Starting and finishing in the small, picturesque village of Coombe Keynes, the Lulworth Castle 10k is run on a scenic and undulating course, entirely within the confines of the private and historic Lulworth Estate.
The route is a hundred per cent off-road, with surfaces ranging from tracks on chalk downland to field and woodland paths. Located just around the corner from Lulworth Cove and the infamous Jurassic Coast, the scenery is outstanding throughout the entire length of the course.
That said, it wasn’t all fun an laughter for the competitors. It was a pretty challenging route featuring over 600 ft of elevation. Plus it was oppressively hot at certain points on the route and the ground was very hard and dusty in places.
Three Bournemouth AC members had put themselves up for the challenge. Jacek Cieluszecki, Simon Hunt and Kirsty Drewett were all present on the start line ready to give it their best shot.
Going into the race off the back of inadvertently winning the Maverick inov-8 X-Series 15k race in Exmoor, Jacek was in a superb run of form, although admittedly he had been intending on doing the 42k distance until he took a wrong turn.
He’d also recorded a stunning victory at the Wings for Life race in Melbourne, Australia, evading the catcher car for 4 hours and 28 minutes and covering 67.3 km in the process. That effort put him as 8th best in the world on the day, with races taking place at the same time in numerous locations around the globe.
Despite being a global phenomenon though, JC remains very grounded and humble and still very much enjoys his local races.
Last year the Lulworth Castle 10k was staged in August and it was Jacek who emerged victorious, setting a course record of 35:15. The target for this year was of course to break his own course record.
Unlike in the Maverick Exmoor race, Jacek managed to navigate his way successfully along the route and once again, ripped through the course in the way that only JC can.
Leading the way from the outset, Jacek quickly established a healthy advantage over the rest of the field. The advantage would only grow as the race went on.
As he approached the finish, it became evident that he had in fact bettered his own course record. Registering a staggeringly quick time of 34:43, Jacek had improved on his previous performance by 32 seconds.
Although this still wouldn’t be an especially fast time for a flat 10k on tarmac roads, considering the terrain he was running on and the difficulty of the course, it was a very good result and Jacek was pleased with his endeavours.
Since he hasn’t been doing any speed sessions in training, the fact he was still able to produce a strong performance over a short distance is a hugely positive sign.
With an advantage of almost 3 minutes on his nearest rival, it was another very emphatic win for JC. Chris Alborough of Poole AC took 2nd place in a time of 37:39.
Most of Jacek’s training is currently geared toward the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon on 15th July. Next up for JC is the Portland 10 mile race, which he won convincingly last year.
Jacek‘s 1st place wasn’t the only prize that would be won by a Bournemouth AC member at the Lulworth Castle 10k though. Simon Hunt claimed 1st prize in the M60 category, completing the course in an excellent time of 46:17.
That put him in 25th place overall and 7th vet male. Given that 335 people completed the race in total, that was a very pleasing result for Simon and certainly cause for celebration. It was his first category win for quite some time as well so it is always good to get one of those under the belt.
Simon has been quite busy on the racing circuit recently, having completed a few 10k races including the Jurassic Trail, the Bredon Cricket Club Tower Run and the Poole Festival of Running 10k.
After accompanying her dad in the Purbeck 10k a couple of days prior, Kirsty Drewett was back in action again and was ready to work hard at the Lulworth Castle 10k, despite still nursing a slight injury.
Unfortunately she was immediately on the back foot after overheating during the pre-race briefing. From that moment on it became all about survival for Kirsty, quite literally.
Although she has no idea quite how she managed it, Kirty showed true grit to make it to the finish line in spite of her desperate situation.
Crossing the line in a time of 56:09, Kirsty came in 108th place overall and was 26th female on the day and 9th in the F40 category.
Even though she hadn’t had the race she was hoping for, Kirsty salvaged the day by recovering well and enjoying the refreshments in the event village afterwards.
You wouldn’t ordinarily associate the Purbeck with being great potential PB territory. In fact, the rugged landscape and fiercely undulating nature of the area can make it an incredibly tough place to run.
That said, it’s a wonderful training ground and has provided a regular go-to sanctuary for Bournemouth AC runners down the generations. Last week it was the turn of the current crop of budding BAC bloomers to head over there for the Purbeck 10k.
It was a gorgeous Friday evening as the competitors set off on their way with the sun still streaming down on the night after summer solstice (the longest day of the year in terms of daylight hours).
For Phil Cherrett, it turned out to be a night that he won’t forget in a hurry after he secured a terrific new PB of 42 minutes 24 seconds. That was good enough for 60th place in a highly competitive field of over 400 participants.
Having run the Purbeck 10k last year, finishing in a time of 48:43, Phil couldn’t wait to come back and give it a another shot. It meant that he knew some of the logistics of the course including the fact that it included quite a lot of downhill sections.
Fresh from a training programme focusing on going downhill quickly, Phil’s strategy was to really attack the descents. His previous 10k PB was 43:15 but after setting a parkrun PB of 20:07 the week before, he knew he was in a good shape for a 10k PB.
At first, the enthusiasm to do well got the better of him and he went off a bit too quickly. By the 2k point he felt like he was going backwards. At 3k his saviour arrived though in the shape of club and training partner Richard Cannings.
The pair decided to run together in that seemed the buoy Phil and he instantly felt better. He continued to attack on the downhills and was able to pull ahead of Rich on those, but Rich then promptly reigned him back in on the flat and the uphill sectors. That pattern continued throughout.
By the 9k point, Phil knew he was on for a PB so the question now was, by how much? At a stretch, he’d thought that 42:30 was a possibility so that was now what he was going to go for.
After the final climb it was just the downhill finish that remained. Phil had walked the 200m finishing straight before the start and had visualised his racing line which really helped. He can’t wait to go back and do the race again next year and hopes that Rich Cannings will join him again.
That performance was enough the net Phil 13th place in the V40 category. Rich crossed the line just a second later to take 62nd place, although he had a faster chip time which was 42:20.
Rich had also done the Purbeck 10k before, a couple of years ago, so he too knew the rigours of the course to some extent. He found it tough as the constant undulations allow little prospect of getting into a good pacing rhythm.
The downhill finishing stretch ensures that you finish on a high though. Rich was impressed with Phil’s strong finish and feels sure that his PB won’t last for long.
Another BAC member to secure a resounding PB was Andrew Brookes, who knocked over 2 minutes off his previous best of 45:31, which he’d only just recently posted at the Poole Festival of Running.
With a magnificent time of 43:18, Andrew claimed 73rd place in the standings and was 29th in the Senior Men’s category. This was a fantastic result for Andrew and a surprise one in more ways than one considering he only signed up for it just before 5pm on the day.
He had been sitting around at home feeling a little bored and wondering what he was going to do that evening beforehand. He then must have suddenly decided, “I know, I’ll go and do a 10k PB at the Pubeck”. And what a fantastic choice it turned out to be.
Although he wasn’t expecting to run very fast, after hitting the 5k mark in 22 minutes, Andrew new he was on for a PB if he could keep up the pace. It was around that point in the race that he saw BAC teammate Steve Parsons and running with Steve helped take his mind off the pain.
Steve was running well and pretty much dragged Andrew along up till the 5 mile point. Andrew felt okay by that point so decided to pick up the pace and see what happens.
Although he was hurting in the final part of the race, he dug in and just kept concentrating on catching and overtaking the people in front. It had been a tough race and he’d given everything but to get such a brilliant PB made it all worthwhile.
As for Steve Parsons, he really enjoyed the race as well and having done it the past 3 years, it’s one of his favourite races in the calendar. He had been really looking forward to it this year as it marked the half way stage in the Pete Thompson “Run the tour lite” challenge as it was his 35th day in a row.
Currently out in the Alps on his amazing attempt to run the entire route of the Tour de France in 70 days before getting swamped by the peloton as they arrive in Paris, Pete has also devised ways for others to get involved.
That includes the 10% challenge, where other runners can contribute by running 10% of what Pete has to each day to complete the challenge. That’s what Steve is currently in the midst of and it has meant he’s had to run each and every day.
That’s resulted in quite an upturn in mileage for Steve and he’s still been doing his regular training sessions on top of that so has in fact been averaging around 5 miles a day for the past 5 weeks.
Off the back of his second quickest ever parkrun the weekend before Steve was quietly confident about posting a good time at the Purbeck 10k. Due to the challenge though, he hadn’t had as much must as he normally would going into a race though so it was possible that might have an impact.
After setting off quite hard, he was going well at the half way point when he saw Andrew and just tried to keep going in the same vain and hold his pace.
Running with Andrew really helped but Steve had a feeling Andrew was going to be stronger in the end and when he pushed on with 2k to go, Steve was unable to stay with him. It helped keep him motivated though as he could still see Andrew up ahead.
With 1k left to go, Steve suddenly realised he was going better than he thought and decided to push really hard for the final stretch. Finishing in a time of 43:45, Steve had taken 82nd place and was 32nd in the Senior Men’s category.
In fact, he’d come in only 15 seconds off his PB so that was a pleasing result on an undulating course and in hot conditions to boot.
It turned out to be a good day all round as Steve’s wife Roz knocked just under 2 minutes off her previous best crossing the line in 1:02:54. A mate of Steve’s who he hadn’t seen in 6 months flew in from Canada that morning and also ran as well.
There was also a PB equalling performance for Ben Walliman, who finished in 29th place with a time of 39:18 and 5th in the V40 category. Incredibly, it was the 3rd time Ben has posted that exact time, with one of those being the Purbeck 10k in 2015, which was his last full year of running before having two children.
Ben is now making a mini comeback and was surprised at how well the race went for him. He felt pretty solid throughout but had to focus a bit in the last couple of miles to ensure he didn’t drop his pace too much in the uphill sectors.
Having done the race before, he knew the last part was downhill so he just had to make it to the railway bridge. He’s hoping now that with a few weeks of solid training behind him, he should be able to conquer that elusive 39:18 barrier. Either that or he’s going to put in a dip for the finish line next time!
Putting in a strong performance to take 12th place, Ross Smith crossed the line in a time of 37:24. Following a distinct lack of interval training, Ross didn’t have massively high expectations going into the race and he found it tough going in the heat. In fact, he said that it felt at times like a shire horse carrying a cart. It must have been a very fast and very strong shire horse though.
Having also ridden 22 miles on the bike in order to get to the race, it was a superb training day for Ross who is planning weekly running efforts in the lead up to the Cross European Dualthon Championship in Ibiza at the end of October.
The event is an off-road version of a duathlon, consisting of trail running and mountain bike racing, so it’s right up Ross’s street. Ross has also pencilled in the Portland 10 for this coming weekend, so it will be another good test for Ross, this time over the 10 mile distance.
Finishing in a time of 47:48, Mike White took 138th place and 38th in the V40 category. Despite being full of excuses before the hooter went, Mike was glad to be back on the racing circuit and he loved the course.
The hills tend to be over with quite quickly and there are plenty of descents which means you have ample opportunity to make up for any lost time.
Two weeks before the race Mike had caught a lurgy that had put him out of action for the duration of the fortnight. As a result, he went for a much more comfortable pace than he would normally aim for.
Appreciating the support from BAC colleagues out on the course supporting, Mike also enjoyed seeing other faster teammates in the race as they crossed paths. Mike is now motivated to get back to his best form and push on with his times.
Taking 5th place in the V55 category, Helen Ambrosen crossed the line in a time of 52:51, making her 53rd lady and 230th overall. It wasn’t a particularly quick time for Helen but she’d cycled 60 miles on the bike the day before so was feeling the after effects of that.
For the first half of the race Helen was going quite well but she ran out of steam a bit after that. Helen has been enjoying a bit of road cycling over the summer and tends to struggle a bit when running in the heat so the cycling is a good way of keeping fit.
Prior to the race, Helen had been really looking forward to it and she was pleased to have had the confidence to turn up and give it a go. She enjoyed the course and found it a really well organised event and with a bit more of a sensible approach next time, she’d love to give it another go.
A bit of family time is always nice and what better way to spend it than running a 10k on the Purbeck? Kirsty Drewett did the race alongside her dad, Robert, with the pair crossing the line together in a time of 1:00:16.
Having followed a beginners 10k training plan which he’d managed to fit in around his racket sports, Robert did really well to complete the course at 66 years of age. The only disappointing thing for him was that he’d just missed out on the hour mark.
Despite the extremely warm conditions and the swarms of flies that were evident in places, Kirsty thoroughly enjoyed the event and was really pleased to have got to run it with her dad.
In his first race since the London Marathon, Craig Palmer was glad to be back out there and, although he wasn’t quite at his usual level of fitness, still took 2nd place in the standings, crossing the line in a time of 34:05.
Having mostly represented Littledown Harriers since he moved down to the south coast, Craig had still kept allegiance to his hometown club of Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers.
Before changing his first claim club, Craig wanted to be sure that it would be the right move for him and one that could help take him forward in his running. Ultimately, he decided to sign for Bournemouth AC and his first official race for the club with be in the Portland 10 this coming weekend.
The race was won convincingly by Jake Smith of Axe Valley Harriers who smashed the course record, finishing in an astonishing time of 30:56. That gave him an advantage of over 3 minutes on Craig in 2nd. Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat RC took 3rd place in a time of 34:46.
The Maverick inov-8 X Series Exmoor event consisted of three different distances. A short which was 15k, a middle that was 21k and a Long distance that was 42k (a marathon basically). As you would expect from a runner of his stature, Jacek Cieluszecki was going to go for the long one.
Having completed and won many marathons in his time and having run a fair few ultras as well, including some tough mountain races like the OCC Mont-Blanc, Jacek was well placed to tackle the 42k distance and was expecting nothing less than another win to add to his impressive collection.
The race takes place along the magnificent South West Coast Path, with it’s challenging ups and downs and breathtaking clifftop views. The route starts off at Caffyns Farm, heading along the coast path at Lynton.
It enters the valley of rocks, famed for its plethora of feral goats and for featuring the oldest Devonian rocks in north Devon, containing many fossils. It then follows onto Foreland Point, a rocky headland which is the most northerly point along the Devon and Exmoor coastline.
Heading back inland and through some forest sections, the trail then works its way along by the river at Watersmeet taking in all the splendour of the South West Coast Path scenery as it continues.
The races for all three distances started together and as they got underway, Jacek was soon out in front. Not just out of those competing in the marathon but out of anyone in all three races. That is a good inditement of Jacek’s ability, the fact that no one else could rival his speed and even those running 15k when he’s going at marathon pace.
All was going smoothly until he reached the juncture of the race when the course was split and took a different direction, depending on which distance you were doing. Instead of taking the turn for the middle and long races, Jacek accidentally took the turn for the short distance.
There were some marshals around and they asked his which distance he was doing. He did say long but they must have misheard and told him to continue on the short route. He knew something wasn’t right though and when he arrived at the finish after 15k, that was confirmed. It must have been one of the few times you’ll ever get a runner crossing the line to win a race but instead of being overcome with jubilation, feeling actually somewhat distraught.
Despite the mix up over the route, Jacek refused to blame the race organisers and feels that he was the one at fault and should have been concentrating more on where he was going. Perhaps it was just the fact that he was going so fast he couldn’t even see the turning and it was all a blur. Only Jacek will know the answer to that.
Nevertheless, he was still credited with the win in the 15k race, so every cloud. Clocking a time of 1:13:58, Jacek was almost 12 minutes ahead of Kate Searight who took 2nd place in 1:25:48.
Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a particularly fast time for JC over 15k but this was no ordinary race. It was an extremely hill route and featured almost 2,500 ft of elevation over the 9.3 miles. That included one absolute monster of a hill on the 5th mile that was a near vertical climb.
It was good training for Jacek though as he gears up for the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon in three weeks time. Of course it would have been even better training if he’d actually done the planned 42k race.
Since JC hadn’t been able to find the long route, that freed up another Dorset runner Jack Galloway from Poole AC to take the victory in the 42k race which he duly did, crossing the line in a time of 3:47:26.
Also competing at the event, Jacek’s wife Ela had chosen to the middle distance. She actually successfully completed the 21k course so ironically ended up running a greater distance than he did. The fact that she did manage to go the right way probably tells us which one of the two of them will be doing the navigation next time they go on a long journey.
Following a mildly unspectacular display by his standards at the Poole 10k, although he did still finish 3rd, Rob McTaggart was looking for a strong performance in the Eastleigh 10k and he had earmarked it as a potential opportunity for a sub-32-minute attempt.
It’s an incredibly difficult feat to go sub-32 in a 10k though, even for a man of Tag’s supreme speed. You really need everything to go right on the day and to be in the zone and ready to just absolutely blitz it.
The Eastleigh 10k is billed as the biggest 10k in the south with runners flocking from far and wide to compete for the £3,500 worth of prizes that are up for grabs. It’s also renowned for being a fast and flat course and, on the right day, the potential for PB is definitely there.
It was quite a conservative start to the race by Tag’s usual standards. He has been known to get a little over enthusiastic at times in races, blasting out of the blocks and then subsequently paying for it later down the line. This time he was playing it safe though, giving himself the chance to possibly have something in the tank for later on in the race.
The conditions were okay but it was quite a blustery day so Tag was looking to find a pack to run with so he could tuck in behind to take shelter from the crosswinds. This was possible in the early stages of the race. However, as time went on he slowly became more isolated and by 6k he was all on his own.
It was an arduous trek to the line from that point on but Tag ploughed on and gave it his best shot. Crossing the line in a time of 32:57, he took 9th position overall, finishing just 3 seconds behind Richard Waldron of Southampton.
It didn’t really seem to be a day for fast times so Tag was reasonably content with his performance, although by his standards it was a fairly average time. The end result was still enough to earn him £20 in vouchers though so at least he got some reward for his troubles.
The race was won by John Beattie of Newham & Essex Beagles in a time of 30:29, with James Westlake of Crawly taking 2nd place in 30:33. They were the only two did manage a sub-32 finish, with Aiden Lennan of Southampton taking 3rd in a time of 32:04. A total of 2,114 participants took to the streets of Eastleigh and completed the 10k route.
Tag is now planning to switch his attentions back to the track, where he will continue to be a key player for Bournemouth AC in the British Athletics and Southern Athletics Leagues throughout the course of the season.
Our amazing athletes have only gone and done it again with New Forest Junior….YDL Lower have again won their home match!!
So proud of each and everyone of our and New Forest Juniors athletes. They all performed to the best of their ability in some very inclement weather. The wind whipped down the track at times and then all of a sudden across the track and then came down the fine drizzle of rain, temperature dropped and it felt like winter but who cares about the weather when our athletes did what they do best!!
Our U13 girls were amazing. Mia Armstrong run a superb 75m and gaining a PB and Sofina Sommerseth also jumped a PB in long jump, well done girls. Our middle distance runners ran amazing races, Martha Preece ran the 1500m and a PB closely followed by Neve who also ran a PB, both first in their races!
Moving on to our U13 boys who are a joy to watch, their determination on their faces when they compete speaks volumes! Daniel Armstrong ran a terrific 200m and a PB, he also ran a 800m and 100m. Then we have Oscar Ewen Matthews, who controlled his 800m from the front and his competitors all tried but couldn’t keep up with his pace! Also, Oscar can hold his own in the long jump, jumping 4.17m! Samuel Brewer ran a fantastic 800m and a PB, he also ran a great 100m! Aayan Kar ran a fabulous 100m and 200m. Joe Wilkinson cleared all the hurdles in a very respectable time. In the field we had Henry Phipp who jumped a PB in long jump and matched his PB in high jump, sadly due to an injury from the high jump Henry didn’t throw the shot putt. So, this is where Louie Todd stepped up and threw the shot putt for us and came 2nd, well done Louie and thank you! Louie also threw the javelin and ran a PB in 1500m! Nathen Mearns ran super 1500 in the cold drizzle.
Our U15 girls were fantastic, Lana Blake ran a PB of 12.5 in 100m. Tamika Douch and Mia Wilkinson also ran superb times in 100m too! Mia Wilkinson also cleared the hurdles and ran a great race. Tamika and Leah Sullivan both won their long jump competitions with some tremendous jumping! Ruby Bowden ran a fabulous 800m! Anya Sandell ran a PB in the 800m and cleared a PB in high jump, amazing performance Anya! Abi Phillips ran an ace 200m and a PB and then went on to match her PB in the 300m! In the field Kira Collard was on form and threw the Shot and the Discus scoring us some valuable points!
Finally, our U15 boys first on track was our awesome athlete Keon, who run an amazing 20om and later in the day he ran a super 100m. Morgan Sommerseth matched his PB in long jump, ran an incredible 800m and a PB and also stepped in to run the 300m! Finally Jasper Todd ran the great 1500m and also ran the 4 X 300m relay with Morgan and two boys from NFJ.
Thank you to all our athletes and to their amazing parents who support their children, which in turns supports the club, we really do appreciate it! Apparently, we stand a chance of promotion next season!!
The South West Vets Championships were held at Exeter Arena, home to Exeter Harriers Athletics Club on 17 June 2018. The annual championships present an opportunity to meet and compete with the Masters athletes in the South West region.
Several BAC athletes made the long journey to compete in various events, both track and field, running, jumping and throwing to an excellent standard, showing that age is no barrier.
The BAC ladies were represented by Janet Dickinson and Joy Wright who were happy to see former team mates Paola King and Jean Fail line up for their respective events. Paola was also dedicated to selling the SWVAC kit with a lovely smile – this season’s black is purple!
Janet won Long Jump with an outstanding 4.66m, 400m in 66.68sec after an incredible 300m Hurdles debut performance of 51.5sec. Janet’s great performance was a South West Championship and regional record W50, not a bad day in the office. It seems clear that Janet has plenty more to give, especially in the 300mH as she chopped her stride coming into the last hurdle which set her back. At that point Janet was behind the lead runner by several metres yet she refused to settle for 2nd and powered across the line, breaking the 52sec mark, an inspirational run! Janet commented on her performance making reference to the last 100m where the lactic acid really kicked in and the need to work on that last hurdle. In fact, it as it was the first time she had cleared all eight hurdles, even in training so kudos to Janet!
In the same race, Jean Fail, former BAC member and current World Masters Champion Hurdles W65 ran her speciality for the first time this year and showed fantastic form, many commented that she “looked terrific”. It certainly was a pleasure to watch and be a part of the action for those present. Paola King also ran well in the 300mH and had a busy day also competing in the 100m and shot putt and hammer.
Joy won the 200/400m gold double in age group and overall. In the 200m, Joy powered around the bend in lane 5 and into the home straight. Although she was expecting the opposition to be up on her shoulders, she lead the way and crossed the line in 28.25 PB, just 0.25 short of the match record but an improvement nonetheless. Joy was disappointed with her performance as she was wanted to break 28 but felt very heavy in the legs and is still trying to manage long term injuries.
Next up was the 400m with a lane 8 draw which wasn’t great news for Joy. She wasn’t fazed by it and decided to run her own race. She had to lead the way and although still out in front, a slight panic motivated her to kick hard in the last 120m. She accelerated away from the rest of the field and ran 63.39, somewhat disappointed to miss out on the match and club record of 62.9. Considering the injury problems, Joy reflected on her performance and feels confident there will be significant improvements for the season ahead. Perhaps a better lane draw with more athletes on her heals will help her realise this goal.
The gentlemen’s line up included BAC’s Steve Dobson and Andrew Turner, a fabulous duo of throwing talent as well as track athlete, David Flicos.
Steve Dobson and Andy Turner were both on great form, winning their age group in Shot. They dominated the competition and looked to be on great form for the upcoming championships. It was a joy to see both throwing so well with Janet and Joy helping to officiate (as a warm up for the 400m).
Andy won the discus outright with a great throw of 34.18m and Steve threw 25.85m for the silver medal. Steve was the overall winner in shot with a beautiful, golden 10.27m and the only athlete over 10m, which just evaded Andy by an annoying 2cm with his fantastic 9.98m winning shot.
David Flicos showed his determination competing in the 100m in 18.59, High Jump 1.09m and 6.86m Triple Jump. David finished the day with the 100m hurdles and it was evident he is not a quitter. The previous events had taken it out of his legs and he struggled to clear the hurdles, yet David battled on to finish the race and didn’t give up. He showed strength of character and shear willpower to succeed.
The atmosphere, excellent vibe and friendliness at these events are a thrill to witness. The performances show what can be achieved with hard work and dedication. These events bring like-minded people from all walks of life and all abilities together and unite us in the great sport we dearly love, Track & Field!
Thank you to the organisers and officials who made the day possible. with so many impressive master athletes competing. A great day!
The next event is the England Masters Inter Area T&F Challenge on 8 July 2018. If you’re over 35 years and inspired by the BAC masters or simply wish to have a go and challenge yourself, you can join any area club such as SWVAC as a 2nd claim athlete
Going into the Comrades Marathon off the back of a very solid block of five months worth of uninterrupted training, Steve Way‘s preparation for the race had been as close to perfect as it was ever likely to get.
Registering some extremely clinical and cut-throat victories in the Bournemouth 10, the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, the North Dorset Village Marathon and the Dorchester Marathon, Steve was undoubtedly in fantastic shape.
As well as running a very good 50k race at the Anglo Celtic Plate, Steve had also managed several other well-paced long training runs of 30 plus miles that had had the Strava community in awe. And, more importantly, he’d hit all of his huge weekly mile targets, giving him every reason to be optimistic about another gold medal winning performance at Comrades.
The Comrades Marathon carries the prestige of being the world’s largest ultramarathon race with a field capped at 20,000 people. It’s also the world’s oldest ultramarathon, dating back to 1921 when the first one was held.
The race is steeped in history and has seen many of the true greats of ultra distance running doing battle over the years. The race alternates each year between an ‘up run’ and a ‘down run’ always being staged between the cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.
The distance can vary as the course always changes slightly year-on-year but it’s generally around 90 km (56 miles). Due to the vast distance and the extreme and constant undulations throughout, the Comrades Marathon is known in many ultramarathon circles as the ultimate human endurance race.
For the South African people, the event is an intrinsic part of their culture and when the race comes around, the whole country comes to a standstill (except those running of course) and watches, cheers on or just marvels at the runners as they take on the challenge.
On the day of the race, it’s almost like it’s one big festival, up and down the country and it’s clear to see what it means to the people. The Comrades Marathon is ‘their’ event and they take great pride in it. They do it in their own unique way and it would surely be fair to say, no one else in the world can do it better.
This enthusiasm and significance of course translates to the runners as well and over the years, the South Africans have well and truly mastered the race. This is emphasised by their sheer dominance in the standings each and every year.
To break the mould of a South African 1,2,3 is extremely difficult. To infiltrate the trend of an African 1,2,3 is almost unheard of. It is extremely rare for a European runner to finish in the top ten even, like Steve did last year. In fact, he and Fritjof Fagerlund of Sweden were the first Europeans to do it since Jonas Buud in 2014, which demonstrates how hard it is.
So what were the aims for Steve this time round? First and foremost, it would take a great performance to improve on last year’s 9th place. If he could do that, that would be a success. The dream for Steve though was a top five finish. How realistic that dream was was yet to be determined.
Last year, Steve ran the race entirely on heart rate, monitoring it throughout and sticking to a level that he felt he could maintain for the duration of the race. That seemed to work as he gradually worked his way through the field, picking people off progressively throughout the race.
This year though, he decided to adopt a new tactic, which was to go with the group of favourites. He knew they’d start off a bit faster than he would have done otherwise but it was important to stay in touch with the top runners if he wanted to finish right up there.
The first mile of the Comrades Marathon is basically about ensuring you don’t get trampled on by the surge of runners as they head off on their journey.
After a quick first mile at 5:26 minute mile pace, the group of favourites, including Steve, settled down to 6 minute miling for the next four miles which were uphill.
On the downhill sections they were really ramping the pace up, averaging 5:22 for the 6th mile which was on a very steep decline. From mile 8 to mile 12 it was all uphill and, although he was able to stay with the group of favourites, Steve felt he was exerting more energy than he should be at this stage.
He felt he was running more at marathon pace in terms of effort and was worried that if he continues at that pace he might end up struggling later on in the race. At the same time though, he didn’t want to allow himself just to drop off the back of the group as it would have almost felt like giving up.
Instead, he decided to do what any runner would in that situation and stop for a wee. That then relieved the pressure of having to run at such an intense pace and enabled him to relax a bit.It later turned out that that wee might have cost him £5,000 but hey… When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go.
As a result of the pit-stop he’d lost around 10 places, putting him back to 38th place at the 30k checkpoint. Now the race was on for Steve. He needed to take control of his own pace and work his way back through field.
Steve had Trevor Witcher and his wife Sarah out there with him and Steve had requested that they let him know what position he was in and how many minutes off a gold medal he was as he went past them at the 54k point, so he could tell how far behind the 10th place runner he was.
As it turned out, Steve was in 11th place, which was further up the field than he thought and crucially, he was only 2 minutes off the person in 10th. That was a good sign. From that point onward it was mostly downhill to the finish in Durban.
The tactic from here was to keep going until he saw someone in front of him, focus on catching that person and once he’s picked that person off, find the next one and do the same. As he seemed to be catching people one by one it was easy to count down so he could work out what position he was in, or so he thought.
With just 20k to go he was in 8th place, so there was still a fair amount of work to do. He was finishing strongly though and whilst others were getting tired, Steve’s excellent race strategy began to pay dividends.
He’d soon overtaken three more people and was up to 5th place with 9k left to go. This was the ultimate dream for Steve and he was so pleased to have achieved it.
The race was shown live on South African TV and there was also an online stream that could be watched around the world. The commentators on the live coverage were quite shocked to see Steve going so well.
They had been concentrating mostly on Bongmusa Mthembu who had strode away from the rest of the field and was out in front by quite some distance. They hadn’t been paying too much attention to what was going on behind and didn’t seem to notice Steve’s rapid rise in the standings.
The commentators did seem quite impressed by the fact that Steve had acquired the use of a downhill treadmill to train on. They had apparently drawn the conclusion that Steve must live in an area where there are no hills!
As he approached the magnificent Moses Mabhida stadium for the grandstand finish, Steve was closing in on the runner in front of him. The gap between the two of them was now less than half a minute. But he’d run out of road and it turned out he’d have to settle for what he’d got.
Steve crossed the line thinking he’d finished 5th which he was over the moon about. He’d realised his dream and it was an amazing and emotional moment. It turned out though that Steve can’t count. He’d actually finished in 3rd place.
As he was embraced by his Nedbank team manager Nick Bester, Nick then broke the news to him that he’d actually come in 3rd position. Steve was in shock. He’d been overjoyed with what he thought as a top five finish. Now it was a moment of absolute euphoria as he learned he’d taken a podium spot. It was simply beyond anything he could have imagined.
With an official time of 5 hours 35 minutes and 27 seconds, Steve had indeed claimed a place on the podium of the Comrades Marathon, the world’s biggest and most prestigious ultramarathon. It was a truly remarkable achievement. His average pace for the entire 90.2 km (56.3 miles) was an astonishing 5:57 m/m.
Steve was the first European to secure a spot on the podium since Jonas Buud in 2013 and he was the first Brit to do so since Cavin Woodward in 1976.
As it turned out, he’d finished a mere 18 seconds behind Joseph Mphuthi of South Africa who had taken 2nd place. If the race had been half a kilometre further he would have surely taken 2nd place. And if it wasn’t for that pit-stop he’d had to make he quite possibly would have finished 2nd. The difference in prize money between 2nd and 3rd has resulted in it rather humorously being labelled as the infamous £5,000 pee.
With all his prize money and bonuses added together though, Steve earned around £15,000 before tax for his 3rd place so it was still a very lucrative race. In fact it was more money than he’d won in the rest of his running career combined.
Of course, it’s not all about the money though. It is about the sense of achievement. It’s about the satisfaction you get when you’ve worked really, really hard to achieve something and it all comes together on the day and the accomplishment is realised.
Steve said afterwards that it was the best day of his life and his greatest ever performance – and he’s certainly had some good ones in the past to compare it to. That gives some indication of just what an incredible feat it was to come 3rd in the Comrades Marathon.
On top of the gold medal he’d won for a top ten finish, Steve was also given a fantastic looking trophy and a bronze medallion for his 3rd place. He was also awarded a rather humongous cheque for 170,000 Rand (South African currency). It’s certainly going to be fun and games trying to get that through customs on the way back.
Off the back of his monumental performance, Steve is hopeful that he might just have done enough to earn him a place in the British team for the World 100k Championships in September. If the UKA do come calling, it will certainly be well deserved for Steve.
It wasn’t just his club that he did proud that day. And it wasn’t just Dorset runners either. He did the whole of British Athletics proud. And if he hadn’t already done so, Steve has certainly now cemented his status as one of the true legends of the sport.
Just two weeks after completing the Liverpool Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon, Julian Oxborough was back in action again, this time in more local race to him.
Lining up to take part in the Heron Half Marathon, Julian was viewing the race more as a training run, looking to take it steadily and focus on the consistency of his pacing.
Originally he was looking to target a 2 hour 45 minute finish but since the conditions were very tough on a blisteringly hot day, he decided to readjust his aim to 3 hours.
The Heron Half Marathon is named after the HMS Heron, an airfield of the Royal Navy and British Army which is situated a few miles north of Yeovil, just off the Dorset border. It is staged on the same day as the Yeovil Marathon, with both races starting and finishing at the athletics track at the Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton.
The course is fast and flattish but containing some small inclines. The route is mostly on rural country lanes, going through Ilchester, Limington and the quaint village of Ashington before heading towards Mudford. It’s then over to Chilton Cantelo and through the hamlet of Urgashay before heading to the finish.
It was a really well organised race, with bottles of water with sports caps, coke, jelly babies, pretzel sticks and other goodies provided for the runners as they worked their way round the course.
The support was brilliant throughout and Julian appreciated the encouragement he was given from the leading marathon runners as they passed him which really helped him make it to the finish.
There was one set back for Julian as he had a calf muscle strain that caused him to consider pulling out at one stage. He battled on though and was pleased he did in the end, crossing the line in a time of 3 hours 4 minutes and 38 seconds.
That put him in 260th place and 32nd in the Male Vet 50+ category. Although it wasn’t his fastest half marathon, Julian was really pleased with the consistency of his pacing.
Overall it was a good effort from Julian and although he feels like he still has a long way to to get his fitness to where he wants it to be, the hard training he’s been putting in is definitely paying off.
Having recently run a 5k in under 27 minutes in training, Julian is making huge strides with his speed and his goal is just to continue to improve and to do a few more races in the build up to the Bournemouth Marathon in October.
It was that time of year again for Chris O’Brien where he heads over to Reading to take part in the annual Endure 24 event. The general premise of Endure 24 is to complete as many circa-5-mile laps as you possibly can during the course of the 24 hour period.
The task can be undertaken in teams of 8, teams of 5, as a pair or as a solo runner. And there is a category for male, female and mixed for each of those. Of course, the more laps completed – the more distance you covered, so essentially the aim is the run as far as you can within the allotted time.
Last year Chris took the challenge on as part of a team of 4, completing 7 laps and contributing a total of 40 miles to his team’s overall number.
Running the event as one half of a mixed pair for this year, Chris knew that this time round he would be negotiating a much higher number laps than last year and thus racking up a significantly higher mileage. It was going to be a big challenge but an exciting one for Chris and one that would undoubtedly take him to his limits.
Partnering Chris for the event as the other half of team Bugface, it was the lovely Emma Draper. The pair went into the event without any real expectations other than perhaps having an outside chance at finishing in the top 10.
Having not really done any specific training tailored for the event and having spent a significant part of the year on the sidelines through injury, Chris was unsure how he would cope with the distance. The injury he’d picked up had cost him the opportunity to run the London Marathon this year, although he did manage to defer entry.
The terrain on the course was pretty harsh with it being mostly on very hard ground, either on a stony track or hard, lumpy grass. It wasn’t overly forgiving for the legs when having to run on it repetitively for 24 hours. Still, that was all part of the fun!
Originally they’d planned to take it in turns to do a lap each throughout the day, then over night they were intending on doing three double laps each to allow the other person to get some sleep in between.
For the first couple of laps, Chris went at just over 8 minutes per mile pace and it took him just over 39 minutes to complete the lap. His 3rd lap was 8:36 pace, before getting closer to 9 minutes per mile for the next 3 laps.
By early evening they’d discovered they were in 3rd place in the standings for the mixed pairs. That gave them the motivation to push as hard as they could be the remainder of the event, knowing they were right up there.
At 9:20pm it was time for Chris to set off for his 7th lap and he’d already racked up nearly 30 miles. It was beginning to get tough but he still managed to get through it at 9:46 pace.
As night fell, for his next outing he went for a double lap, starting it at 11:10pm and finishing it at 12:50. That gave him a bit of respite whilst Emma was doing her double lap, meaning he didn’t need to set off for his next lap until 3am.
Doing a double lap though (almost 10 miles) on really tired legs was awfully difficult. And they found that the break wasn’t enough time to get any actual sleep either and it made it much harder to get going again afterwards.
They switched back to doing single laps after that and it seemed to work better for them as they were able to stay alert during the breaks.
At one point in the night they even had a brief stint in 2nd place before dropping back down the 3rd in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Chris started his 11th lap at 4:48 am and completed it at an average pace of 10:24 m/m. He and Emma continued to churn out the laps relentlessly as the day wore on. They managed two more laps each before Chris started on his 14th and final lap at 10:44 am.
That was it after that. They’d done all they could and since there was a condition whereby you had to have started the final lap by 12 pm and had to have completed it by the cut off time of 1 pm, team Bugface were happy to stick with what they’d got.
Incredibly, Chris had covered just shy of 70 miles of the duration of the 24 hours and Emma had managed 65 herself. It was an absolutely monumental effort from the pair of them and they could certainly say that they’d given everything they had. It was now over the organisers to tot everything up and work out the final standings.
It had been a really close call between Bugface and team that was in 2nd, the Wackey Hogs for a substantial part of the event. There was little to choose between the two and after the 24 hours had elapsed there was some confusion of which of the two teams had actually come out on top.
In the end it turned out Wacky Hogs had pipped them to post, finishing on 29 laps, with Bugface on 27, courtesy of Chris‘s 14 laps and Emma‘s 13. That meant they’d chalked up a massive 135 miles between them. They were over the moon with that result though considering they’d not really had any expectations to begin with.
Ever since finding out they were in 3rd place 6 hours into the event, they’d managed to hold onto the position. In fact, over the duration, they had managed in increase the gap between themselves and the He-man and Ve-gan team who finished 4th on 23 laps.
Impressively, Chris had ran 30 more miles this year than he did the previous year as part of a team of 4, so that was quite an increase. Who knows what he could accomplish next year? Perhaps even a tilt as a solo runner could be on the cards, although when that was put to him, he was very quick to stress how much he loved doing it with Emma and how well they worked together as pair.
Completing a hundred miles is perhaps something most runners might target in, lets say a month – or possibly for the Steve Way’s and Ant Clark’s of this world, at the height of their training – in a week. But to do 100 miles in a single race… Well, that’s just taking it to a whole new level.
That was the task Linn Exiron Sahlström was faced with as she got ready to tackle the Jurassic Coast 100 – a 100 mile race along the entire length of the Jurassic Coast from Poole to Exmouth.
As anyone knows who has either run any races or done any training on the Jurassic Coast will know, it is incredibly tough terrain. It’s rocky uneven surfaces and extremely hilly nature make it hugely challenging for even the most accomplished runners out there.
Right from her early stages of running, Linn has had a burning desire to complete a 100 mile race and she always wanted to believe that it was a race of that distance would be her forte.
In fact, in her first ever race back in 2011, Linn completed the Trans Scania 250km in Sweden, which took her 53 hours. She finished 4th overall in that race and since then she was bitten by the ultra bug and has not looked back.
Despite having a clear talent and mental aptitude for extreme endurance running, Linn had had three failed attempts at 100 mile races where she’d either started too aggressively only to burn out midway through, or had to bow out through injury, as was the case in her full UTMB attempt in 2013.
Because of that chequered history, Linn felt she really needed to finish this one in order to lay the distance ghost to rest. That gave her an inner, steely determination to succeed.
Due to undertaking a Masters Degree in Chiropractics, Linn has had limited head-space to mentally prepare for longer races, although she has still manged to fit in a few in-between her studies.
She finished as 2nd female in a 100k race in the Lake District and has also ran a 100k race from Manchester to Sheffield where she came 5th overall and was 1st woman. In 2016 she did the Ring ‘o’ Fire which is was a 3-day stage race of 150 miles around Wales.
Her CV also includes several mountain races in Switzerland, Germany and France, all under the 100k range. In spite of all that though, Linn feels the ‘real’ ultra running distance is 100 miles and she was desperate to add the Jurassic Coast 100 to her list of triumphs thus far.
It wasn’t going to be an easy ride though and the conditions over the course of the race were obscenely difficult. A thick mist had descended over the coastline and it would persist into the night, making the navigation a little more challenging that expected.
The route started out at South Haven Point, near Poole, before continuing past Old Harry Rocks and along the eastern end of the Jurassic Coast.
The highlights along this section included Durlston Country Park, Dancing Ledge, Chapman’s Pool, Kimmerage Bay, Lulworth Cove and the iconic Durdle Door. After continuing on through Weymouth, the route then follows the South West coast path all the way to Exmoor.
Spending the bulk of race on her own, Linn tried her best to navigate through the thick mist, looking out for the acorn sign that marks the path and trying to avoid falling off the cliffs as she progressed.
It was an epic journey and elevation was brutal for the toes with so many steep and relentless inclines. Despite all that though, Linn made it to the end, finally getting that monkey off her back and completing a 100 mile race.
Not only did she complete the race though, she was also 1st female over the line and incredibly came in 5th place in the overall standings. It was a quite phenomenal result that must have surprised even Linn herself a little bit.
What was even more amazing was that as well as the 16,000 ft of elevation she’d had to negotiate over the course of the race, Linn also ended up doing an extra 5 miles on top of the 100 that she was meant to be doing.
The drop out rate for the race was 47%, which gives a great indication of how challenging it really was. All those who were able to complete it had certainly been tested to their absolute limits.
Linn’s finishing time was 27 hours 46 minutes, which was an incredible result when you factor in the difficulty of the course coupled with the extremely tricky conditions.
Despite being 1st female though and finishing 5th overall, it wasn’t really about that for Linn though and it wasn’t about time either. The only metric of success for her was the completing of the race. It was about proving to herself that she could do it.
And if conquering a 100 mile race is what constitutes becoming a ‘real’ ultra runner, then Linn can certainly now consider herself firmly in that category.