It isn’t very often an athlete of the current generation puts in a performance that stands out when put up against the best in the archives of Bournemouth AC history. That’s mainly because there have been so many high calibre athletes that have pulled on the hallowed yellow and blue vest over the years.
There was always a chance that could happen though when Craig Palmer headed over to Germany for the 2019 BMW Berlin Marathon.
Craig’s running has gone from strength to strength since he moved down to the south coast and with every step he’s taken he’s looked more and more like the real deal.
He was initially a member of Littledown Harriers and it was in 2017 that he started winning numerous local races and emerging as a special talent.
In 2018, Craig joined Bournemouth AC as first claim and he hasn’t looked back since. Representing the club in track events, cross country and road races, Craig’s rise through the rankings has been meteoric.
In December that year he showed a glimpse of the amazing marathon potential he has by completing the Valencia Marathon in 2:29:16. He wasn’t done there though. He wanted more.
In March this year he finished 32nd in the Vitality Big Half Marathon coming in with a staggeringly quick time of 1:09:37. Then he went on to run 2:27:18 in the Manchester Marathon a month later coming in 11th place overall.
Ever since then he’s been quietly focusing his efforts on the Berlin Marathon. He’s gone about his training with an admiral degree of professionalism and hasn’t often allowed himself to deviate from his training plan and get drawn into local races or other temptations.
His time at the Manchester Marathon was good but it left him feeling a tinge of disappointment as he felt he had a better time in him. It was so hard for him to stay motivated on certain sections of the race though whilst heading down empty roads with no other runners near him and no crowd to push him on.
That most certainly would not be the case in Berlin though. Berlin is one of the biggest marathons in the world, boasting even more participants than the London Marathon. It’s also thought to be the fastest as well. It is of course, the course that Eliud Kipchoge set the world record on last year.
If there was ever a marathon that could bring out the best in Craig, it would surely be Berlin. He certainly hadn’t banded his target time about as much as Kipchoge did though. He didn’t want to put any undue pressure on himself. He knew what he was aiming for and it would be down to him to make it happen.
Craig started off in a pen just behind the elite runners, of which there were some of the very best in the world, including Kenenisa Bekele. Completing his first mile in 5:34, it soon became clear that Craig wasn’t messing around. He meant business.
It would be easy to think running a first mile at that pace that he’d perhaps got dragged along by the crowd a touch, which is easily done. But he hadn’t. That was the pace he was intending to run at for the entire duration of the marathon. In fact, it was slightly slower even.
Going through the first 5k in 17:03, it was a good start from Craig and he was bang on track. That was an average pace of 5:30 m/m. Keeping his pace very consistent, his next 5k was completed in 17:06, which was 5:31 pace.
That was then followed by a 17:04 5k, which was again, 5:30 pace. He then cranked it up a notch for his next 5k, completing that in 16:53, which was 5:27 pace.
Reaching the half marathon point in 1:12:45, it was so far so good for Craig and he was looking on target for an incredible time, if he could sustain it.
Going through the next 5k in exactly 17 minutes, that was 5:29 pace. He then followed that up with a 17:08, which was 5:32 pace. If you thought his performance was slipping at that point, you’d be wrong.
His next 5k was his fastest yet at 16:42, which was an astoundingly quick 5:23 pace. That really began to put him in the picture for something truly memorable.
Even though he was nearing the end of the race, he didn’t seem to be tiring. If anything, he seemed to be growing in strength and building up speed.
Completing his last full 5k in 16:54, which was 5:27 pace, he now had just 1.64 miles remaining. He ran that at 5:30 pace, taking him just over 9 minutes.
A very fast last half a mile saw him arrive at the finish line in an astonishing time of 2:24:52. It had been an absolute distance running masterclass from Craig and he was now a member of the illustrious, sub 2:25 group.
He’d actually ran a negative split as well, clocking his second half marathon at 1:12:07, which made it an even better performance from a running purist’s perspective.
It appeared he’d got everything right. The race strategy, the pace, the tempo… everything was spot on. That didn’t just happen by chance though. It was all down to careful planning and strictly bespoke training that got him into the shape he needed to be in order to perform like that on the big stage.
That magnificent result made Craig the 104th man to cross the line on the day, out of 30,817. It was an incredibly impressive position in such a high standard race where runners travel from all over the world to get involved.
Craig was also 43rd in the M30 category out of 4,107. Out of all the UK athletes in field, of which were nearly 3,000, Craig was 7th fastest, which underlines how well he did.
That moves Craig up to 13th on the all-time best list for Bournemouth ACmarathon times, just ahead of a certain Dave Parsons who ran the London Marathon in 2:25:06 back in 1989.
It really was a truly phenomenal achievement from Craig and one he should look back on with immense pride. Knowing him though, he’s probably already thinking about what his next target will be and how he’s going to improve on that.
You can have all the ability in the world in running but if you don’t have the drive to want to succeed and want to better yourself, you won’t make the most of it. Craig does have that drive though. He has that inner desire to be the best and that’s what will no about spur him on to even greater things in years to come.
Ultra distance running is a journey of discovery. The more you do it, the more you learn about yourself. What you can do, what you can’t do and what you need to do to help you be able to do the things you can’t do. It about finding out what works for you personally.
A few months ago Toby Chapman was sat on the high street in Cortina d’Ampezzo feeling awful, demoralised and very sick. At that point, he vowed never to do a long race again.
Two weeks later he entered his first ever 100-mile race and seven weeks after that he was on the start line of the Cotswold Way Century.
His experience at the Lavaredo Ultra Trail had been a difficult one. The race entailed heading off at 11pm for a 120km trek across the Dolomites mountains incorporating 5,800m of ascent.
His training had gone well and he was in great shape, but the race did not go as planned. About 45km into the race he started to feel sick and from that point on it became a real struggle.
Incredibly, Toby somehow managed to soldier on and finish the race, despite feeling sick for 12-and-a-half hours of the 18-and-a-half hours he was running for.
It was still an epic achievement to complete the race but it was tinged with disappointment for Toby as he knew he could have done so much better. He came to the conclusion that it was all down to fuelling and not taking in any solid foods earlier on in the run.
Rather than let that disappointment get the better of him though, Toby vowed to take those learnings and use them to improve his performance in his next ultra race and that’s exactly what he was looking to do at the Cotswold Way Century.
The route for the Coltswold Way Century starts in Chipping Campden and heads along the Cotswold Way, all the way to Bath Abbey.
One thing to note about the Cotswold Way though is, it’s extremely hilly, so Toby and his contemporaries had to be prepared for a bumpy ride. It was a mixed terrain course with a few road sections, lots of stony tracks, plenty of grassy trails and a number of ploughed fields.
At least time the race started off at a more sensible hour with the proceedings getting underway as the clock struck 12 midday. At the first checkpoint, 27 miles into the race, there was a lead group of five runners of which Toby was a part of.
They all arrived between 4 hours 38 and 4 hours 39 minutes, which was an average pace of 10:06 minutes per mile. A few others filtered in around 10 minutes later. They’d already hit over 4,000ft of elevation.
It appeared at this stage that everyone had approached it in a sensible way, rather than tearing off to quickly and tiring themselves out after the first marathon. If you really want to go the distance in a 100 mile race, you have to respect the distance, first and foremost.
The next checkpoint was Birdlip, 39 miles in. Toby arrived with two other runners in a time of 6 hours 51 minutes. They all arrived 11 minutes after Tommasso Migliuolo who was in the lead. Then there was a group of other runners about 10 to 20 minutes after Toby.
This time he was managing to consume some solid foods, including spaghetti hoops, Rice Crispy Squares and some GU chews, as well as some chews. He knew getting the right level of fuel into his body was crucial.
On they went, heading for the next checkpoint at Painswick, which was 48 miles in. Toby was still with the same two runners, Scott Smith and Zen Sherley-Dale. They came in at 8 hours 37 minutes and were sitting 9 minutes behind the leader, which was still Tommasso.
Over the past 20 or so miles Toby had added another 2,500ft of elevation and had been running at an average pace of 11:07 minutes per mile. They were now almost half way into the race.
The next checkpoint was at Coaley, 58.5 miles in, where Toby arrived at in 23 hours 20 minutes. Zen Sherley-Dale came in just after but Scott Smith had abandoned the race by this point. Tommasso had now stretched his lead to 19 minutes over Toby.
From there it was onto Wotton, 71 miles in. Toby came in at 14 hours and 5 minutes, still accompanied by Zen. They were still 20 minutes behind Tommasso. Toby and Zen had a 30 minute gap over the next runner to come in.
The past 23-and-a-half miles had seen Toby work his way up another 3,750ft of elevation and he managed to get through that at an average pace of 12:58 minutes per mile.
It was so far so good for Toby but there was no time for resting on his laurels. He needed to crack on and progress further. Next up, it was the 80 mile point at Horton, where Toby and Zen arrived at in 16 hours 29 minutes.
Tommasso had managed to increase his advantage at the front of the race to 29 minutes now and it was beginning to look like he would emerge the victor.
The fourth man in the standings, Greg Nieuwenhuys, had actually made some ground up on Toby and Zen over this sector and was now only 11 minutes behind them.
They were tiring significantly by this point but they soldiered on. Toby had continued to ensure he kept eating at each checkpoint and that seemed to serve him well and keep his energy levels in tact.
Over this next part of the race there were some occasions where Toby took a wrong turn. That was particularly frustrating because in a 100-mile race, the last thing you want to be doing is adding extra distance!
At one point he almost sat down and had a tantrum after running almost a mile back in the direction he came from after missing a turning. But he managed to keep his head and get back on the right track and, in actual fact, he found he was going surprisingly well despite already having 80 miles in the legs.
At the 87 mile checkpoint of Tormarton, Toby clocked in at 18 hours 10 minutes. After the various wrong turns he’d lost some ground to Zen and was now 16 minutes behind him.
Furthermore, his third place position was coming under threat from Greg Nieuwenhuys who was now only three minutes back. Tommasso was still out in front with a 22 minute advantage over Zen.
The following checkpoint was Cold Ashton, which was 92 miles in. Toby arrived there in 19 hours and 7 minutes. Crucially he’d managed to increase the gap between himself and Greg Nieuwenhuys to 7 minutes.
Zen was still 15 minutes ahead though and was looking good for 2nd place. Tommasso’s advantage had now been but to 12 minutes but it still looked like he’d have enough to see out the win.
The final checkpoint was at Weston, 99.5 miles in. The route was actually 102 miles in total so there was still a little way to go after that. At this stage though, Toby knew he was within touching distance of the finish and that must have been a great feeling.
He’d been running for 20 hours and 32 minutes and was in 3rd place on the leaderboard, 22 minutes behind Zen who was 2nd. Tommasso held a 14 minute advantage over Zen at the front of the race. Toby had now extended his lead over Greg in 4th to 16 minutes so it appeared that his top three finish had now been all but sealed.
Over the last 23-and-a-half miles, Toby had amassed another 2,500ft of elevation and had done it at an average of 10:51 minutes per mile.
There was a feeling of true elation as Toby arrived into the finish to take a well-deserved 3rd place finish. Crossing the line in a time of 20 hours 59 minutes and 50 seconds, he had done it! He’d successfully completed the full 102 mile distance and that in itself was a huge accomplishment. To get a top three finish was just the icing on the cake for Toby.
Tommasso Migliuolo held firm for the victory, finishing in 20 hours 25 minutes and 8 seconds. Zen took 2nd place, 9 minutes and 20 seconds behind Tommasso. Toby’s gap over Greg Nieuwenhuys finished up at 17 minutes as Greg took 4th place in a time of 21:16:53.
It had been an event he would never forget for Toby. The feeling of having completed a 100 mile race was one of great pride and satisfaction. Especially when you consider he had to overcome 12,100ft of ascent over the course of the run.
Above all though, he’d enjoyed the race. It had provided him with the opportunity to make new friends and work as a team in what is often perceived to be an individual sport. He met several inspiration people along the way and he’d managed to conquer his demons in regard to taking food on board and fuelling correctly.
It was exactly what ultra running should be. A massive personal challenge where you learn a lot about yourself. And Toby learnt that he had the character to suffer a disappointment, come back fighting and channel that disappointment in a way that would make him stronger. He also discovered that he had the courage, the belief, the will and the heart to see out an epic 102 mile adventure.
It’s tougher than your average 10k, that’s for sure, and that’s by virtue of the fact that it’s actually almost 11k. Plus there are some testing hills to negotiate along the way as well, with the Black Hill 10k course incorporating an elevation gain of around 675ft.
Of course, none of that put Kirsty Drewett and Simon Hunt off. Kirsty loves a hilly race and she was coming off the back of a run out in the Purbeck 16, which is a very tough, undulating route featuring almost 2,000ft of elevation.
She was actually planning to compete in the Run Jurassic Half Marathon as well the weekend after the Black Hill 10k and that included an ascent up Golden Cap, the highest point of the south coast. Unfortunately that race got canned though due to high winds on the day of the race.
Simon Hunt participated in the Black Hill 10k last year as well, so he knew full well what it was all about. The course is a figure of eight loop, heading round Mays Plantation, up onto the ridge, then descending down the Jubilee Trail to Turners Puddle.
Then it’s over Kite Hill and through Piddle Wood, then down Jubilee Trail to Turners Puddle for a second time. Then it’s over to Black Hill for the finish.
The first mile was uphill which brought about the steady start for Simon. He was then able to gather some pace over the downhill stretch over the second and third mile. Then it was back uphill again all the way to slightly beyond the fourth mile.
Simon managed to crank the pace up well over the downhill section on the 5th mile, leaving him with only the tough climb up Black Hill and back down again remaining.
The hill took it out of him a bit but he pushed on well on the descent down to the finish, crossing the line in 51st place with a time of 51:45.
That put him 2nd to Hamish Murray of Purbeck Runners in the M65-69 category, just like he was last year. Hamish’s time was a very strong 45:24 which saw him slot into 18th place. Comparing his time to last year, Simon was 41 seconds slower on this occasion, but it was still a decent run on such a tricky course.
Kirsty felt her race was a bit of shambles really from start to finish. She was struggling to get enough oxygen into her lungs and was having difficulty breathing in the heavy air.
The first hill was a bit of a battle for her and the second and third hills proved even tougher and she had trouble keeping a high tempo as she worked her way up. It was only the beauty of the course that could keep her motivated.
She did manage to put in a decent spurt at the end though on the way down to the finish and ultimately got over the line in a time of 1:01:04. That put her in 123rd place out of the 258 who successfully completed the course. She was also 8th in the F40-44 category.
One major plus point for Kirsty though was that her knee was better than she’d expected. She’s been suffering from an injury and has been wearing a knee support recently but she wasn’t in too much pain over the course of the race. That was a good sign.
The race was won by Barry Miller of Poole AC who finished in an excellent time of 42:41. He was followed by Luke Dowsett of Littledown Harriers who crossed the line in 43:03 and Sam Davis who registered a time of 43:07.
The first female over the line was Anne-Marie Bayliss who completed the course in 48:37, putting her in 33rd place overall. Then it was Charlotte Halford of Purbeck Runners who finished in 51:06, putting her in 47th overall.
Helen Gilbert of Littledown Harriers was 3rd lady, coming in in a time of 51:41. That put her in 50th place overall. The event also featured a 10k Canicross race for the dog lovers, a 5k and a 3k for the juniors.
It was a pretty tough race for both Simon and Kirsty but if nothing else, it will go down as a great training run for both them and will surely go some way toward boosting their fitness for other races to come.
As she got herself primed and ready for her next big adventure, Linn Erixon Sahlström felt that this one might well be her absolute biggest and toughest challenge so far. And that’s saying something!
She’s battled the Jurassic Coast 100-Miler twice, finishing as 1st female on both occasions. She’s conquered the 123km TDS race at the UTMB which incorporated 6,800 metres of elevation. Four months ago she took on the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 50, which was the most technical and most demanding race she’d ever been involved in.
In the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa though, she’d found a task that she felt might just top all of those. The 170km course with 11,600m of ascent looked an extremely daunting prospect on the face of it.
Reaching altitudes of up to 3,200m, traversing a glacier, crossing the world’s longest suspension bridge… This race had it all and looked like it would prove to be a truly epic and memorable running experience for Linn.
Since she hadn’t had the luxury of being able to train in the mountains, Linn had been wearing a mask to simulate the high altitude she’d have to contend with in the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa.
Running in altitude is of course, notoriously much more difficult than at sea level. As you get higher up, the air becomes thinner and it becomes more difficult to get enough oxygen into the lungs.
Attempting a mountain race without having experienced this or trained for it in any way can have disastrous consequences. The mask enabled Linn to replicate the breathing difficulties she might encounter as she ascends the high peaks.
Even though she knew it would be difficult, Linn set off with every intention a completing the full 170km route and overcoming every mountainous climb she came into contact with. Not only that though, she planned to be competitive as well, which would mean being able to run strongly for the entire duration of the race.
To begin with, everything was going according to plan for Linn. She’d managed to stick to her pace and show plenty of grit on the inclines. She took it conservatively on the descents knowing that only a sensible and measured approach would see her through to the end in the sort of time she wanted.
She did struggle with her breathing at times which was to be expected at that altitude but as she approached the half way stage in the race, it was all going pretty well.
As far as Linn was concerned though, the race wouldn’t really start until she was 120km in. That was when she planned to make her move and start working her way up the field. Unfortunately though, she was to be denied that opportunity.
At the half way point of the race, Gressoney La Trinite, the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa came to an abrupt end, due to severe weather warnings. It was a tough call from the race organisers, with hundreds of participants having travelled from all over the world to take part.
At the end of the day though, safety had to come first and continuing the race and putting all those athletes at risk would have been the wrong thing to do. The heavy snowfall that followed went some way toward confirming that the right decision had been made.
The results were then determined by the last checkpoint each competitor had made it to when the race was stopped and the time they got there in.
Although she’d taken it quite steadily over the course of the race thus far, Linn was still one of only five women who made it to Gressoney La Trenite. She arrived in a time of 17 hours 1 minute and 40 seconds, which put her in 5th place.
Although that was still a fantastic result for Linn in such a competitive field, it would have been interesting to see where she would have ended up had it gone the full distance. She wasn’t far behind Russian lady Maria Josephine Liao who was 4th in 16:54:50.
Then there was Sarah Hansel of the USA in 3rd place with a time of 16:18:44 and Lizzie Wrait of the UK who took 2nd in 16:09:33. Corine Kagerer of Switzerland had a seemingly unassailable lead though, reaching Gressoney in a time of 13:52:15.
When all is said and done though, it was still a podium place for Linn so that was something to be proud of. Plus she’d completed 86km (53 miles) with 5,200m of elevation, which is no mean feat.
Unfortunately she never got to see the mystical, majestic Matterhorn which has a summit at 4,478m high making it one of the highest in Europe.
She did still experience some magical moments including manoeuvring across a glacier in her micro-spikes for the first time ever whilst a snowstorm flares up around her. She also heard the sounds of the horn-blowers in the middle of nowhere in the pitch black at 4:30am.
She also caught a glimpse of how truly beautiful and scenic this race can be as well as a taste of how brutal and unforgiving the climbs are. On this occasion though, she had been forced to concede defeat to the mountains.
Linn does have some sadness in her heart about not being able to explore the magical route around Monte Rosa in its entirety. She is, however, determined to return one day to complete the full distance and conquer second highest mountain in the Alps once and for all.
The lure of a 16-mile trundle over the hills of the Purbeck proved a temptation too hard to resist for five brazen Bournemouth AC souls who wanted to test their metal on a challenging course.
The Purbeck 16 was one of five featured races in the Purbeck Running Festival. The others were The Purbeck 3 (5k), the Purbeck 6(10k), The Purbeck Marathon and The Purbeck Ultra, which is 54 miles.
The five Bournemouth AC members lining up to take on the tough off-road route were Kirsty Drewett, Adrian Townsend, Wayne Walford-Jelks, Damian Boyle and Billy McGreevy.
The race started and finished in Swanage, heading from the Downs overlooking the beach towards Durlston Country Park and along the Jurassic Coast Path, passing through the villages of Worth Matravers and Kingston.
It then runs through some heathland and onto Corfe Castle before returning to Swanage via the hill Ridgeway and finishing up on the seafront. The climbs on the route are difficult but they are rewarding, as the stunning views help make all the toil worthwhile.
Although it’s called The Purbeck 16, the course is actually billed as being closer to 16 miles. But as each of the BAC members racing found out, it was actually much closer to 17 miles!!
Each of the five BAC representatives had been sidelined from running over extensive periods at one time or another. Damian was out of action for a considerable time during the earlier part of the year due to injury.
Billy has been struggling for quite some time a knee complaint and Adrian is suffering from plantar fasciitis which condemns him to mostly off-road stuff.
Even Kirsty has had issues with injury which has made it difficult for her and played havoc with her training for her first ever marathon, which incidentally was the Purbeck Marathon.
One thing they all have in common though is that they haven’t let the injuries get the better of them and their performances in the Purbeck 16 were a testament to that.
Billy did well to finish in 5th place, recording a time of 2:07:55. That was a pretty good result considering he’s not quite at his peak at the moment and he managed well on an extremely hilly course. His knee tends to start playing up after about 10 miles on the road but luckily that doesn’t seem to happen on trails.
Coming in just behind Billy was his BAC teammate Damian who crossed the line in 2:08:07. He surprised himself with the performance he delivered as it was only really a training run.
It seems all the hill work he does is eventually paying off as he overtook people on every hill. His total elevation for the run was almost 2,000ft so there were plenty of inclines for him excel in.
Damian also finished as 1st Male Vet 40, which he had no idea about until his award arrived in the post a week later. He was gutted he didn’t hang around afterwards now for the presentation as it was the first thing he’s ever won.
Adrian reached the finish in a time of 2:27:44 which put him in 23rd place. He hadn’t really trained for it but he saw that the weather looked great for and it was a good excuse to try something different.
Kirsty often seems to find herself running in scorching hot conditions and this one was no different. She tends to struggle with the heat at times so for her to negotiate this race in the way that she did was pretty impressive.
Crossing the line in 78th place, Kirsty’s finishing time was 2:56:27. That put her one place ahead of Sarah Swift of Poole Runners who certainly isn’t afraid of a tough off-roader. She registered a time of 2:56:50.
The race was on the same day as the Littledown 5 league race and Wayne had somehow managed to double book himself with that and the Purbeck 16.
Instead of taking the easy way out though, he opted for the tougher, more challenging race and hit the Purbeck hills with gusto. Completing the course in a time of 3:07:05, Wayne took 110th place in the overall standings.
In total there were 187 participants, of which 185 successfully completed the course. All the BAC members only had good things to say about the race afterwards. In fact, Billy said it was one of the best local races he’s taken part in.
It was a very well organised event and, as you expect from the Purbeck, the route was extremely picturesque. Plus it was the perfect distance for anyone not wanted to do an Autumn marathon but looking to get a fairly long race in.
It didn’t prove too difficult for Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson to get a team together for the latest fixture in the Dorset Road Race League calendar which was the Littledown 5.
Since it was such a local race and only a five miler as well, there were plenty of the yellow and blue army chomping at the bit to get a piece of the action.
Even Craig Palmer and Dave Long, who haven’t featured in many of the league fixtures this season, agreed to turn out, although they were adamant that it would be a strictly tempo-paced run for them as they hone their fitness for bigger target races.
That said, Craig and Dave’s tempo run pace was likely to prove faster than most of the athletes in the field would be able to go so it was still worth having them in the team.
Also present in the line up was local celebrity Pete Thompson, who has been running well lately and seems to have rediscovered some great form.
These days Pete is all about just enjoying his running though. He won’t allow himself to get bogged down in the competitiveness of it like he has done in the past. He just does it for fun now but that doesn’t mean he won’t give it his all and perform to a high standard when he does pull on the hallowed yellow and blue vest.
Straight outa trackville, Joy Wright and Harriet Slade also joined the team, each making a rare appearance on the road. The BAL is in its off-season at the moment which gives them some opportunity to deviate from track duties and vary it up a bit.
Joy has been suffering a fair bit with injuries over recent times but she has always maintained the desire to get out there and compete and that says a lot about her character.
Harriet has been experiencing some plantar issues of late which seem to effect her more when she runs on the road. With track running, she’s usually fine and doesn’t find it especially painful. When she’s pounding the tarmac though, that’s a different matter.
Of course, an ever-present in the Dorset Road Race League so far, Matt du Cros took another step closer to the fidelity award. After this there would only be two fixtures remaining for him to complete in order to take home the fidelity prize.
After recording a stonking victory in his first race for Bournemouth AC at the Purbeck 10k, Rob Spencer was back in league action and was likely to be a major contender for top honours at the Littledown 5.
After missing out on the last two league races, the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon and Round the Rock, due to work commitments, Mitch Griffiths was back in the line up for BAC as well.
It was frustrating for Mitch as it was the first time in quite a while he’d actually been fit to compete in a league match but he was in Dubai so was presented from doing so. Before that he’d been out of action for about 7 months due to Achilles tendonitis.
Last season Mitch won his age category division in the Dorset Road Race League and he was hoping he’d be able to have a go at defending his title but sadly he won’t have done seven races now.
When the race first started, to everyone’s surprise it was Craig Palmer who sprinted off and into the lead. He was meant to be running it at tempo pace so for a while that put the cat amongst the pigeons.
It turned out it was all in name of banter though and Craig soon eased up let his teammate and training partner Rob Spencer take up the reigns at the front of the pack. And once Rob does that, he’s usually pretty difficult to catch.
If anyone could do it though, it was going to be Lytchett Manor Strider, Lee Dempster, who has triumphed in a number of local races over recent times. He was hot on Rob’s heels. Josh Cole was also in a mix as well in the opening stages of the race.
It was good to see Poole AC return with a strong line-up after a notable absence of many of their top runners from the previous four Dorset Road Race League fixtures.
They had Chris Alborough and Mark Smith in the chasing pack which also included Stu Nicholas of BAC. Dave Long was taking it very steady, tagging onto the back of the group, kitted out in his blue tempo t-shirt.
Alex Goulding was in a group just behind them, along with Neil Sexton of Poole Runners, who he’d had a good battle with for the M40 prize at Round the Rock. Robert Doubleday and Dave Hicks of Poole AC were also in that group.
As the race progressed, Pete Thompson began to move through the field and work his way up toward the front, as did Mitch Griffiths. They were both running strongly and smoothly as they hunted down their rivals up ahead and picked them off, one by one.
The first half of the Littledown 5 course is actually a fair bit tougher than the second half, with more gradual inclines present. In the second half of the race, the gradual declines are more prominent, enabling those who have paced it right to pick up the pace a bit over the latter stages.
Sure enough, Rob Spencer‘s lead at the front of the field turned out to be unassailable and he cruised in for the victory in a superb time of 26:39. With an average pace of 5:17 minutes per mile, he finished up 23 seconds ahead of Lee Dempster who was 2nd in a time of 27:02.
Josh Cole had been forced to pull out of the race with a hamstring injury, much to his frustration and, had that not happened, he would surely have featured in and around the top placings.
Chris Alborough of Poole AC took 3rd place in a time of 27:12 ahead of his teammate Mark Smith who crossed the line in 27:44. Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders completed the top five, registering a time of 28:03.
Weighing in the stunning and somewhat unexpected PB of 28:06, Stu Nicholas arrived at the finish in 6th place, beating his previous best 5-mile time by 10 seconds.
Stu has recovered well from his 100k Roseland August Trail race and has been in fantastic form ever since, picking up a marathon victory in the Crafty Fox Marathon the weekend before the Littledown 5.
In fact, Stu was the first of a contingent of four consecutive Bournemouth AC runners to reach the finish. Managing to latch onto the back of Craig and Disco’s training run, Mitch Griffiths was able to leverage that to help drive his pace forward.
Towards the end of the race, Mitch began to push on and ultimately managed to secure a new PB, crossing the line in 7th place with a time of 28:13. That eclipsed his time at the Hoburne 5 last year by two seconds.
A couple of seconds later, Pete Thompson arrived at the finish to take 8th place in a time of 28:15. He was followed in by Craig Palmer who was 9th in what, for him, was a very steady time of 28:17.
That meant Bournemouth AC already had five men over the line out of the top nine places, meaning they’d easily won the Dorset Road Race League fixture.
After a disappointing 3rd place finish at Round the Rock in the previous fixture, they needed to bounce back to negate the threat of Egdon Heath Harriers, and they’d certainly done that emphatically.
Poole AC got their third runner in when Gareth Alan-Williams arrived to complete the top ten, finishing in a time of 28:18. Kevin Willsher of Lordshill Road Runners came in in 11th place in 28:19 before Dave Long arrived to take 12th in 28:21.
Craig and Disco continued their training runs after the race, going on to complete almost 18 miles each in total.
Completing the top five for Poole AC and giving them 2nd place in the men’s first division of the DRRL for the fixture, Robert Doubleday and Dave Hicks took 13th and 14th places respectively in times of 28:39 and 28:42.
Securing a new 5-mile PB of 28:42, Alex Goulding came in in 15th place. That bettered his previous record by 2 seconds. Unfortunately the age categories for the Littledown 5 were slightly different than usual, with the first male vets category being 35-44, which meant he wasn’t in contention for a prize.
On the Thursday before the race Alex, Rich Brawn and Stu had gone out for a Littledown 5 course reccie, so they had it in their heads exactly where they needed to go. Unfortunately, the same didn’t apply to Neil Sexton of Poole Runners.
Neil was quite close to Alex again towards the end, just like he was at Round the Rock. Unfortunately, the curse of going the wrong way was about to strike again for Neil.
Just on the approach toward the cricket pitch at Littledown where the finish was located, there was a small alleyway which the runners needed to turn into. Neil promptly missed the turning and continued round to the right before the marshal stopped him and informed him that he’d gone the wrong way.
For that to happen once was an anomaly but for it to happen twice was down right bizarre. After the race, Neil came to the conclusion that he might need to study the course map a bit better next time in future races.
It wasn’t until the 20th runner in the overall standings crossed the line that Egdon Heath Harriers got a scorer on the board. That meant, like Bournemouth AC at Round the Rock, Egdon would have to settle for 3rd place in the DRRL for the fixture.
Suffering from dreadful plantar fasciosis over recent weeks, Rich Brawn had been unable to do any proper long runs and had really struggled to train as hard as he usually does.
As a result, he was worried that his standards might be slipping and that eventually he would get found out. He was still hoping for a sub-30-minute finish but as soon as the race started, he could tell he wasn’t feeling particularly strong.
He struggled in the second mile of the race and that soon began to get him down and he struggled to recover from that point on. Mark Packer from Littledown Harriers had caught him up and was poised just behind him.
That was a problem for Rich as Mark had outsprinted him before in the Purbeck 10 league race a few months back and he was worried that the same thing might happen again.
In a way though, having Mark behind him kind of spurred Rich on as he didn’t want Mark to overtake him so he did his best to up the pace towards the end and give everything he could try and get away.
He couldn’t do it though and as they edged closer to finish, Mark launched off and overtook Rich. Rich didn’t have enough left to even give Mark a run for his money.
Then Peter Doughty of Westbourne RC entered the fray as well and manoeuvred alongside Rich. The pair had a terrific tussle on the way toward the line but in the end, Rich wasn’t strong enough to keep going and had to concede defeat.
It was gutting for Rich to lose two places close to the end and what was even more disappointing was that on his approach to the finish the clock had just ticked down past 30 minutes, which compounded Rich’s misery. He crossed the line in 30th place with a time of 30:02.
After a period where he’s been some way off of his top form, Matt du Cros is now starting to run well again and has been getting his speed back in training. Completing the course in 31:38, he took 48th place in the standings.
It was a very similar time to what he produced in the May 5 at Canford Heath earlier in the season, where he finished in 31:18, so it was a decent run from Matt and another step forward on the road back to his best form.
Reaching the line just 1 second later, Harriet Slade finished as 2nd placed lady and 49th overall in a time of 31:39. That was a superb run from Harriet and a very strong PB which she was naturally pleased about.
It was an improvement of 1 minute and 18 seconds on last time she ran the Littledown 5 back in 2017 so that demonstrates good progress from her over the last couple of years.
The 1st placed woman was Vicki Ingham of Poole Runners who came in 1 minute 14 seconds ahead of Harriet. She finished in 38th place overall in a time of 30:53. Alexandra Door of Egdon Heath Harriers crossed the line as 3rd female in a time of 32:29, which put her in 59th place overall.
The 2nd BAC women to arrive at the finish was Joy Wright, who was 6th placed female and 2nd in the 35-44 category. That was a pretty good result for Joy and she was pleased with her time of 35:22, which put her in 88th place in the overall standings.
It wasn’t a very long wait before Bournemouth AC’s scoring trio was complete, with Jo Dilling reaching the line 36 seconds later to take a position of 9th placed lady.
Her time of 35:58 was good enough for a 94th placed finish and put her 2nd in the 45-54 category. That gave BAC a comprehensive team victory in Dorset Road Race League for the Littledown 5 and earned them a bottle of wine each for the team prize at the presentation afterwards.
Coming in in 66th place, Tom Paskins was some way off his best form but he hasn’t been doing a lot of running recently so it wasn’t a surprise. He clocked a time of 32:51.
The next BAC member home was Phil Cherrett, who followed up on his 5k PB at the New Forest Marathon event the previous weekend by securing a new 5-mile PB of 33:12.
That was two seconds quicker than his time at the Hoburne 5 last year and put him in 73rd place in the overall standings. It was great to see Phil coming back so strong after an IT band injury that impacted his running for quite some time.
Finishing in 85th place overall, Jud Kirk arrived at the finish line in a time of 34:46. That was just four seconds behind Mike Jurd of Wimborne AC who was a rival in the 55-64 category.
Tamzin Petersen and Mike White came in together, in 106th and 107th with Tamzin finishing in a time of 37:18 and Mike completing the course in 37:20.
Tamzin’s time wasn’t quite as quick as what she did in the May 5 earlier in the season when she ran 36:03, but it was faster than her Hoburne 5 time last year. For Mike it was around two minutes off the time he produced at Hoburne last year.
A spate of Bournemouth AC members reached the line in around the 40 minute mark, with Steve Parsons taking 150th place in a time of 39:56. Then it was Katrina White in 153rd place in exactly 40 minutes. She was followed by Andy Gillespie in 154th place with a time of 40:09.
Steve’s time was similar to what he did in the May 5 earlier in the season. In fact it was just 23 seconds slower. That’s some way off of his best form though, which he was in last year when he completed the Hoburne 5 in 36:35. Once he starts training more regularly again he’ll be hoping he can work his way back to those sorts of times.
As for Katrina, she was 1 minute 14 seconds off of the time she registered at the Hoburne 5 last year. She’s got the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Half Marathon just around the corner though so that is her big focus at the current moment in time.
Andy is struggling to find his speed and wasn’t able to get close to the 37:31 time he posted at the Littledown 5 in 2017. He’s also been suffering from a heel problem and recently which flared up a little during the race. That may perhaps have been down to the softer trainers he opted for.
The next BAC member over the line was Helen Ambrosen who clocked in at 41:01, putting her in 163rd place in the overall standings. She was the 39th lady to complete the course and was 7th in the 55-64 category.
Then it was over to the legend that is Mr Dave Parsons, who had an excellent run, getting round in a solid time of 42:32. That put him in 181st place and 8th in the 65+ category.
That just left Louise Price to round the morning off from a BAC perspective. She got to the line in a time of 44:30 which put her in 198th place in the overall standings. She was the 63rd female to finish and was 16th in the 45-54 category.
It’s been a while since Lou has done a five miler but that time wasn’t anywhere near her best. She’s been away quite a lot recently though and has done very little running so it didn’t come as a surprise that her fitness had dropped to some degree.
So what does all that mean in terms of league positions going into the final two fixtures of the season? Well, in the ladies first division, Bournemouth AC cannot win the league title. That will be contested by Egdon Heath Harriers and Poole Runners. They can, however, finish in 3rd place, where they currently sit, on level pegging with Littledown.
In the men’s first division, Bournemouth AC are occupying top spot but they aren’t mathematically home and hosed yet. They need to win one of their two remaining fixtures in order to seal the league title.
If Egdon Heath Harriers were to win both remaining fixtures and BAC were to finish 2nd in both, they would then both have identical records. The title would then need to be decided on something else. Individual race wins perhaps.
In order to capture the league title outright, Egdon Heath Harriers would need to win both remaining fixtures and BAC would need to finish 2nd and 3rd or worse.
The best way of course to ensure neither of the latter two scenarios come into play would be for Bournemouth AC to get the team victory in the next fixture, which is the Wimborne 10. That would get the league title done and dusted with one fixture to spare.
Thus it will be all hands to the pump come 17th November when the yellow and blue army will be gunning for glory and looking to confirm their supremacy in the Dorset Road Race League for the second year running.