Sanjai and Rich Brawn get a piece of the pie at the Bramley 20

Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma prepare to take on the Bramley 20
As part of their London Marathon training, Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma took part in the Bramley 20, looking to gage where their fitness is at the current stage

For anyone training for London or any Spring marathon really, the Bramley 20 race can provide a good early indicator of where you’re at with your training and how hard you need to work over the next couple of  months in order to achieve your target time.

For several years now Sanjai Sharma has competed at the Bramley 20. His usual strategy is to approach it as a progressive training run where he looks to crank up the pace every five miles.

Usually he does the race with Graeme Miller but Graeme has been suffering from some injury problems of late so isn’t really doing much running.

However, there were still two Bournemouth AC representatives taking part as Rich Brawn stepped up to give it a go as part of his training for London.

Originally he was planning on executing a similar strategy to Sanjai and running the race in progressive blocks of five. It does require quite a lot of discipline though to start off a moderate pace so he wasn’t sure if it would end up that way but the idea was there.

Just before the race started Rich bumped into Ania Gabb, a friend from his former running club Dacorum & Tring. There wasn’t much time to hang around and chat though as the start was imminent so they said hello and then went off to finish their last minute preparations before getting underway.

Rich found Sanjai on the start line and they began the race together. As the flurry of runners rushed to get away quickly, Sanjai held back knowing if he got swept along by the crowd his ran plan would be in jeopardy.

Rich wasn’t quite so disciplined though and started off at a fairly quick pace. He then saw Ania just in front of him and went to chat to her. He asked whether she was racing it or doing it as a training run and she said she was racing it really and looking to run it at around sub-three hour marathon pace.

Although it wasn’t what he had originally planned to do, the pace she was intending to go at was the pace that his run would have averaged out at theoretically so he thought he would try running with Ania for a bit and see how it goes.

They were going a bit faster than they needed to for the first four miles but they were just chatting away most of the time and weren’t really paying too much attention to the pace. Rich figured, since it was just supposed to be a training run anyway, he’d just run with Ania and enjoy it rather than going for any specific time or pace.

Sanjai, on the other hand, was a lot more disciplined. He had held back for the first five miles and gone at a really comfortable pace and had then begun to move through the gears for his second block of five.

At around the six or seven mile point Sanjai overtook Rich and Ania and it was clear that his steady start was beginning to pay dividends. As the hills began to kick in, Rich and Ania started to slow down and Sanjai began to drift away from them.

Sanjai Sharma strides out in the Bramley 20
Sanjai kept to a steady pace for the first five miles and then began to move up the gears for the second five miles

They weren’t really expecting so many slight inclines on the course and it was becoming difficult to main their early pace. Rich knew as well from speaking to Sanjai about the course that there were a couple of significant hills on mile 6 and mile 8.

Sure enough, the hills were pretty steep and once they’d made it to the top, the thought of having to go up them again on the second lap, since it was a two lap course, scared Rich and Ania a bit.

There wasn’t much in the way of downhill recovery either and when they got to the 9th mile, Rich was getting a little worried about how tired his legs were feeling. He thought perhaps he would drop it into the conversation in the hope that Ania was feeling the same, and luckily she was, so they soldiered on.

As he reached the 10 mile point, the runners that were doing the 10 mile race were arriving into the finish. Sanjai was filtered into the right-hand lane though where he would continue on his second lap. It was then time to up the pace again for his third block of five.

A couple of minutes later Rich and Ania arrived at that point and they then set off on their second lap, still chatting away to each other and entertaining others around them at the same time.

Ania Gabb and Rich Brawn runnign together at the Bramley 20
Rich and Ania ran together quite comfortably for the first 10-mile loop and were chatting away throughout

For the next five miles, Sanjai continued on strongly managing to run at an even faster pace than he was going before. Rich and Ania were okay as well for the next four miles. On mile 15 the hills started to come again though and they knew they were in for a tough last six miles.

This was also the point where Sanjai began to struggle as well and it then became a case of just battling through to the finish rather than attempting to up the pace any further.

As they reached the last five miles, the mood began to change slightly for Rich and Ania. They became a little less talkative and a little less jovial. It was now time to dig in and push on through the pain.

For the first time in the race, their pace dropped to over 7 minutes per mile. It wasn’t ideal and it meant that they weren’t going to hit the sub-three marathon pace they were hoping for. There was nothing they could do about it though. The hills had got the better of them.

Although his pace had dropped a touch, Sanjai remained strong right through the end of the race, crossing the line in 53rd place in a time of 2:14:33. It was a couple of minutes off the time he did at the Bramley 20 last year but he’s behind where he was in his training at this stage last year so that was to be expected.

Sanjai Sharma ran well in the Bramley 20
Although it was a tough last five miles, Sanjai stayed strong throughout the run to finish in a time of 2:14:33

All things considered, it was a very good run from Sanjai and he had every reason to be pleased with his efforts on a day when there was also a noticeable cross wind on certain sections of the course.

Rich and Ania battled hard over the last four miles of the course doing everything they could to keep the pace respectable. It was tough though and the last few hills really took it out of them.

They were determined though and managed to push on through until the welcome sight of the finish line arrived in view. They’d done it and it was a great feeling to cross the line. And what was more, they did it together, helping each other through the trials and tribulations.

They finished in 83rd and 84th places, with Ania’s time being clocked at 2:18:20 and Rich‘s at 2:18:21. That gave them an average pace of 6:53 minutes per mile, meaning they were around 5 seconds a mile off where they needed to be for sub-three marathon pace.

Ania and Rich had to dig in over the last four miles
Ania and Rich had to work hard to negotiate the hills in the last four miles but finished in a respectable time of 2:18:20

On such a hilly course though, that wasn’t too much of a bad result for Rich and Ania and they know they have plenty of time yet to improve on their fitness, strength and endurance over the coming months. Ania is taking part in the Manchester Marathon in early April so she’ll be hoping to be in prime condition when that comes around.

As for Rich, he was pleased with the run and, although it wasn’t the strategy he had planned on doing, it was an enjoyable run and certainly much faster than he would have been able to do in a training run so that was good enough for him.

Plus he kind of felt like, since Ania usually runs with her headphones in and music on and for this race she wasn’t allowed it, it was his duty to keep her entertained throughout the race so she didn’t get bored.

Afterwards quite a few people came up to them and remarked on how they’d been listening to their conversation and it had helped take their mind off the race for a bit so it was seemingly a welcome distraction for some of the other runners as well.

Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma at the Brmaley 20
When all was said and done it was a positive exercise for Rich and Sanjai and they will certainly take some benefits out of the Bramley 20 race to help them on the road ahead

Craig and Gemma win as BAC team triumph at Lytchett 10

Bournemouth AC team at Lytchett 10
Here’s some of the Bournemouth AC members who competed in the Lytchett 10; mostly those who weren’t out running laps of the course beforehand

After being forced to settle for second place in the opening Dorset Road Race League fixture of the 2019 season at Broadstone, Rich Nelson and his merry band of Bournemouth AC men knew that it was absolutely crucial they gave themselves every chance of taking top spot at the Lytchett 10.

At first it looked as if that was going to be a real stretch as the race was full to capacity by the time 2018 was out and a strong line up was still yet to be established.

Fortunately captain Rich managed to pull a few strings and with the aid of a few transfers, the prospects began to look a lot more promising.

Some big names had been drafted in to bolster the ranks with Steve Way, Rob McTaggart and Craig Palmer all set to take to the start line. A healthy looking undercard of Mitch Griffiths, Tom Paskin, Rich Brawn and Matt Du Cros were also present to challenge for places.

For the ladies team, Gemma Bragg was back in action after not racing for the best part of a year. Tamzin Petersen and Helen Ambrosen joined her to form the necessary three-pronged assault on the Dorset Road Race League standings.

After taking 3rd place in the first fixture, they were hoping to be able to emulate something similar at Lytchett, but with only three women out, the pressure was on for the trio.

The Lytchett 10 is an extremely tough 10-mile loop that will give runners of all abilities a stellar test. It almost seems as if you’re going uphill for the entirety of the first 7 miles in fact, before a nice downhill cruise for final three miles.

Planning to treat the race as a fast training run, Craig Palmer was looking to run one loop of the course before the race to get some extra miles in. He was then looking to complete the actual race in around 56 minutes, which would be an extremely fast benchmark for a course like that.

It might even be quick enough to net him the race win, depending on who else was there and how they would perform on the day. Lee Dempster looked set to be his main challenger, running on home turf and having displayed some blistering form of late.

Chris Wood of Wimborne AC was also in the line-up along with a couple of top contenders from Poole AC in Adam Conroy and Richard Swindlehurst.

After finishing off his first lap of the circuit, Craig ended up missing the start and to sprint forward to catch the front runners up. As he did so he exchanged a bit of banter with Lee before they accelerated away from the pack.

Craig Palmer in the lead in the Lytchett 10
Craig Palmer had already completed one circuit of the Lytchett 10 before the race had even started but he was still too strong for all his rivals

In the end it was Craig who edged into the lead, running a very disciplined but still very fast race. He managed to establish a small gap between himself and Lee and it turned out to be a telling one as he went over the line to seal the victory in a time of 55:25.

Craig Palmer heading for the win in the Lytchett 10
Craig strides out towards what was a very impressive win in the end, albeit a fairly comfortable one

Following in 15 seconds later, Lee ran a brilliant race to secure a new PB of 55:40. There was then a fair gap before James Gilfillan arrived at the finish, crossing the line in a time of 57:25.

The second BAC member, Rob McTaggart was actually chasing James down towards the end and very nearly caught him up, pulling back 50 seconds over the last 2.5 miles.

Tag with a group near the front of the race
Tag was running with a group towards the front of the race

It wasn’t quite enough though and Tag had to settle for 4th place, registering a time of 57:36. In fairness though, that was a much higher position than he had anticipated so it was very much a job well done from Tag’s perspective without putting himself under any undue strain.

Adding a few more miles on at the end, that brought Tag’s total up to 20  miles as well, so he’d pretty much done what he set out to do. Having also competed in the Hampshire League Cross Country fixture the day before at Dibden Inclosure, it was a pretty successful double race weekender for Tag.

Tag heads down the road at the Lytchett 10
Adding some extra miles on at the start and the end, Tag managed to rack up 20 miles by the end of the morning

Next to finish was Chris Wood of Wimborne, taking 5th place in a time of 58:49. He was followed by Poole AC’s first man, Adam Conroy, who finished in a time of 58:51. The second Poole AC man arrived just after the hour, with Richard Swindlehurst crossing the line in 1:00:12.

The race was on and the next three placings for each club would prove crucial. Egdon Heath Harriers then put themselves in the picture with three members finishing in 13th, 14th and 15th.

It turned out to be a decent double-race weekender for Tag after he also ran well in the cross-country the day before the Lytchett 10

The third Poole AC man came in in 17th place, with Dave Hicks clocking a time of 1:01:23. He was followed by Mitch Griffiths who was making his league debut for BAC.

Mitch Griffiths in his first league
Mitch Griffiths was making his league debut in a Bournemouth AC vest and it turned out to be a good one

Mitch had very strong run to take 18th place in a time of 1:01:53. Mitch has been training well recently taking part in the marathon group training sessions and he’s certainly taking full advantage of the more structured approach on offer at BAC.

Mitch Griffiths makes his way down the road in the Lytchett 10
Mitch went on to finish as third scorer for the team, registering a time of 1:01:53

Shortly after Mitch, Tom Paskins arrived at the finish to pencil himself in as Bournemouth AC’s fourth scorer, taking 22nd place in a time of 1:02:48.

It was a really strong run from Tom, who battled his way up the hill sections well and looked try and keep Mitch in his sights as he went round. Tom was immediately followed by Egdon Heath Harriers’ fourth scorer, making it a tightly contested team competition.

Tom Paskins in the Lytchett 10
Tom Paskins ran well, doing his best to keep Mitch in his sights on the road up ahead

Locking his sights firmly on Tom who was just up ahead of him for the vast majority of the race, Rich Brawn completed his race in a time of 1:03:05 to assume position as the 5th BAC scorer.

Tom makes his way down the road followed closely by Rich Brawn who was doing his level best to keep up

After also competing in the cross country fixture the day before and off the back some hard recent marathon training, Rich was feeling a significant amount of fatigue. He felt it would be good marathon training to do the Lytchett 10 on tired legs though and was really happy with how he ran in the end.

Rich Brawn heads down the road in the Lytchett 10
Rich makes his way down the wet roads, doing his best to block out the fatigue from his cross country race the day before

The 5th scorer for Egdon Heath Harriers finished two places behind Rich, crossing the line in 26th place. That meant that as far as the Dorset Road Race League went, the Bournemouth AC men had taken the win.

Rich Brawn in the Lytchett 10
Rich was pleased with his run in the end and felt fairly strong throughout the race

There was a bit of confusion at the end of the race though when the team members of Egdon Heath Harriers were given a six-pack of Moretti each as the prize for the men’s team competition.

Rich Brawn with his medal from the Lytchett 10
Rich parades his well-earned medal after a very good double-race weekender

It turned out to be a mistake though and the beers should in fact have gone to BAC. Still, with all this serious marathon training they’ve got going on at the moment, the BAC members surely wouldn’t have drank the beers anyway.

In the women’s race, the first female over the was Bournemouth AC’s very own Gemma Bragg. It was a remarkable return to race action for Gemma and she crossed the line in 1:08:10 to take 70th place overall.

Gemma Bragg and Jud Kirk in the Lytchett 10
Gemma Bragg made a welcome return to action for BAC, pictured here with Jud Kirk just in behind

That gave her a winning margin of over three minutes on her closest rival who was Alexandra Door of Egdon Heath Harriers, who finished in 1:11:13. Clare Martin of Purbeck Runners finished straight after in a time of 1:11:33 to come in as 3rd lady and take 92nd place overall.

Gemma Bragg back in action at the Lytchett 10
It was almost a year since Gemma last raced but you wouldn’t have known it the way she was running

The women’s team prize was very tightly contested between Littledown, Poole Runners and Egdon Heath. In the end it was Egdon Heath who took the points for the Dorset Road Race League, manoeuvring into pole position in the league standings. Poole Runners had to settle for 2nd on this occasion, with Littledown taking 3rd.

Gemma Bragg in the Lytchett 10
Gemma finished as 1st lady in a superb time of 1:08:10, marking a very impressive comeback

Finishing as 27th lady over the line, Tamzin Petersen took 161st place overall, registering a time of 1:19:26. That gave her an improvement of 36 seconds over her time from the previous year, so that was a decent result for Tamzin.

Tamzin Petersen in the Lytchett 10
Tamzin was competing at the Lytchett 10 for the second consecutive year

Completing the scoring team for BAC, Helen Ambrosen finished the race in a time of 1:25:35. She was the 44th female on the day, taking 227th place overall. That also netted her to prize for first F60+ which was a pleasing reward for Helen and thoroughly deserved.

Tamzin Petersen going round the corner in the Lytchett 10
Tamzin opts for the inside line on the corner which is always a good tactic

That was enough to put Bournemouth AC 4th in the women’s team placings for that fixture in the Dorset Road Race League. It also kept them in 3rd position in the league for the season so far, behind Poole Runners and Egdon Heath.

Tamzin waves toward the camera
Tamzin Tamzin give us a wave

Racing in the aftermath of having previously completed two loops of the Lytchett 10 circuit already, Steve Way battled his way round to finish in 31st place in a time of 1:04:10.

Helen Ambrosen at the Lytchett 10
Helen Ambrosen was the third member of the BAC ladies team

Of course, if he’d just run the race as normal he would have been much closer to the front end of the field but Steve has bigger fish to fry. All his training is focused around getting himself in the best shape he can for the Comrades Marathon in June.

Helen Ambrosen in the Lytchett 10
Helen ran well to secure the prize for 1st F60+, finishing in a time of 1:25:35

Although it may have felt like hell at the time, the three laps of the Lytchett circuit amounted to 28 miles in total and that will be a really good training run for Steve.

Steve Way at the Lytchett 10
Having run two laps of the Lytchett 10 circuit before the race, Steve Way had given himself a tough task to complete the third in the actual race itself

Also considering the route contains a lot of uphill, followed by a downhill section in the later stages, it resembles the Comrades Marathon quite well in terms of profile, especially as Comrades is an “Up Run” this year.

Steve Way heads toward the finish for the final time
Steve fought his way to a 1:04:10 giving him a total of 28 miles on the clock for his morning’s work

In his first ever 10 mile race, Matt Du Cros took 43rd place finishing in a time of 1:05:19. For a first attempt at the distance, that was a smashing effort from Matt and no doubt he’s got it in him to go much quicker on a flatter, less demanding course.

Matt Du Cross in the Lytchett 10
Matt Du Cros was facing his first ever 10-mile race

Having competed in the race for three years running now, Richard Cannings is something of a veteran as far as the Lytchett 10 goes. That doesn’t mean it gets  any easier of course though.

Matt Du Cros makes his way down the road in the Lytchett 10
Matt ran a very good race for his first every 10 miler finishing in a time of 1:05:19

Crossing the line in a time of 1:09:39, Richard finished in 79th place and 12th in the M45+ category. It was almost exactly the same time he did last year at Lytchett in fact, so he was relatively pleased with that.

Richard Cannings in the Lytchett 10
Richard Cannings had done the Lytchett course a few times before so he was well aware of how tough it is

The between Jud Kirk and Nigel Haywood for top M60 rages on from last season where Jud came out the victor in the overall category competition for the league.

Richard Cannings at the Lytchett 10
Richard went on to finish in an almost identical time to what he did in last year’s race

This year Nigel has come out swinging though and after finishing just ahead of Jud in the first fixture at Broadstone, he was looking to repeat that at Lytchett.

Determined not to let that happen though, Jud kept Nigel in his sights as the race unfolded. There was a moment in the race though where Nigel managed to open out a small gap over Jud and that turned out to be significant.

Once they got to the seven mile point it was mostly downhill from there and Jud’s chances of catching Nigel had diminished somewhat.

Jud Kirk at the Lytchett 10
Preparing himself for another tussle with Nigel Haywood over the course of the season, Jud knows he has a fight on his hands in the M60-64 category

Crossing the line in 83rd place with a time of 1:10:34, Nigel took 1st prize in the M60+ category and extended his advantage over Jud in the DRRL standings.

Finishing up in 90th place with a time of 1:11:05, Jud had to settle for second best again on this occasion. It will now be all eyes on the Bournemouth 10 to see if he can reduce the arears between himself and Nigel.

Putting in a fantastic performance which earnt him a new 10-mile PB, Steve Parsons crossed the line in 1:14:02 to take 108th place. That was a 30 second improvement on his previous best which was done at the Wimborne 10 in November.

Steve Parsons at the Lytchett 10
Steve Parsons was taking on the first of his three 10 mile races in the Imperial Series

To record a PB on such a tough course though, you have to be in fine form, so Steve was well pleased with that result and if anything, a little shocked by it.

He’s taking part in the Imperial Series this year, which is a competition combining the results of the Lytchett 10, the Bournemouth and 10 and the Larmer 10 in March. Therefore, he’ll be hoping he can follow up his performance at Lytchett with another strong run at the Bournemouth 10.

Steve Parson heads round the corner in the Lytchett 10
Steve had a fantastic run to secure a brilliant new PB of 1:14:02

Completing the course in 1:18:21, the next BAC man over the line was Mike White, putting him in 150th place and 22nd in the M45+ category.

Having done Lytchett a few times before, it wasn’t Mike’s quickest attempt but it wasn’t his slowest either. It did appear that he had learned his lesson from the Wimborne 10 though where he set off too quickly.

Mike White in the Lytchett 10
Mike White had learnt his lesson from previous races and knew not to set off too hard

This time he kept the pace steady at the start and that enabled him to stay strong over the latter stages of the race. He knows he still has a way to go to get back to his best but he’ll keep working at it.

Also representing Bournemouth AC, Rob Spall came in in 171st place with a time of 1:19:58 which put him 23rd in the M45+ category.

Mike White digs in at the Lytchett 10
Mike digs in in the latter stages of the race as he heads toward a 1:18:21 finish

In the men’s league positions, the fact that Egdon Heath did so well at the Lytchett 10 worked in Bournemouth AC’s favour as it meant they took 2nd place in the fixture, knocking Poole AC down to 3rd.

That gives Bournemouth AC the outright lead at the top of the table with one win and one 2nd place from their two fixtures so far, with Poole AC registering one win and one 3rd place. For that reason, in a way, Egdon Heath did deserve the beers they got at the end of the race.

Attentions now turn to the Bournemouth 10, where BAC will be hoping, in their home fixture, that they can extend their lead at the top of the standings in the men’s league First Division. It will be tough though as Poole AC look to have a strong squad out.

The ladies’ team will be hoping to their first win of the season as well so it looks set to be a very interesting day, with plenty of points and prizes to play for.

The Bournemouth AC squad line up to face the Lytchett 10
It was a brilliant day all round for BAC, with Craig Palmer winning the race, Gemma Bragg finishing as first lady and the Men’s team picking up the victory in the Dorset Road Race League








JC breaks course record and Ollie completes BAC one-two at Portland Coastal Marathon

Ollie Stoen and Jacek Cieluszecki on the podium at the Portland Coastal Marathon
Ollie Stoten (left) and Jacek Cieluszecki (centre) were both gunning for glory at the 2019 Portland Coastal Marathon

If there’s one thing you can normally guarantee about racing in Portland it’s that you’re going to be in for a rough ride. The quaint little rock is renowned for its unforgiving weather fronts as well as its rugged cliffs and harsh, undulating terrain.

That being said, one man who seems to feel right at home over in Portland is Jacek Cieluszecki. JC has had some emphatic successes there in the past. In 2017 he won both the Portland 10 and the Round the Rock 10k.

Then last year he followed that up by winning the Portland 10 again by an other huge margin and then taking second place at Round the Rock, being narrowly defeated in a sprint finish by Iain Trickett.

This time he was hoping to carve out an other momentous display in the 2019 Portland Coastal Marathon. Joining Jacek for the Portland Coastal Marathon was another of Bournemouth AC’s finest in the shape of Dr Ollie Stoten.

Ollie tends to favour the longer races and is something of an ultramarathon specialist. He’s already completed the Country to Capital 45 mile race this year and took part in several extreme distance escapades last year. They included the 7-day, 250km Namib Race, the 89 kilometre 10Peaks Brecon Beacons race, the Chiltern Wonderland 50 mile race and the 68km Monster Ultra.

He’d almost class a 27 mile marathon as a short race, but one thing is for certain… No one would class the Portland Coastal Marathon as an easy race. It features some incredibly tough inclines and an extremely high elevation count. In fact some of the climbs on the elevation graph look like walls rather than hills.

That kind of course suits Jacek pretty well though. His ascending powers are up there with the best of them and with his regular training over the Purbeck, he’s used to steep, uneven terrain and has the strength to drive up virtually any incline at speed.

The route heads the runners off in a clockwise direction for the first loop of the island, past the recently built Osprey Quay and onto Portland Castle. It then follows Merchants Railway to the Verne, with the impressive architecture of The Verne Citadel now being used as a prison.

It then continues behind the back of the YOI and down Goat Hill. It then follows an old railway line to the back of Rufus Castle, with its remains dating back to the 15th century.

An army tank outside the D-Day Centre
The two Bournemouth AC members were hoping they’d be on track to shoot for the top placings at the Portland Coastal Marathon and that they’d have enough in their arsenal to cope with the wet and wild conditions

It is then a descent into Church Ope Cove, the only beach on the eastern side of the island. The next landmark of note is Pulpit Rock and Portland Bill, with its iconic red and white lighthouse. The views from the most southerly tip of the island can be spectacular.

After that it is back toward the Sailing Academy where more breath-taking views are evident from the top of West Cliff and back along Chesil Beach and the Fleet Lagoon, the largest tidal lagoon in Britain.

It is then past the ‘Spirit of Portland’ sculpture which depicts and fisherman and a quarryman representing the two main industries of the isle before descending down Lankridge Hill on the Southwest Coast Path towards the Cove Inn pub.

The final section of the loop leads along Hamm Beach before the turning and heading back towards the Sailing Academy. That is only half the route though. The runners then embark upon an anticlockwise loop retracing their steps, only this time going in the opposite direction.

Conditions on race day were not very pleasant at all. In fact, to be fair, they were damn right atrocious, with strong winds and rain and a notable chill in the air.

Rain from the previous day had made some parts of the course extremely muddy, so much so that even for the mighty JC, they were almost un-runnable.

These seem to be becoming the standard sort of conditions for Jacek’s races recently though. It lashed it down when he took part in the 33.3 mile CTS Dorset Ultra on a day that also saw 45 mile per hour winds sweep over the Lulworth Cove.

Then who can forget his horrific experience at the Boston Marathon, where the bitterly cold wind and continuous rain almost brought him to breaking point.

At the Portland Coastal Marathon, some parts of the course had winds of between 30 and 40 miles per hour and the mud was so thick it even had Jacek cursing.

Jacek Cieluszecki battles adverse conditions at the Portland Coastal Marathon
It was another occasion where JC had to battle his arch nemesis. That’s not another runner though, it’s the weather, with high winds and rain making things that much more difficult

Nevertheless though, he managed to work his way through it and was in fact quite a way ahead of the rest of the field by the time he reached the end of his race.

Crossing the line in a time of 3:15:09, Jacek had somehow beaten the course record rather emphatically, sending Jack Galloway’s previous time of 3:28 tumbling into the abyss.

To do that in such inclement conditions took quite some doing, so that was a massive achievement, even by Jacek’s extremely high standards. On a better day, he could have probably gone at least five minutes quicker.

As for Ollie, he struggled a bit in the first half of the race and admits that the awful weather very nearly broke his morale. He’s a very determined chap though and showed great character to persevere.

In fact, he did more than just persevere. He gave it a big push in the second half of the race and managed to move up the field as a result.

Ollie Stoten running well in the Portland Coastal Marathon
Ollie struggled with the adverse conditions in the first half of the race but came through well in the second half of the race to climb up the field

By the time he reached the finish line, Ollie had manoeuvred into second place and sealed the runners spot with a superb time of 3:29:46.

It was a quite magnificent achievement from Ollie and that made it a brilliant Bournemouth AC one-two at the front of the leader-board.

Racking up over 4,000ft of elevation throughout the course of the run, it was a performance he’ll no doubt look back on fondly, although he was suffering rather a lot at the time.

The next competitor to arrive at the finish was Ashley Scott who finished just under three minutes after Ollie, in a time of 3:32:25.

Ollie Stoten picks up his prize for 2nd place in the Portland Coastal Marathon
Ollie is awarded his trophy for a well-earned 2nd place, or rather the category often known on the local club scene as “1st runner who’s not Jacek”

Lisa Richards was the first woman over the line, finishing in 4:37:17, just edging out Rachael Moss of Bridport Runners who finished on the same time. The pair were 23rd and 24th overall.

Tara Taylor of Tunbridge Wells Harriers was third lady, clocking a time of 4:40:20 which put her in 27th place overall. A total of 92 participants managed to complete the race in the end and it was great to see the two Bournemouth AC members at the top of the pile out of all those hardy competitors.

Next up for Jacek, he’ll be taking on the Barcelona Marathon on 10th March. At least with that one he knows, the chances of another run in such adverse weather conditions is highly unlikely. You never know, he might even get a bit of sunshine for once!

Ollie and Jacek collect their trophies after the Portland Coastal Marathon
Ollie (left) and Jacek (centre) take their places on the podium and collect their trophies at the end of the Portland Coastal Marathon




Hampshire XC League finale plus Southern XC Championships

Simon Hearn, who does so much coaching the youngsters and providing a BAC base at fixtures, competing at Dibden







There were some spectacular BAC performances at the final Hampshire Cross Country League fixture of the season at Dibden Inclosure, New Forest, on Saturday 9 February, and earlier at the Southern Cross Country Championships held at Parliament Hill, London on 26 January. Featuring in both were Rob McTaggart, 19th Senior Man (of 194) in the New Forest, and 87th (of…….wait for it……………1154) at Parliament Hill, and Jasper Todd, who was 8th U15B of 47 at the Hampshire League fixture (and is the 10th U15B for the season) and finished an astonishing 34th in a field of 296 in the Southern Championships. Martha Preece also produced quality runs in the U13G races at both fixtures, finishing 90th of 316 at Parliament Hill and 15th of 60 at DibdenHolly Collier continues to amaze, finishing 9th Senior Woman at Dibden (3rd U20W), and, for the season, has achieved the heights of 2nd female overall.

Rob McTaggart on his way to 19th position at the final Hants XC League fixture in the New Forest

There had been high hopes of a 2nd or 3rd Senior Men team final position as the final fixture of the Hampshire Cross Country League at Dibden Inclosure on 9 February approached, but, the day before, it looked as if BAC would have neither a Senior or Veteran Men team at all, except by relying on an ageing Ian Graham to run as the last scorer for both teams.  Fortunately, Sanjai Sharma came to the rescue, with the result that there was a reasonable outcome, if not what had been hoped for nor what BAC is capable of producing.  Nevertheless, many thanks to those who turned up and ran their socks off so that, at the end, the BAC Senior Men comfortably retain their Division 1 status, which is the main aim throughout the season.  Rob McTaggart led the team home, and, with Richard Brawn, Stuart Glenister, Sanjai Sharma and Simon Hearn all finishing within the top 100, Division 1 status was secure.  Ian Graham, having thought, the previous day, that it was inevitable that he would have to run, ran anyway in case anyone dropped out.  Stuart, Sanjai and Simon completed the Veteran Mens‘ team, ensuring a position in the season’s results, which otherwise would not have occurred as BAC had no Veteran Mens‘ team at an earlier fixture.  On the day, BAC‘s Senior Men were 7th of 9 teams, and, on aggregate for the season, 6th of 9 teams, which has to be considered satisfactory – however, a glance at the positions for each of the five fixtures (3,2,8,6,7) gives a clue as to what might have been.  On the day, BAC‘s Veteran Men were 9th of 19 teams, 11th of 19 for the season.  The fact that there were more BAC ladies than men competing at Dibden is an indication of the fantastic progress of BAC‘s ladies over the last few years.  Holly Collier was amazing as ever, with strong runs from Nikki Sandell and Julia Austin securing an excellent team result of 5th of 20 teams on the day, and BAC‘s Veteran Ladies of Nikki, Julia and Kirsty Drewett finishing as the 6th team of 16 on the day.  BAC‘s teams had plenty of support with Louise Price, Mandy Adams, Annette Lewis and Jayne Wade also completing the course.  Annette is a very welcome addition to the BAC squad – although Annette couldn’t score for BAC this time as she has competed this season for Poole Runners she will certainly count next season!  So, at the end of the season, BAC‘s Senior Ladies were 7th aggregate of 18 teams, the Veteran Ladies an amazing 4th of 13 teams, and there were individual aggregate placings for Holly Collier (2nd overall female – by a quirk of the resulting Holly was 3rd U20W, with Poole Runner‘s Serena O’Connor 2nd; Serena was 3rd overall!) and Nikki Sandell who was 9th Veteran Lady.  Well done BAC ladies!!  A feature of Hampshire Cross Country League races this year has been the welcome increase in the number of BAC youngsters taking part (a tribute to the hard work of Simon Hearn and Tom Cochrane).  For instance, another very notable individual placing was Jasper Todd, who finished the season as 10th aggregate U15B.  At Dibden Jasper ran well, as always, to finish 8th in a field of 47.  There has been an U13B team at each and every one of the 5 fixtures this season, which must be a first for many, many years, and, in this respect, BAC is one of only six clubs who can claim this.  Congratulations to Louie Todd, Sam Brewer and Isaac Sandell who made up the BAC team at Dibden.  Clubs which have produced teams at just four fixtures still count in the final results, and BAC‘s U13B team was 9th for the season.  BAC was also represented in the girls’ races – Anya Sandell in the U15G and Martha Preece in the U13G. Many thanks to everyone who supported the various BAC teams in the Hampshire Cross Country League season, and especial thanks to Simon Hearn, who has taken the club tent and banner to all the fixtures, which does so much to enhance the ‘cross country experience’!  Subject to confirmation, the next season is likely to start at Kings Park on 19 October.  Please see below for full BAC results.

Holly Collier leads the BAC ladies home at Dibden

Please see below for more photos from Dibden…………..

Simon was also providing support to the BAC athletes competing in the Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill on 26 January, which was very much appreciated.  In addition to Rob McTaggart, Jasper Todd and Martha Preece, already mentioned, BAC vests were also worn at the fixture by Neve and Lauren East and Louie ToddNeve ran particularly well, as can be seen from the full results which follow.  Here are the full BAC results from Parliament Hill: Rob McTaggart (SM; 87th of 1154; time 51.15; distance 15k), Lauren East (U17W; 97th of 176; time 22.51; distance 5k), Jasper Todd (U15B; 34th of 296; time 16.18; distance 4.5k), Neve East (U13G; 24th of 316; time 13.03; distance 3k), Martha Preece (U13G; 90th of 316; time 13.52; distance 3k), Louie Todd (U13B; 257th of 330; time 14.06; distance 3k).

Results (BAC) of Hampshire Cross Country League, Dibden Inclosure, 9 February. Senior/Veteran Men: 19. Rob McTaggart 34.41, 63. Richard Brawn 38.41, 83. Stuart Glenister 40.17, 85. Sanjai Sharma 40.24, 96. Simon Hearn 41.35, 177. Ian Graham 50.41; Senior/Veteran Women: 9. Holly Collier (3rd U20W) 23.15, 28. Nikki Sandell 26.04, 47. Julia Austin 27.23, 76. Kirsty Drewett 29.59, 82. Louise Price 30.31, 95. Mandy Adams 31.43, 105. Annette Lewis, 110. Jayne Wade 34.05; U15B: 8. Jasper Todd 15.21; U13B: 60. Louie Todd, 66. Sam Brewer, 67. Isaac Sandell; U15G: 41. Anya Sandell 20.12; U13G: 15. Martha Preece 11.03.

More photos of BAC athletes at Dibden………………..

Richard Brawn
Stuart Glenister
Sanjai Sharma, whose late decision to compete may have saved BAC’s Division 1 status, at Dibden
Nikki Sandell
Julia Austin
Kirsty Drewett closely followed by Mandy Adams
Louise Price
Annette Lewis
Jayne Wade


Toby Chapman takes charge at Humdinger Half Marathon

Toby Chapman in the Humdinger Half Marathon
In a race that was quite close to his local area of Taunton, Toby Chapman took on the Humdinger Half Marathon, a race that incorporated 1,350ft of elevation

After a strong run from Steve Way forced him to settle for second place at a slightly shortened and snow capped Blackmore Vale Half Marathon the previous weekend, Toby Chapman was back in action at the Humdinger Half Marathon in Kingston St Mary, near his hometown of Taunton.

This time he was gunning for the glory though and wasn’t about to let anything or anyone stand in his way. The Humdinger isn’t an easy route though and features some very challenging climbs along the way. In fact, the course contains over 1,350ft of elevation.

Of course, with his accomplished mountain ultra background, that didn’t phase Toby one bit though. Last summer he completed the Mont Blanc 90km race, working his way up 22,400ft of elevation.

He also nailed the Salomon Ben Nevis Ultra at the Skyrunning World Championships. That was a 49km route with over 5,000ft of elevation. In April of last year, he managed to conquer the 53 mile Highland Fling as well, featuring 7,500ft of elevation.

Even with a repertoire like that though, the Humdinger Half Marathon wasn’t a race to be taken lightly and would still prove to be a testing run out for Toby.

The start line for the Humdinger Half Marathon
The runners and riders line up before the 2019 edition of the Humdinger Half Marathon gets underway, with Toby the big favourite

After blasting out of the blocks quickly, it was soon into the first significant climb of the race, which was Noah’s Hill about two miles in. Then it was steadily upwards for the next two miles reaching a peak of around 600ft.

Although the climb was pretty steep in places, Toby managed to power his way up there well and had soon built up a commanding lead over the rest of the field.

After a short downhill sector is was then back up again to the top of Volis Hill at around 5.5 miles. That was followed by a sharp descent down Rose Hill before a steep initial climb up Shelthorn Hill.

Toby Chapman in the lead at the Humdinger Half Marathon
Building up a clear advantage over the rest of the field, it soon became evident that there was only going to be one winner, and that was going to be Toby

From there it was onto a slightly gentler ascent to Lydeard Cross and then on to Rackhouse Copse, the highest point of the race at around 825ft. That was about 8 miles in.

From that point, the rest of the course was mostly downhill, enabling Toby to really pick up the pace. He got into his stride and began to accelerate down towards the finish.

By then his lead was unassailable and it was just a question of how big the winning margin would be. Toby didn’t rest on his laurels though. He kept on pushing all the way to the end, crossing the finishing line in a staggering time of 1:17:25.

Impressively, he had beaten the course record by about 90 seconds, crowning a very polished performance for Toby and one he could take great pride in.

Toby Chapman on his way to breaking the Humdinger Half Marathon course record
Toby ended up setting a fantastic new course record of 1:17:25 – an astonishing time for such an undulating course

Almost five minutes had passed before Toby’s nearest rival arrived at the finish. That was Phil Thorne from North Devon RRC, who went over the line in 1:22:10. He was followed in by Liam Culliford of Mendip Triathlon who completed the course in 1:22:31.

This resounding victory bodes well for Toby’s prospects in the Taunton Marathon which takes place in April. He’ll be defending the title that he won there last year in a time of 2:41:10.

Then a couple of weeks after he’ll be returning to the Highland Fling, looking to better the time of 7 hours 57 minutes and 50 seconds that he clocked last year, which earned him a 5th place finish. Later on in the summer he plans to head over to Italy for the Laverado – a 120km off-road ultra featuring over 5,800m of ascent.


Fantastic four sees Stu Nicholas share spoils at Enigma Quadzilla

Stu Nicholas and Keith Luxon at the Enigma Quadzilla
The daunting task ahead for Stu Nicholas was to complete four marathons in four consecutive days at the Enigma Quadzilla

After successfully managing to reach his target milestone of 50 marathons towards the end of last year, Stu Nicholas could have been forgiven for taking it a bit easier in 2019, but then, lets face it, that just simply isn’t in his nature.

This year Stu is planning to conquer even more marathons and take on some even tougher challenges and that intention was signalled resoundingly when he revealed he’d be taking on the Enigma Quadzilla.

The Enigma Quadzilla is an event that is every bit as beastly as it sounds, consisting of four marathons in four consecutive days. And these aren’t just any marathon either.

Each one entails completing of seven-and-a-half laps of Caldecotte Lake in Milton Keynes, thus making it, not just a physical challenge but a mental one as well. The distance of each lap is 3.55 miles, with one additional smaller 1.67 mile loop on each day to make a total distance of 26:52 miles.

The task doesn’t, however, mean the participants will be running four consecutive marathons that are exactly the same. That would just be sheer lunacy.

The organisers had, of course, thought of that and had introduced stringent measures to vary it up. They alternate the direction of each race, so the first one is run anti-clockwise, the second is clockwise, the third is anti-clockwise and the fourth and final one is clockwise.

The Caldecotte Lake course isn’t alien to Stu though. In fact, he kicked off his incredible marathon exploits last year with back-to-back marathon triumphs at the Winter Enigma, both of which were at Caldecotte Lake.

On bonfire night in 2017, he won the Enigma Fireworks Marathon, which was again at Caldecotte Lake and he also claimed victory in one of the “Week at the Knees” marathons there in March.

Having had so many great memories from the venue in the past, Stu had every reason to be confident going into the Quadzilla event but of course, he’d never done four consecutive marathons before, so in that sense, it was new territory for him.

Before setting off for his first marathon out of the four, on Thursday 7th February, Stu had been having doubts about whether he’d be able to complete all four marathons. What he did know though was that, once the hooter sounded and race got underway, he would do everything in his power to achieve that goal.

Planning to start off steadily and not expend too much energy on the first day, Stu had a very smooth start to the proceedings, running well within himself to finish in joint second place with Keith Luxon of Benfleet.

His time for the first marathon was 3:18:40 and, although it was quite a steady run from Stu’s perspective, only one man in the field was able to beat that and that was Paul Davies from Centurion RC who finished in 3:15:59.

Stu Nicholas and Keith Luxon in the Enigma Quadzilla
Stu and his new found running buddy Keith had to complete seven-and-a-half laps of Caldecotte Lake on each of the four days

On day two the conditions were a lot worse, with a howling wind and persistent rain to contend with, on top of the fatigue from the previous day’s exploits.

It didn’t slow Stu down though and he and his newly formed partner in crime, Keith Luxon cruised in for a joint victory, crossing the line in a time of 3:16:24.

Their closest rival on the day, Louise Parker arrived at the finish almost five minutes later, posting a time of 3:21:12. Then it was the previous day’s winner Paul Davies taking fourth in 3:29:16. That meant Stu and Keith were now in the lead in the Quadzilla standings.

After that his legs were aching a bit so he was fearing that the next day might not be so quick. However, with Keith by his side again for every lap, the pair finished together again in a time of 3:18:47.

This was almost exactly the same time they did the first marathon in so they were maintaining a remarkable consistency despite the obvious fatigue. They finished joint second on day three, with a chap called Bruno Denis securing the win in a time of 3:06:52.

The question now was, could they pull it together for one final time and keep that consistency going on day four? Stu and his new found buddy Keith had agreed to run every lap together and that they stuck to that pledge all the way.

On that morning, Stu’s legs were in bits and first and he was relying on Keith a bit to pull him round. As the race went on though, he gradually began to feel better.

The determined duo had a plan and they stuck to it – and it had worked a treat. They finished marathon four in joint first place with a time of 3:18:13, so again, an almost identical time to what they’d done on the other three days.

It was a truly impressive show of consistency from the two of them – and also discipline as well. To be able to complete all four marathons in the same time, they couldn’t afford to get carried away in any of the races. They had to ensure they kept plenty in reserve for the next day.

Since they’d been to hell and back together, the pair figured it was only fair to share the win for the Quadzilla competition. The fact that they were with each other every step of the way made it an altogether different experience than it would have been if they’d had to do it on their own. It made the laps go a lot quicker and they certainly felt a lot less monotonous.

Stu Nicholas and Keith Luxon after the Enigma Quadzilla
Stu was accompanied by Keith Luxon every single step of the way on his epic Enigma Quadzilla journey

So after completing the four marathons in times of 3:18:40, 3:16:24, 3:18:47 and 3:18:13, Keith and Stu finished up with a cumulative time of 13 hours 12 minutes and 4 seconds. That gave them a winning margin of 32 minutes and 43 seconds over their nearest rival Paul Davies, whose total cumulative time was 13:44:47.

After Paul it was four members of the 100 Marathon Club finishing in 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, including David Barr, who ran with Keith and Stu for as many of the laps each day as he could before they strode on ahead. Stu will of course be hoping that one day he will join David in the 100 Marathon Club.

In fact a comment from David on Keith’s Facebook post summed it up rather well when he said: “A truly incredible performance. It was a pleasure to watch two great runners own that lake. To do four sub-3:20 marathons in February conditions is astonishing. The quad kings of 2019.”

Enigma Quadzilla hoody and medal
The Enigma Quadzilla hoody and medal that Stu earned for dividing and conquering the huge challenge

It was the third best Enigma Quadzilla time of the nine years since it’s been going so that was some achievement from Stu in his debut quad and just goes to show how strong he can be in events that require some sort of superhuman level of endurance.

Needless to say, the day after he’d completed the challenge, Stu was hurting all over and his body was certainly letting him know how hard it had worked from the Thursday to the Sunday of that week.

He went in with no illusions that it was going to be easy and no visions of grandeur though. His only target was to finish and he was pleased as punch that he’d managed it. To win the competition was simply the icing on the cake.

And speaking of which, he did in fact come home to a rather delicious looking coffee and stout cake made by his partner Anna and no doubt he enjoyed replenishing all those lost calories when devouring that!

Coffee and stout cake made by Anna for Stu
Stu returned home to a hero’s welcome from his girlfriend Anna who had made him a tasty looking coffee and stout cake as a reward





Disco and Craig find their top gear at Chichester 10k

Dave Long and Craig Palmer took on the Chichester 10k
Dave Long and Craig Palmer were at Goodwood Motor Circuit looking to zoom round the Chichester 10k in ground-breaking times

Two of Bournemouth AC’s top speedsters Dave Long and Craig Palmer were brimming with optimism as they set off for the Chichester 10k at Goodwood and with the form the pacey pair have been displaying recently they had every right to be.

Dave has produced some breakthrough performances of late, smashing the Supersonic 10k course record at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, where he registered an incredible time of 30:42. Then a couple of weeks later he recorded a stunning sub-50 at the Great South Run.

Craig crowned his year with a sneaky sub-2:30 run at the Valencia Marathon in December that sent shockwaves through the Dorset running community.

That kind of magic doesn’t just happen by itself though. It’s a product of, not only raw talent, but hard work and endeavour as well. Dave and Craig have been training together a lot recently at the Disco Track Club Elite and their heartrate focused sessions have been carefully designed to steer that improvement curve to a higher plane.

Could they mix it with big guns at the Chichester 10k though, where the standard was expected to be astronomical? That was the big question.

The Chichester 10k is promoted by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory and is staged on public roads for the first 6 kilometres before finishing with a lap of the Goodwood Motor Circuit.

The course starts at the entrance of the motor circuit in Claypit Lane, passing the Rolls Royce factory before heading along the historic Roman road of Stane Street. It then passes through Strettington and back along New Road before entering the motor circuit for a complete lap and finishing in the pit lanes.

Although it may have finished in the pits, Dave and Craig certainly weren’t stopping off to refuel or change trainers at any point. They blasted off at a frightening speed and from that point on, the challenge was to try and maintain that pace for the rest of the run.

Dave Long and Craig Palmer in Chichester 10k
The 2019 edition of the Chichester 10k gets underway, with Disco and Craig in amongst the front runners

To begin with, Craig was going at roughly 5 minute mile pace. Disco was significantly under that, going through the first mile in 4:42 and the second in 4:48. He was looking to keep on terms with the lead group as they hurtled round.

After another quick mile at 4:51, Dave arrived at the 5k point in an astonishing time of 14:51, which was technically a 5k PB for him. He knew then that if he could dig in and keep going, he could be onto something really special.

Reaching the half way point in another remarkable time of 15:21, Craig also recorded his fastest ever 5k. He wasn’t stopping to think about that though. He was eager to press on and push even harder in the second half of the race.

For the next mile, Disco registered another fast one at 4:50. It was around the 8 or 9 kilometre mark that he lost focus a bit and began to drift off the back of the lead group. Dave is his own harshest critic though and felt he should have tried to grit his teeth and dig in a bit more at that point.

Finding some resolve over the last kilometre, Dave laid it down as hard as he possibly could, gunning for that super sub-30. As he reached the line though, the clock had just ticked over and he ended up finishing in 30:01.

He didn’t mind though really as it was still a huge PB for him and was a 41 second improvement on his Bournemouth Marathon Festival time. It was another magnificent breakthrough performance from Disco, giving him 8th place in what was an extremely high calibre field.

The race winner, William Mycroft of Enfield & Haringey AC crossed the line at 29:32 so Dave was less than half a minute behind that extremely impressive winning time.

As for Craig, he actually managed to pick up the pace after the first 5k, going through the following two miles at 5 minute mile pace. He then demonstrated amazing strength to record his fastest mile, registering a 4:54 for the sixth and final mile.

It turned out he’d actually run a superb negative split as he went over the line in a tremendous time of 31:19, which put him in 17th position. It was also a PB of exactly 1 minute for Craig, although he does admit that his previous best time at the Leeds Abbey Dash in 2017 was the day after he’d done a tough cross country and drank five pints of Guinness after.

It was a really pleasing time for Craig though and he could certainly be really proud of his efforts, especially since he only really did the race as part of a bet with Tag that he could get a sub-32.

That’s something Tag has been trying to do for quite some time now. They all went to the pub together the day after though to celebrate so no doubt Tag bought Craig a few beers then to satisfy the bet.

In total there were 1,472 finishers at the Chichester 10k, which underlines how well Disco and Craig did to place as high up in the standings as they did.

It wasn’t really even a big target race for Dave and he didn’t fully taper for it. He has his sights set on the Reading Half Marathon in March.

Since he doesn’t go up to half marathon distance very often in races, it will be interesting to see what kind of time he can do when he goes all out. He’s hoping for a sub-66 effort but most importantly, he’ll be looking to race at the front of the pack and be up their vying for the top positions.

Craig will be in action at the Lytchett 10 this weekend, where he will be using it as a marathon pace training run. That should still see him over the line in 56 minutes or so though. Then a couple of weeks after that it’ll be the next Dorset Road Race League fixture, the Bournemouth 10, where he will look to go quicker.

Dave Long and Craig Palmer at the Chichester 10k
The race was a huge success for Dave and Craig and with both of them recording terrific new 10k PBs, they went home elated with what they had achieved







Steve Way and Toby Chapman make it a BAC one-two at Blackmore Vale

Steve Way at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Going for his 7th win in the last 10 years, Steve Way returned to racing at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon but he’d face stiff competition from BAC teammate and two-time winner Toby Chapman

For many Dorset athletes, the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon provides the first big test of the season as they embark upon their journeys toward whichever marathon or ultra races they’ve got lined up for the Spring.

It is an event that has been dominated by Bournemouth AC members over the years. In fact, Steve Way has won it six times in the last nine years, with Toby Chapman picking up the title on two other occasions, including last year where he just edged Steve out for the victory by one second.

In this year’s edition, both Steve and Toby were back to battle it out again. GB 100k hero Ant Clark was also in the line-up looking to kick-start his training for the Comrades Marathon in the summer, where he will compete alongside Steve.

Since it wasn’t a league race this time round though, Blackmore Vale didn’t attract quite so many Bournemouth AC members as it did last year. Jez Bragg and Adrian Townsend were both down to race but they were unfortunately ruled out through injury so Ian Graham was the only other representative from the club to take part.

Toby, Steve and Ant at the start of the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
The star-studded start-line for the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon, included Toby, Steve and Ant Clark on the row behind in the red top

The cold weather we’ve been having recently did put pay to a number of races up and down the country, with conditions just too snowy or too icy to safely stage a race.

The Blackmore Vale Lions, who organise the event, did successfully manage to keep the race on though, although the course had to be adjusted to take out the hill you go down on the first mile and up on the last mile as it was simply too icy to run on.

Instead, the route started off on the road by the school, then went up to the main road and left down the other side of the field. Then it was straight up that road on the way back. Losing half a mile on the way out and half a mile of the way back meant that instead of being the full half marathon distance, it was only 12.1 miles on this occasion.

Everyone was happy with the change in course and most people in truth were just relieved that the race wasn’t cancelled. It was a beautiful sunny day that morning and the snow covered countryside provided a spectacular backdrop.

The route alteration didn’t stop Steve and Toby from assuming control of the race though and they soon built up a significant margin over the rest of the field.

It looked like it was destined to be another close one between the pair and they were still together at the 10 mile point. On the final set of hills though, Steve began to drift away from Toby and that proved to be decisive.

Steve Way in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Steve and Toby were neck-and-neck up until the 10 mile point where Steve began to pull away

Steve went on to add another victory to his impressive tally, crossing the line in a time of 1:08:32. Toby arrived 28 seconds later to take the runner up spot in 1 hour 9 minutes exactly, so it was a role-reversal of the result last year.

The dynamic duo were way ahead of anyone else in the field, with Mark Smith of Poole AC coming in five minutes later at 1:14:11 to take 3rd place. John Towner of Poole Runners was 4th with a time of 1:15:24, with Peter Dimbleby of Birchfield Harriers taking 5th place in 1:15:58.

Steve’s average pace for the run was 5:38 minutes per mile which was pretty much the same pace as he did in the race last year, so if it had had the additional mile, he would have probably finished it in just over 1:14 again.

Toby Chapman in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Toby ran well but had to settle for 2nd place this time round

That’s a good sign for Steve as, although he didn’t feel great during the run, it means he’s in a similar to shape to what he was at this stage last year, after which of course, he went on to achieve big things at the Comrades Marathon. Next up for Steve it’s the Lytchett 10 this coming Sunday, which is the second Dorset Road Race League fixture of the season.

As for Toby, he thoroughly enjoyed the run and said it felt good to be out there racing again. He’s now building up to the Highland Fling in April and the Laverado in the summer – a 120km trail ultra in Italy with over 5,800m of ascent.

Managing a highly impressive negative split, Ian Graham had an excellent run. He was picking off adversaries one-by-one throughout the race, which is always satisfying.

Finishing in 96th place with a time of 1:38:57, Ian was 2nd over 70 behind David Cartwright of Poole Runners who clocked a staggering time of 1:23:40. The Blackmore Vale Half Marathon is a race that Ian really enjoys so he was pleased to be out there giving his all.

Ian Graham at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Ian Graham always enjoys the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon and this year was no exception

Unfortunately it wasn’t such a happy ending for Ant Clark as he pulled out at the 10 mile point. Ant has been suffering from a hamstring injury recently which has been preventing him from running as hard as he otherwise would.

After experiencing some pain from that he decided to take the sensible option and abandon before he did any serious damage. He’ll now be spending most of this week in rehab hoping that he can make a full recovery and resume a full training programme next as of next week.

Ant Clark in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Ant decided to pull out of the race at the 10 mile point to safeguard against doing any more damage to his hamstring

In the women’s race, it was Rachel Astington of Running for Time who sealed the victory, crossing the line in 1:20:24, which put her in 20th place in the overall standings.

Lin Lascelles of Maiden Newton Runners was 2nd female, finishing in 1:24:48, putting her in 36th place overall. Clare Martin of Purbeck Runners was 3rd lady, completing the course in 1:25:20 and taking 37th position overall.

Steve Way picks up prize for 1st place in Blackmore Vale Half Marathon
Steve collects his prize for 1st place as his extraordinary record at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon continued




BAC starlets impress at Southern Cross Country Champs

Louie Todd in the South of England AA Cross Country Championships
Louie Todd was one of six Bournemouth AC members competing at the South of England AA Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill, five of whom were from the youth development squad

On what is perhaps the toughest and most brutal cross country course in the country, no fewer than five Bournemouth AC members from the youth development squads were bold enough to make the daunting trip over to Parliament Hill and lace up their spikes for the South of England AA Cross Country Championships.

In the Under 13 Girls race, both Martha Preece and Neve East were in action for the yellow and blues, whilst Lauren East went in the Under 17 Girls category. Louie Todd competed in the Under 13 Boys division, with his brother Jasper Todd flying the flag in the Under 15 Boys race.

There was also room for one big kid amongst the line up, with Rob McTaggart pitting his wits against the region’s finest  in the Senior Men‘s race.

Under the expert stewardship of Tom Cochrane and Simon Hearn, the BAC junior athletes have really been flourishing of late and the hard work they have been putting in in training is clearly paying dividends.

The juniors participate in track sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and as a bonus session, Simon has been running a training group over at Hengistbury Head on Sunday mornings where they practice hills.

Those additional hill sessions would have certainly helped in the South of England AA Championships as Parliament Hill is renowned for its extreme inclines and undulating profile throughout.

As is always the case at Parliament Hill, the mud was thick and it must have felt like wading through treacle at times for the athletes as they trudged round their respective routes, jostling for position in much larger fields than they would ordinarily be used to.

Continuing her fantastic recent run of results, Neve East had another outstanding performance to finish in 24th place out of 316 in the Under 13 Girls race. Recording a time of 13:03 for the 3k course, Neve finished less than a minute behind the race winner Ruby Vinton of Ipswich Harriers.

Neve East in the Southern Cross Country Championships
Neve East, in her trademark pink socks, glides across the mud with an eloquent ease as she races toward a lofty 34th place finish

Considering she was up against the best young girls in the South of England, it was a remarkable achievement from Neve in what has been a truly magnificent season.

Winning her age category in the Wessex Cross Country League, Neve also finished 8th when competing for Dorset in the South West Inter County Championships.

She also won the Dorset County Championships for the Under 13 Girls at Bryanston School a couple of weeks before Christmas.

Also running an excellent race in the Under 13 Girls category was Martha Preece, who crossed the line in 90th place in a time of 13:52, so again, well up the field despite the high standard of the opposition.

Martha Preece in the Southern Cross Country Championships
Martha Preece works her way toward the finish where she would comfortably take a top 100 position

Martha has also had a cracking season on the cross country circuit and was part of the same Dorset team as Neve that took 3rd place at the South West Inter Counties, finishing in a highly impressive 19th place that day.

Taking 5th position in the Under 13 Girls category in the Wessex League Cross Country this season, it`s clear to see that Martha has a bright future ahead of her.

On top of that, she was also 4th in the Dorset County Championships and regularly finished high up the pecking order in the Hampshire Cross Country League fixtures.

Meanwhile, back at the South of England AA Champs, the Under 17 Girls had a 5k route to contend with and Neve’s sister Lauren East featured in that race for Bournemouth AC.

She came in in a very creditable 97th place in a field of 176, which was a decent result for Lauren, especially considering that she was up against the best that the South of England has to offer. Lauren`s time was a very solid 22:51.

Lauren East in the Southern Cross Country Championships
Lauren East blasts her way round the 5 kilometre course in the Under 17 Girls race

There have been many positive results for Lauren over the numerous cross country fixtures she’s taken part in this season and finishing 26th in the South West Inter Counties could well be one of the highlights. She also finished 10th in the last Hampshire League Cross Country fixture at Prospect Park in Reading.

As for the boys, it was Louie Todd wearing the famous yellow and blue in the Under 13 race, which was also 3 kilometres in length. He gave it everything he’s got, securing 257th place out of the 330 who took part and clocking a superb time of 14:06.

Having also competed in a number of the Hampshire League and Wessex League Cross Country fixtures over the course of the season, Louie has shown great enthusiasm to get involved, as has his brother Jasper, who featured in the Under 15 Boys race at the South of England AA Champs.

Louie Todd in the South of England AA Cross Country Championships
Louie Todd battles his adversaries in the Under 13 Boys race where he did his coaches proud to come in 257th in a very high standard field

Demonstrating the terrific talent he has in his armory, Jasper Todd was 34th over the line, completing the 4.5k course in a staggeringly quick time of 16:18. That was out of a field of 296.

Jasper’s achievements for the season so far include a 10th place finish in the South West Inter Counties where he was part of a Dorset team that took 3rd place in the Under 15 Boys category.

Also winning a gold medal in the Dorset County Championships at Bryanston School, this would have to go down as an extremely successful season from Jasper’s perspective.

Finishing just outside the top ten in a couple of the Hampshire League Cross Country fixtures, Jasper also took 2nd place in the Wessex League race at Lytchett School back in October.

Jasper Todd in the South of England Cross Country Championships
Jasper Todd, to the left of the picture, had a terrific run, putting the hill training he`d been given to great effect in the Under 15 Boys race

Going along to support the juniors that he coaches, Simon Hearn was extremely proud of their efforts at the South of England AA Championships and was thrilled to see them all performing so well.

In fact the junior athletes deserve a lot of recognition for all the hard work they’ve put in over the season and there’s certainly no doubt that these bright prospects are putting Bournemouth AC on the map when it comes to the youth athletics scene.

Also in action for Bournemouth AC in the Senior Men`s race was Rob McTaggart, who has been involved in some pretty raucous races at Parliament Hill over the years.

In fact, he’s competed in the Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill on five separate occasions now and also featured in the event at Stanmer Park in Brighton last year. He’s also been to Parliament Hill for the National Cross Country Championships on a couple of occasions.

Rob McTaggart in South of England Cross Country Championships
Rob McTaggart featured in the Senior Men`s race where he wasn`t prepared to be brushed aside easily in a fiercely competitive and feisty field

Very few of those races have gone by without incident though and this one was no different. Tag found himself face down in the mud on a couple of occasions, once just 600m into the race and the second time at around 4km.

He rallied well though did his best to move through the field and make up for any lost ground. Although he had a couple of bad patches on the muddier sections, he was very satisfied with his performance and even managed a decent sprint finish at the end to take 87th place.

That was a mightily impressive result in a huge field of 1,154 men and of course, being the South of England Championships, the standard of the competitors he was up against was extremely high.

Completing the brutal 15 kilometre course in a time of 51 minutes and 15 seconds, it was certainly one of his best cross country performances to date and demonstrates how he often manages to raise his game in the most challenging of races, and in particular, those where the stakes are notably high.