in the category overall.

Ian Graham storms to an overall category win in Guernsey Easter Runs
Ian storming to overall category win
Dave Parsons at the harbour in Guernsey Easter Runs
Dave looking splendid in his leggings!

 It was back to the hotel to shower and change for the Presentation in the afternoon where there was the usual opportunity to relive the weekend and chat to old friends. There was even the chance to reflect on a much better performance in the Quiz which was held on the Saturday night, swapping last year’s rather inglorious wooden spoon success with a mid-table performance finishing 9th of 17 teams.

Ian Graham and Jenny Morgan collect their winnings in Guernsey Easter Runs
Ian and ladies Super Vet winner Jenny Morgan collect their ‘winnings’

After another terrific year they now have the 2019 festival to look forward to. And just 12 months to get fit for it!

Steve leads the Way at the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon

Steve Way leads as the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon gets underway
Steve Way (3039) assumes pole position in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon with Rob McTaggart (3031) in behind

It was another great local event in Bournemouth that showed just how vibrant and popular the running scene is in this area at the current time. The Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon attracted participation from five Bournemouth AC members, including some of the club’s big hitters.

Since the race is staged with exactly two weeks to go until the London Marathon, or Southampton, the Bournemouth Bay Half is the ideal foil for those running either marathon to test themselves one final time and see how their form is ahead of the big day.

The route started at Bournemouth Pier before heading in the Sandbanks direction for the first couple of miles before turning a heading back onto the promenade. It then goes along the promenade back past Bournemouth Pier, then on past Boscombe Pier, through to Southbourne and all the way down to Hengistbury Head.

It then turns up and winds back round onto the overcliff road, following that road all the back to Boscombe where it dropped back down onto the promenade for the final stretch to the finish at Bournemouth Pier. It was pretty much the same as the Bournemouth 10 route and also the Easter Quarter Marathon that was on the week before.

One of the BAC big hitters looking to polish up his supreme skills ahead of the London Marathon was Steve Way. Steve has been in scintillating form of late, as demonstrated when he won the Bournemouth 10 at the end of February in 55 and a half minutes.

Once again, he was going for a quick time at the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon and pretty much as soon as the race got underway, Steve found himself at the front of the field, blowing everyone else away with his amazing acceleration.

Steve Way at Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve Way was looking for another big performance to follow up his win at the Bournemouth 10

Although he’d been churning out the heavy mileage in training that week and for many weeks in the lead up, usually getting up to almost 120 miles, Steve still managed to find the strength to maintain his super quick early pace throughout the race.

That was essentially what pleased him most about his run. The consistency to keep banging out the 5:20 pace miles. It’s what he looks for most in his training.

It was always going to be a formality from the outset and, needless to say, Steve was first to the line, sealing another superb race win in a staggering time of 1 hour 10 minutes and 31 seconds.

Steve Way in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve ran a good consistently paced race to seal the win in a very impressive time of 1:10:31

Lewis Green of Team Willow was almost 2 minutes behind when he crossed the line in 2nd place in 1:12:23. Andrew McCaskill took 3rd in 1:13:55.

Although he was pleased with the result, Steve had secretly been hoping for a sub 70 performance. It was difficult though with no one up there with him to race against and push him go as fast as he possibly could.

The run still bodes well for his form though going into the London Marathon and also for the Comrades Marathon in June, which is his primary focus of the year.

Steve Way flying in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve looks to be absolutely flying as he approaches the finish line

Steve wasn’t the only BAC member with a specific target in mind for the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. László Tóth was looking to complete the race in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Dreaming of making the trip across the pond to take part in the New York Marathon, László knew that a 1 hour 21 minute time would be enough to see him qualify for the race. He wanted a bit of leeway though in case of any particularly tough miles toward the end of the race so sensibly decided to go all out for 1:20.

Lazslo Toth in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
László Tóth was looking for a sub 1:20 finish to qualify for the New York Marathon

So the question was, could László achieve his target? And the answer – a resounding yes! He came up with the goods, running a phenomenal race to clock a magnificent new PB time of 1:19:53. This put him in 12th place on the day and, as one would expect, László was delighted with his performance.

All he needs to do now is save up the money and he could be heading out to New York, although he did say that getting enough readies for the trip out there could prove even harder that actually achieving the target time.

Last year in the Bournemouth  Bay Half Marathon, László registered a time of 1:20:44, so impressively he’d managed to top that by 51 seconds.

Lazslo strides to the finish of the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
It was mission accomplished for László
as he took 12th place finishing in a time of 1:19:53

Another man who has his sights set on a super quick time at the London Marathon is Rob McTaggart. By contrast though, Tag wasn’t especially bothered about the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. He surmised that it was too close to London to be of any real benefit and thus could only be detrimental if he went out too hard.

As it turned out, the race didn’t go very well for Tag anyway. He woke up late that morning and only had breakfast 40 minutes before the race was due to start. He then got a terrible stitch about 2 miles in and as a result, decided to cut his losses and turn it into a reasonable pace 18.5 mile training run.

Rob McTaggart in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Rob McTaggart didn’t have one of his better runs but was looking at bigger picture as he focuses on his primary target of the London Marathon

That ‘reasonable pace’ run as he called it, led Tag to a 1:20:57 finish and still put him in 14th position in the standings.

On the whole though, Tag’s marathon training has been going really well and he recently secured a huge new half marathon PB of 1:10:25 at the Big Half in London. He also finished a close 2nd to Steve at the Bournemouth 10 with a time of 55:48.

Rob McTaggart in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Tag has been in superb form lately and is expecting big things in London this year

Coming in 23rd place, in a time of 1:23:33 was another recognisable face in the shape of Billy McGreevy. Billy is doing the ABP Southampton Marathon in a week’s time and this was his last long training run before that.

He ran 9 miles before taking to the start line for the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon so it was a progressive long run for him in the end.

Billy McGreevy on promenade in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Billy McGreevy was using the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon as part of his last long training run before the Southampton Marathon

Ordinarily, Billy would have been doing the London Marathon but even though he had a qualifying time, having run a couple of sub 3 hour marathons last year, he forgot to register in time. He then decided to enter the Southampton one instead.

Billy McGreevy in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Even though he’d done 9 miles before the race started, Billy still completed the race in an excellent time of 1:23:33 which put him in 23rd place

Taking on what was essentially her first ever half marathon, except some random one she did many years ago before she joined BAC, Kirsty Drewitt was heading into uncharted waters.

She does have a burning desire to do some longer distance races though and is looking to work her way up the distance ladder. This year she did all three of the Imperial Series 10 races, so that was the Lytchett 10, the Bournemouth 10 and the Larmer 10.

Considering how tough some of those races were, particularly the Larmer 10, she was pretty much half marathon ready anyway after doing all those.

She had been lacking a bit of motivation for training though in the lead up to the Bournemouth Bay Half and had also picked up a niggling foot injury the week before.

Kirsty Drewett looking happy in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Kirsty Drewett was taking on her first ever half marathon since joining BAC

Despite that, she got her game face on and made it to the start line on the morning of the race. She had adjusted her expectations slightly, due to the lack of training and niggle she’d picked up but once the race got underway she actually felt really good.

The usual sea breeze we are familiar with along the promenade was absent and even though it was an overcast day, Kirsty felt like she was overheating.

Her foot injury started playing up on around the 8th mile so she didn’t push on too much from there and instead opted to cruise home.

Finishing in an excellent time of 1:45:18, Kirsty took 246th place overall out of a field of 920. She was the 32nd lady to cross the line and came 10th in the F35 category.

Kirsty beats Superman in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Kirsty was pleased to be able to say that she finished ahead of superman in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon

Understandably, Kirsty was thrilled with her time and was really pleased with how strong she felt throughout the race. There are certainly some good things to come from Kirsty and it will be interesting to see how she progresses in future longer distance races.

Despite competing in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, Kirsty much prefers off-road running or cross-country to going up and down the promenade. Her go to place for training runs is often the Purbeck, which shows she has an affliction for the more adventurous kind of run.

Weighing in with a huge PB, registering a time that was over 5 minutes quicker than her previous best was Sam Laws. Sam’s mightily impressive effort of 1:58:01 put her in 491st place overall and she was 110th lady on the day. She also finished 17th in the F45 category.

Sam Laws in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Sam Laws is currently training for the Southampton Marathon, which will be her first ever stab at the 26.2 mile distance

Sam’s previous best half marathon attempt of 2:03:59 was set at the Bournemouth Bay Run last year. These were promising signs for Sam as she enters the final stages of her training for the Southampton Marathon, which takes place on the same day as London.

Having really put the mileage in in training, Sam should have stood herself in good stead for what will be her very first marathon attempt. It was great to see signs that the hard work she’s been putting in is paying off and that her times are coming down.

Sam Laws bursts toward the finish in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Sam makes a burst toward the finish to record a magnificent PB of over 5 minutes

Henna Patterson, who sometimes trains with BAC on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, also ran the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. Her goal was to complete the race in under 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Henna duly accomplished her mission, crossing the line in a time of 1:49:56. That put her in 325th place overall and made her 52nd lady. She is currently training for a half iron-man and is looking to do the Bournemouth Marathon in October.

Henna Patterson in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Henna Patterson sometimes trains with BAC on Tuesday and Thursday nights and was aiming for a sub 1:50 finish






Promising runs from BAC crew at Bournemouth Bay 10k

Trevor, László and Damian at Bournemouth Bay Run
At the Bournemouth Bay Run Trevor Elkins (left) and Damian Boyle (right) are with László Tóth (middle) who did the Half Marathon

It’s that time of the year where the races come thick and fast as we build up to the showpiece event of the running calendar, the London Marathon. For some Bournemouth AC members, that meant heading to the seafront again, just as they had the previous weekend at the Easter Quarter Marathon. Instead of Boscombe though, it was over to Bournemouth Pier this time for the Bournemouth Bay Run.

The event started off with a 10k race, which featured four BAC hopefuls. Trevor Elkins, Damien Boyle, Jo Dilling and Julia Austin were all looking for strong performances to compliment the hard work they’ve been putting in in training.

The route went from Bournemouth Pier in the Boscombe direction, along the promenade, past Boscombe Pier and then a bit further on until heading up Gordon’s Zigzag and onto the overcliff. It then went back along the overcliff road before heading back onto the promenade at Boscombe Pier. It was then back along the seafront the Bournemouth Pier.

The Bournemouth AC men in the race, Trevor Elkins and Damien Boyle became locked in a battle for supremacy.  At first Trevor was ahead as they made their way along the promenade.

The first 5k went very smoothly for Trevor, going through in 18:51. It was the zigzag that really knocked the stuffing out of him, interrupting his rhythm and resulting in a downturn in pace for the immediate aftermath.

Trevor Elkins on promenade at Bournemouth Bay 10k
Trevor Elkins made a good start to the race, finding some good pace along the promenade

Overtaking Trevor on the zigzag, Damian pressed on when he reached the top. Trevor tried to track him once they got to the top but Damian had pulled away by a couple of seconds.

A bit of cramp started to kick in at that point and Trevor had to utilise some breathing exercises to get himself back in contention. It had taken him a couple of kilometres to recover from the zigzag and get back to his earlier pace.

It was then a case of holding on for the final 2k for Trevor and he really had to dig deep in the final mile as they battled the headwind on route back to Bournemouth Pier.

It was Damian who got to the line first though, clocking a superb time of 38:31 which put him in 12th place in a field of 920. Trevor filed in 12 seconds later to take 13th place a time of 38:43. There was very little to choose between the two in the end.

Damien Boyle approaches finish at Bournemouth Bay 10k
Damien Boyle ran well to take 12th place in a time of 38:31

Although he’d had a good run and bounced back well from a couple of recent disappointments, including a slightly off-key display in the Bournemouth 10 mile race, Trevor wasn’t wholly satisfied with his run.

He was pleased with his pace for 8 kilometres out of the 10. But it was the 2km in the middle that let him down a bit. Trevor has run some cracking 10k times on the treadmill and has been hitting the 36’s in the gym. He’s finding it hard to replicate that form outside though. It’s frustrating because he knows the aerobic fitness is there. It might just be that he needs a little more strength in his legs.

The primary focus for Trevor is now the Vitality London 10k in June. He’ll be looking for a vast improvement on his Bournemouth Bay 10k time when he heads to the nation’s capital. He should be well capable of that though, especially as the Vitality London 10k is a very fast and flat course.

Trevor Elkins in Bournemouth Bay 10k
Trevor was fairly pleased with his time of 38:43 but feels there is still room for improvment

Initially, Damian’s main target was the London Marathon, where he was looking to attempt a sub 3. However, he ‘accidentally’ signed up for a 50 mile ultra in Snowdonia, so that has now become his main priority.

The theory behind this is that blowing up at London would mean suffering for an hour at the most, whereas not being prepared for two ascents up Snowdon could mean over 10 hours of suffering.

That said, he’s still hoping for a small PB at London and will look to complete it in around 3 hours 10 minutes. It will be his first time of running the London Marathon so he’s very much looking forward to finding out what all the fuss is about.

Damien Boyle in Bournemouth Bay 10k
Damien is running the London Marathon next weekend and a 50 mile ultra in Snowdonia in May

There were also two Bournemouth AC ladies in action, with Julia Austin and Jo Dilling both hoping to make a splash. It was Julia’s second race for BAC, after the Easter Quarter Marathon that she did the previous week.

Having recently moved to Southbourne from Princes Risborough, Julia is still trying to find her feet and settle into the area. Joining BAC will hopefully help her integrate into her new environment and push on with her running hopefully as well.

Julia Austin powers along in Bournemouth Bay 10k
Julia Austin was taking part in her second race for BAC and it was her first in the club vest

Julia quite enjoyed her run in the Bournemouth Bay 10k, although she felt the course was harder than it looks, with a lot of steady inclines in there besides the dreaded Gordon’s Zigzag. She crossed the line in 60th place overall with a time of 44:50.

That made her 13th placed female and 1st in the F45 cateogory, just as she was in the Easter Quarter. Although her run was a minute or so slower than her last 10k time, which was in August 2017, it was still a pleasing result for Julia and it is nice to see her already picking up some age category wins.

Julia Austin nears the finish in Bournemouth Bay 10k
Only having recently moved to the area, Julia has hit the ground running, taking her 2nd F45 category win in as many races

After doing two cardio classes the day before the Bournemouth Bay Run, Jo Dilling was kind of in two minds about doing the race. It was the thought of being annoyed with herself for not doing it but persuaded her to give it a go.

Jo Dilling powers along the promenade in the Bournemouth Bay 10k
Despite doing a couple of cardio classes the day before, Jo Dilling found the strength to run well in the Bournemouth Bay 10k

It was a good job she did as well as it turned out to be a pretty good run for Jo and she was not far off her time in this two years ago. She crossed the line in 76th place overall in a time of 45:43.

That made her 14th placed woman behind Julia and put her 2nd in the F45 category, also just behind Julia. If she can keep her training with the club going, Jo is hoping she could improve on this next time.

Jo Dilling nears the finish in the Bournemouth Bay 10k
Jo finished up 14th placed lady and was 2nd to Julia in the F45 category




Ollie Stoten seals victory in CTS Exmoor Ultra

Ollie Stoten took part in the CTS Exmoor Ultra
On a very wet day and in extremely muddy conditions, Ollie took on the 32.8 mile CTS Exmoor Ultra, the toughest race of the CTS Series

Even the horrid weather and horrendously boggy conditions couldn’t dampen Ollie Stoten’s spirits as he claimed a magnificent victory in the Endurancelife CTS Exmoor Ultra Marathon.

The race took place on the western side of Exmoor National Park, a true mecca for the battle hardened trail runner. The course featured steep climbs, long descents, open moorland, thick wooded valleys, dizzying cliffs and exquisitely beautiful rivers along a stretch of coastline that is unsurpassed. In fact, the race organisers profess that there is no other course in Britain with such a variety of terrain in such a compact area.

The Exmoor course is thought to be the toughest in the entire CTS Series and is a gruelling test of endurance for even the most accomplished of trail or fell runners.

Fortunately though, Ollie is one of the most accomplished ultra runners out there and the huge elevation and often off-road nature of his training stood him in good stead for the huge challenge ahead of him.

Ollie Stoten in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Ollie was in his element on a course that featured 6,415 ft of ascent

The event featured four different races; a 10k, a half marathon, a marathon and the ultra that Ollie did. The distance of the ultra race was billed at 32.8 miles and it included 6,415 ft of ascent. That didn’t worry Ollie though and in fact, a race of that sort of profile is generally his forte.

At the 1st checkpoint, Ollie was the 3rd person to arrive in a time of 45:27. After 1 and a half hours of running, Ollie arrived at the 2nd checkpoint, still in 3rd place.

As he reached the 3rd checkpoint Ollie came in with two of his contemporaries and they were just over a  minute behind the leader, Ian Symington. They were now half way through the race.

Before they reached the next checkpoint Ollie had managed to reel in the leader and the front group were back together. Only briefly though before Ollie decided to make his move as they were going up one of the many brutal hills.

Ollie Stoten in muddy CTS Exmoor Ultra
Ollie was in 2nd place at the half way point in the race, before he really began to turn the screw, leaving his rivals trailing in his wake

Once he’d opened up a gap, he was determined to hold onto his advantage, hammering it along the next flat section for around 10 to 15 minutes in an attempt to preserve his lead.

Reaching the 4th checkpoint in a time of 3 hours 32 minutes, Ollie had 1 minute and 43 second advantage over Galen Reynolds who was 2nd. By the time he got to the final checkpoint, Ollie had extended his lead to over 6 and a half minutes, coming in with a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and 16 seconds.

That meant he could cruise to the finish, knowing that he had the win in the bag. It was a great feeling for Ollie and he was elated as he crossed the line, completing the monstrous course in a time of 5 hours and 56 seconds.

Ollie Stoten approaches the finish in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Approaching the line in just under 5 hours and 1 minute, Ollie was delighted to seal a quite brilliant victory

8 minutes and 26 seconds went by before Galen arrived at the finish line to take 2nd place in a time of 5:09:22. Ian Symington took 3rd place in a time of 5:17:25.

It was a superb achievement for Ollie. However, he is not one to rest on his laurels and said that he would love a tilt at the course record on a drier day when the conditions are more favourable. The current course record stands at 4 hours 34 minutes and 50 seconds.

Great win for Ollie Stoten in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Finishing with a winning margin of over 8 minutes, it was a very proud day for Ollie

It was a day of double celebration though for Ollie, as his partner, Gail Brown, finished as 1st placed female, crossing the line in a time of 6 hours 37 minutes and 17 seconds.

Gail has been coming along to some of the Tuesday night interval sessions with BAC lately but considering this was her first proper long distance run, she did extraordinarily well. The 2nd placed lady was Daisy Jackson, coming in with a time of 6 hours 41 minutes and 40 seconds.

Ollie Stoten and Gail Brown were winners of the CTS Exmoor Ultra
In what turned out to be a truly memorable day for the pair, Ollie Stoten and his partner Gail Brown scooped the prizes for 1st placed male and 1st placed female



Toby Chapman tears up Taunton Marathon

Toby Chapman in Taunton Marathon
Toby Chapman was in action in this home town for the Taunton Marathon

With the race being staged in his home town, Toby Chapman couldn’t resist another tilt at the Taunton Marathon. Last year, Toby took 6th place in a time of 2:48:11, so he could use that as a benchmark to see where he’s at as he enters a very crucial stage in his training.

In just over two weeks time Toby will be up in bonny Scotland competing in the Highland Fling Ultramarathon. Whilst the race doesn’t involve throwing any logs around, it does consist of 53 miles of trail along the West Highland Way through Loch Lomand and The Trossach’s National Park. It also features 7,500 ft of elevation so will represent a true test of stamina, strength and desire.

Hoping that a good run out in the Taunton Marathon would set him up nicely for his main target race, Toby was looking for a strong performance.

The Taunton Marathon course was predominantly flat but featured two massive hills. One on the 5th mile and the other on the 19th mile.

With the blistering pace Toby set off at, it was only Robert Farley of Bitton Road Runners who was able to keep up with him. For the first 10 miles of the race, the pair stayed together.

After that though, Robert got into the lead and managed to build up a small gap. That remained the case until around the 20th mile, when Toby was able to reel him back in.

Feeling strong at that point, Toby went straight past and went for the win. The question now was, would his body hold out for the remainder of the race? And the answer was yes, it most certainly would.

Toby Chapman approaches finish of Taunton Marathon
Toby approaches the finish and holds his alarm aloft as the realises he is going to be victorious

All those miles of hard training are really paying off for Toby and he was able to finish strongly to record a fantastic victory, crossing the line in a tremendous time of 2 hours 41 minutes and 10 seconds.

Coming in just under a minute behind, Robert took the runners up spot in a time of 2:42:07. The third placed runner was almost 6 minutes behind, so it had been very much a two horse race.

Toby Chapman wins Taunton Marathon
Crossing the line in 1st place, Toby finished 7 minutes quicker than he did last year, underlining the progress he’s been making this year

Toby was really pleased to get the win and was even more pleased with how good his body felt in the process. This was indeed a promising sign for the big race ahead.

Winning the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in February and taking 2nd place in the Two Bays Tough Ten Challenge, Toby has had a very good year thus far. He’ll be hoping that continues as he embarks on his toughest challenge of the year so far when the Highland Fling comes round.

Toby Chapman is victorious in Taunton Marathon
Toby was extremely pleased with his winning time of 2:41:10




Cracking victory from Josh Cole at Easter Quarter Marathon

BAC men at start line for Easter Quarter Marathon
Some of the Bournemouth AC men’s team on the start line for the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon. Left to right: Stu Nicholas, László Tóth, Josh Cole, Rich Brawn, Ross Smith

Taking place on the Saturday over the Easter break, it was always going to be tricky for Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson to scrape a competitive team together for the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon. It was absolutely imperative to do so though since this year it was a Dorset Road Race League fixture so points were up for grabs.

Inevitably though, some people were away visiting family or had made plans for the Easter break knowing they’d get more bang for their buck in terms of taking days off work.

It also clashed with the Anglo Celtic Plate which took several of BAC’s top athletes out of the equation as they were there competing for their country or supporting those that did.

Thankfully, a rallying cry from Rich was answered by several members and they did somehow manage to pull a decent team together, with 10 men and 6 ladies lining up to take on the 6.6 mile route starting at the affable Boscombe Pier.

It was a rather grey and uninspiring day at first which didn’t really seem to spark too much enthusiasm amongst the BAC contingent as they were getting prepared to hit the ground running.

BAC men on start line at Easter Quarter Marathon
The BAC men talk tactics before the race gets underway as László sports his ‘on brand’ blue hat

That said, the promise of a captain’s cream egg for everyone who took part did seem to buoy their spirits somewhat and, with a klaxon sounded by the Easter Bunny, they were soon off down the promenade, with the wind in their sails – for the first part of the race at least anyway.

A small lead group soon broke away from pack, containing Josh Cole of BAC and three Poole AC members. As they went clear, a strong chase pack formed behind them including László Tóth and Stu Nicholas.

The course was practically the same as that of the Bournemouth 10 except, instead of starting at Bournemouth Pier, you started at Boscombe instead, making it 3 and a half miles shorter.

It was still a case of bombing it along the promenade till you get to the end, turning up on the slope that leads toward Hengistbury Head, then working your way back onto the overcliff and heading back that way.

Rich Brawn and Stu Nicholas - Easter Quarter Marathon
And they’re off! Rich and Stu have a laugh before the serious business begins

Those who had done the Bournemouth 10 the previous month knew exactly what was coming at every turn, although to be fair, most Bournemouth AC runners are very familiar with the area anyway, which may have given them a slight advantage.

When they got onto the overcliff, there was a bit of a headwind, making the 3rd, 4th and 5th miles significantly tougher. As they came off the overcliff though and got onto Boscombe Spa Road, it was then a nice downhill finish so they knew they could afford to push hard for the remaining mile and a half, if they had anything left in the tank.

At the front of the field, Josh Cole was running a very smart race and had stayed tucked in behind the Poole AC trio the majority of the way. As he approached the 5 and a half mile point, which was just coming up to the end of the overcliff road, he made his move.

At first, one of the Poole AC members tried to go with him but Josh then put in a second spurt and was soon out front on his own. From that point on, it was all academic as Josh raced toward the finish at breakneck speed.

It was a magnificent victory for Josh, crossing the line in a stunning time of 35 minutes and 46 seconds. Jamie Grose of Poole AC was 2nd in a time of 35:53, with Chris Alborough and Brian Underwood, also both from Poole AC, taking 3rd and 4th in 36:03 and 36:10 respectively.

Josh Cole won the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Josh Cole was given a nice bottle of red for his troubles after winning the race in supreme style

After running an incredibly tough marathon at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park the weekend before, Stu Nicholas was in action again, but he did mention before the race began that his legs were absolutely shot.

The elevation gain in the QE Spring Marathon was said to be greater than that of climbing up Mount Snowden, or for those who know it, the equivalent of hauling yourself up the beastly Butser Hill 7 times.

On top of that, Stu was going off on holiday almost immediately after the race, so had to make a quick getaway and head to Heathrow in order to catch his flight.

Despite all that though, he showed tremendous commitment to the cause by turning out and giving his all. By the way he ran, you wouldn’t have known he’d been through such a tough ordeal the week before though and Stu finished the race in a stellar time of 37:33, putting him in 8th place.

Shortly after, László arrived at the finish line, having also ran extremely well to take 11th place with a terrific time of 37:48. This weekend László is in action again at the Bournemouth Bay Run where he will be competing in the half marathon.

The Easte Quarter Marathon race gets underway in Boscombe
László takes off down the promenade with Rich Brawn in behind at the left of the screen

The next BAC member over the line and 4th scorer for the men’s team in the Dorset Road Race League was Ross Smith, who came in 22nd place.

Despite not having done a lot of running recently, Ross is the kind of person who can just turn up and put in a brilliant performance out of the blue. That’s exactly what he did at the Easter Quarter Marathon, displaying great strength to keep to a consistent pace throughout and cross the line in a solid time of 39:18.

Finishing as the 5th scorer for the team, Richard Brawn came in in 44th place in a fairly decent time of 41:33. Rich wasn’t really feeling overly enthusiastic about the race at first but once it started he soon got in the mood.

Richard Brawn at Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Rich Brawn is ready and raring to go on the start line at Boscombe promenade with Ross Smith in the background

For the first couple of miles along the promenade towards Southbourne, you kind of felt compelled to push hard, since the wind was behind you at that point. Rich felt that he needed to start quite quickly in order to compensate for the time he might lose running into a headwind on the way back.

Sure enough, the wind was a factor and did slow him down a fair bit as he went along the overcliff. He became embroiled in a few battles along the way but showed good resilience and determination not to be overtaken by anyone.

At one point, the leading lady came up right behind Rich. Thinking back to what happened in his 20 mile race a couple of weeks before, when he got overtaken by the first lady in the final few kilometres, he was determined not to allow that to happen again.

Finding some extra strength, Rich managed to build up a bit of a gap between himself and Amy Bond of Poole AC. With the increase in pace, he also managed to gain a few more places before reaching the end of the overcliff road. Once he got onto Boscombe Spa Road he knew he could afford to start his kick toward the finish.

He almost gained one more place as he came up behind Stephen Ogles of Poole Runners but Stephen just managed to hold him off. At the same time Rich also had to fight hard to stay ahead of Charlie Griffiths of Westbourne, who was finishing quickly behind.

Ultimately, Rich was pleased with his run as his average pace of 6:20 was a second quicker than in the 10k PB he got at the Boscombe 10k in November.

Finishing as the first placed lady, Amy Bond took 46th place overall, crossing the line in a superb time of 41:37. The 2nd placed lady was Charlotte Bunch, also of Poole AC in a time of 42:06, with Lesley Moore making it a Poole AC 1-2-3, taking 3rd place in a time of 43:51.

Just stealing in in front of BAC’s Nikki Sandell to take 4th place was Clare Martin of Purbeck Runners, who crossed the line in 69th overall in a time of 43:56.

Nikki arrived at the finish 6 seconds later, clocking an impressive time of 44:02. Given the fact she’d done no speed work and had also lost some endurance as well after suffering with a long standing Achilles injury, this wasn’t a bad result for Nikki.

As well as the physical difficulties she’s had, Nikki has also been struggling a bit mentally and feels like perhaps she’s lost her running mojo a bit. Seeing that she was still capable of putting in a competitive performance though despite the lack of training must give her some sense of encouragement. She’s hoping once the track season gets underway again it might reignite that spark that she’s been missing recently.

Coming in immediately behind Nikki, taking 71st place was Jud Kirk. Jud’s time was registered at 44:14, which was not a bad run at all for him. He was also the first V60 to cross the line.

In contrast to most of the participants, Jud actually found the start of the race along the promenade a lot tougher than the second part of the race when he went back along the overcliff.

It usually takes Jud a little while to get his motor running at full speed these days so he’s not ideally suited to the faster starting races. It’s more as the race goes on that his strength begins to serve him well and he starts to pick up some places as others begin to tire.

He also tends to like the tougher or more hillier sections of the course, meaning he actually preferred the stretch along the overcliff road, despite the headwind coming into play.

The next BAC member over the line and winning the women’s V50 category in her first race for Bournemouth AC was Julia Austin. Julia has just recently moved to the area and has been joining the BAC training sessions for the past couple of weeks. Finishing as the 11th placed lady, Julia took 106th position overall with her time of 46:52.

Crossing the line a couple of places after Julia was Michael Cowham, who completed the course in a time of 46:54. Michael enjoyed the race but feels like he’s just struggling for speed a little at the moment.

Michael Cowham in Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
It was good to see Michael Cowham back out there again, looking focused and determined

Michael’s wife Cherry, who runs for Westbourne AC, was also in the race, finishing just 10 places after Michael. There was a 51 second gap between the two of them.

Coming in one place ahead of Cherry was Jo Dilling, who had a fairly decent run to come in as 13th placed lady on the day and 117th overall. Jo’s time was a solid 47:44.

Playing it safe at the beginning, Jo felt like she perhaps started a little too pensively but she was worried about running out of steam towards the end of the race. Plus she wanted to save some energy for a final kick in the last mile.

Captain Rich Nelson came in shortly after, taking 122nd place overall in a time of 47:55. Rich has lost his competitive edge a little with running over recent times and has been plagued by persisting calf injuries that have impeded his training somewhat.

Over the past few weeks though, Rich has showed something of a resurgence and has been back at training and has even been finding a bit of speed in the interval sessions.

This weekend Rich is taking on the Exe to Axe 22 mile coastal run which goes from Exmouth seafront along the South West Coast Path to the far end of the Esplanade at Seaton.

Rich Nelson at Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Captain Rich Nelson was back in action, using the race as a little warm up Exe to Axe the following weekend

Coming in as 18th placed lady, Joy Wright crossed the line in a time of 48:28, putting her in 130th place overall. Joy has been focusing mostly on the track recently and has had some good successes, including a 3rd placed finish in the 400 metres at the last meeting.

Following immediately after Joy was Steve Parsons, who crossed the line in a time of 48:30. Steve has recently been plagued by a knee injury that he is finding very difficult to shake off. It’s an IT band issue that is quite common place amongst runners.

He was hoping it wouldn’t effect him too much during the race but as soon as he set off it began to flare up and it hampered his progress during the race a fair bit. Despite the injury though, Steve dug in and managed to complete the course. He was limping a little bit afterwards though and it was clear he had aggravated it to some extent.

Taking 154th place in the standings, Phil Cherrett was the next BAC member over the line. The previous month, both Phil and Steve had run their furthest distances ever in a race at the Bournemouth 10. After that though, Phil had missed a week of running due to the cold weather and the snow and he’d then contracted a flu virus that knocked him for six.

In fact, the next run he got in was just four days before the Easter Quarter, so he knew he wasn’t in his best shape going into the race. After the first 3k, the discomfort began to set in and it was a bit of a struggle for the remainder of the race.

Nevertheless, Phil dug deep and managed to complete the race and, in truth, he was happy just to get around without stopping. He’ll now look to start getting his fitness back over the coming weeks.

Steve Parsons and Phil Cherrett in Easter Quarter Marathon
Steve Parsons and Phil Cherrett both had fitness concerns going into the race but they wanted to give it a go

The next BAC member to reach the finish was Louise Price, who was the 41st lady over the line. Her time of 52:49 put her in 210th place overall. Louise enjoyed the race and said she felt better than she has in all her other recent races.

It was certainly nice to see a bigger contingent of ladies out for a race, rather than just the customary three in order to scrape together a team for the league points.

Only two more people crossed the line after Louise before Mark Westcott arrived to take 213th place in a time of 52:58. It was Mark’s partner Helen Ambrosen who rounded things off from a BAC perspective, finishing as 84th placed lady and 267th overall with her time of 56:10.

As far as the team competition for the Dorset Road Race League goes, we know that Poole AC won the ladies contest claiming each of the top 3 places. The BAC ladies team of Nikki, Julia and Jo would have taken 2nd place.

It would appear that it was the same result for the men as well, with Poole AC taking top spot and Bournemouth AC in 2nd. Poole AC had 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 17th positions. BAC had 1st, 8th, 11th, 22nd and 44th.

Considering it was a bit of a makeshift team and the fact that some of Bournemouth AC’s top runners were at the Anglo Celtic Plate, this would have to go down as a pretty decent day for BAC.

After the race, Rich Nelson kept his word and dished out a Cadbury Cream Egg to everyone who ran to reward them for their egg-cellent performances. I’m not sure how much he had to shell out for that but they tasted all white so it was definitely worth it.

BAC men's scoring team at Easter Quarter Marathon
Stu, László, Josh, Rich and Ross gave Bournemouth AC 2nd place in the men’s team competition for the Dorset Road Race League



Heartbreak and Heroics from BAC Boys at British 100k Championships

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Anthony Clark was representing England in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k, along with BAC teammate Jez Bragg

It was a proud day for Bournemouth AC as two club members had been selected to represent their country in the Anglo Celtic Plate which was held at Redwick in South East Wales on Saturday over the Easter break.

Both Anthony Clark and Jez Bragg were pulling on an England vest for the British 100k Championships race and they weren’t there just to make the numbers up. They were aiming to be serious contenders for the title. And what’s more , their fellow BAC teammate Steve Way was also there, running in the 50k race.

It was Anthony’s third year in a row competing at the Anglo Celtic Plate. Last year he took home a silver medal, completing the distance in a phenomenal time of 7 hours and 4 minutes. This was 27th best 100k performance of all time by a British runner.

However, the question was, could he improve on that this time round? And more importantly, could he go one better and claim the title? It was always going to be a tough task, with so many top international athletes vying honours, but it was one that he was ready for and one he was really relishing.

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
It was Anthony’s third consecutive year of being selected for his country at the Anglo Celtic Plate

Joining him this year in England colours was his club teammate Jez Bragg. Jez has has history with the Anglo Celtic Plate, winning the event back in 2009 with an incredible time of 6 hours 58 minutes. Finishing 100k in under 7 hours is the ultimate dream for any ultra runner but it is extremely difficult to achieve. That time put Jez 21st in the list of all time British performances.

Both Ant and Jez had blitzed through some monstrous training over the past few months to get into the best shape they possibly could for the race. The lead to a few 90 to 100 mile weeks for Jez and some weeks approaching 120 miles for Ant.

Unfortunately for Jez though, it was not going to be his day. With just 24 hours to go before the race, he came down with a nasty stomach bug. This meant he was confined to bed throughout the Friday afternoon and he was unable to eat. It was far from the ideal preparation when you’ve got a 100k run to do the next day.

On the Saturday morning, it was a huge effort for Jez just to get out of the hotel room and make it to the start line. Despite the horrendous state he was in, he felt like he had to at least give it a go. He figured the feeling of pulling out wouldn’t be as bad as the niggling question in the back of his mind of could he perhaps still have mustered up a strong enough run.

Incredibly, Jez still managed to run 23 and a half miles and was actually only slightly below his intended race pace as well, despite visits to the bushes every couple of miles. He was running on an empty tank though and in the end it took its toll and he was forced to pull out.

Jez Bragg in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Although he wasn’t feeling well, Jez Bragg felt he had to at least give it a go and showed great courage just to make it to the start line

Unfortunately there is no hiding place in a 100k race and there’s no way you can just wing it. You have to be at your best in terms of fitness, which Jez was, but you also need the same when it comes to your health. That is what Jez didn’t have on his side.

At least he gave it a go though and that’s more than anyone could have asked when an athlete is in that kind of state. Obviously he was gutted to have to step off the course whilst representing his country, especially after he’d put in so much hard training to get into peak condition. It goes to show though, no matter what preparation you do and how well you are performing, there are simply no guarantees with running. Anything could happen on the day.

Ant Clark was desperately hoping all would go smoothly for him as he looked to go one better than his silver medal winning performance of last year by taking top spot. Of course, it was going to be an extremely tough challenge defeating so many international class athletes. Ant was in great shape though and had certainly put the hard graft in with his training.

Ant Clark with Pat Robbins in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Pat Robbins was crewing for Jez and can be seen here on the left in the rather fetching hat

From the outset, it was Ant and Scotland’s Rob Turner who were leading the way. Ant reached the 50k half way point in a time of 3 hours 26 minutes and 17 seconds, with Rob just 2 seconds behind. It looked like it could well be a two horse race, but there was still a very long way to go so anything could happen. Between the pair of them though at least, the race was on!

As the race went on, Ant and Rob exchanged positions a number of times provoking a real buzz of excitement amongst the spectators. The pair were never too far away from each other though and it began to look like it could go down to the wire.

Eventually, Ant managed to edge away slightly, building up a lead of just over a minute. He knew though, despite the advantage he had, he could not afford to let up one tiny bit and simply had to keep pushing.

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Ant was locked in an intense tussle with Rob Turner of Scotland for the vast majority of the race, with the lead changing hands on several occasions

On the 49th mile, Ant had a twinge in his hamstring and as he continued, it began to cause him problems. The pain was manageable but it meant that he couldn’t stretch his leg out fully, resulting in a slight drop in pace.

Seizing his opportunity, Rob began to claw the gap back and on mile 51 to 52, he made the decisive move, passing Ant and powering on to take control of the race.

This was a huge psychological blow to Ant and, at that point, he actually thought about giving up. Then he looked up the road and saw that Rob had actually stopped. It appeared he was suffering from a bit of cramp.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Ant was going well and had built up a lead of just over a minute until he felt a twinge in his hamstring

That raised an alarm bell for Ant. All was not lost. In a 100k race, anything can happen. Even if he couldn’t catch Rob, there were no guarantees that Rob was going to finish even. He knew he had to bit the bullet and soldier on.

He managed to hold firm after that but was around 30 seconds off his planned pace. The course was a flat, 2 mile road loop, so the 100k distance meant going round 32 times.

As he reached the start of the final lap, he heard a voice projecting out of crowd. It was Steve Way, telling him to go for it and give it everything he’s got. At this point, Ant thought what the hell, there’s nothing to lose now, so he cranked the pace up and tried to catch Rob.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Once he got onto the last lap it was make or break for Ant and he found some extra energy to crank the pace up a notch in a last ditch bid to chase Rob down

Over the course of the lap he managed to make up 40 seconds on Rob and gap had reduced significantly. Despite somehow finding the energy to tear through the last mile at 5:25 pace. With 400 metres to go, there was just 20 seconds between the pair making for an extremely exciting finale.

Unfortunately for Ant though, he just ran out of road and Rob finished in a winning time of 7 hours 30 minutes. Ant crossed the line just 7 seconds later. Although he was slightly gutted not to have come out on top, he had to be proud of his new PB, which eclipsed his time the previous year by 3 and a half minutes.

It was frustrating for Ant as well as he was so close to a sub 7 hour finish but it wasn’t to be. If everything had gone a hundred per cent smoothly, perhaps he would have done it, but to get through a 100k race without any hitches would be incredibly fortuitous, it has to be said.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Despite his best efforts, Ant just ran out of time before he could catch the leader and had to settle for a silver medal again, finishing just 7 seconds behind Rob Turner of Scotland

It was a fantastic dual though between Ant and Rob and made for some intense and and nail biting viewing for the watching crowds. Ant had certainly done himself, his club and his country proud and to secure another British Championships silver medal was a huge achievement.

Meanwhile, in the 50k race that Steve Way took part in, there was actually only three people doing it, including Steve. They set off at the same time as all the 100k runners but knew that instead of 32 laps, they only had to do 16.

Well, I say only 16, but that’s still almost 32 miles, which isn’t a piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination. Steve was viewing it as a training run though as he continues to knock out the 120 mile weeks and build his fitness up in preparation for the Comrades Marathon in June.

Steve Way in Anglo Celtic Plate 50k
Steve Way was also in action at the Anglo Celtic Plate competing in the 50k race and using it as a training run for the Comrades Marathon in June

The Comrades Marathon is a 90km “Down run” route starting in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa and finishing in Durban. All Steve’s runs from January until then are with that in mind.

This year Steve will be looking to improve on his 9th placed finish last time out, when he completed the “Up run” course in 5 hours 49 minutes. It alternates between “Up” and “Down” each year.

Steve’s training has been going well recently, as was highlighted by his recent victory in the Bournemouth 10 mile race, where he fended off competition from BAC teammates Rob McTaggart and Josh Cole.

As far as the 50k at the Anglo Celtic Plate goes, Steve’s plan was to complete the race in under 3 hours – and to do so without killing himself in the process. He succeeded on both counts, reaching the 50k distance in a very impressive 2 hours 58 minutes and 3 seconds.

Within that run, Steve was particularly pleased to have posted a 2:29:50 for his marathon split, so it was a very good performance indeed from him. His average pace for the 50k was a remarkable 5 minutes 41 seconds and his splits during the run were extremely consistent, never going above 5:47 after the first couple of miles.

Steve Way in Anglo Celtic Plate 50k race
On reflection, Steve was very pleased with his time of 2:58:03 for the 50k and it demonstrated the promising shape he’s in at the moment

The fact he was able to do a 20 mile trail run the next day demonstrated just how good a shape he is in at the moment and bodes very well for his big target race in a couple of months time. He joked that he might even book his flight to South Africa soon if things continue in the same vain.

After he’d finished his race, Steve stayed behind to cheer Ant on for the remainder of his run and by the sounds of it, his support had a very positive impact on Ant, especially in his final lap. Another BAC member, Pat Robbins was also present, crewing for Jez and Gemma Bragg was of course also there to support her husband as he battled on in difficult circumstances.

In the aftermath of the Anglo Celtic Plate, the question for Ant will be, does he go back again for the third year running and this time, secure that elusive sub 7 hour time and who knows, perhaps take home a gold medal next time. We’ll allow him a bit of recovery time before he commits to that!

As for Jez, he’s now on the look out for another 100k race to take his frustrations out on. If he manages to find one, his contemporaries will certainly have a real battle on their hands. After such a hard few months of training in the lead up to the Anglo Celtic Plate, it’s only natural that he would want it to culminate in a race of some sort.

And for Steve, his record of the best British 100k of all time is still well and truly in tact. That performance was registered in 2014, when his time of 6 hours 19 minutes and 20 seconds propelled him to the top of list. And to be fair, that time has looked pretty untouchable ever since.