When it comes to representing your country at a European Championships, that is time when you absolutely want everything to go smoothly and free from any difficulties presented by mechanical faults or other such mishaps that might impede your ability to perform to your true potential.
That is of course what Ross Smith was hoping for when he headed out to Ibiza to compete in the European Cross Duathlon Championships representing Great Britain. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t always work out that way as Ross was about to discover.
For the past four months Ross had been training hard for the event in a determined bid to mix it with the best in a high quality international field. As a result, he’d seen some tremendous progression with his running, posting some magnificent PB’s along the way including an amazing 10 mile best at the Portland 10 in June.
As for the cycling part, he’s always been strong riding off road and wasn’t expecting that aspect to present him any problems in the race itself. In duathlon events though, anything can happen. Ross always pencils in a race around a holiday and has learnt to expect the unexpected.
It was Ross’s first ever visit to the northern region of Ibiza and he arrived a few days earlier to ride the course a few times and get to grips with the terrain as well as to enjoy some sightseeing.
Both the run routes and the cycling routes were were off-road and there were some very steep climbs, particularly on the bike course. When it came to race day though, he felt as prepared as he could be for the occasion.
It was the run first and as soon as the gun went off, everyone was scrambling to get onto the small tracks that formed a pathway through the bamboos. After running for 30 minutes in 24 degree heat and over mixed terrain, including some of Ibiza’s sandy beaches, his heart rate was already above 190.
Grabbing his bike quickly in the transition, he was soon heading for the first, extremely steep 500ft climb on lap 1. His legs weren’t liking it but he managed to get to the top and after a quick gasp of air he was on his way back down.
It was at that point that he noticed his tyre started leaking sealant after being ripped by a rock. This was gutting for Ross as it had interrupted his flow but nonetheless, he managed to stop, fix it and continue.
Unfortunately though, that wasn’t the end of his problems. As he was coming round on the second lap, it became evident that the hole had not fully sealed and his tyre went flat again.
At that point he thought about quitting but he didn’t want to DNF. Managing to keep it topped up with air just enough to finish the bike segment, he was onto the final run.
Despite all his trials and tribulations on the bike ride, he still had fun on the fast and dangerous downhill sectors. After completing his run, he was chuffed to have finished the race and that was an achievement in itself after all the issues he had with his tyre.
It was a brave effort from Ross and he showed tremendous character and resolve to keep going even though it seemed like the fates were conspiring against him massively.
He still managed to finish 68th out of 137 competitors, which is a fantastic result given that he probably lost around 10 minutes from stopping and trying to fix his tyre on the bike leg. In a field containing all the top cross duathlon athletes in Europe that is some achievement. Who knows where he would have finished if the bike leg had gone smoothly.
Wearing the GB vest and representing his country is always a great honour for Ross though and overall it was still a good experience. No doubt he’ll be back again to give it another shot and the not to distant future and hopefully he won’t have such cursed luck next time round.
Thought to be one of Dorset’s toughest off-road races, The Stickler saw a return to action of Bournemouth AC stalwart Nick Kenchington, as he went in search of some form that would give him something to build on in the coming months.
The Stickler is of course Dorset’s answer to the Three Peaks Challenge and the three climbs of Okeford Hill, Hod Hill and Hambledon Hill will provide a challenge to even the most hardy of competitors, not the mention the infamous ‘Stickle Path’.
It’s a very testing route but Nick does the majority of his training out on the Purbecks so he’s very familiar with rough and rugged terrain and also overcoming unscrupulous climbs. The Stickler features over 15,000ft of climbing over the course of the 10 mile route.
The race begins with an immediate ascent up Okeford Hill which goes on for around a mile and a half. It’s then an undulating but steady downhill curve until the climb up Hod Hill just after mile 6.
After a sharp descent from the top of Hod, it’s then onto the final ascent up Hambledon Hill, which is another climb of about a mile in length. It’s then back down again and in toward the finish for the remainder of the race.
Battling extremely hard to negotiate the rigorous ascents, Nick reached the finish line in a time of 1:16:04 which put him in 26th place overall out of some 544 runners.
Whilst on the face of it, that might seem like a good result, Nick wasn’t happy with his performance and always demands more from himself.
He feels that perhaps age is catching up with him a little as he pushes on toward 58. Of course, he’s still in fine shape for a man of those years but his competitive edge keeps him wanting to be able to contest affairs higher up the field.
Finding that he tends to lose a lot of places on the downhill sectors, Nick’s agility is not perhaps what it once was and that’s something he finds frustrating.
If he could train harder he would but Nick tends to find that harder he trains the more injured he becomes so it’s difficult to find the right balance.
One of the aspects the disappointed Nick most about the race was the fact that he was only 5th best in the MV50 category. He usually targets a high category placing in races at least so that was something that he found tough to take.
Like all good athletes though, Nick will pick himself up and press on to the next one and with a bit of luck there will be some better results to come for him in future endeavours.
The race was won by Edward Rees of Clapham Chasers in a time of 1:07:16, with Ruth Barnes impressively taking 2nd place overall and 1st lady, finishing close behind in 1:07:38. That was a new women’s course record as well, so an incredible effort from her.
Luke De-Benedictis and Bill Day of Poole Runners were 3rd and 4th, finishing in 1:09:28 and 1:10:13 respectively, with Joseph Sherwood of Littledown taking 5th in 1:11:31.
The next female was almost 10 minutes behind Ruth and that Fay Cripps who crossed the line in 1:17:02, winning the FV40 category. Alice Whiley of Clapham Chasers was 3rd lady in 1:17:56.
When this year’s batch of Great South Run competitors woke up on race day morning and looked out of the window, they would have seen exactly what they were hoping for. Everything was still. Not a leaf twitching. Not a flower flailing. Not so much as a hint of movement in the air. For anyone feeling at the top of their game or in a decent run of form, it was on. The chance to crown their Power of 10 profile with a new 10 mile best had arrived.
The race was shown live on Channel 5 and attracted over 15,000 participants of a varied range of abilities. Many dress up in costumes and run for charity, some are of the more competitive club runner persuasion and others are the true elites of British distance running.
The course is a 10-mile route through the streets and coastal roads of Portsmouth and Southsea. It takes in famous landmarks such as the HMS Warrior and HMS Victory and of course, the iconic Spinnaker Tower. Because the course is so flat and there tends to be such an amazing amount of support from the watching crowds, it’s a great opportunity for a fast time.
There were eight Bournemouth AC representatives in amongst the masses congregating on the start-line in their relevant pens before the warm up routine got underway. After his stunning performance in the Bournemouth Marathon Festival 10k two weeks earlier, Dave Long had high hopes for a good time at the Great South Run.
It was a target race for Dave and he’d completed a block of very hard and focused training in the lead up for the race. His performance in the BMF 10k, where he set a new course record time of 30 minutes and 42 seconds, gave him hope that he would be able to produce something special, or rather, something ‘naughty’ as he would call it.
The average pace for his 10k was an incredible 4:54 minutes per mile. That run, coupled with the course profile of the GSR meant he could even perhaps allow himself to dare to dream of a sub-50 time. It’s something not too many people have achieved over the years but if everything went right, the possibility was there.
Three other Bournemouth AC members who had been in action at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival were also competing in the Great South Run. Chris O’Brien completed the Half Marathon at the BMF, finishing in a very good time of 1:26:50 and Rich Brawn and Richard Cannings had both been in action in the Full Marathon, finishing in close proximity of each other at around 3 hours 15 minutes.
Originally Julian Oxborough was also down for the Full Marathon at the BMF but he had given up his place decided that he wouldn’t be fit enough to do it justice. Instead he decided to focus on getting into as good a shape as he could for the Great South Run as he’d then have a couple more weeks to fit in some decent training runs.
Fuelled by a plant only diet, Sean Edwards was wearing his Vegan Runners vest for the occasion. He’s been in pretty good form of late and was hoping the GSR might provide another quick time to bolster his Power of 10 profile. Paul Whitty and Rob Spall were also in action representing Bournemouth AC.
The women’s elite group kicked off the proceedings off containing some top names such as Eilish McColgan, Gemma Steel and Steph Twell. Shortly after, the men’s elite runners were called to the start-line as they set off along with the upper echelon of club runners and the masses.
The front group were led out the two major contenders for the race win, Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson. Around another eight runners were in that lead group, one of which was none other than Bournemouth AC’s very own Dave Long.
For the first couple of miles Dave was hanging onto the coat-tails of that lead group, despite the blistering pace that Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson were setting. They gradually began to edge away from the group, making it quite evident that it was going to be a two-horse race for the win.
Although he began to fall off the back of the group at around mile three, the fact that he could even mix it some of the best distance runners in the country like Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson was an astonishing achievement in itself.
By mile four the group had been completely split with Andy Vernon and Chris Thompson building up quite a big margin out at the front. Dave was on his own by that point and that was how it would remain for the rest of the race. It was just him against the clock now.
For the first half of the race he was well on course for a sub-50 time. He managed to maintain the pace okay for the next couple of miles but it was in the last three miles where it started to get tough.
He had that goal of a sub-50 in his mind though and was determined not to let it slip without a fight. It was a real battle from that point on and it was hurting like crazy but Dave dug deep. In fact, he had to dig deeper than he ever has before.
He didn’t have a lot of time to spare when he came round the corner and onto the finishing straight but he’d timed it just right and went over the line in 49:55. It was an incredible moment for Disco and one that he’ll no doubt treasure for many years to come. All the work he’d put in had paid off and his sub-50 dream had been realised.
Chris Thompson had broken clear of Andy Vernon in the end and had cruised through for the win in 46:56 with Vernon taking 2nd in 47:29. Mahamed Mahamed of Southampton AC finished in 6th place and Alex Tueten, also of Southampton came in 8th.
Dave was the final man to come in under the 50-minute barrier, taking an incredible 10th place which of course he was absolutely buzzing about.
Over 10 minutes had passed before the next Bournemouth AC man reached the finish and that was Sean Edwards. Crossing the line in a time of 1:00:17, Sean finished in 92nd place, which is still amazing when you consider that over 15,000 took part.
It didn’t quite match his performance at the Bournemouth 10 in February where he clocked a phenomenal 56:59 but it was still a decent run from Sean and bettered his times at the Salisbury 10 in April and the Portland 10 in July.
Next up it was Richard Brawn, who managed an improvement of almost three minutes on his previous best, which had also been set at the Bournemouth 10 earlier in the year. Registering a time of 1:01:22, Rich took 122nd place on the day and was 20th best in the 35-39 category.
Since it had only been a couple of weeks since he’d completed his second ever marathon at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, Rich wasn’t certain he would have recovered fully. He took it very easy over those two weeks though in the hope that he wouldn’t be carrying any fatigue into the race.
Having competed in the Great South Run every year since 2014, Rich knew it was always a golden opportunity to pull something special out of the bag and he’d managed to secure a 10-mile PB on all but one of those occasions.
He had a feeling he’d be fit enough to add another standout performance to that list off the back of his marathon training and some of his recent parkrun stats gave him the confidence that he could once again produce a quality run. He felt he’d probably be able to sustain a pace of around 6-minute-miling for at least 10k so it would then just be a case of clinging on for the last four miles.
Thus he decided he would set off at sub-60-minute pace and then just see what happened. He knew the chances were that he wouldn’t get a sub-60 time but he thought there was an outside change of a sub-61 and a definite possibility of a sub-62.
Managing sub-6-minute mile pace for the first three miles, Rich felt fairly comfortable but he could tell that it wasn’t a pace he’d be able to sustain for the full 10 miles. He managed to stay around 6-minute-miling for the next three miles before his pace began to drop slightly on the 7th mile.
As he began to tire, he realised the next three miles were going to be a tough slog. All he could do though was try to keep going as quickly as possible and try to minimise his losses. He was down to between 6:15 and 6:20 pace for the last three miles but he knew he could stick at that he’d still be in for a good time by his standards.
Reaching the finish line in 1:01:22, he was over the moon with his run and, despite falling away a little over the last few miles, he knew it was still possibly his best run ever. Encased in that run, was a 10k PB of 37:38, which was a very pleasing sign.
The miles in the Great South Run tend to be slightly longer as well than the actual distance and Strava had his 10k time at 37:10. That means that perhaps, instead of a sub-38-minute time for an actual 10k race, he could not perhaps look to strive for a sub-37.
The encouraging thing for Rich is, although he knows there’s work still do to build up his speed endurance to be able to hold that sub-6 pace for the duration of a 10-mile race, the potential is there and if he keeps progressing there’s no reason why he can’t reach that level.
As for Richard Cannings, he unfortunately didn’t have one of his better days and was still feeling the after effects for the BMF Marathon two weeks prior. He’d given absolutely everything he could on that day and left it all out there on the course. Afterwards, he was completely shattered and in need of some serious rest and recuperation.
It wasn’t surprising he was carrying some of those after effects in the Great South Run and that prevented him from reaching his full potential. He’d also had a sore ankle since the Bournemouth Marathon which added to his woes.
Despite all that though, he still managed fairly consistent splits throughout and finished in a time of 1:08:24, which is very creditable under the circumstances. That put him in 468th place overall and 52nd in the 45-49 category.
Perhaps also suffering from the after effects of his superb run at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, Chris O’Brien also struggled to reach the kind of levels that he’d ordinarily look to achieve.
For the first few miles he was going okay but after that his pace began to fall away and he realised that it just wasn’t going to be his day. From that point on it was a long hard slog to the finish line. Sometimes you just have to accept that days like that will happen though and you just have to pick yourself up and go again.
Showing some good progress over recent months though, Chris is definitely on the right track toward rediscovering his best form and will keep persevering with his training until he gets there. That said, it still a decent time from Chris when you look at the overall stats, as he crossed the line in 306th place and 26th in the 45-49 category with a time of 1:06:14.
Suffering an early blow when he pulled a calf muscle two-and-a-half miles in, Julian Oxborough demonstrated tremendous tenacity by continuing on despite the pain he was in. He was buoyed by the fantastic crowds who had once again turned up in their droves to support the race as they always do. That helped him keep going as he chugged through the remainder of the course.
Finishing in a time of 2:15:26, Julian took 14,901st place overall and was 959th in the Male 50-54 category. Julian has been through some tough times of late but running always provides a good outlet for him to focus his mind on something positive and work towards achieving the fitness goals he has set himself.
Julian was also raising money for the charity Mind, one that is very close to his heart since he’s experience first-hand what mental issues can do to people and how it can affect their lives. Mind works to let people in this situation know that they’re not alone and ensure there is always someone there for them to talk to through difficult times.
Also competing in the race for Bournemouth AC were Rob Spall, who came in 1,564th place, completing the course in a time of 1:16:53. That put him in 219th in the 45-49 age category. Paul Whitty was also in action, crossing the line in 3,566th position, registering a time of 1:25:04. That put him in 179th place in the 55-59 age bracket.
The Great South Run is a race that never fails to deliver in terms of both spectacle and atmosphere. Everywhere you turn, there are people by the side of the road cheering you on, offering you sweets or looking for a high-five.
There are also various organised bands at certain points on the course which often come as a welcome distraction from the athletic exertions. It really is an all-round terrific running experience to be a part of.