Ant Clark delivers performance of his life at 100k World Champs

Ant Clark at the 100k World Championships in Croatia
Ant Clark was representing Great Britain at the 100k World Championships in Croatia

It is always a special moment for Bournemouth AC when the club sees one of its members representing the country at international level. It’s something that has only happened on a handful of occasions in the past.

There was that time when Steve Way famously represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. That was after he shocked everyone by appearing out of nowhere to break the qualifying time in the London Marathon.

Then there’s Pat Robbins, who has represented Great Britain in the 24-Hour World Championships and European Championships. Ross Smith has represented Great Britain on numerous occasions in major Cross Duathlon events and is set to compete in the European Championships this October.

Both Anthony Clark and Jez Bragg have represented England multiple times in the Anglo Celtic Plate, the British Championships for 100k, as did Jon Sharkey in 2015.

When the selections for the IAU 100k World Championships were announced, it was exciting to see two Bournemouth AC names among those selected in the Great Britain team. Both Ant Clark and Steve Way had been picked.

Ant earned his selection after finishing in 2nd place at the Anglo Celtic Plate, losing out on victory by the smallest of margins. Frustratingly he was also only 38 seconds away from a sub-7-hour time, which is considered to be the ultimate target for a 100k race.

Steve earned his place off the back of a stunning performance at the Comrades Marathon in South Africa, where he secured a sensational podium position, finishing 3rd with a time of 5 hours 35 minutes and 26 seconds. That was a mightily impressive effort, even by his high standards, for a distance that was just over 90 kilometres.

As soon as he got the call, Ant set about making plans for an intense and rigorous training routine that could help prepare him to mix it with the world’s elite.

Steve had every intention of doing the same thing but unfortunately picked up a calf injury that prevented him from getting out and running. At that time he was doing most of his cardio on the cross trainer in a bid to try and maintain his fitness.

On the morning of the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon, Steve went out for a long training run, which he was hoping would incorporate the race as well.

Unfortunately he never made it that far and was forced to call his wife Sarah and ask her to pick him up after the injury flared up. He knew then that his hopes of making the World Championships were over.

As for Ant, he wasn’t satisfied just to be picked to run for Team GB. He was determined to work hard and get himself in the best shape possible the race. He wanted to measure up against the best in the world.

His training schedule included a block of four consecutive 120 mile weeks and in his last big week before tapering he packed in 127 miles.

It wasn’t just the long runs he was doing. It was also high intensity interval sessions often consisting of 1k efforts. He was often seen at Poole parkrun running round the course several times, sometimes still ending up as first finisher on the round where everyone else does it.

He was training like a machine but yet the most human kind of machine you could get, always willing to stop and talk to people before he set of on his next run. And he was always doing it with a smile on his face, despite how hard he was obviously working.

Never once did he complain about the huge workload he was taking on, or moan about being tired or having any niggling injuries. He just got on with it and continued to push through, regardless of the stresses and strains he was putting on his body.

He even went on a low calorie diet whilst training in a bid to get himself in as leaner physical condition as he could. As he progressed with his training plan, he began to look stronger and stronger and appeared more and more shredded.

In the week leading up to the race he went through a carb depletion process for the first three days of the week where he consumed no carbs at all before entering the loading phase for next few days.

When it came to the big showdown, Ant was in the best shape of his life and was absolutely raring to go as he boarded his flight to Croatia, where the 2018 World 100k Championships would be taking place.

Ant Clark with his GB teammates at 100k World Championships
Ant with his Team GB squad at the opening ceremony of the 100k World Championships

There was a real buzz of excitement as he met up with his Great Britain teammates for the event and it was an emotional moment for Ant when he participated in the opening ceremony. That really brought home what it means to be representing your country on the world stage.

Ant Clark with his Great Britain teammates for the 100k World Championships
Ant with all his Great Britain teammates for the 100k World Championships

When the day of the race arrived though, it was strictly down to business for Ant and he was looking for a big performance. The course consisted of a 2.5km loop to start off with. That would then be followed by 13 laps of 7.5km.

Ant Clark with his Great Britain men's team for the 100k World Championships
Ant with his Great Britain men’s team colleagues Rob Turner and Lee Grantham for the 100k World Championships

Making a solid start, he reached the 10k point in 40 minutes 34 seconds, putting him in 29th place. Being able to do this same distance another nine times, at that same pace, was a tough ask but one thing was for sure and that was that Ant would give it his absolute best.

Reaching the 25km point in 1 hour 41 minutes, with a quarter of the race down, it looked like a sub-7-hour finish would be a real possibility for Ant. Of course, it was still a long way to go yet and maintaining the pace for the duration was always going to be difficult.

Ant continued banging out the laps with tremendous consistency, never faltering and never wavering until, after completing his 8th lap, he reached the 55km point. By this time he’d climbed up to 20th place in the standings and was gradually working his way up the field as the laps went by.

By the time he’d completed his 9th lap he’d taken a couple more places, putting him in 18th with a total time thus far of 4 hours 11 minutes and 29 seconds. This was at the 62.5km point.

Others were beginning to fade and tire but Ant stayed strong, consistently knocking out each lap in around 30 minutes. It was a truly amazing show of endurance. At the end of the 10th lap he was up to 16th place, having now completed 70km in a time of 4:41:46.

After his 11th lap, Ant had risen to 13th place on the leaderboard, reaching the 77.5km mark in 5 hours 12 minutes. It wasn’t that Ant was speeding up when overtaking his competitors. It was more a case of, they were slowing down, and he was keeping his lap times consistent despite having run such a long way.

Ant Clark in the zone at 100k World Championships
Ant is in the zone as he races along to complete another lap displaying incredible strength and consistency

Once lap 12 was complete, he’d moved up to a staggering 8th place. He was now in the top 10 of the World Championships. This would be a truly phenomenal feat if he could see it through. He’d now completed 85km in a time of 5:42:39, meaning he had just 15km left to go.

Running his penultimate lap in 30 minutes and 32 seconds, he’d once again nailed another consistent lap, bringing him to 92.5km, leaving just one 7.5km lap to go. He was now at 6 hours 13 minutes, meaning if he could manage another lap of roughly 30 minutes, he would be comfortably inside 7 hours.

It was all beginning to get very real for Ant. This was it. It was the performance of his life. He had exceeded all expectations. Of course, he didn’t let the ecstasy he must have been feeling inside impact him on his last lap and refused to allow any slackening of the pace, completing the final 7.5km in 30 minutes 11 seconds.

He grabbed a Union Jack flag as he approached the home straight, holding it aloft as he went over the finish line. It was a very proud moment for Anthony, as was it for his dad who was in the crowd supporting.

As he reached the line, despite having run 100km, he somehow managed to find the energy to jump for joy, thus creating an iconic image that will live long in the memory for Ant and anyone who knows him.

Not only had he taken 8th place in the 100k World Championships, he was first M40 over the line, making him officially the M40 World Champion. He was also the top Brit and the 2nd European to come in, after Giorgio Calcaterra of Italy, who was 7th.

Ant Clark jumps for joy in 100k World Championships
Ant jumps for joy after taking 8th place in the 100k World Championships

It was a history making performance from Ant and he’d got his name well and truly etched in the record books. His finishing time of 6 hours 43 minutes and 22 seconds landed him 7th on the list of the best 100k runs of all-time from a British athlete. That’s the very same list that is topped by a certain Steve Way.

Ant Clark crosses the line in 100k World Championships
Ant crosses the line in a fantastic time of 6 hours 43 minutes and 22 seconds

His average pace for the full 100k was a staggering 6 minutes and 25 seconds per mile. Imagine running that for 62.72 miles without slowing down one iota for the entire duration. It was a simply phenomenal run and his mile splits for the activity on Strava illustrate just how impressive it was.

Ant Clark after completing 100k World Championships
Ant looking pleased as punch with his stunning display

Ant finished just ahead of Fritjof Fagerlund, the Swede who often does the Comrades Marathon, running for the same Nedbank team as Steve Way. In fact, in the 2017 race, Fagerlund finished one place behind Steve when they were 9th and 10th.

At the front of the field an enthralling end to the race had ensued when Comrades 2018 winner Bongmusa Mthembu, who had been leading since the half way point, began to run out of steam. With around 10k left, last year’s champion Hideaki Yamauchi took the lead.

Yamauchi went on to take a dramatic victory, crossing the line in a time of 6 hours 28 minutes. His Japanese compatriot Takehiko Gyoba was 2nd in 6:32:51, with Mtehmbu holding on for 3rd place in 6:33:47. Koji Hayasaka made it three Japanese athletes in the top four when he arrived at the finish in a time of 6:36:05.

Next there were four men all within the space of a minute, with Geoff Burns of the USA and Nao Kazami of Japan finishing neck-and-neck in 6:42:30. Burns took 5th place with Kazami in 6th. Then it was Calcaterra in 7th with a time of 6:42:35 and Ant, of course, in 8th with his time of 6:43.22.

For Ant, the feeling of elation was immeasurable. He could scarcely believe what he had achieved. To be the 8th best 100k runner in the world was a tremendous accolade. To be M40 World Champion was unreal. To be the top Brit and 7th best of all time was simply mind-blowing. He just couldn’t get his head around it.

Ant Clark is crowned V40 100k World Champion
Ant receives his medal and is crowned M40 100k World Champion

Ant’s success in this event will no doubt inspire many other Dorset-based runners to strive to go on to achieve big things. Such is his gravitas and popularity within the running community, everyone in the area was buzzing about his performance.

When you meet Ant he comes across as a very warm and friendly guy. He’s always approachable and looking to share a laugh and joke with others. But inside him there is a steely determination to want to do well. A yearning to push himself to be the very best that he can be.

That’s a lesson to all of us really. Having the talent in the first place is one thing but having the application to go out there and maximise your potential is quite another. It takes hard work, dedication and sacrifice but, as Ant will testify, when you achieve that goal and realise that dream, the reward at the end makes it all worthwhile.

Ant Clark holds the Union Jack flag aloft with pride
An incredible achievement from Ant saw him take his place at number 7 on the list of the top Brits of all-time for 100k

 

 

 

 

Jacek surmounts 7 Valleys 100k in Poland

Jacek Cieluszecki in the Bieg 7 Dolin 100km
Jacek Cieluszecki travelled back to his native Poland to battle the brutal 7 Valleys Run 100k

For his next big quest, Jacek Cieluszecki was drawn back to his native Poland for the Bieg 7 Dolin 100k.

So far, Jacek has had a pretty good season, with victories in the Wings for Life race in Melbourne, the Portland 10 and a double triumph in the 5k and Half Marathon at Poole Running Festival.

In his last big mountain foray, Jacek took on the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon, a 43.4 kilometre route with 1,685 metres of elevation.

Although he was up against some of the top distance runners in the country, such as Adam Holland and Callum Rowlinson, Jacek took a superb 2nd place, beaten only a staggering performance from X-Miles ambassador Jack Oates. Both Jacek and Jack finished well under the previous course record.

The Bieg 7 Dolin would be an entirely different prospect though. The race is run on one massive loop, starting and finishing in Deptak, Krynica-Zdrój.

The route is pretty much constant ups-and-downs throughout the entire way, taking the runners across some of Poland’s highest mountains, featuring 4,500m of elevation. It certainly represented Jacek’s biggest challenge of the year so far.

The Bieg 7 Dolin 100k is the Polish National Championships and is one of the biggest running events in the calendar. The race is even covered on TVP, which is Poland’s national broadcaster, essentially their equivalent of the BBC, with the channel providing regular updates throughout the morning.

Having completed the race on two previous occasions, in 2015 and 2017, Jacek knew what he was letting himself in for though and also knew exactly what it takes to conquer such a gruelling circuit.

The race does combine two aspects of running that Jacek is very strong on though; endurance and ascending. Both the extremely long distance and the many, large scale inclines suit JC down to the ground.

In 2015, Jacek completed the 7 Valleys Run in 10 hours 35 minutes and in 2017, he managed it in 10 hours 11 minutes. This year he was hoping for further improvement and was targeting a time of around 9 hours 20 to 9 hours 30 minutes.

It was an early start for Jacek, with the race beginning at 3am, leaving little time for breakfast and fuelling up for the big journey ahead. There were checkpoints at various stages of the race with some of them including cut-off times that must be met by each competitor if they are to be allowed to continue.

Of course, there was no danger of Jacek not making any of the cut-off times. He would be travelling at a pace that most of the masses could only dream of.

At that time in the morning though, it was very dark, and that brought with its own navigational challenges. Towards the beginning of the race Jacek must have veered off-track and got lost, costing him around 5 to 6 minutes.

That was a bit of a blow, but he one he found his way back on the route, he couldn’t afford to dwell on it. He had to put it behind him and work hard to make up the lost ground.

He also managed to fall over a couple of times as well which, although he wasn’t seriously hurt, did compound his earlier misfortune to make it a frustrating start.

In these long races though, it’s as much about mentality and character as it is about physical ability. Things can and will go wrong throughout the race but when they do, you cannot afford to let it impact the rest of your run.

7 Valleys 100k with mountains in background
The 7 Valleys Run route was so scenic you could almost get lost in it

At the first checkpoint, 22km in, Jacek was in 21st place, with 1 hour 55 minutes and 30 seconds on the clock. At this point he’d already conceded 12 minutes to the current leader of the race, but a substantial amount of that time was lost when he went off-piste.

The race was now on for Jacek and he needed to start clawing back some places. By the 36km point, he had climbed to 17th, arriving in 3 hours 11 minutes and 9 seconds.

At 44km he was up to 12th place, reaching the station in 4 hours 16 minutes. He was going really well now and working his way up the field with intent.

By the 62km point, Jacek had broken into the top 10 and was currently situated in 9th place, with a time of 5:52:41 on the clock. After a shaky start, he’d made some fantastic progress over the last 40km and was really beginning to demonstrate his amazing strength over extremely testing climbs.

Some of the climbs were absolutely brutal as well. The climb up from 1,115ft at the 21 mile point to 4,115ft at the 31 mile point was long and incredibly tough, the gradients of up to 30% in some places and elevations of up to 800ft in the space of one mile.

Taking it all in his stride though, Jacek made it to 77km still in 9th place, having now been running for 7 hours 20 minutes and 42 seconds. He was seriously closing in on Pavel Brÿdl of the Czech Republic who was just ahead of him. The gap between the two was down to under two minutes now though.

7 Valleys Run 100k in Poland
Another scene showing the picturesque surroundings of the Polish countryside

There was still a couple of big climbs to get over in the remaining 23km of the race, including one hugely steep one that they were just about to scale.

It was ski slope where the gradient rose to 24% and included the toughest uphill sector of the race on mile 49, where 974ft of ascent would be overcome within the space of a mile.

Often training on the hills of the Purbeck, Jacek is used to big climbs, but this one was a tough one, even by his standards. Nevertheless, Jacek made it up the cimb and by the 83km checkpoint, he had moved into 8th position in the standings with 8:10:48 on the clock.

It was now time to embark upon the final climb up to Runek. There was one further checkpoint on the way up this long and arduous 8km ascent, with Jacek reaching the 88km station in 8:41:55.

Now closing in on the next man ahead of him, Jacek had somehow made up 7 minutes on Andrzej Witek within the space of 5km. That put him exactly 2 minutes behind.

With only 3km of climbing left though until the descent into Deptak, Krynica-Zdrój, it wasn’t quite enough for Jacek and remained in 8th place, crossing the line in a still mightily impressive time of 9 hours 45 minutes exactly.

Although he hadn’t quite met his initial target of 9:20 to 9:30, he would have been closer to 9 hours 30 if he hadn’t got lost towards the beginning of the race or had those two falls.

Jacek Cieluszecki finishing 7 Valleys 100k
Jacek arrives at the finish still looking strong as he crosses the line in a fabulous time of 9 hours 45 minutes putting him in 8th place

It was a valiant effort from Jacek and one he can certainly look back on with immense pride. He was 26 minutes quicker than last year as well, so is showing good progress year-on-year.

Many of the top guys he was contending with are sponsored athletes, running for clubs such as Salco Garmin, Hoka, Mizuno and Salomon so it was always going to be difficult up against runners who can devote a lot more of their time training in the mountains.

As well as finishing in 8th place in a field of 479 who completed the distance, Jacek was 2nd V40 in the Polish Championship Masters, thus earning him a prestigious silver medal.

Silver medal from Polish Masters 100k
The silver medal Jacek won for taking 2nd place in the V40 category Polish Masters Championships

The Bieg 7 Dolin also carries some big prize money, with £5,500 going to the winner who was Bartosz Gorczyca and £1,600 to the runner up Marek Causidis.

Gorczyca of Poland finished in a time of 9:03:45, putting him 41 minutes ahead of JC and giving him a healthy winning margin of 10 minutes over Causidis, who is from the Czech Republic.

For coming in 8th place, Jacek got £200 and also received some souvenirs and vouchers for 2nd V40 in the Polish Masters.

JC on the podium for the Polish Masters 100k
A proud moment as Jacek steps onto the podium to receive his reward for 2nd place in the V40 National Championships

It isn’t just the 100k race that is featured at the Bieg 7 Dolin event though. There are many other races over a the 3-day weekend of varying distances.

Jacek’s wife Ela competed in the 64km race, where she finished as 17th placed woman and took 6th in the W30 category.

Ela has been on quite a few long training runs over the Purbecks with Jacek and it has clearly paid off, with her running showing signs of rapid improvement. Ela’s time for the 64km distance was 9 hours 16 minutes and 19 seconds.

The Bieg 7 Dolin 100k is also a qualifying race for the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, where Jacek will be looking to do the full 170km UTMB, featuring 10,000m of vertical.

Jacek Cieluszecki after completing 7 Valleys 100k
It had been an exhausting race for Jacek, as it had for all those who made it to the end, but ultimately, a very rewarding experience

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAC four log mixed results at New Forest Marathon

Rich Cannings in the New Forest Half Marathon
Rich Cannings was one of four Bournemouth AC members in action in various races at the New Forest Marathon event, along with Pawel Surowiec, Billy McGreevy and Chris O’Brien

The New Forest Marathon event took place on Sunday 9th September, comprising of four standard distance races, those being a Marathon, a Half Marathon, a 10k and a 5k.

As usual, there was a Bournemouth AC presence across the various races, with Pawel Surowiec and Rich Cannings taking part in the Half Marathon, Billy McGreevy in the 10k and Chris O’Brien in the 5k. The only race that didn’t feature any BAC members was the Marathon itself.

With the race earmarked as a potential PB opportunity, Rich Cannings was hoping to manage his first ever sub 1:30 half marathon.

Currently in training for the Bournemouth Marathon, Rich has been running very strongly over recent times and was certainly in shape to put in performance of note. This was underlined when he secured a new parkrun PB of 19:16 at Poole a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately his hopes were dashed though after he picked up an achilles injury in the run up to the race. He was also suffering from a backache as well so decided to treat it as a training run instead of going an all-out attack.

Rich Cannings nears the finish of the New Forest Half Marathon
Due to a sore achilles, Rich ended up treating the New Forest Half Marathon as more of a training run that a race

It was a bit disappointing for Rich as he had wanted to cash in his good form but the blow was softened by the fact that he was able to run round with a friend instead, which is what he did, completing the race in a time of 1 hour 37 minutes and 35 seconds. That put Rich in 179th place in a field of 1,961 finishers.

Luckily there is another opportunity for Rich just around the corner as he will be competing in the Solent Half Marathon on 23rd September. If his achilles has recovered by then, he should be able to make a proper PB attempt there instead.

Rich Cannings finishing the New Forest Half Marathon
Running with a friend of his, Rich ended up crossing the line in 179th place with a time of 1:37:35

Another man looking for a good performance in the New Forest Half Marathon was Pawel Surowiec. Pawel has also been running well in training over recent months and has showed signs of progression in his parkrun times, managing a superb PB of 19:45 at Poole in July.

Unfortunately for Pawel though, the race didn’t go according to plan. When the day of the race came, he just simply wasn’t in the right frame of mind to run at his best.

Pawel Surowiec in the New Forest Half Marathon
Pawel wasn’t mentally prepared to attack the race in the way that he normally would

Consequently, it didn’t really happen for him and he ended up rolling in in 250th place with a time of 1:41:15. It was a time well below what Pawel is capable of and naturally he was disappointed afterwards.

With two more half marathons coming up in the near future though, one in Nottingham and one at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, Pawel will have the opportunity to put that right and hopefully turn in a performance that reflects his true ability.

Pawel Surowiec finishing the New Forest Half Marathon
Coming in in 250th place with a time of 1:41:15, Pawel delivered a well below par performance in comparison to what he’s capable of

In the 10k race, Billy McGreevy ran well, taking 3rd place out of 1,259 finishers, crossing the line in a time of 36:58.

It was a tougher course than Billy had expected and he had been hoping for a quicker time. The gravel trails and a few climbs that were in there slowed him down.

In a frustrating end to the race, Billy had been in 2nd place with about 500m left to go before he got overtaken by Cole Pearce of Isle of Wight Runners.

Billy McGreevy lines up for the 10k at the New Forest Marathon
Billy McGreevy lines up for the New Forest Marathon 10k race

He did still get a t-shirt and a month’s free gym membership for his 3rd place so that was some consolation to Billy at least. He was also 1st in the M30 category.

At the New Forest Marathon event last year, Billy actually did the Marathon race, finishing in a superb time of 2 hours 56 minutes and 35 seconds which put him in 8th place.

Billy McGrrevy goes in the 10k race at the New Forest Marathon
Taking 3rd place in the race, Billy completed the 10k distance in a time of 36:58

Another Bournemouth AC member returning to the New Forest Marathon after competing in it last year was Chris O’Brien. Last year Chris took 2nd place in the 5k race in a time of 21:46. This year he was again testing his metal in the 5k distance.

So far in 2018, Chris has been mainly focusing on endurance-based events so it was good to try a little gear change and see where his speed is at.

In June of this year Chris competed in Endure 24, an event where the task is to complete as many circa 5-mile laps as you possibly can within the space of 24 hours.

Chris did the event as part of a duo, successfully completing 14 laps himself meaning he’d covered just under 70 miles over the 24-hour duration.

Chris O'Brien in the New Forest 5k race
It was a rare short ditance race for Chris who has been concentrating more on longer races so far this year

This time round Chris had to settle for 5th in the race, even though he did actually post a faster time than he did last year, clocking 21:10.

That was a decent run from Chris considering it was his first ‘speedy’ race this year and he feels it was a fair reflection of where he’s at right now.

Having been suffering a bit through injury so far this year, most notably from a glute issue caused by his pelvis being stuck in the wrong position, the most important thing was to make it through the race without any flare ups. He did manage that so that was pleasing to see.

There were also no stomach issues on this occasion as well which was another bonus. Chris does tend to get stomach cramps when running for time-to-time as well.

Chris O'Brien finishes the New Forest 5k
Completing the 5k race in a time of 21:10, Chris took 5th place on the day

Although he still has a lot of work to do to get back to kind of form that saw him register his first very sub-3-hour marathon, which he did at Abingdon in March 2017, this certainly a step in the right direction for Chris.

The 5k race was won by Chris Phelan-Heath who has just recently moved to the Bournemouth area from Lincoln. Chris has already attended a few Bournemouth AC training sessions and is looking to join the club once he gets settled.

With some very speedy 5k and 10k times in his arsenal, Chris will be a great asset to BAC and it will be fantastic to see him out there in the yellow and blue vest.

The New Forest Marathon 5k was his last race in the colours of his previous local club Lincoln Wellington and he certainly signed off in style, taking the victory in a time of 19:06, giving him a 29 second margin over Lukas Harber of Worthing & District Harriers who was 2nd.

 

 

 

Good foundation for Andy Gillespie at Great Wishford 10k

Andy Gillespie takes on the Great Wishford Run 10k
Andy Gillespie was doing the Great Wishford Run 10k as part of a 15 mile training run in preparation for the Atlantic Coast Challenge in October

The Great Wishford Run is a small, local race organised by The Friends of Great Wishford School. That being said, it does still attract a few good club runners. There was even a Bournemouth AC vest in the field as Andy Gillespie lined up to battle the undulating, multi-terrain course.

In fact, Andy is a regular at this race as if often represents one of his last serious day’s training in the build up to the Atlantic Coast Challenge in October.

The Atlantic Coast Challenge entails completing three marathons in three days, so requires considerable endurance and an iron will. Fortunately, Andy has those in abundance so he should be in a position to, not only complete the race, but to also set himself certain time targets for each day.

The Great Wishford Run is part of training routine that sees Andy run four miles across the fields from where he lives to get to the start-line of the race.

He then cracks the race out as best he can before running the four miles back home afterwards. That gives him a solid 15 mile day with a good workout in the middle.

The race itself kicks off with a 3.5 kilometre hill leading up to the woods. Some of the route up is on road and some is on a stoney track. Once in the woods, it’s onto typical woodland trails, mainly on rough grass and narrow Land Rover tyre tracks. Whilst in the woods there is still quite a lot of ups and downs to negotiate.

The start of the Great Wishford Run 10k
Difficult to tell from this picture whether Andy is starting his watch or just flexing his biceps

In the middle of the race comes the main area of downhill to counterbalance the climb from the start. Some of that section is an old Roman road so it’s quite flat underfoot.

At around 8 kilometres there is a steep descent back into Great Wishford. This is a fast section but there are a few ninja rocks waiting to trip you up if you’re not careful. In previous years they had got Andy but fortunately not this time.

Managing to stay upright, Andy cruised into the finish in 22nd place, registering a time of 51 minutes 55 seconds. That was around the same sort of time that he usually does so Andy was relatively happy with that.

Andy Gillespie in the thick of it at the Great Wishford 10k
Andy shows the way on a course he’s familiar with having done it on numerous occasions before

A total of 68 people completed the route, which actually comes up slightly over 10k, measuring at around 6.5 miles.

After the race Andy’s route back home entailed retracing his steps up the 3.5k hill he’d gone up at the start of the race. It was an incline that he’d tackled every day last week in fact, so a very good bit of preparation for ACC, which features plenty of steep climbs along the way.

All things considered, it was a good day’s training for Andy taking all the lumps and bumps and the distance into the equation. It’s now back to the daily grind and in no uncertain terms, the show must go on.

Andy Gillespie makes his way round the Great Wishford 10k course
Andy finished in 22nd place with a time of 51:55 for the 6.5 mile course

 

Linn Erixon Sahlström conquers TDS race at UTMB

Linn Erixon Sahlström competing in the TDS race at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc
Linn Erixon Sahlström was hoping it would be third time lucky as she looked to complete the 123km TDS race at the world famous Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc event

Ever since she first started running, back in 2011, the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, or the UTMB as it’s more commonly known, had been on Linn Erixon Sahlström‘s bucket list.

In fact, she already had two failed attempts of finishing behind her, the first of which was in the full UTMB race, which is over 100 miles long, back in 2014. That time she was forced to abandon after completing 120km of the 166km course.

Her second attempt was at the TDS race two years ago when she retired due to heat exhaustion. A lesser person might have been put off by those disappointments but not Linn. It only seemed to make her more determined to come back and give it another shot.

In this year’s TDS race, her focus was purely on finishing and nothing else. Her objectives were for a good day out, meaning 24 hours. Anything less than that would be a bonus. In all honesty though, anything would work as long as she crossed that darn finish line and got that four year monkey off her back.

Due to a knee injury she sustained during her 100 mile race at the beginning of June this year, her running had been kept to minimum and more focus was put on rehab, or prehab, as she calls it. She’d had a three week period of logging high mileage, but that was all.

She just needed to get really ‘mountain strong’ and thus mountain training in the gym was a priority. That was in addition to interval sessions on the curve (a horrible non-motorised treadmill).

As a precaution, she had an ultrasound scan on her knee and it came out clear, which put her in the right headspace, knowing she was going into the race fully healthy.

She knew that altitude and downhill running would be the biggest ‘ouch’ factors as she had been unable to get over to the Alps beforehand to get any training in. Instead, she spent some weekends along the Jurassic Coast in the hunt for elevation.

Four days before the race, she arrived in Chamonix in a bid to at least give herself the chance to acclimatise a little bit. Fortunately it only took a couple of easy trots in the mountains to get those quads fired up and to get the lungs prepared for what was coming.

The full name of the TDS race is Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie and the distance was originally billed at 121km, with 7,300m of elevation to negotiate.

The route follows the ‘Grande Randonnée’ paths crossing through the Mont-Blanc, Beaufort, Tarentaise and Aosta valley countryside. Of course, being part of the UTMB, the course includes numerous high altitude sections of up to 2,600m.

On race day, the start was delayed by two hours due to bad weather conditions. This set the tone for the race as the threat of thunderstorms and lightning could easily put the race in jeopardy.

The organisers decided to change the route slightly to avoid the high passage under the weather-front. This meant that the crux of the race, the 2000m climb from Bourge St Maurice, was re-routed and the runners were taken into a less exposed area with 100m less elevation, but with added distance to the final mileage.

The start of the race carries with it a very special ambiance as the runners set off from the centre of Courmayeur. Linn set off slowly, knowing it would pay off later in the race. She allowed herself be held back by the queues that arose already from the first climb out of Courmayeur.

She knew from previous experience that the ‘real race’ starts at the climb up from Bourge St Maurice around 55km, so she wanted to conserve her energy for that.

In her previous attempt, Linn had gone out too hard and it was just too hot. In this year’s race it was also a hot morning so she was determined to take it very easy since she tends to struggle when running in the heat.

At the first checkpoint, the Col Checrouit Maison Veille, 6.8km in, she was in 1,099th place. Then by the top of the first mountain, Artête du Mont-Favre, she had climbed to 987th. She was only 11.4km into the race and had already racked up an elevation gain of 1,337m.

It was then down to Lac Combal, 15.3km in, where she arrived at in 2 hours 52 minutes, moving up to 920th place. From there it was up to the highest altitude point of the entire race, Col Chavannes, at 2,593m. After just over four hours of running she was now in 896th place.

Incredible views from the top of the mountain at Mont-Blanc
These kinds of incredible vantage points are what makes running at Mont-Blanc such a unique experience

The climbs had gone well and the first 20k had been a nice steady warm up for Linn. On the descent down from Col Chavannes though, she took a tumble and hit my knee. Although the incident actually happened on a flat section, it served as a staunch reminder to run with caution on the downhill.

It is far too easy to smash your quads early in these mountain races, just because you feel good over the first marathon distance.  Many people swished by Linn at an insane pace and she found it hard to let go of the competitiveness as they passed her. It is a patience game though and everyone must run their own race.

By the next checkpoint at Col du Petit Saint Bernard, 36km in, Linn had climbed to 811th place, arriving in 6 hours 21 minutes. Her elevation gain now stood at 2,475m.

Making the decision to slow down considerably on the very infamous descent down to Bourge Saint-Maurice, Linn knew that what would follow was the nemesis for her last time round. Many people did not follow this approach though and that would come back to haunt them later on.

That said, by the time she got to the bottom, she’d still gained some more places, moving into 747th position. She was now 51.3km into the race and had been going for 8 hours 20 minutes.

Linn Erixon Sahlström manoeuvres over the rocks in the TDS Mont-Blanc
Linn carefully manoeuvres over the rocks with the TDS route throwing up some highly technical descents and tricky conditions underfoot

The new route from Bourge diverted slightly from the original climb and was less exposed to the weather, but nevertheless, it was still steep.

Linn was familiar with some parts of the route during her time there two years ago, so she eased into a good uphill pace. To her surprise she started passing a lot of people.

Like the previous time, runners were now sitting by the side of the trail, trying to catch their breath in despair, cursing themselves over their smashed quads and causing themselves to become fatigued. Linn knew that feeling only too well, as she had done the very same thing two years ago.

Reaching the next checkpoint at Cret Bettex in just under 11 hours, Linn had now moved up to 613th in the standings having covered 61.9km. Her elevation chart was now up to 3,609m.

The climbing then continued to Cormet de Roselend at 70.4km and she was now up to 558th place with a time of 12 hours 21 minutes. She’d now climbed 4,145m of vertical and wasn’t even at the top of that peak yet.

Feeling strong on the climbs was a significant factor for Linn throughout the race. It was something that had previously been her weakness and was now turning out to be her strength. This was largely thanks to the strict but awesome rehab/prehab routine concocted by the Mastermind DC and her coach Shelley Davies.

Throughout the night the runners faced torrential rain and hail, thunderstorms and lightning and very, very slippery rocks and muddy, cowpat ridden trails.

The TDS is THE most technical race of them all in the UTMB week. Linn has run all of the UTMB routes, including the CCC, and the difference in the technicality of the TDS is very evident.

She had her new La Sportiva Mutant shoes on and saw others slipping around in their Salomons, Hokas and Altras. She felt like a solid tractor making my way through the challenging surfaces. Luckily she managed to stay on her feet and did not suffer any injuries throughout. Once again, she puts that down to her excellent cross training regime.

When she reached La Gittaz, at 78.5km, she had climbed to 425th in the standings after 14 hours and 24 minutes of running. At the next checkpoint, 82.1km in she was up to 406th place with a time of 15 hours 21 minutes. Her elevation gain had now gone over 5,000m.

Ridge going across the top of the mountain
Some spectacular views were offered from the ridges across the top of the mountains

It was then onto Col Du Joly at 89.6km, with Linn now moving up to 371st place, arriving in 16 hours 50 minutes. A long descent then followed down to Les Contamines Mont Joie.

That was near enough 100km done and she’d been running for almost 18 and a half hours. She was now up to 337th place and taking names all the way through.

The night section through the overhanging rock was a highlight for Linn, as well as magical forests and the band of head torches in the distance showing the way of the race under the star struck sky. It was a truly epic journey that had been almost perfectly executed by Linn.

Admittedly, she did make some elementary mistakes though, the biggest of which was her micro fuelling strategy. Although she is generally good with this, she somehow forgot about it. The feed stations were great and she had no trouble with macro fuelling myself, taking in rice, soup, bread and cheese.

Those in-betweeners though, meaning the quick refuelling every 45 minutes, did not happen, perhaps due to loss of concentration. Linn was simply too busy making sure I would cross the finish line in one piece, which is understandable since it was very slippery and gnarly terrain.

A further 1,124m of climbing up to Col de Tricot followed over the next 7km. This last incline from Les Contamines was infamous as well as a crux. It was a wall that literally seemed like a vertical where gravity would pull you down to earth to the point where you would literally fall backwards and roll down if you moved too slow.

It brought the total elevation again up to a staggering 6,507m. Linn was now in 312th place with a time of 21 hours 6 minutes. It was mostly all downhill from that point on.

Breathtaking views of Mont-Blanc
With these breathtaking views it’s easy to see why Linn loves running in the mountains so much

Reaching Bellevue at 111km, she was up to 310th place with a time of 22 hours 10 minutes. It was then a 4.6km descent down to Les Houches bringing her up to the 115.6km point in the race. This was the penultimate checkpoint and the finish was almost in sight. She’d now been running for 22 hours and 53 minutes and with just 7.8km left to go, she looked on course for a sub 24-hour finish.

Due to the lack of micro fuelling though, Linn had lost a lot of energy and the last stretch from Les Houches into Chamonix took far too long for my liking.

With nothing left in the tank, it was a long drag and that last 7.8k felt like a marathon. She was overtaken by 7 people in that time, which was frustrating but she knew she would finish and ultimately that was her main goal. Equally, she knew she would reach her 24 hour target, so there was no reason to sprint that last sector.

The last few kilometres in Chamonix town were bliss. People were awake as it was 8am in the morning, cheering the runners on and to finally see the finish line was so emotional and such a relief for Linn.

When she finished, Linn fell into to her partner’s arms and her first words were that she did not want to run anymore. It was a sure sign that she’d absolutely given everything on that day. Obviously the following day she was looking into what she could do for her next race.

Finishing with an official time of 24 hours 1 minute and 9 seconds, Linn was 38th placed women out of 169 that completed the race. She was also 7th in her age group and 311th overall out of 1,800 runners who took to the start-line. 1,328 of those made it to the finish, with 470 or so DNFs.

Due to the change in course, the race was slightly longer than the original 119km route and instead ended up at 123.4km. The total elevation gain was 6,791m.

Linn Erixon Sahlström in TDS at UTMB
Impressively, Linn came in as 38th placed women and was 311th overall out of 1,800 runners, registering a time of 24 hours and 1 minute

This year also happened to be super competitive, since in any other year, 24 hours would have secured Linn a top 20 place in the women’s field. That aside though, she reached my goal and felt so strong for so long.

The only flaws to work on really were her lack of energy in the last 20k or so and the clothing issue, where she was constantly putting water proofs on and taking them off again.

It goes without saying that Linn was very happy with her performance. To run in the mountains is always a very humbling experience and these mountains in particular are very unforgiving. I

t is a weird kind of love and hate relationship that Linn has with the mountains but ultimately, it is always worth the effort. The next goal for Linn is to do another mountain ultra race this year so she can qualify for the full UTMB.

Linn celebrates completing the 121km TDS race at UTMB
Her face tells the story as a jubilant Linn celebrates completing the 123km TDS race

Damian Boyle hits new heights in CCC at UTMB

Damian Boyle prepares to start the CCC Mont-Bland
Damian Boyle prepares to embark upon a long and arduous but ultimately momentous journey in the CCC Mont-Blanc

It was a race he’d been longing to do some years now and when Damian Boyle finally got his chance, he was determined to grab it with both hands. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity to which both the physical and emotional impact it can have on a person cannot be underestimated.

As the day grew ever closer, Damian could barely contain his excitement, knowing he was finally going to be on the start-line for the CCC race at the prestigious and world renowned Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc.

The Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc is essentially the Olympics for mountain trail running. It is a huge event, with approximately 9,000 people taking part across 7 different races of varying distances and difficulty levels.

The one Damian had opted to go for was the Courmayeur – Champex – Chamonix route, consisting of a 101 kilometre distance and incorporating 6,100 metres of elevation. The task ahead was going to be an enormous challenge, but a truly spectacular one.

The course for the CCC race touches on three different countries; Italy, France and Switzerland. It follows the Grande Randonnée du Tour du Mont-Blanc across highly technical Alpine terrain, with high altitude climbs up to 2,500 metres in notoriously inclement weather conditions.

Whilst that may not sound appealing to everyone, for any fell runner or anyone who has ever experienced the intrigue of running in the high mountains, it is deemed as the ultimate challenge. The UTMB is without a doubt, the pinnacle of mountain ultra running, and it’s the level you aspire to reach within that realm.

Of course, not just anyone can rock up and do one of the UTMB races. You have to do other mountain races first to accrue of certain amount of points in order to qualify for the event. Due to the sheer numbers that want to take part in these magnificent, once in a lifetime races, it seems the only fair way to allocate the places.

In May, Damian completed the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 50 mile race, which was an ideal training run to prepare him for the CCC. He knew if he could conquer a very technical 50 mile mountain ultra, he would be in with a chance of handling the rigours of the 101km CCC.

Completing the 50 mile distance in 16 hour 12 minutes. Damian finished in 27th place, amassing over 19,000 ft of elevation throughout the course of the race.

In August, Damian took part in the 50k race at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event, finishing in a time of 4 hours 6 minutes. That put him in 13th place and gave him an average pace of 8:15 minutes per mile. This was an impressive result on a long, tough course and gave him further reason for optimism when approaching the CCC.

The CCC was of course, an entirely different prospect though. Just to make it the finish would be a dream come true for Damian. He was determined to give it everything he’s got though.

Damian Boyle at the start of the CCC Mont-Blanc
The CCC was a race he’d been wanting to do for some years now and he was finally there on the start-line

Managing to persuade his wife and kids to take a ‘holiday’ in the Alps and crew for him on his journey through the pouring rain was absolutely crucial for Damian.

It gave him that much needed support and, although it meant dragging them out of the their warm, comfortable beds and 5:30 in the morning, it brought about an indescribable experience for all involved, with many highs and lows and some magical moments to look back on.

One thing that did strike Damian from the very start of the race was the sheer volume of people. He’s used to running on his own in the mountains for hours or competing in low key trail running events which has always led him to consider it as quite a niche sport.

This is different though. The UTMB is at the other end of the spectrum. Being caught up in traffic for over 4 hours in a race was something he’d never experienced outside of a big city marathon. At the UTMB, he didn’t feel he was competing in a niche sport any more, he truly felt part of the mainstream.

The first 10k started with a climb immediately up to an altitude of 2,500m. They certainly weren’t looking to ease you into it. Damian had already run for almost two and a half hours before he reached the first checkpoint at 14.9km. At the point he was in 307th position.

The next checkpoint was 22.4km in, with Damian reaching the refuge at 3 hours 27 minutes, putting him in 302nd place. It was then down to Arnouvaz at 27.5km before he headed up to another very high point at Grand Col Ferret. He’d now been running for 5 hours 17 minutes and had already racked up an elevation gain of 2,622m.

The next two checkpoints were on a long descent down the mountain. You could be forgiven for thinking that would be a welcome relief to the runnings but some of the descents were just as difficult as the climbs, being very technical in nature, steep and rocky with the potential threat of tree roots tripping you up on the down.

Once he’d reached the bottom of the long descent, Damian was over the 50km point in the race so he was over half way there. With the legs beginning to tire and the effects of the altitude taking its toll, that was probably only a small crumb of comfort to Damian at the time.

Battling on though, Damian made his way of the next mountain passage, taking him to Champex-Lac at 55.6km. After just under 8 and half hours of running, he was now in 311th place.

More climbing followed before he reached the next milestone at 67.4km. He’d now amassed an elevation gain of 4,290m. Arriving at La Giète in just over 11 hours, he had now dropped to 340th in the standings.

A 5km descent down to Trient followed before it was back up the next ascent to Les Tseppes at 76km. Whilst motoring up this climb, Damian gained as many places as he’d lost over the last 35km of the race, putting him back up to 304th place. He was well and truly on his way now!

It was now 10pm so he’d been running in the dark for a few hours with only a head torch to find his way. Managing not to trip over any tree roots whilst descending in the dark was a minor miracle in itself.

Fortunately, Damian found was able to eat and hold down food whilst on the go, which was a massive bonus. Having said that though, he wasn’t super keen on the cheese and salami they had on offer at the aid stations. He would have much preferred a British style jam sandwich selection. After 13 hours of running though, any fuel will do.

Small things make for big highs at that point in the journey though and Damian was hugely grateful whenever he got to see his family out there supporting him. Even the rain stopping briefly was a high, especially after experiencing 8 hours of it.

By the end of the descent down to Vallorcine at 83.2km, Damian was up to 296th place in the rankings with a time of 14 hours 9 minutes. At the next checkpoint he was at his highest position in the race, in 280th place with a time of just over 15 hours, 87.7km in.

After the next, short sharp climb, Damian had his only real dark moment of the race when he thought he was descending into Chamonix for the finish. That led to a sense of bemusement when the trail then started to turn back up the mountain.

After a little while it dawned on him that he hadn’t been up Flégère Ski Station yet, which meant another 3,000 ft of climbing. Not only was he furious with himself for forgetting to factor in this fairly proportionate part of the route, rather hilariously, he was also furious with the mountain itself and some cursing may have taken place.

This was where he had to really dig deep but he reached the top of La Flégère at 94.1km in 282nd place, after 16 hours and 43 minutes on the go. That took his elevation gain to a massive 6,082m.

Unfortunately the descent from Flégère is notoriously the worst of the entire route, being both technical and steep and also on rocky ground with plenty of tree routes to avoid, if you’re lucky. It was a very tough undertaking on legs that had already been going for 17 hours. He actually found himself making up songs about how much he was hating it on the way down.

When Damian did eventually get down the descent though it was all worth it. That magical moment as he arrived at the finish in Chamonix was one he’ll never forget.

It was around 3am and at that time the streets were almost, but not entirely empty. It was a stark contrast to the packed cafes and bars and the vast crowds out a few hours later cheering everyone else home.

Scene from Chamonix with Mont Blanc in background
A scene from Chamonix with Mont Blanc and glacier in background

For Damian though, he had his family with him and that enhanced the emotion of the situation that much more and helped him forget the pain and discomfort he was in. It was an incredible moment as he crossed the line and to be able to share it with his nearest and dearest was a joy to behold.

With a finishing time of 17 hours 53 minutes and 18 seconds, Damian had completed the full 100.9km and came in 286th place in the overall standings. Out of 1,622 who made to the line, that was a terrific result. That meant a further 250 or so of the participants sadly never made it that far, but that’s to be expected in such a long and gruelling race.

For Damian though, it wasn’t all about the end result and how high up the field he finished. It was about the journey. It was the experience that mattered most. He loved it all.

The varied terrain helped keep things interesting. There was thick forest, long and heart pumping zig-zigs that Damian proclaims were even steeper than Bournemouth’s versions, rocky and technical descents, high alpine terraces with views across to Mont Blanc and the tumbling glaciers, chocolate box Swiss villages and enchanting river crossings. The CCC had it all.

After the race he found himself drawn back to the streets of Chamonix to spend hours applauding the rest of the runners as they came through to the finish.

Damian would urge anyone thinking of entering a race like this to just go ahead and do it. In fact, it had such a profound effect on him that only 30 hours later he’d forgotten the effort and committed to the full UTMB – the much bigger brother – in a couple of years time.

Damian Boyle completes CCC at UTMB
Damian completes his epic adventure at the CCC Mont-Blanc, running the full 101km, with 6,100m of vertical, in an incredible time of 17:53:18

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BAC quartet battle The Beast

Ross Smith does battle with The Beast
Ross Smith was one of four Bournemouth AC members bold enough to take on The Beast

Perhaps one of the most feared races on the southwest coast, The Beast boasts an incredibly testing route with some knockout hills and a constantly undulating profile throughout. In fact, you could argue that The Beast is a race that truly does indeed live up to its name!

Including some very steep steps that the participants have to climb to supplement the extreme gradients, The Beast is guaranteed to provide a tough test to even the most accomplished of runners.

These energy sapping steps can often be a pace killer, requiring a stiff resolve as the competitors make their way all the way up to the very top before continuing on their journey over the other side.

The race is located at Corfe Castle on the Purbeck, starting and finishing on Corfe Common. The course is around 12.5 miles in length and features over 1,700 ft of climbing.

Representing Bournemouth AC in the race Ross Smith, Sean Edwards, Simon Hunt and Nick Kenchington were all feeling adventurous enough to brave the challenge.

This sort of terrain is meat and drink to Ross Smith though. Ross is a talented cross duathlon competitor, having represented Great Britain on numerous occasions. He is a big fan of challenging off-road courses and isn’t phased by tough inclines.

Ross Smith starts off in The Beast
Ross leads out a huge pack as the 2018 edition of The Beast gets underway

Having done The Beast before back in 2015, Ross kind of knew what to expect. However, the race organisers, Poole AC, threw a curveball in this year by changing the course slightly, adding another flight of steps in around the mile 10 point, along with the two sets of steps that were already a feature at around the half way point.

Although his legs felt a tad wobbly after the second lot of steps, in truth, Ross was in his element on the rough slopes of the Corfe Castle area and stormed up the inclines with supreme strength and prowess. Completing the course in a very impressive time of 1 hour 30 minutes and 59 seconds, Ross took 5th place in the standings.

Ross Smith taking on The Beast
Ross continued his brilliant run of form registering a top 5 finish in a highly competitive field

It was a pleasing result for Ross who has been running really well recently and just seems to be going from strength to strength. Attending the Bournemouth AC training session on the track at Kings Park on Tuesday, Ross felt he got some good benefits which helped him to then go on and perform well in The Beast.

At the Portland 10 road race back in July, Ross demonstrated what terrific form he’s in when he clocked an astonishing new 10k PB of 62:36. It was a performance that even seemed to take Ross himself by surprise but gave a great indication into how well his training has been going.

Ross Smith going well in The Beast
Ross is currently training hard for the Cross Duathlon European Championships in October

With the Cross Duathlon European Championships in Ibiza fast approaching, where Ross will again be donning the colours of Great Britain, every race is now vital and every training session important in his bid to get himself into the best possible physical condition before going up against Europe’s finest.

The next man over the line was also the next BAC member, as Sean Edwards arrived at the finish in exactly 1 hour 35 minutes. The Beast is in fact one of Sean’s favourite races.

Last year he finished in 8th place with a time of 1:28:58. The changes to the course have made a huge difference though. Alex van Tuyl won the 2017 race in a time of 1:20:10 and he also won it this year, but in a time of 1:28:04, which illustrates how much slower the 2018 course is.

Sean Edwards going well in The Beast
For Sean it was a return to the scene of his first ever race after turning 16

Sean was running this year’s race as part of a 17 mile tempo run as well, so he wasn’t exactly going all out. He had a strong run though and felt nice and relaxed whilst out there, so that was his main goal accomplished.

The course came up around a third of a mile longer than it was last year as well and the additional set of steps that had been added in at the 10th mile were definitely the hardest, being both long and steep.

Sean Edwards chases Lee Dempster
Sean (in the grey top) chases down former Lytchett Manor Striders teammate Lee Dempster

Funnily enough, The Beast was actually the first ever race that Sean competed in, when he was 16 years of age. It certainly harbours happy memories for him in that respect and it was the launch of a running journey that has seen him progress and mature extremely well as the years have gone by.

Currently training hard for the Great South Run in 7 weeks time, Sean has been putting in some big mileage of late, hitting around the 100 mile marker on a weekly basis.

Sean Edwards taking on The Beast
The course was tougher than it had been in previous years with an additional flight of steps added in but it didn’t prevent Sean from running well

One man who certainly knows his way around the Corfe Castle area is Nick Kenchington. Nick lives out on Purbeck so does the majority of his running there.

Even Nick wouldn’t have been used to going up so many steps though throughout the course of a 12.5 mile run. He didn’t let that put him off though and still managed to turn in a strong performance, finishing in 19th place. With a time of 1:45:01, Nick also took 4th place in the M50 category.

Nick Kenchington in The Beast
Nick Kenchington (369) was back in action on a course that represented very familiar ground for him

Having not been seen too often on the local racing circuit over recent times and suffering a bit through injury, it was good to see Nick back out there racing. He’ll perhaps be a little more prevalent on the scene when the cross country season starts up again in October.

Nick Kenchington finishing The Beast
Nick had a decent run out securing a top 20 finish with his time of 1 hour 45 minutes

Unperturbed by the prospect of a tough hill or two in a race, Simon Hunt was another BAC member keen to tackle The Beast head on. In fact, Simon always relishes a testing course that will push him to his limits.

The previous weekend, Simon had taken part in the Arundel 10k, another undulating race featuring a testing climb up to Arundel Castle. Then there was the Bredon Cricket Club Tower Race back in May, where the route worked its way up the 299m summit of Bredon Hill.

Also having an appearance in the Gold Hill race that is often part of the Dorset Road Race League on his profile, Simon already had experience in taking on a course renowned for being the steepest and most gruelling route in the county.

There have also been other tricky, undulating courses Simon has negotiated this year, including the Jurassic Trail 10k and the Lulworth Castle 10k, so he was well prepared for the daunting prospect of The Beast.

Simon Hunt on his way in The Beast
Simon doesn’t mind a challenge bit even he had his work cut out scaling the steep steps on the 10th mile

It wasn’t his first time of taking on The Beast either. 14 years ago he competed in this very same race, completing the course in a marvellous time of 1 hour 29 minutes, which put him in 8th place that year.

Admittedly he was a bit younger then but it is good to see that he still has the fire burning brightly enough in him to be taking on challenges like this.

The first half of the race went quite smoothly for Simon but it was when he hit the coastal path that the going got tough. Shortly after reaching the coast it was time to tackle the infamous St Aldhems steps.

Simon Hunt finishing The Beast
Simon arrives at the finish after a hard fought race that took him very close to his limits

The route then headed round Chapman’s Pool before hitting that other flight of steps leading up to the ridge back to Kingston Village. From there it was across the fields and stiles and back to Corfe Common where the race would finish.

Doing his best to work his way up the seemingly relentless inclines, Simon progressed well in the latter stages of the race, giving it every ounce of energy he could muster up as he scaled the heights.

With a finishing time of 2 hours 2 minutes and 35 seconds, Simon rallied well and was ultimately pleased with his run on what had turned out to be quite a warm day. Taking 77th place overall in a field of 420 participants, Simon was also the 5th M60 over the line.