Julian Oxborough finds his rhythm in Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Julian Oxborough at the Liverpool Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Julian Oxborough was realising a dream of his to visit the city of Liverpool and see some of the famous landmarks connected to the Beatles, whilst also running a marathon as well

Providing him with the opportunity to fulfil a burning desire he’s always had, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon was the perfect reason for Julian Oxborough to head on up to the music culture capital of the world.

As a massive fan of the Beatles, Julian was looking forward to visiting some of the famous landmarks including the Cavern Club, the homes of both John Lennon and Paul McCartney and of course Penny Lane, the subject of one the Beatles most famous songs.

Penny Lane was also part of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon route, which starts off at the Albert Dock also runs past Goodison Park, the home of Everton Football Club and of course Anfield, where the mighty Liverpool F.C ply their trade.

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon is part of a series that stages events at various locations around the world. The Rock ‘n’ Roll Liverpool Marathon is now in it’s 5th year running and offers 1 Mile, 5k and Half Marathon races as well as the full Marathon.

The whole weekend has a sort of festival feel to it, with a concert being put on at the end of the Marathon. This year it was headlined by Space, a band who produced some big hits in the Indies era of the 90’s including Female of the Species, Neighbourhood, Dark Cloud and Me and You Versus the World.

From the Waterfront at the Albert Dock, the route headed toward the world famous Cavern Club, the home of the Beatles. After a jaunt down Penny Lane, it went towards the north of the city, heading around Goodison Park stadium, then through Stanley Park and the majestic Palm House. It then passes Anfield before returning to the city accompanied by spectacular views of the Liverpool skyline and the River Mersey.

From there it was past the Liver Buildings and towards Chinatown, passing through the Chinese Arch and Princes Park, following by Sefton Park and Otterspool Park. The finish was on the Waterfront promenade alongside the Liverpool Echo Arena.

Although there is plenty of sightseeing to be done on the way, from a running perspective, it’s a very tough, hilly course. Julian found miles 13 to 20 the hardest, although there was some respite to follow in the shape of a generous downhill section back to the city centre.

Aiming for a finish of around 6 hours 30 minutes, Julian had worked out the split times he needed to hit in order to meet that target. He started off at a steady pace and tried to remain disciplined throughout, only really speeding up when he had to to stay on his target pace.

As is often the case with marathons though, it’s hard not to get carried away and there were occasions when Julian was going faster than he should have. That did have consequences in the latter stages of the race as he slowed down a fair bit after 18 miles.

He had been hoping to keep to around 14 minute miling but the excitement of the occasion took hold to begin with and he ended up going at 12:25 m/m pace.

Once he settled down though he managed to slip into 13:55 m/m pace and he reached the half way point in 2 hours 40 minutes. Buoyed by getting through the first half in such a promising time, Julian began to push on, thinking he might be in with a chance of a sub 6 hour finish.

Julian Oxborough in the Liverpool Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Julian was going really well for the first half of the race but found the relentless hills and hot weather a real challenge as the race wore on

He got to the 20 mile point in 4 hours 40 minutes but with the hot weather, the last 10k was always going to be a tough going. He began to fall apart a bit from there, forcing him to eventually relinquish his chances of a sub-6 finish.

A lot of runners did seem struggle in the heat and it can be a major player in marathon races, as we saw from London back in April. Julian tried to keep hydrated as much as possible, taking in lots of water and Lucozade on his way round. He also took some SaltStick Caps to prevent cramp which seemed to work really well.

It was a feeling of huge relief as he arrived at the finish line, registering an official time of 6 hours 4 minutes and 31 seconds. That was certainly a vast improvement on his time at the London Marathon in 2017, when he finished in just under 7 hours 26 minutes.

In fact it was over 1 hour 20 minutes quicker, which is a pretty good result. Finishing in 3,155th position overall out of the 3,234 that finished, Julian was 2,070th male and 230th in his age category.

After the race Julian said he’d found it the toughest out of any marathon he’s ever done. Because the first 20 miles were mostly uphill and only the last 10k downhill, it was a real battle all the way. Full credit to him though. He dug in and got through it and that’s the most important thing.

There’s still work to be done for Julian in order for him to get his fitness to where he wants it to be and it’s certainly a far cry from his sub 3 hour marathon days of yesteryear, but nevertheless, there are signs that he’s on the right track and is making good progress.

Julian Oxborough after the Liverpool Rock 'n' Roll Marathon
Julian finished in a time of 6 hours 4 minutes and 31 seconds which was over 1 hour 20 minutes quicker than his last marathon

 

 

 

 

 

Andy Gillespie takes scenic route at Devon Coast Challenge

Andy Gillespie in rocky terrain in Devon Coast Challenge
Andy Gillespie was going for a marathon treble at the Devon Coast Challenge meaning he was tasked with completing three marathons in three days

We’ve been reminded quite a bit lately how tough it can be running a marathon. Look at Stu Nicholas’s unyielding march toward the 50-marathon mark and the brick wall he hit at the Queen Elizabeth Spring. Look at the recent mayhem at the London Marathon where the sudden bout of hot weather caused complete carnage.

Then there was the Boston Marathon, where the icy temperatures, ferocious winds and unrelenting rain played havoc with peoples’ physical and mental aptitude. Then you have that cruel and cut-throat cretin known as cramp, which has provoked turbulent times for many a marathon runner in the latter stages where the lactic in the legs really starts to burn.

Now imagine doing three marathons in three days. That was the challenge Andy Gillespie was up against as he took to the wild and rugged terrain of the South West Coast Path in the Devon Coast Challenge.

Of course, doing three marathons in three days is nothing new to Andy G though. In fact, he did exactly that in October last year when conquering the Atlantic Coast Challenge.

Being a veteran of 85 marathons though, Andy had no doubt experienced all of the above and so much more and he’d always come out of it smiling, even if through gritted teeth, and he’d always demonstrated the tenacity to get the job done, no matter what obstacles he faced along the way. His unblemished record of 85 completions and no DNF’s was a testament to that.

The week before the Devon Coast Challenge, Andy had run the North Dorset Village Marathon in just under 4 hours 3 minutes, so that was a good little warm up for what lay ahead. With three marathons to complete in three days though, and with the courses being a lot tougher, he’d be taking it significantly steadier in the DCC.

On the first day, the route went from Hartland Quay to Appledore. The surface was hard and rugged and the changeable weather added to the challenging nature of the terrain, with some midday rain making it a little greasy underfoot.

It was a very hilly sector of the South West Coast Path, amounting to over 5,000 ft of elevation. Runners are tasked with using a map to find their own way along the routes, so that taps into the additional skill of navigation, which is a very important one for this challenge.

Andy Gillespie on first day of Devon Coast Challenge
The ground was a little greasy underfoot on the first race after a touch of rain

Arriving at the first checkpoint in 2 hours 34 minutes and 32 seconds, Andy was in 30th place at that stage. He reached the second checkpoint in 4:27:34, putting him 36th. He then got to the third and final checkpoint in 6:03:56 putting in 35th place. From there it was onto the finish, which he arrived at in a time of 7 hours 11 minutes and 40 seconds, leaving him in 34th position at the end of the Day 1.

On Day 2 the route went from Crow Point to Combe Martin via Staunton, Croydon, Woolacombe and Ilfracombe. The conditions were warm and sunny and the coast path provided some stunning views of the cliffs and beaches. The surfaces were much better for running on and the backdrop emphasized the outstanding natural beauty of the area.

At the first checkpoint of the day, Andy was in 20th place, arriving in 1 hour 18 minutes. By the second checkpoint he’d slipped to 25th, arriving in a time of 2:33:39. He remained in 25th place for the next two checkpoints before finishing in 26th with a time of 6:43:05.

As he approached the finish line Andy could see that his distance hadn’t quite reached 26.2 miles so he did a lap around the campsite before going over the line – just to make sure.

Andy Gillespie on the trails of the South West Coast Path
Still going strong after completing his second marathon, Andy had placed 34th and 26th on the first two stages

It was then onto Day 3, the final day of the race, where the route was from Combe Martin to Porlock Bay. This was the toughest day of the three with plenty of steep climbs from the outset as the path clung to the sides of the cliffs, crossing moorland and heading through woods and glades towards Hunters Inn, Valley of the Roacks, Lynmouth and Countisbury.

The course featured plenty of amazing scenery and breath-taking views as it progressed. After leaving Lynmouth there was a long climb up to Countisbury before the path became more wooded and undulating, going through glades and dells and culminating in the final big climb up to Culbone Church. The open fields provided clear views across to Wales before dropping down via farm lanes and tracks to finish at Porlock.

It was on this stage that Andy actually took an accidental detour after his map reading skills appeared to have let him down. That resulted in an all-round trek of over 31 miles and brought his elevation counter up to over 6,800 ft. Afterwards Andy declared the additional distance was a bonus but there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be brushing up on his navigation or studying the route a tiny bit harder before he embarks upon his next challenge.

At the first checkpoint of the day, Andy was in 24th place, with a time of 2 hours 12 minutes. At the second checkpoint he was down to 29th, arriving in a time of 4:16:46. He remained in 29th as he got to the third checkpoint, clocking a time of 5 hours 57 minutes. He eventually made it to the finish line after a very long day out on the path, crossing the line in a time of 8 hours 53 minutes and 53 seconds. That put him in 31st position for the day.

The overall standings for the challenge were calculated by the cumulative times of all three days combined. Andy’s came to 22 hours 48 minutes and 38 seconds, putting him in 33rd place. This was out of a field of 66 people who began the challenge on Day 1, so he’d just sneaked into in the top half.

It was another great multi-marathon experience for Andy and took his total up to 88 marathons, meaning only 12 more to go till he reaches the illusive 100 Club. His achievements never cease to amaze others and, at 59 years of age, he’s certainly a true inspiration to us all.

Taking that unplanned detour on the final stage might have persuaded many to throw the towel in but Andy’s ‘never say die’ attitude would not allow him to be beaten. Then again, perhaps for Andy, it was more a case of, three marathons in three days just wasn’t hard enough. He simply had to go and make it two marathons and an ultra! Well, it was supposed to be a challenge, right?

Andy Gillespie makes his way round one route of the Devon Coast Challenge
Although he went a bit off-piste on the final stage, Andy made it to end, finishing with a combined time of 22:48:38 which put him 33rd position

BAC Masters Athletes Win at Vets League

BAC Masters Athletes represented Southampton to secure a triumphant Win in Match 2 of the Hampshire Veterans League at Winchester.

On the evening of 21 May 2018, several BAC masters athletes travelled to Winchester to compete as part of the Southampton AC Veteran’s squad.  Despite the stronghold, BAC  do not have a Veterans team, thus many compete as second claim for Southampton.

The vets league provides such great competition, a brilliant atmosphere and it certainly was an amazing evening alongside our fellow team mates from Southampton.  Thanks to everyone for such an incredible effort and well deserved win!

Despite the promise of light showers, the thunder storm took a few by surprise. Fortunately it passed before proceedings commenced and the grass was greener as a result – not that BAC are fazed by the weather.

As usual, the BAC contingent were out in force with Andy Sheerin, Andrew Turner, Steve Dobson, Joy Wright and Janet Dickinson in action.

The men performed well in Discus with Andrew Turner gaining high points for 2nd place 32.75m.

Janet and newcomer, Joy added the points for Southampton.

Janet Long Jump. Photo by Noel O’Dowd

Janet Dickinson had a great evening with a convincing win in the Long Jump 4.21m before heading to the 200m start line via the Shot Putt where she threw an outstanding 9.04m. A quick dash to the 200m saw her dominate the lead and win in 29.0sec and Discus 25.14m. Janet still had fuel in the tank for the first leg of the 4x400m relay. Again Janet dominated the race and created an enormous lead.

Joy looked strong, closing the gap with a final leg chase for 2nd place. and the fastest split overall 63.9.  Joy started the evening at the 200m start with a few aches and pains but ran well for 2nd place against strong competition, 28.5. About 10 minutes later Joy was back on the start line for the 800m which was well executed near the front and well placed for a win had she not blown up in the last 50m. An incredible effort to finish hard with nothing left and feeling so unwell. After staggering around bewildered, Joy was offered a magic cake which revived her in time for a quick non scoring discuss throw over 20m and the 4x400m at the end of the day.

Photo by Noel O’Dowd

Fantastic result for the Southampton team, both men and women won the match.  The men usually make the final.  However, the women have a realistic chance of reaching the final for the first time ever, come on girls you can do it!

YDL Lower League Winchester – WINNERS!!!!

Saturday 19th May 2018

Our second of four competitions took place on Saturday at Winchester. The sun was shining and everyone was in good spirits. First on the track was Joe Wilkinson, his first ever hurdle race, feeling nervous he executed the race safely and managed to finish 3rd. Next up was his big sister Mia who showed him exactly how to hurdle, almost effortlessly she cleared the hurdles in 12.5 a terrific PB for Mia. Oscar Ewen Matthews and Henry Phipp were busy competing in the long jump, both jumping exceptionally well with Henry gaining a PB!

With little rest for Oscar he was ready to run his 200m along with Aayan Kar. Great races to watch with Aayan gaining a PB. The next race was an athlete we all enjoy watching, Amelia Verney was on the 200m start line. Amelia never fails to deliver on the track running a magnificent 200m 25.3 putting her 1st in the country for 200m!!! Following Amelia was another amazing athlete and one to watch, Keon Dzuda who ran 200m in 25.6 PB!!

Over on the long jump was Lana Blake who jumped an incredible 5.25m PB and Tamika Douch jumped 4.76m, terrific jumping girls! Back on track was Oscar and Daniel Armstrong running their 800m, Oscar ran a superb race followed by Daniel in the B string who executed a perfect race sitting comfortably behind the leader waiting to pounce. 75m to go and Daniel dropped down a gear and power past to finish in 1st place and PB! Following the boys 800m was Abigail Phillips who ran a super 800m 2:44.1 PB! Finally Morgan Sommerseth ran a great 800m coming 2nd 2:26.0 PB!

Anya Sandell again stepped in for the high jump and cleared 1.15m. This was Henry Phipp’s first competition and after his great long jump he followed with jumping 1.15m in the high jump followed by throwing 5.66m in the shot putt. Super effort Henry and welcome aboard!

After lunch it’s the sprints, first up 75m and Mia Armstrong running a PB 11.3! Daniel Armstrong ran a great 100m so did Aayan Kar. Next on the track was Amelia and she flew down the 100m straight 12.5! Then it was Lana’s turn and she kept her nerve after three failed gun starts! Eventually Lana also flew down the track 12.9! Next up was Tamika 13.7 and Isabelle 13.3. Great result all round. Keon followed the girls down running a breath taking 12.2 PB! Keon has had an awesome competition!

After all this excitement we watched Abigail run her 300m and another PB for Abi 45.4! Followed by Jasper who has come back from injury and ran a respectable 47.3. The final track races are under way with Isaac Sandell starting off the 1500m and ran a great race in hot and sticky conditions. Martha Preece and Neve East ran a super 1200m. Martha smashed her PB 4:11.8 and Neve who is new to competition ran an amazing 4:13.9. Finally Jasper ran an excellent 1500m race after coming back from injury!

So our U15 girls relay were an all Bournemouth team and the smashed the BAC record which is truly tremendous. Well done Amelia, Lana, Isabelle and Tamika, great team work!! And we won overall with 580 points !! What a good day 😊

By Karen Wilkinson

Photos by Mike Gorden, thanks!

Kirsty Drewett and Simon Hearn hit up Maverick Dorset event

Kirsty Drewett in Maverick Dorset Long race
Kirsty Drewett took on the Long race at the Maverick inov-8 Original Dorset with Simon Hearn taking on the Short race

The Maverick inov-8 Original Dorset event was staged at Corfe Castle over on the Purbeck and it was made up of a Short, a Medium and a Long distance race. The event attracted the attention of two Bournemouth AC members; Simon Hearn and Kirsty Drewett.

Simon had recently competed in the Maverick inov-8 Original Hampshire where he tried out a new pair of trail shoes he was given as a trial and emerged victorious in the Short distance race.

After that success, it was no surprise that Simon opted for the Short distance race again, although this time it was a 9km as opposed to 6k like it was last time. Kirsty went for the Long distance race, which turned out to be 14.5 miles.

Having entered the race quite a while ago, Simon felt compelled to do it, although he has recently been suffering from a meniscus injury which has effected his running to some extent.

Simon Hearn in Maverick Dorset Short race
Simon was hoping to emulate his success at the Maverick Hampshire when he won the 6km race

Over the past 4 weeks he’s only really done parkruns and not much other running due to his injury so he wasn’t expecting anything special. He was just looking to do his best and see what happens.

Much to his dismay, the first two and a half miles of the course were uphill, which is not really his forte and certainly not what he enjoys. Once he got to the top, those in the Short distance race were directed to turn left.

At that point he knew who he was in competition with. There were four people in front of him. Three men and one lady, each with fairly big gaps between them.

He pushed on and began to catch the lady who was in front of him. He got level with her and told her to keep working and stay with him. She was unable to keep up though and dropped back.

It was now the guy in front who was in 3rd place that was Simon’s next focus. He thought he would give it a go and try to bridge the gap. He could tell he was edging closer. Then they reached a downhill section.

As they embarked upon the descent, Simon knew this was his strong point and if he was going to get past, this was the time to do it. Sure enough, he made the manoeuvre and assumed 3rd position just as they were coming into the finish.

Crossing the line in a time of 42:22, Simon was delighted to have come in 3rd. The was a 7 second gap in the end between him and the 4th placed runner. There were 106 people in total in the Short race.

Simon Hearn after Maverick Dorset Long race
With a time of 42:22, Simon had to settle for 3rd place on this occasion

Meanwhile, Kirsty was doing the long route. After being a bit out of sorts for the past few weeks, she decided to tackle it as a long training run.

It was the first time she’d done a Maverick race before so wasn’t really sure what to bring. It turned out that the aid stations were pretty well stocked so she needn’t have packed so much.

Kirsty Drewett in Maverick Dorset Long race
Kirsty’s strategy was to treat it like a long training run, setting off quite conservatively

The weather conditions were good, which was a bonus. The route was well marked out and the organization was slick. The course was familiar to Kirsty as she’s done quite a bit of running on the Purbeck but it was in a reverse direction to the route she normally runs.

She liked it all the same though and there were plenty of climbs and varying terrains to get stuck into. She said she’ll definitely put her name down to attack this course again when she’s in better shape.

Kirsty Drewett in Maverick Dorset Long race
Kirsty carefully negotiates the 14.5 mile course

On this occasion, she walked on some sections and took a leisurely pit stop at each of the aid stations. She appreciated the stunning views as she went round and thoroughly enjoyed every step of the way.

The route started off at Purbeck Valley Farm and worked its way up the barrows to Old Harry’s Rocks, through Studland and onto the heathland. It then went around Agglestone Rock, skirted the golf course to Rempstone and the woods that were teaming with bluebells. It was then back up the ridge and down to the farm.

Going over the line as 17th placed lady, Kirsty clocked a time of 2 hours, 27 minutes and 6 seconds. That put her in 95th place overall out of total of 172 entrants.

Still feeling strong at the finish, Kirsty took a lot of confidence from the run and was pleased she managed to keep her excitement contained and take it nice and steady. There are certainly signs that she’s turning a corner and is hopefully on the way toward getting back to her best.

Kirsty Drewett in Maverick Dorset Long race
Kirsty finished the race in a time of 2;27:06, making her 17th placed lady

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julia, Pawel and Stevie P make a splash in the Lymington Lifeboat 10k

The Parsons family at the Lymington Lifeboat 10
Steve Parsons together with wife Roz and their three children all took part in races at the Lymington Lifeboat event

Despite the rather precarious name which conjures up thoughts of desperately trying to stay afloat whilst you wait for the rescue crew to arrive, the actual Lymington Lifeboat 10k is a very safe, well organised and unassuming race.

In fact, on the contrary the event, which is put on by the RNLI, has a nice family feel to it, also featuring 2k and 1k fun runs for kids to take part as well as the main 10k race.

The weather conditions were fantastic on race day, with some lovely sunshine and very little breeze. It was a good opportunity for a quick 10k time for those feeling in-form as they readied themselves on the start line.

In the line up for Bournemouth AC were Julia Austin, Pawel Surowiec and Steve Parsons, all looking for good performances and who knows, perhaps a PB was on the cards as well if things went well.

After suffering from a bit of IT Band Syndrome since the Bournemouth 10 race back in February, Steve Parsons didn’t really know what to expect going into the race. The injury causes him a lot of pain in the knee and has hampered his training somewhat over recent months.

Luckily the injury didn’t seem to effect him too much in the race and he felt pretty strong all the way round. He really enjoyed the gravel tracks along gorgeous sea walls, which made for a quite spectacular settling.

As he reached the finish, it had turned out to be a very good run from Steve, as he crossed the line in 113th place in a time of 44:26. This was actually Steve’s second fastest 10k of all time, so quite a result really considering the problems he’s been having recently.

That said, it was still around a minute off his PB for the distance, which he did at the Boscombe 10k last November, so he does still have some way to go before he makes it back to full fitness but the signs are pretty good nonetheless.

Steve Parsons after Lymington Lifeboat 10k
Steve recorded his 2nd fastest 10k to date, completing the course in a time of 44:26

Steve’s wife Roz was also in action in the 10k race and managed to secure herself a fantastic new PB of 1:04:59, placing her in 750th in the standings.

The field contained just shy of 900 competitors, so it was a very good turnout indeed. All three of Steve and Rozanne’s kids participated in the 1k fun runs, making it a fabulous morning for the Parsons clan.

Steve and Roz after completing the Lymington Lifeboat 10k
Steve and Roz were all smiles after completing the Lymington Lifeboat 10k

The lovely 10k route was also very appealing to Julia Austin as well, who also cited that she particularly enjoyed the sea walls section at Keyhaven.

The warm conditions suited Julia quite well and she turned in a very solid performance, crossing the line as 8th placed lady overall in a time of 43:16. That was out of a total of 435, so a very good result for Julia.

Sea walls at Lymington
The beautiful sea walls at Lymington

The time was a minute and a half quicker than her time in the Bournemouth Bay 10k in April. It was just a shame that the Lymington Lifeboat wasn’t a UKA licensed race so it won’t help her ranking.

She picked up a prize for 1st F50 as well so that was another bonus. The winner of the ladies race, Kathy Bailey was also in the F50 category but since she’d already been given a prize for being overall winner, the category win was attributed to Julia.

Roz and friend with Prosecco after the run
Roz and her friend were happy to enjoy a glass of Prosecco or two after the run

After the race, Julia enjoyed seeing all the children in their fun runs as well. Julia is a teacher and quite a few of her pupils were running so it was nice for her to be able to cheer them on.

As for Pawel, he was looking for a sub 40 minute time, and was hoping in the form he’s in he would at least be in place to have a good tilt at a PB.

Julia Austin in Lymington Lifeboat 10k
Julia Austin finished as 8th placed lady and won 1st prize in the F50 category in the Lymington Lifeboat 10k

Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be for Pawel on the day, and he didn’t seem to quite have the speed or the energy to put himself in position to get the time he wanted. That said, his finishing time of 42:18 was still a great effort by most peoples’ standards and put him in 59th place overall.

Pawel Surowiec and Naomi Capell in Lymington Lifeboat 10k
Pawel Surowiec (2nd from the left) and partner Naomi Capell both completed the Lymington Lifeboat 10k

After the race Pawel speculated that it could have been due to a lack of rest recently that caused him not be feeling completely fresh for the race. He has been doing a lot of 12 hour shifts at work recently so that is bound to have some impact on performance. No doubt he’ll pick himself up and be ready for the next one though.

Pawel’s partner Naomi Capell also competed in the race, finishing in a time of 1:04:44, which put her in 741st place overall and 317th lady. Naomi sometimes comes along to the Tuesday night training sessions with Pawel and does parkruns with him on Saturday mornings so it was good to see her out racing as well.

The Parson Clan at the Lymington Lifeboat 10k
The Lymington Lifeboat event was a fun morning for all the family, as the Parsons clan will testify

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ollie Stoten gets his just deserts in Namib Race

Ollie Stoten smiling in Namib Race
With a 250km route across desert terrain over 6 stages in the space of 7 days, Ollie Stoten had his work cut out in the Namib Race, part of the 4 Deserts series

The Namib Race is a 7-day, 250km trek across the Namib Desert and within the Skeleton Coast National Park. The route works its way across beaches where the Atlantic Ocean meets the desert, through seal colonies, salt pans and salt lakes which are home to flamingos, through in infamous dunes of the Namib Desert into dry river beds, oil and diamond mines and across vast stretches of desert plains.

The Namib Race forms part of the 4 Deserts series, also featuring races in Atacoma, Gobi and Antarctica. It follows an identical format to Marathon des Sables, which is renowned for being the toughest footrace on earth, so that gives some idea or the enormity of the task.

It was a challenge that Ollie Stoten was looking forward to getting to grips with though – and if anyone could handle the hardcore nature of the race and the extreme and relentless distances the competitors are required to cover, day after day – it would be Ollie.

Ollie knocks out ultra-marathons on a regular basis and puts in extremely high mileage every week, often going for tough terrain routes with plenty of inclines.

The Namib Race is obviously taking it to the next level though, since it involves 5 consecutive stages and then another additional one to make it up to 6 in the space of a 7-day window. The courses are long and arduous as well and with it being in the middle of the desert, the sandy surfaces make for immensely tough and challenging running throughout.

The first stage was a nice, gentle 42km (26 miles) to ease the competitors into it as they gained their first introduction to the rigours of the Skeleton Coast. Completing the course in 3 hours 38 minutes and 36 seconds, Ollie was in 2nd place in standings for Stage 1.

Lead group on Stage 2
The front group on Stage 2

Stage 2 was a slightly shorter 40km (25 miles) on the Diamond Trail over Scott’s Bridge. Ollie completed the route in 3:23:24, which was 3rd fastest on the day.

Leaders of the Namib race
Ollie pictured with race leader Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito on Stage 3

Next up it was a stage that Ollie really enjoyed. The 43km (27 mile) route that incorporated some very runnable terrain along the Skeleton Beach where he felt he could really open up. Ollie took 1st place on this stage with a time of 3:44:08, finishing seconds ahead of Vicente Juan Garcia Beneito of Spain who won the first two stages and Wong Ho Chung of Hong Kong.

The lead pack make their way across the desert
The lead pack make their way across the desert on Stage 3

Stage 4 was the longest stage of the race, covering a massive 81km (50 miles). The stage was known simply as the Long March and would test all the runners to their absolute limit as they passed through the world’s oldest desert.

Race leader Vicente Juan with Ollie alongside him
Race leader Vicente Juan with Ollie alongside him on Stage 4

It was on this stage that Ollie conceded a fair bit of time to his Garcia Beneito and Wong, crossing the line in a still very impressive 9:37:12 which put him in 3rd place. His two main rivals completed the race in 8 hours and 11 minutes.

Ollie makes his way across the desert on Stage 4
Ollie is on the Long March toward completing the 50 mile stage

That put Ollie out of contention for the win and made it pretty much a straight shoot out between Garcia Beneito and Wong. The Spaniard did have a 16-minute advantage from the first two stages though so it was always going to be a tough ask for Wong to make that up on Stage 5, which would be his final opportunity to do so.

Wong Ho Chung in Namib Race
Wong Ho Chung was victorious on Stage 5 and finished 2nd overall after all six stages were complete

Ollie was comfortable in 3rd place though and it looked like that was where he was going to stay. The 5th stage Dune Day, taking the runners on a 40km (25 mile) journey through the dunes of the Namib Desert.

Again, Ollie finished the day in 3rd place, clocking a time of 4:15:41. Wong Ho Chung took the win on the day with a time of 4:04:28 but only gained 5 seconds on Garcia Beneito which all but confirmed him as champion provided he could get through the final stage.

Wong Ho Chung in Namib Race
Wong Ho Chung was victorious on Stage 5 and finished 2nd overall after all six stages were complete

The last stage, and certainly the least, in terms of distance at least, was the 10km run into the finish, aptly named the “Final footsteps in the Namib Desert”. Once they’d made it this far, the competitors could breathe a huge sigh of relief knowing they had pretty much made it. Rather fittingly, it was Garcia Beneito who won the day, finishing in a time of 44:27. Ollie took 2nd place for the stage with a time of 45:09, with Wong in 3rd in 45:58.

The final standings were calculated by the cumulative times of each athlete, combined over the 6 stages. Of course, winning stages 1,2,4 and 6 – Garcia Beneito claimed the crown, with his total time amounting to 23 hours 23 minutes and 32 seconds.

The top 3 in the Namib Race
The top three overall – Ollie, Vicente Juan and Ho Chung

Wong Ho Chung was 2nd in 23:41:16 and Ollie took a very proud and rewarding 3rd place, with his overall time standing at 25:24:10. Takuya Wakaoka of Japan was 3 hours behind Ollie but took 4th place overall. Then it was Nyikolaj Roskovics of Hungary a further hour back in 5th position.

Completing this race would surely have to go down as one of Ollie’s best achievements to date. But to not only complete it but to take 3rd place out of the 93 participants who took to the start lane was a tremendous achievement and one that Ollie can look back with immense pride.

Ollie thoroughly enjoyed the experience though and said it was basically a running holiday. I’m not sure if running 250km (155 miles) across desert terrain is everyone’s idea of a holiday but well, it’s certainly a healthy alternative to lying on a sun lounger sipping cocktails all day.

Men's top three in Namib race
A top three finish for Ollie was a fantastic result and one he’ll certainly look back on with pride

Josh Cole goes out hard in Milton Keynes Half Marathon

Josh Cole did the Half Marathon at the Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend
Josh Cole was hoping he might be in contention to win the Half Marathon race at the ever popular Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend

The Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend is always a huge attraction with competitors from far and wide travelling to northern Buckinghamshire to try their luck, either in the 5k Rocket race, the Half Marathon or the Full Marathon.

The routes are predominantly flat in profile, mostly across roads in and around the Milton Keynes area but each race includes a glorious finish in the magnificent MK Stadium, home of course to the Milton Keynes Dons.

For this year’s race, Bournemouth AC member László Tóth had entered both the Rocket 5k and on the Saturday and the Marathon on Sunday. He was hoping he might finish quite high up in the 5k race if he has a good run and could potentially have been a contender to win it.

Unfortunately, though, before the weekend arrived, László was struck down with a back injury which has kept him out of action ever since. The result unfortunately for Laszlo meant that he was unable to compete in either race. It was a real blow for László but it’s just one of those things that unfortunately does happen to runners from time to time.

László Tóth ruled out of Milton Keynes Marathon Weekend due to injury
László Tóth had been down for the Rocket 5k and the Marathon but he sadly he was ruled out due to a back injury

One BAC member who did manage to make it to Milton Keynes though was Josh Cole, who was competing in the Half Marathon race on the Sunday. He was also thinking that if he has a good run, he could be a contender to win it, which would be a huge accolade.

Josh was out of blocks at breakneck speed, attempting to stay with the early pace setters. At the 10k stage in the race he was around a minute and a half down on the top 3 in the race who had broken away from the lead pack.

It was still a good run from Josh thus far though and he’d reached the 10k point in 35 minutes 23 seconds. Unfortunately though he’d just gone off that bit too quickly and paid the price for it in the latter stages of the race. The second half became a bit of a slog and Josh fell of the pace quite a bit, drifting further away from the leaders.

Josh Cole featured in the Milton Keynes Half Marathon
Josh was going pretty well at the 10k point, arriving in 35 minutes and 23 seconds

By the time he reached the finish he’d fallen from 6th place to 10th and he crossed the line in a time of 1:20:57. By most peoples’ standards this would still be a stunning team but for Josh it was tinged with disappointment. He knew full well that if he’d managed the race better instead of try to stick with the race leaders early on he would’ve been much stronger in the second half.

Nevertheless, he’d still managed a top 10 finish in a race that featured over 3,200 finishers, so that is still something to be proud of by any standard.

You live and learn though in running and no matter how experienced or how fast you are, there are always going to be races where you don’t get the strategy quite right and it proves costly in the end. Josh is determined to bounce back though and is now on the lookout for a 10k race that can do well in to get himself back on track.

Josh Cole in the Milton Keynes Half Marathon
Josh paid the price for setting off too quickly in the end, slipping down to 10th place and finishing in a time of 1:20:57

Trevor Elkins triumphant in Run the River 15k race

Trevor Elkins took on the Run the River 15k race
Trevor Elkins was looking to make a splash in the Run the River 15k race put on by Aspire Running Events

The day got off to a somewhat shaky start for Trevor Elkins at the Run the River event in Bristol when he accidentally locked his car keys in the boot of his car. That meant he was unable to get into the car – and to make matters worse, his hydro drink that he was going to bring with him in the race was in the car.

Fortunately, a friend of his, who was running in the 7.5k race said he would help him get it sorted. His friend’s partner was marshalling at the finish and she took time out to call the AA and get them to come out.

She sorted everything out for Trevor meaning he was able to focus on the race. He was in about 10th place after the first 400 metres but by the time the first mile was done, he had climbed to 4th and was at the back of a small lead group.

The only problem, out of those who were in front of him, he didn’t know who was doing the 7.5k and who was competing against him in the 15k. He managed to work his way past two of them, who it turned out were both doing the 7.5k. That just left one lead guy who seemed to be rather erratically pulling away and then slowing down, almost as if he was running fartlek style.

Trevor Elkins in lead group at Run the River 15k
Trevor locks onto the lead group of three, although unbeknown to him, the other three were all doing the 7.5k race

It was an amazingly diverse multi terrain route across a mixture of roadside path, trails alongside the River Avon, with some woodland sections and some open countryside. Some of trails by the river somehow seemed to be just as muddy as they were in the winter.

Trevor has been to many of the Aspire Running Events in Bristol in the past so he knows the area quite well. In fact, the last couple of times he’d been over there for the Avon Valley Railway races, finishing 2nd to Brad Cox on both occasions.

Trevor Elkins in Run the River 15k
Trevor tucks in behind Ken Ham of Westbury Harriers who went on to win the 7.5k race

This time round he was determined to go one better though. As they approached the end of the first lap he saw the guy who was in the lead peal off to end his race, meaning he too was doing the 7.5k. That left Trevor out in front on his own.

As the heat began to take its toll on him, Trevor stopped to take in some water. He could see the guy who was in 2nd placed in the 15k race coming around the field around 400m back so he decided to get a move on.

Hitting the half way point at 31 minutes meant he was on course for a 63-minute 15k time, which would have been a decent result. At the 11k point though he started running into problems. His heart rate had suddenly jumped up to 192 at times, when it had been averaging 180. His mouth felt bone dry as well and he knew he was in trouble.

Coming to the conclusion that the guy who was behind him, Lee Kibble of Forest of Dean AC, was going to overtake him anyway, Trevor decided he would have to let him go past. But instead, Lee coasted in behind Trevor and the pair exchanged words.

Shortly after, Lee came to a sudden stop, suffering from a pain in his leg. Trevor decided to stop and see if he was okay before they both got going again. The 3rd placed runner was nowhere to be seen so they had a bit of time to play with anyway.

After the next water station, Lee stopped again, seemingly in real discomfort. Like a true good sport, Trevor stopped with him for a second time until he was able to get going again. Lee was then forced to stop for a third time at 15.3k and this time Trevor couldn’t wait any more and told Lee he’d see him at the finish.

Trev Elkins going well in Run the River 15k
After suffering a bit in the latter stages of the race due to the heat, Trevor had to dig deep to try and maintain his rhythm

After the car key incident earlier, Trevor was thinking that the AA might be there waiting for him. The finish came at around 15.7k and Trevor arrived in a time of 1 hour 7 minutes and 24 seconds. He’d hit 15k at 1:04, which was pretty good when you factor in the terrain of the trails and the four muddy puddle sections.

The AA were there waiting for him as they needed him to sign a declaration before they could get the lock picked on his car. After that, Trevor stayed to collect his two trophies – one for overall 1st place and the other for 1st in the Senior Men’s category.

This was Trevor’s second consecutive race win following his victory in the Race The Tide Beach Race the previous weekend, which went from Bournemouth Pier and entailed mostly running on sand.

Since he did manage to get into his car and get his keys back in the end, thanks to the AA, it would have to go down as a very successful morning for Trevor. Two brand new, gleaming trophies to put on the mantelpiece and another positive step toward his primary goal of being in tip-top condition for the Vitality 10,000 race on Bank Holiday Monday.

Trevor Elkins wins Run the River 15k race
Trevor took the trophy for Overall Winner and 1st Senior Male as well marking for a very pleasing day at the races

Jacek motors to victory at Wings for Life World Run in Melbourne

Jacek Cieluszecki in Wings for Life World Run at Melbourne
Following his win at Cambridge last year, Jacek Cieluszecki opted for Melbourne, Australia, for this year’s edition of the Wings for Life World Run

After his fantastic victory at the Wings for Life World Run in Cambridge last year, Jacek Cieluszecki had earnt the opportunity to select any location in the world this time round. He chose Melbourne, Australia for this year’s event.

Melbourne is one of the biggest races of all, attracting huge numbers and it tends to get a fair bit of TV coverage as well. The concept of the Wings for Life World Run is that basically everyone competing around the world starts off at the same time and each race has a Catcher Car that chases down the competitors.

Once you get caught by the Catcher Car, you’re out of the race and the winner is the person who covers the most distance, thus lasting longest before they get caught by the car. But as well as racing against everyone else in the location you are running in, you are also in competition with everyone else around the world. The overall winner is the person who covers the most distance out of anyone in the world before they get caught.

Runners can also enter by using an app on their phone as well, so they don’t necessarily have to be in one of the race locations. They will then get chased down by a virtual car. It’s a fantastic idea for a race and makes really exciting viewing when tuning into the live coverage.

The Melboure race started at 9pm local time and with it currently being Autumn time in Australia, that meant it was very dark. This added a unique twist to an already intriguing race with every competitor sporting a head torch. That made for quite a spectacle, with 2,432 head torches lighting up the night sky.

Following the disappointment he’d suffered in the Boston Marathon, when the freezing cold conditions and persistent wind and rain caused his body to virtually shut down, affecting his finishing time quite significantly, Jacek wasn’t sure how it was going to go. He was quite tired when he got back to the UK after that and although he’d done a few long runs since then, he wasn’t really feeling the flow.

Jacek Cieluszecki at Wings for Life World Run in Melbourne
As the races are scheduled to start at exactly the same time all around the world, it was 9pm in Melbourne which meant the entire race was run in darkness

When the race started, a few of the competitors set off pretty hard. In truth, most of them were probably just looking to get on the TV coverage though and steal their 5 minutes of fame. The thing about Wings for Life though as that you can’t actually afford to go too hard from the start if you want to do really well. You have to set off at a pace you feel comfortable running at because you’re going to be out there for many hours and will need to be able to maintain that pace for a very long time.

This is where Jacek’s experience came into play. Having won the race in Cambridge last year, he had a pretty good idea of what sort of pace he should be running at in order to be able to maintain it throughout the course of the night. Therefore, rather than taking any risks in trying to keep up with the other guys, he let them go and stuck to his own strategy, knowing they would most likely run out of steam in the end.

Soon there were only two guys ahead of Jacek. He passed one of them at around 30km. He then caught Ali Najem, who was in the lead at around 47km. Ali tried his best to say with JC but he was never realistically going to hold on for long. Once Jacek broke away, there was only going to be one winner.

Soon after that the two British guys, Damien Bruneau and Stephen Peck were caught by the Catcher Car and eliminated from the race leaving just Jacek and Ali out there. At 55.63km, Ali was finally reeled in, making Jacek the only one left standing.

It was now a case of lasting as long as he could to feature as high up in the world rankings as he possible. There were still others out of the course at the various different locations around the world but we were now into very elite territory.

Impressively, Jacek managed to maintain his pace throughout, feeling strong all the way. With the Catcher Car closing in, he managed one final spurt to stave off being caught for as long as possible. This brought a chuckle from the commentator in the TV coverage as he remarked that it was one of the most stubborn finishes he’d seen.

When the Catcher Car finally caught up with JC, he’d covered a massive 67.3km, which is 41.8 miles. He’d been running for 4 hours and 28 minutes and the way he was running, you wouldn’t have thought it. The fact he still looked strong and still had a bit of fight left in him at the end tells you a lot about how well he was running. His finishing distance was just 1.5km shy of what he managed at Cambridge last year.

Jacek Cieluszecki wins Wings for Life World Run in Melbourne
After his glorious victory in Melbourne, Jacek was awarded a rather spectacular trophy, depicting what looks like either an ostrich or an emu

In truth, the Melbourne race had turned out to be a fairly comfortable win for Jacek in the end. In fact, he found it less competitive than the race he did on English soil last year when it took him 60km to chase down fellow Dorset runner, Iain Trickett, who runs for the Dorset Doddlers.

The way JC is able to just keep his momentum going for such a long time and over such a long distance though it truly incredible. He’s like a machine – and in this sort of race that makes him simply unstoppable.

What was even more impressive was that Jacek reached the lofty heights of 8th in the Global Ranking, so effectively he was 8th best in the world. A quite phenomenal achievement and one he’ll no doubt look back on with immense pride. The event is growing in popularity as well, with 102,862 people from around the world taking part this year.

All that’s left for Jacek to do now is to choose which destination to run in next year. When you win one of the Wings for Life World Run races, you’ve earned your right to go wherever you want. That means, after his amazing victory in Australia, the world truly is his oyster.

Great win for Jacek Cieluszecki in Wings for Life World Run at Melbourne
It was a second consecutive win for Jacek in the Wings for Life World Run leaving only the burning question of where will he go for his next triumph