Damian Boyle and Andy Gillespie launch into 5,4,3,2,1 Salisbury

Damien Boyle in Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k
For the second year running, Damien Boyle took on the 50k distance at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event along with Bournemouth AC teammate Andy Gillespie

Taking its name from the landmarks you pass on route, the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 is a trail run event of varying distances ranging from a 5k walk to a 50k run, including a half marathon (21k) and a full marathon (42k). There’s also a 20 miler (33k) and numerous other walking distances ensuring the event does indeed provide something for everyone.

The routes take their respective participants across footpaths, bridleways and quiet country roads in and around the Salisbury Wessex area. Several sites of historical and scientific interest are passed on the way and the routes also pass through Country Estates not open to the general public. Each course is carefully carved out to give the runners or walkers a unique flavour of English heritage.

As mentioned above, the name derives from notable landmarks encountered throughout the route. You have five rivers, four hills, three large country estates, two castles and one cathedral.

It was no surprise to see that the two Bournemouth AC members at the event, Andy Gillespie and Damian Boyle had both opted for the longest and toughest of the various distances on offer, the 50k ultra-marathon.

Neither Andy or Damian are strangers to ultra-distance events though. Andy is a veteran of 88 marathons now after his recent escapade at the Devon Coast Challenge where he ran three marathons in three days.

Andy Gillespie took on the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k race
Andy recently completed the Devon Coast Challenge, an event consisting of three marathons in three days

Damian has also done some big challenges in his time, not least in December 2016 when he completed the 100k Ultra Trail Cape Town, which incorporated the infamous Table Mountain, plus a couple of other extremely high peaks. Coming 16th out of the 64 finishers and 3rd vet, it was a cracking result for Damian.

In May of this year he took on the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 50-mile race, which included lots of technical terrain and even a fair few scrambling sections. Finishing in 27th place, Damian amassed over 19,000 ft of elevation throughout the course of the race, completing the race in 16 hours 12 minutes.

Damian Boyle at the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100k
Damian completed the Ultra Trail Cape Town in December 2016, a 100k mountain race

Both Andy and Damian competed in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 last year, with Damian coming in in a very impressive 18th position out of 290 finishers. His time of 4 hours 32 minutes and 52 seconds put him 2nd in the M45 category. Completing the course in 5 hours 41 minutes and 52 seconds, Andy came in 117th place and was 4th in the M55 category.

That was then though. The question was, could they improve on those times this year? For Damian, it was his last long run before he takes on the CCC 101k which is part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc annual festival of running.

He started out strongly, determined to do well and put in a performance that would give him a confidence booster before his big target race. As is the aim with most ultras, the idea was not to slow down too much as the race progressed.

Reaching the 22k checkpoint in 1 hour 43 minutes and 23 seconds, Damian was, at that point, sitting in 8th position and looking strong. The next checkpoint came at 31k, with Damian arriving in a time of 2:31:36, putting him in 9th place.

Damien Boyle in amongst the plains of Salisbury
It was Damien’s last long run before taking on the CCC at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc event so he was determined to run well

From there it was all systems go to the finish, which Damian arrived at in a stellar time of 4 hours 16 minutes and 45 seconds. That gave him a very well earned 13th place overall and 2nd in the M45 category, which was a very pleasing result.

Managing not to slow down too much in the latter stages of the race, Damian had an impressive average pace of 8 minutes 15 seconds per mile. Funnily enough, before the race Damian had earmarked an 8:15 average pace for the for the distance so as it turned out, he was bang on.

It was almost 16 minutes quicker than his time from last year as well so a very good result for Damian and bodes well for his chances in the CCC.

Damien Boyle in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event 50k
Damian’s time of 4:16:45 put him in 13th place overall 2nd in the M45 category

As for Andy, he was also hoping to see a vast improvement on his time from last year. In fact, he thought he might even be in with a shout of a sub-5-hour finish.

The day before the race, Andy had, unintentionally, clocked his best time at parkrun since March 2017, finishing in 21:45  at Blandford parkrun, so he knew he was in good form. Obviously, it wouldn’t usually be advisable to do a fast parkrun the day before a 50k race but Andy takes what he can get when he can get it.

The weather on the day was virtually perfect, although with the lack of rain over recent times, the ground was pretty hard for the most part.

Andy Gillespie makes his way through the heathland at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event
Andy showed he was in good form the day before the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event by running his fastest parkrun since March 2017

Andy has suffered a bit with groin pains this year but it hasn’t been hurting too much to prevent him from running. It was a concern though and he’s not sure if, in a subconscious effort to protect it, he may have tightened up a bit. On the other hand, it may just have been that it didn’t stretch enough to loosen up properly.

For a while in the race he did feel it in the hips but it wasn’t enough to severely hamper his time. Andy arrived at the first checkpoint at 22k in around 90th position, with a time of 2 hours 9 minutes and 37 seconds.

At the 31k checkpoint he was in 87th place, arriving in 3 hours 12 minutes and 29 seconds. As it panned out, he didn’t quite hit his target of a sub-5-hour finish, reaching the line in 5 hours 16 minutes and 54 seconds.

Andy Gillespie battle hard at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event
A good run saw Andy beat his time from the previous year by 25 minutes, crossing the line in 5:16:54

It was still a good time for Andy though and 25 minutes quicker than his time from last year, so a very solid improvement. Andy came in 6th place in the M55 category.

Both Damian and Andy can be extremely proud of their efforts in such a long and gruelling race. The fact they both made significant improvements on their times from the previous year as well demonstrates good progression.

For Damian, the training continues, although he can now look forward to lightening the load a bit as he begins to taper for the CCC. As for Andy, he might just have time for a bit of rest and recuperation before his next big challenge arrives, whatever that may be.

Andy Gillespie makes his way along the trails in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k
Another endurance event was ticked off the list for Andy and no doubt he’ll be looking forward to another one soon enough





BAC find ingredients for success at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon

Team BAC at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Ian Graham, Jud Kirk, Stu Nicholas, Rich Brawn, Tamzin Petersen and Andy Gillespie were among those taking part in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon on a very hot summers day

The latest Dorset Road Race League fixture pitched Bournemouth AC in Sturminster Newton for a tough, undulating half marathon in the sweltering heat as this unprecedented summer of sizzling sunshine and soaring temperatures continues.

Thoughts of fast times and PB performances went out the window when the weather forecast showed how hot it going to be and the warmth of the sun could be felt lightly singeing the skin as the runners made their way from the race HQ in the Sturminster Newton High School fields to the start line on Station Road.

It was more a case of hoping that the body would hold out without overheating throughout the course of the 13.1-mile country road route. Much of the course was over similar ground to that of the North Dorset Village Marathon that took place on the first weekend of May. Some of the Bournemouth AC members were familiar with it from that.

With Rich Nelson away on holiday in France, Rich Brawn stepped in to deputise as team captain for the race and assumed the duties of organising and assembling a team that could hopefully be in the running for a vital league victory.

With the margins at the top of the league too close to call between Poole AC and Bournemouth AC in the Men’s Division One, the points in this fixture were absolutely crucial.

With a lot of hard work chasing up various team members and looking to establish a strong line up of at least five high standard scorers, Rich Brawn now has a new-found respect to what Rich Nelson does for every race. It is certainly an unenviable task.

Come the day of the race it wasn’t looking overly promising, with Steve Way, Josh Cole, Stu Nicholas and Graeme Miller having signed up but the notable absence of a high quality fifth scorer. Rich had a feeling that he himself was going to have to step up and bear the burden of being fifth scorer for the team.

Then, whilst he was in the car on the way to the race, Rich received a message from Steve Way saying that he’d had to abort his long run and call his wife to pick him up. That meant that from the place where he’d ended up, there was no way he was going to make it to the start line in time.

Steve has been suffering from a calf injury that kept his training runs down to a minimum over recent weeks. Unfortunately, the prominence of that injury looks as if it might rule him out for the World 100k Championships, which is in # weeks’ time. That would be hammer blow for Steve after working so hard to achieve his 3rd place finish at the Comrades Marathon and earn his place in the GB squad.

Rich was desperate to register a BAC win for the fixture so he could go back and deliver the good news to Rich Nelson but it was beginning to look as if that might be in doubt. He tried to remain positive though as he jogged over the start line with Stu Nicholas and Andrew Brookes and prepared to do his bit for the team and give it absolutely all he’s got.

Just as they arrived at the start-line meeting point, out of nowhere, Craig Palmer and Dave Long suddenly turned up. Rich was hugely received to see them as he had been in discussion with both them in the build-up to the race and had been hoping they would be able to make it.

Dave had been part of the Bournemouth Athletics League team that had famously sealed promotion to Division One and had competed in the 5000-metre race at the track meeting at Kings Park the previous day.

It was the final fixture of the season and after that the lads went out for a hugely well-deserved celebration, meaning many a beer was sunk over the course of the evening. As a result, Dave was still half cut when he arrived just before the start of the race.

Having also been out on the razz the night before, Craig was also feeling a little worse for wear as he prepared to take to the start line. They’d both put the team first though and showed up anyway with the aim of ensuring Bournemouth AC would win the fixture.

Needless to say, Rich was very pleased to see them and that had cast a completely different complexion on the race now. There was now a very realistic chance that BAC could come away with the points.

Once the race got underway, a small lead group was quickly established, containing both Josh Cole and Stu Nicholas. Graeme Miller wasn’t far behind them, with Rich just slightly further back.

There was quite a bit of downhill in the first mile, so it was a good opportunity for the runners to settle into a good early pace. When Rich came up behind Graeme, he thought perhaps he might be going a little too fast so nestled in behind his BAC teammate.

It soon became apparent though that Graeme wasn’t going at his normal pace. Rich then manoeuvred round him and pressed on. In fact, Graeme had felt a tightening of the hamstring right from start, preventing him from striding out.

Although he wasn’t in complete agony, he knew if he had continued he would have done himself some real damage. Reluctantly, he was forced to pull out, meaning for the first time in 18 years of running, he had to come to terms with a DNF.

It was a double blow for BAC as Graeme was also down the for the Round the Rock 10k race in Portland the following weekend. Unfortunately, with his hamstring in a bad way, that also rules him out of that fixture as well.

Not realising that Graeme had pulled out, Rich spent the entire race expecting him to come up and overtake him at any point. As he reached the latter stages of the race he started thinking he must be having an absolute blinder to still be ahead of Graeme.

About four miles into the race Craig and Dave, who had started the race very steadily, caught up with Rich. The three of them ran together for the next two-to-three miles. They were trying to work out what they needed to do to ensure BAC got the win in the Dorset Road Race League. Craig figured at that point they’d probably done enough if things stayed the same.

At around the seventh mile, Sean Edwards caught up with the trio, making it a BAC four out on the road. Sean couldn’t score for Bournemouth AC though in the league since he had already scored points for his previous club of Lytchett Manor Striders.

As Sean began to push on and Craig and Dave went with him, Rich took the opportunity to ease off the throttle a bit and take in an energy gel. He was worried that he might blow up in the latter stages of the race in the punishing heat.

Unfortunately, Graeme wasn’t the only BAC member who was forced to abandon the race. Adrian Townsend had also bailed out about 4.5 miles in suffering from stomach issues. Back in April, Adrian pulled out of the London Marathon for the very same reasons.

For years now, Adrian has suffered from IBS. Usually it’s okay when he’s running but on the odd occasion it does become a problem, giving him bad stomach cramps. Sadly, this was one of those occasions and had to stop running and shuffle back to the car.

It was a blow for Adrian but he did at least know that he had an imminent holiday to look forward to that would include some epic running in the Alps, which was very excited about.

The last three miles of the race were predominantly uphill. The gradients weren’t super steep but they were just long and enough to slow the pace a bit and force you to call on the deeper levels of your energy reserves.

Spending the vast majority of the race on his own, Josh Cole cruised in to take 2nd place in a time of 1:17:33. Iain Trickett of Dorset Doddlers had run away with it, having built up a margin of almost four minutes over Josh to take the race win in a time of 1:13:43.

Josh Cole on his way to a 2nd placed finish
Josh Cole on his way to a superb 2nd place

It was still a good strong run from Josh though and a decent time in such trying conditions. Amazingly, it was the third time Josh has finished as runner up in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon. In 2016 he came 2nd to Robert Mann of Exeter Harriers, crossing the line in a time of 1:14:39.

The best time he’s recorded in the race was in 2014, when he came 2nd to BAC teammate Pete Thompson, finishing in a time of 1:14;14. That was a year when Bournemouth AC dominated the standings with Jon Sharkey and Simon Munro making it a 1,2,3,4 for BAC and Tag and Toby Chapman giving them six out of the first 7 finishers.

Josh Cole wins 2nd place at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Josh collects his prize for a well deserved 2nd place

In fact, Bournemouth AC do have quite an illustrious history in the Stur Half, boasting the race winner for four years in a row from 2009 to 2012, with Steve Way winning it in 2012 and 2010, Stu Fox winning it in 2011 and Tag winning it in 2009. Then in 2007, Mark Hargreaves claimed victory.

In the latter half of the 1990’s, a Bournemouth AC member won it for five consecutive years with Duncan Hurdwell winning it in 1999, 1998 and 1996, Larry Austin in 1997 and Billy Nixon in 1995.

Josh Cole claims 2nd place at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
It the third time Josh had finished as runner up in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon

Not too many of those years would have seen as hot weather on race day as the 2018 edition did though and Stu Nicholas found it a real struggle to deal with the relentless sunshine. Having run two marathons on the same day the previous weekend as well, completing a Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathon double, Stu wasn’t feeling in tiptop condition when they jogged down to the start-line.

Managing to rally well though and dig deep, he still completed the course in an excellent time of 1:22:37, putting him in 9th place on the day. Considering his previous exertions and the hot conditions on the day, plus the hilly route which did slow him down towards the end, that was a very good run from Stu.

Stu Nicholas on his way to a 9th placed finish
Stu Nicholas had a strong run taking 9th place in the standings

Overtaking a few more runners as they coasted through the latter stages of the race, Craig, Dave and Sean arrived on the finishing straight together. It was Craig who strode in to win the sprint finish, taking 10th place, with Sean in 11th and Dave in 12th. All three finished in a time of 1:23:12.

By the time he got onto the last long hill of the race, Rich had been running on his own for ages. In fact, since Sean, Craig and Dave had eased away, the only person he’d really seen was Mitchell Griffiths of Westbourne RC who was quite far up the road.

Sean Edwards, Craig Palmer and Dave Long near the finish
BAC solidarity: The trio of Sean Edwards, Craig Palmer and Dave Long ran much of the race together before a sprint to the line ensued

On the final climb, Matthew Brown of Littledown Harriers overtook Rich, going very strongly in the final stages. He then had a bit of tussle with Chris Heckford of Wimborne AC at the top of the hill before eventually relinquishing that position as well.

With his watch having been set to pace and distance, Rich had no idea what time he was on for as he approached the finish leading into the school fields. He knew though, judging by his mile pace that he was in for good time and probably a PB.

As he got on the finishing straight he was ecstatic to see the clock ticking down towards the 1 hour 25-minute mark. It was a tremendous run for Rich, crossing the line in a time of 1:25:16, which put him in 18th place overall.

As fifth scorer for the team in the Dorset Road Race League, Rich was really pleased with his run and was a two-minute improvement on his previous best set at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival last October.

Rich Brawn powers to the line in the Stur Half
Rich Brawn powers his way to a fantastic new half marathon PB time of 1:25:16

The next BAC member to arrive at the finish was Jud Kirk. Jud has his eyes on the prize in the 60-64 category in the Dorset Road Race League and is actually leading the way in that competition after all the fixtures that have taken place thus far.

Nigel Haywood of Purbeck Runners is hot on the heels though and in the Stur Half, it was Nigel who came out on top, finishing in 52nd place in a time of 1:33:43. Jud hadn’t actually realised Nigel was ahead of him and when he crossed the line in 57th place with a time of 1:35:07, he assumed he’d taken top spot in the MV60 category.

That wasn’t the case though and it was the first race ever that Nigel had finished ahead of Jud. Jud was cursing his luck after the race finished as, had he known Nigel was ahead of him, he would have made more of an attempt to chase him down.

In the DRRL standings though, Jud still leads the 60-64 category, but it’s incredibly tight, with Jud on 199 and Nigel on 203 (lowest score wins). That means it’s all to play for in the next matchup at Round the Rock if Nigel has entered.

After having what he described as “a horror show” Ben Walliman crossed the line a time of 1:40:45, putting him in 78th place. It was all going okay for Ben after the first four miles but the wheels came off soon after that and he found the rest of the race a real struggle.

The uncompromising heat took its toll on him, as did the tough hills over the last few miles. Ben is certainly capable of better though, having clocked a time of 1:32:41 in the Stur Half back in 2015, as well as 1:30:07 at the Bournemouth Bay Half that same year. Sometimes as a runner though, you have those days where it just doesn’t quite click and this was one of them unfortunately for Ben.

The next BAC member over the line was Andrew Brookes, who came in 90th place registering a time of 1:43:41. Again, Andrew found it tough going on such a hot day and with so many undulations to contend with. It was about 6 minutes down on his time at the RunThrough Lee Valley Park VeloDrome Half Marathon that he’d run the previous weekend, so he is capable of quicker. Given the conditions and course profile, it was still a solid run from Andrew though.

Crossing the line in 114th position, Andy Gillespie crossed the line in a time of 1:50:44. It could be said that a half marathon is a bit too shorter distance for Andy as he much prefers his longer races, but it was a good training exercise in preparation for the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event where he is set to take on the 50k Ultra Marathon this Sunday.

Completing his longest race for quite some time – and longest run in fact to be fair, at the ripe old age of 71, Ian Graham showed he’s still got it, crossing the line in a good, solid, sub-two-hour time.

Taking 162nd place with his effort of 1:59:05, Ian was 3rd MV70 over the line on the day, fending off tough competition from Roberto Panter of Egdon Heath Harriers, who came in shortly after with a time of exactly two hours.

Ian Graham eats an ice cream after the Stur Half
Ian Graham seemed to get more of the ice cream on his face than in his mouth and it melted quickly in the hot sunshine

Unfortunately, it was another fixture where the BAC ladies failed to get a team out, meaning they’ve now slipped down to fifth in the First Division table out of seven teams. Hopefully more ladies will be available in the remaining fixtures, otherwise the threat of relegation could be a looming large on the horizon.

The only lady who turned out at the Stur Half was Tamzin Petersen. Having not done many long runs recently and perhaps not having been training as regularly as she would have liked, Tamzin was treating the Stur Half as more of a training run than a race. She was hoping to use it to kickstart her journey back to her best form.

With the pressure off a bit, Tamzin ran the race in a fairly relaxed mode, stopping at each water station to ensure she remained well hydrated in the intense heat. She also found one aid station that was offering fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes so she stopped off there for a while to make the most of what they had on offer.

In spite of that, she still managed a sub-two-hour finish, reaching the line in a time of 1:59:35, which put her in 166th position overall. That made her 27th female on the day. Hopefully that will be a springboard for her to push on from as she prepares to take on the Round the Rock 10k this Sunday.

Josh Cole with prize for 2nd place
Josh was awarded a huge chocolate brownie for his troubles

When the prizes were handed out at the end, Josh was given a massive brownie cake for coming 2nd overall. The BAC trio of Josh, Stu and Craig scooped some bottles of wine for taking 2nd place in the team competition behind the top three of Poole AC who were Brian Underwood (3rd in 1:18:11), Gareth Alan-Williams (4th in 1:18:53) and Chris Alborough (6th in 1:21:06).

Stu Nicholas and Josh Cole from 2nd placed team
Stu and Josh were part of BAC team that took 2nd place in the race, along with Craig

In terms of the league positions for Men’s First Division, Bournemouth AC came out on top quite comfortably in the end, with the positions of Josh, Stu, Craig, Dave and Rich giving them 45 points. Poole AC took 2nd place in the fixture with their top five, including who came 6th, accumulating a total of 60 points. Again, the lowest score is the better in the DRRL.

With the day starting off with a worrying situation for Rich Brawn as stand-in captain, it had turned out to be a rip-roaring success in the end and he was very grateful to each member of the team who came out to battle the hellacious heat.

Rich Brawn after Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
It turned out to be a great day for Rich Brawn who captained the team to victory as well as recording a terrific new half marathon PB

With the next fixture, the Round the Rock 10k in Portland, taking place this Sunday, Rich will be hoping the team will be able to carry that momentum through and can put in another strong performance and perhaps even seal another Dorset Road Race League victory.

The ladies also have a pretty strong line up of four for the Round the Rock race as well so hopefully they will be vying for top position as well and can give themselves something to build on for the remainder of the season.

Stu Nicholas and Josh Cole were part of the 2nd placed team
It was a brilliant day for Bournemouth AC in the end, taking another fine Dorset Road Race League victory in the Men’s Division One


Manol Dimitrov mixes it up in Montreux Sky race

Manol Dimitrov in Montreux Sky
Manol Dimitrov was up against some top level competition in the 37km Montreux Sky race, featuring 2,500m of elevation

In what must surely be one of the most difficult and technical races in the Swiss Alps, the Montreux Sky race is 37 kilometres in length and features 2,500 metres of ascent. That was the task that Manol Dimitrov was up against as he prepared to do battle with a very competitive field of mountain race specialists and experienced Alpine campaigners.

Manol wasn’t phased by the elite competition though, or the distance and elevation. He’s become very accustomed to taking on tough mountain races himself and knows what it takes to excel on that type of terrain.

Having recently completed the 60.4km race at the Scott Snowdonia Trail event with 2,376m of elevation, he’s in great shape to deal with the rigours of the relentless climbs. In fact, after taking a few wrong turns whilst out on the route, Manol managed to add an extra 12km to the route and an additional 4,000ft of elevation. Incredibly he still managed to finish in 5th place in the race, but he was actually in the lead when he took his first wrong turn.

Unfortunately, with mountain ultra running, you can never take anything for granted. There are numerous scenarios that can make or break the race and no matter how hard you’ve trained or how experienced you are, you can still come a-cropper.

Manol found that out to his cost in the 48km Cortina Trail race in June where he was forced to abandon with stomach issues just 16.4 miles, having already vomited twice.

A week later he bounced back though, showing great resilience to complete the 42km Buff Epic Trail race which incorporated over 3,300m of vertical, finishing in just under 7 hours and 24 minutes.

So having having had his fair share of ups and downs (if you’ll excuse the pun) in his recent mountain forays, Manol was hoping that all would go smoothly at the Montreux Sky race and that he would go some way toward realising his true potential.

The route starts off from Leysin, heading towards Montreux via the climb to La Berneuse and the impressive Tour of Aï, Mayen and the Famelon.

It then moves onto the top of Malatraix and Aveneyre peaks which feature some stunning views of Lake Geneva. The ridges then work their way along the top of Rochers-de-Naye before the downhill finish leading to the quayside in Montreux.

Picturesque though it may have been, in reality, the race was even more difficult than it sounds. The reason for that was that the route was not very well developed and was extremely rough in places.

The trails were narrow and technical with many parts demanding a certain level of expertise to negotiate them. The gradients were extremely steep, with some requiring hiking. There was one traverse that was super narrow and on a camber, forcing a very cautious approach.

At the end of the race there was a huge 11km descent from around 2000m down to Montreux at 350m. It was on this descent from the top of Rochers-de-Naye that Manol was second quickest in the whole race over a 2.5 mile Strava segment.

Although it was a very tricky course, Manol handled the technical aspects well and managed a lofty 9th place finish in what was a very high calibre field. A total of 446 people successfully completed the race.

Manol’s time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 56 seconds was less than 35 minutes behind the race winner Tom Evans, who runs for the Hoka One One team and has also represented Great Britain, winning a bronze medal at the World Trail Running Distance Championships.

In fact, quite a few of those who finished ahead of Manol were sponsored athletes, running for teams like Hoka, Salomon and New Balance.

Of course the advantage of being a sponsored athlete and getting paid for it means these athletes can devote a lot more time to their training, so the fact the Manol was able to mix it with them was a testament to his ability. In fact, this would probably have to go down as Manol’s best performance of the season so far.

Manol Dimitrov in Montreux Sky
Crossing the line in an outstanding 9th place, Manol completed the technical 23 mile course in a time of 4:41:56, reaching in elevation gain of 8,400ft







Tom Paskins kills it at Run Killarney Half Marathon

Tom Paskins in the Run Killarney Half Marathon
Tom Paskins went over to Ireland in search of a PB and a first ever sub 1:20 effort in the Run Killarney Half Marathon

He definitely seems to have some sort of affinity with running in Ireland. Maybe it’s the rugged and unforgiving nature of the landscape, with its unpredictable weather-fronts and frequent undulations which provides such a testing yet enchanting environment.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the Guinness and that distinctly authentic and organic flavour of the ‘straight from the factory’ ebony nectar that draws him over. Who knows? What we do know is that Tom Paskins comes into his own when taking to the turf on the Emerald Isle.

On his last visit to Ireland, Tom took part in the Extreme North Quadrathon where he had the unenviable task of completing four marathons in four days. They weren’t your average half marathons either. The event was based in Donegal up in the northern reaches of the country where, each day he would do battle with the Wild Atlantic Way.

The hills on each stage of the race were brutal as well but Tom seemed to prosper in this kind of environment and, as it turned out, he won all four stages of the Quadrathon, proudly bringing the title back home with him to Bournemouth.

It was actually a runner he’d met at the Quadrathon in Donegal who had recommended to Tom that he visit County Kerry, proclaiming it to be a beautiful place. That inspired Tom to book a short break in Killarney and to do the Run Killarney Half Marathon whilst he was at it.

Looking at the results from the previous year and the finishing times of the top runners he knew a repeat of his Quadrathon victory was extremely unlikely. The results did seem to imply though that it was a course where fast times could be achieved.

The route profile revealed a fair few undulations but no real testing hills to worry about. There was also a lengthy two mile stretch of downhill which made it an ideal course for him to have a crack at that much sought-after sub 1 hour 20 minute target he’d been chasing for quite some time.

Tom’s previous half marathon best was 1:20:33 at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival in 2016.

Having struggled in the heat at most of his recent Dorset races, Tom was banking on some cooler conditions at Hibernia, a place they call the Land of Perpetual Winter. And it did indeed live up to its name, delivering a cool, crisp morning as the runners were bussed out from Killarney to Moll’s Gap for the 8am start.

Tom Paskins on the start-line for the Run Killarney Half Marathon
Tom assumes his place on the start-line for the Run Killarney Half Marathon

It was then simply a case of running the 13.1 miles back into town. The runners were also quite lucky to get a tailwind, which helped massively since the route was all in one direction, from Kenmare to Gleneagle Hotel near Killarney town, as opposed to a loop or an out-and-back.

The Run Killarney course is claimed to be one of the world’s most breath-taking routes in terms of the scenery as it passes through Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens.

The race began on a sharp downhill curve which meant everyone got away quickly, compromising Tom’s plan to start steadily.  Having been caught out going off too fast in races before he was weary of that but found he was unable to stop himself.

Amazing scenery at the Run Killarney
The Run Killarney course is renowned for its stunning scenery throughout

Getting caught up in the rush, he registered a 5:41 first mile. At that point he feared he might have blown the race as it seemed a little too quick for the first mile of a half marathon.

Once the undulations began to kick in though his pace slowed down to a more reasonable tempo and Tom found he was able to stay strong and keep the pace consistent thereafter.

Using the two-mile downhill segment between miles 3 to 5 to bank a few faster miles, Tom was well on his way to a promising time. He hit mile 13 in around 1:19:10 and could then see the finish line 200 metres ahead.

Tom heading downhill
Tom used the long downhill section to post a few very fast miles

A frantic sprint to the finish was now required for Tom to get the time he was hoping for. Luckily, he had just enough left in the tank and was delighted to cross the line in 1:19:46. He’d done it! He’d finally broken down that elusive 1:20 barrier!

That put Tom in a very impressive 20th position in a field of just under 1100 participants.

Tom takes some refreshments on board
Tom takes some welcome refreshments on board

Although Tom enjoys running the big city major marathons, there’s something he finds very inspiring about running amidst wild Celtic landscapes like this one. His performances at the Quadrathon last year and the Loch Ness Marathon in 2014, where he also had a really strong run, have shown him that.

He particularly loved the slogan on the back of his finisher’s t-shirt which seemed to sum up his whole experience. It read: “Run Wild, Run Free, Run Killarney”.

Tom Paskins gives it his all in the Run Killarney Half Marathon
A top run from Tom saw him achieve his target of a sub 1:20 half marathon for the first time ever

Two marathons in one day equals one tired Stu

Stu Nicholas takes on his second marathon of the day
After completing the 28.5 mile Dorset Invader Marathon in the morning, it was then over to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the Midnight Marathon in the evening

Just doing one standalone marathon isn’t enough of a challenge for Stu Nicholas these days. In fact, he often tends to run two marathons in quick succession.

From the start of the year, his goal was to make it to 50 marathons by the time 2018 is out. That was from a total of 37 that he’d completed by the end of 2017.

Doing two in one go may seem like a lot of hard work, which it most certainly is, but it kills two birds off with one stone essentially and brings him closer to his milestone much more quickly than if he was just to do the one.

That’s the theory anyway, although in practice it can be an extremely difficult prospect, even for a man of Stu’s immense talent and drive. In his last attempt at a marathon double header, Stu took on the Black Knight Challenge Run on one day and the Teddy Bear’s Picnic on the following day.

Winning the Black Knight Challenge Run, he set himself up nicely for a potential double victory as the Teddy Bear’s Picnic Challenge Run got underway.

Sure enough, he was soon in the lead, with a significant margin over the rest of the field. It looked as if he was coasting in for another win when, all of a sudden, on the sixth and final lap, he suddenly blew up and his body flatly refused to take him any further.

That meant that after 21.85 miles, he was forced to abandon, meaning his intended 46th marathon had not come into fruition. It was a tough break for Stu and would mean he’d have to find some way of squeezing in an additional unscheduled marathon between now and the end of the year.

One thing that DNF did do was to heap the pressure on Stu to complete his next marathon double-header – and it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

On Saturday 28th July, Stu was pencilled in for the Dorset Invader Marathon, an undulating, 95% trail route on a dismantled railway line from Stalbridge to Spetisbury.

After completing that marathon, the plan was to head over to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the Midnight Marathon, a night run staged along the South Downs Way which was on that very same day but starting at 9 in the evening.

So… the challenge was set for Stu. But could he complete both marathons? Did he have enough in his locker to conquer two tough trail marathons in effectively one day? It was a huge task, but if anyone was apt enough to take it on and succeed, it would be Stu.

As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough, the Dorset Invader race was actually 28.5 miles long, consisting of one big 15 mile loop and then a slightly smaller 13.5 mile loop to follow. The conditions on the day were warm but a touch blustery.

Stu Nicholas in Dorset Invader Marathon
Stu took it nice and steady at first bearing in mind he had another marathon to complete in the evening

Knowing he had another marathon to complete later that evening, Stu took it very steadily. Starting off at a very casual pace, he gradually ramped it up as the race went on to finish very strongly.

On this occasion, he wasn’t thinking about positions at all. He was simply concentrating on getting to the end and using the minimum amount of energy he could and with the least amount of wear and tear.

Amazingly, Stu crossed the line in 3rd place, finishing in an impressive time of 3 hours 38 minutes and 23 seconds, despite taking it relatively easy by his standards. That was out of 256 who completed the distance.

Once that race was done, he scooped up an armful of Dorset-based goodies and headed home to relax and refuel before heading off to QE Country Park.

Goodies and prizes from Dorset Invader
The spoils from Stu’s first marathon of the day, the Dorset Invader

It felt a bit odd to be having porridge as his evening meal but Stu knew he had to be fuelled up for this race just the same as he would be for any marathon he was running on any given morning. It was his first ever night race so he had no real idea what to expect or how to fuel and prepare for it correctly.

The conditions as he lined up for his second marathon of the day were cloudy and windy. On exposed sections of the course, it could even be a little chilly.

After his earlier marathon, Stu felt like he had a bit of a hip flexor strain but, although the pain was present, it fortunately didn’t seem to worsen as the race went on.

The course began with a couple of miles within the country park before heading out onto the South Downs Way where the rough and rugged terrain awaited.

Stu Nicholas in the Midnight Marathon
It was still light when he first set off in the Midnight Marathon but as darkness fell a new experience ensued for Stu

The views can be spectacular on a clear night, with the stars in the obsidian sky above, the hilltops and lights of the villages below visible as you look out across the Downs. A head torch was a necessity for every runner in order to find their way along the route as darkness fell.

As he progressed along the course, Stu took full advantage of the aid stations for refreshments such as crisps, watermelon and cola, since he knew he was in deficit from his earlier exploits.

Although his feet took a bit of a battering from rocky surfaces underfoot, Stu managed to make it round the course. The tempo was very much dictated by the terrain and the darkness but he did it, completing the course in 4 hours 4 minutes and 32 seconds to take 15th place in the standings.

Medal and t-shirt from the Midnight Marathon
The medal and t-shirt Stu was given after completing the Midnight Marathon

A total of 239 participants started the race, with 232 of those making it to the end. Most of them probably hadn’t already done a marathon that morning though like Stu had.

That brings him up to marathon number 47 now, leaving him with just three left to complete by the end of the year. With a full five months still remaining, that should hopefully be enough time for Stu to hit his target. Then the celebrations of a fantastic year’s work can truly begin.

Medals from both the Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathons
Stu killed two birds with one stone by completing both the Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathons in one day