All posts by Richard Brawn

Simon Hearn makes headway at Maidenhead Half Marathon

Simon Hearn in the Maidenhead Half Marathon
So far this year Simon Hearn had achieved both a new half marathon and a new 10k PB. Could he do it again though at the Maidenhead Half Marathon? He was certainly going to give it all he’s got either way

It’s fast, it’s flat and it’s ferocious and it has been known to, on occasions, provide a fairytale foray for runners looking to inscribe a new PB onto their Power of 10 portfolio.

That’s exactly what Simon Hearn was hoping to when he travelled up to Berkshire for the Maidenhead Half Marathon. And with good reason as well.

He’d already secured a half marathon PB at Les Courants de la Liberte in Normandy earlier in the year, weighing in with a magnifique time of 1:28:35. He’d also recently recorded a new 10k PB of 39:04 at the Royal Berkshire 10k in Reading, so he’s clearly been a man in form of late.

His recipe for success was basically to select a target race first and foremost, then to find a training plan for whatever sort of time he was looking to complete it in, then to absolutely throw himself into that training plan.

That was Simon’s way of getting motivated for the task at hand and ensuring he arrives on the day of the event in the best shape he possibly can and confident that he can achieve the result he is setting out to attain.

It’s certainly a technique that appears to be working for Simon and the fact he’s running fast than he ever has before despite being in his 50’s shows he must be doing something right.

Of course preparation is one thing and Simon has certainly being doing his due diligence on that. However, actually executing the plan on race day and dealing with all the pressure that comes with it is never easy, no matter how well you’ve trained. You have to have nerves of steel and possess that inner belief in yourself that you can do it.

Having previously recorded a half marathon PB at Maidenhead a few years back, Simon has some good memories of the place already. This time he was hoping for the same again on his return.

The race starts off and finishes at Maidenhead town hall where the race village is set up. It is run on closed roads around the town and surrounding villages.

There was a Masters Championships for half marathon taking place as well which meant that the standard of the older runners competing was extremely high. That really helped to spur Simon on as he was on his way round.

He found himself running at around 6:38 pace for the most part of the run and it felt comfortable for Simon. Even though he’d never gone that fast over the duration of a half marathon before, he felt strong and always in control.

There were a few little battles he had within the race as well which helped him sustain a high intensity as he progressed along the course. Simon could scarcely believe it when he arrived on the finishing straight and saw the clock tick down to 1:27:47 as he cruised over the line.

He already knew it was a PB but when his official chip time came through, it was confirmed at 1:27:18. That was over a minute quicker than his time at Normandy in June. That was an extremely impressive improvement in the space of two-and-a-half months.

That stellar performance put Simon in 238th place in the final standings out of 1,573. In the MV50 category he was 32nd out of 196, which was a terrific result, especially considering the Master Championship that was taking place.

All the hard work in training had paid off for Simon and he was absolutely buzzing about how it went. He’d delivered the performance of his life and it was there for all to see.

It was now time for a bit of rest and reflection for Simon before he begins to contemplate what his next big challenge will be. He’ll certainly be enjoying the moment for quite some time yet though as he looks back fondly on a perfectly executed race.

Simon Hearn pushes hard in the Maidenhead Half Marathon
An extremely polished performance from Simon saw him carve out a brilliant new half marathon PB of 1:27:18

 

Helen Ambrosen in the shake up at New Forest Rattler

Helen Ambrosen in the New Forest Rattler Half Marathon
Taking on the New Forest Rattler Half Marathon as part of a longer training run, Helen Ambrosen had to contend with roasting conditions on the August bank holiday weekend

The New Forest Rattler Endurance Weekender is an event primarily aimed at triathletes, consisting of a swim, a bike ride and a run. It’s a very inclusive event though and competitors can take part in either the swim, the bike ride or the run as individual events, or they can enter all three of them.

There are also three different distances for each discipline as well, meaning each participant can tailor it to suit their needs. Since she had a long training run to do that weekend anyway, Helen Ambrosen decided she’d go for the run.

The three choices available for the run were 10k, Half Marathon or Full Marathon. She was looking to do 18 miles that day so had opted for the Half Marathon and was looking to add five miles on at the start of the run.

Since she tends to find it difficult when running in hot weather, it was always going to be challenge for Helen, but one that she would rise to with a keen enthusiasm. Plus it was nice for her to have a race to do to help keep her motivated during her long training run.

Quite a few people were camping out there over the weekend, particularly those who were taking part in all three events so that created quite a nice atmosphere around the place.

The run was scheduled to begin at 11am but the organisers decided to move it to 9:30 since it was forecast to be so hot. And in fact, it was 30 degrees so that was probably a good decision.

Just as she’d planned, Helen got her five mile warm up done before the race kicked off. It was quite a small field lining up on the cattle grid, with only 59 competitors present across all three distances.

It was a lovely off-road route, but quite hilly in places. There was a four mile section through open heathland which the half marathon runners had to go through twice, since it was an out-and-back course. There was very little shelter on these sections so the heat was palpable.

Helen Ambrosen takes on the New Forest Rattler Half Marathon
After an extensive five mile warm up, Helen proceeded to get her race underway

They ran out of water in the water stations as well so it was lucky that Helen was carrying some with her. She began to find it really tough over the last couple of miles though and the constant, pounding heat really got to her. In the end she was reduced to a walk/jog to the finish.

Reaching the line in a time of 2 hours 27 minutes and 47 seconds, Helen came in 27th out of the 36 who were competing in the half marathon. There were four runners who completed the full marathon, which must have taken a hell of an effort in such trying conditions.

Receiving an awesome medal at the end, it had been a good training run for Helen and she’d got to know a new route in the New Forest which is always handy.

Covering 18.26 miles in total, Helen was out there running for 3 hours and 6 minutes in total and amassed an elevation gain of 574ft over the course of the run. She said she would definitely do the race again, but would hope for cooler weather.

Helen is hoping to do the Abingdon Marathon towards the end of October in order to gain experience before she takes on the London Marathon next, where she achieved a good-for-age entry.

Over the summer she’s been struggling with her long runs, since it has been so hot, but now the weather is getting cooler she’s hoping it’ll be a little easier.

A calf issue had forced her to miss a couple of her planned long runs and meant that she was unable to run further than 13 miles but thankfully that seems to have settled down now.

She’ll be taking part in the Littledown 5 this weekend, which is a Dorset Road Race League fixture for Bournemouth AC. Then it will be back to the long runs and building her endurance up for the marathon ahead.

Helen Ambrosen after the New Forest Rattler Half Marathon
It was a well-earned medal for Helen after a very tough morning slugging it out in the New Forest furnace

 

 

 

 

Kirsty Drewett and Ian Graham face off against The Beast

Ian Graham in the Beast
After a long walking holiday, Ian Graham was quickly thrust into racing action at The Beast where he had to contend with a very tough, undulating route

Beast by name and beastly by nature, the “Tout and Back Again”, as it’s otherwise known, is one of those races that is as brutal as it is brilliant. It’s one of those runs where the course almost seems especially designed to be as testing as possible.

Of course, the difficulty level of the race is somewhat offset by the spectacular Dorset views you encounter along the way, with the route starting off on Corfe Castle Common and heading out towards Worth Matravers. Then it’s on to the coastal path, with the sea views providing a quite splendid backdrop.

After that it heads back up towards Corfe with some hellacious hills to overcome along the way. There are also some steps to negotiate as well which can really sap the energy out of you. To give a rough idea of the task, you’re looking at 1,800ft of climbing over the course of the 12.5 mile route.

Kirsty Drewett is becoming quite a fan of tough, hilly, off-road races though and she’s completed the Purbeck Marathon, the Hellstone Marathon, which featured over 1,150 metres of elevation, and the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon, which took her upwards of 1,150ft of climbing. She’s usually in her element over this type of terrain.

Also getting in on the action, Ian Graham had recently returned from a 19-day walking holiday up in Scotland which saw him cover a total of 215 miles across the Southern Upland Way.

You could argue that’s not the ideal preparation for a tough, hilly, near-on half marathon but then, he did do a fair bit of climbing over the course of his 215 mile walk so he’d certainly had plenty of practice. Excessive walking does often seem to have an adverse effect on running though in the immediate aftermath, so it was always going to be tricky for Ian.

The race starts off on quite a thin track which can create some congestion when you have 371 runners trying to jostle for position all the way down.

Kirsty normally positions herself about two thirds of the way back when on the start line as that’s where she finds she usually finishes up. That created a bit of a problem for her at The Beast though as there was a bit of bottleneck which meant she got held up and initially could only go at walking pace until the track widened.

Once that happened though and she got properly on her way she was able to get into her stride and find a rhythm. It was still a very testing route though and steps she had to climb up added to the enormity of the task.

Kirsty Drewett enjoying the Beast
Positioned quite far down the field to begin with, Kirsty got held up a bit due to the narrow pathway

Ian didn’t get off to the greatest start either, taking a tumble quite early on in the race and finishing up on his back in a bed of nettles. The stinging didn’t add to his enjoyment of the run and it was only some 24 hours later that it had completely subsided.

Ian Graham takes on the Beast
Ian gets his race underway, unaware of the fate that would befall him a short way in

Since she’d taken it pretty steady over the first half of the race, Kirsty managed to pick up the pace a bit over the latter stages and managed to take quite a few places and work her way up the field.

Kirsty Drewett battles the Beast
There were some difficult hills to negotiate the views went some way toward making it all worthwhile

Getting to the line in a time of 2:14:53, Kirsty finished in 157th position over and was 29th lady. She also took 10th place in the W35 category.

Kirsty Drewett takes on the Beast
Kirsty heads toward the finish before crossing the line in a time of 2:14:53

Reflecting on the race afterwards, Kirsty was a little disappointed with her time and felt she could have handled the hills a bit better and perhaps could have gone bit quicker over the first part of the race in particular.

It’s difficult to pace tough, hilly races like this though because you’re caught in a catch 22 situation of whether to try to save energy for the inclines or whether to try to go fast on the flat to make up for the time you lose on the ascents.

Kirsty Drewett finishing the Beast
Kirsty certainly looks like she was enjoying herself anyone despite the tough profile of the race

As for Ian, he found it a real slog but still managed to battle hard all the way to the end, trying his best to put the stinging sensations to the back of his mind. He crossed the line in a time of 2:38:10, which put him in 242nd place overall and 25th in the M60 category.

Ian Graham powers along in the Beast
Ian recovered well from his stinging incident to reach the finish in a time of 2:38:10

It was certainly a testing race as the name suggests and there were valuable lessons to be learned for both Ian and Kirsty along the way. For Kirsty, it was to make sure she doesn’t start too far back, particularly in races where the pathway isn’t too wide to start off with.

For Ian, it was probably more, don’t sign up for such a brutal race in the immediate aftermath of a 215-mile walking holiday. And if you do, watch your footing and take care extra not to fall over at any point. Then, if that all fails and you end up hitting the deck, for heavens sake make sure you don’t land in a bunch of stingy nettles!!

Ian Graham battles the Beast
It wasn’t one of Ian’s finest runs but he showed great heart and spirit to see it through

Who knows though? Perhaps Kirsty and Ian will be tempted back again some time to put their learnings into action and launch an improved bid to slay The Beast once more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5, 4, 3, 2, 100 Marathons… done and dusted

Andy Gillespie in the Salisbury 54321 50k
Andy Gillespie went into the Salisbury 54321 50k knowing that completing this race would see him inducted into the 100 Marathon Club hall of fame

It was a big day in the calendar of one of Bournemouth AC‘s most experienced and most consummate long distance runners when Andy Gillespie took to the start line for the 2019 Salisbury 54321 50k.  Not because it was a 50k ultra marathon though and not because it was in his neck of the woods either.

The reason was that with 99 races of at least marathon distance already counted and verified on his CV, this was the one that was going to take him to that magic landmark of 100 marathons.

The magnitude of an achievement such as that is difficult to put into words but it does come with a suitably prestigious accolade – and that is an official membership to the exclusive 100 Marathon Club.

This was something Andy has been on a quest to achieve for quite some years now but the amount or hard work and dedication that goes into reaching a milestone like that is almost unfathomable.

Of course, he did still have the small matter of completing a 50k race to deal with first before he could think about celebrating his monumental achievement – and that wasn’t something that would come easily, even for a man of Andy’s worldliness.

The Salisbury 54321 50k course is actually extremely tough. It’s around 31 miles in old money and features 3,000 ft of elevation along the way. That said, it’s not as it Andy hasn’t faced this sort of challenge before.

In fact, he’s competed in the Salisbury 54321 50k in each of the last five years, dating back to 2014. Before that he did the 42k for five consecutive years starting from 2008.

The fastest time he’s ever done the 50k race in is 5:03:10, which he did in 2016. Originally he was intending on trying for the sub five hour time but since it was in his own back yard and he knew quite a few of the other runners who were doing it, it became a bit more of a social run.

Andy Gillespie's number for the 54321 Salisbury 50k
Andy held a raffle and raised some money for the National Autistic Society off the back of his Salisbury 54321 race

As each person who he knew overtook him he would have a good chat with them and it was the same at the drinks stations and so on. For over a mile on one of the steadier climbs he had a chat with Jon Sharkey’s wife.

Quite early on in the run Andy made the decision not to do anything stupid that might put his 100 milestone in jeopardy and to make sure he finished.

Reaching the 23K point in 2 hours 17 minutes and 37 seconds, Andy was in 132nd place at that stage. He then arrived at the 32k checkpoint in 3:26:16.

Even though he wasn’t going out all guns blazing though, 50k is still a fair way to go and it was a warm day. With a bit of emotion also thrown into the mix, it all took its toll on Andy by the end.

At one point, as he was coming through Salisbury, someone handed Andy a pint of lager, which he says didn’t even touch the sides. By then of course, he had already decided just to enjoy it and savour every moment.

At the 42k checkpoint Andy was in 125th place, clocking in at 4:42:19. That left just 8k to go before he’d completed the race and hit the big hundred.

There was a lovely moment at the end as well where Andy’s granddaughter ran the last 200 yards with him and as they crossed the line, she took the medal as she was under the impression she had beaten him.

Recording an official time of 5:41:02, Andy came in in 117th place out of a field of 301. He also took 3rd place in the M60 category but of course, this race wasn’t about times. It was about completion. Not just of one race but of a whole collection. Of a phase in his life that took him further than he ever thought he would go.

Even though he was out there for 5 hours and 41 minutes, the run just seemed to be over in in a flash to Andy. Well, they do say that time flies when you’re having fun.

That really just epitomizes what Andy’s running is all about though. He enjoys the endurance aspect of it. He thrives off the challenge of completing distances most people wouldn’t even contemplate attempting. That’s what gets him going and keeps him coming back for me and continuing relentlessly, year after year.

It was a proud moment for Andy after the race as he was presented with his 100 Marathon Club medal and shirt and some of the other runners stuck around for a piece of his rather tasty looking 100 Marathon cake.

Andy Gillespie is presented with 100 Marathon Club medal
Loretta presents Andy with his 100 Marathon Club medal and t-shirt

He’d made it. He’d achieved something that way back when he ran his first marathon, he never would have thought was possible. But through, hard work, determination and dedication, he had reached the magic milestone.

It was on Sunday 20th June 2004, in Blackpool, that Andy’s marathon adventure began. Back then of course he had no idea that he’d be taking to the start line of a marathon 99 more times.

His time for that first marathon was 4:00:24. Later on that year he competed in the Abingdon Marathon where he cracked the four-hour mark, finishing in 3:57:18.

The next year he did his first London Marathon before recording a new PB of 3:44:32 at Abingdon in October. The following year, he secured a new PB of 3:33:50 at London and later that year went on to complete the Loch Ness Marathon.

On 16th June 2007 he did his first ever trail marathon, along the South Downs Way. That was a marathon he’d go on to complete several more times over the years that followed.

On Sunday 10th August 2008 he did his first Salisbury 54321 event, completing the 42k race that day.

Andy Gillespie's 100 Marathon Club cake
Andy’s rather tasty looking 100 Marathon cake

Over the weekend of 5th to 7th November 2010, Andy completed the Pembrokeshire Coast Challenge, which consisted of three marathons in three days, back-to-back.

That was a theme that Andy would go on to revisit numerous times in the years that followed and was one of the key factors that enabled him to reach the 100 milestone so quickly. It effectively meant killing off three birds with one stone.

The following year, on Sunday 17th April 2011, Andy recorded his all-time marathon PB of 3:27:36 at London. It was a very good time for someone who, by his own admission, doesn’t fall into the category of a ‘fast runner’ per se.

On Sunday, 21st June 2011, Andy took part in his first ever ultra, which was the 32 mile Dorset Doddle. He completed the course in 7 hours 18 minutes. He went on to compete in that race for the next four years running.

Over the weekend of 4th to 6th October 2013, Andy completed his first Atlantic Coast Challenge, which was another three marathons in three days event, this time along the coast of Cornwall.

In August 2014, he did his first 50k race at the Salisbury 54321 event, completing the course in a time of 5:16:30.

A couple of months later, he returned to the Atlantic Coast Challenge, where the third marathon of the three brought him to his landmark 50th marathon. Did he want to stop there? Not on your nelly. He was hungry for more. Much, much more.

Over the weekend of 20th to 22nd March 2015, Andy completed his first Jurassic Coast Challenge, which took place on the coast of Dorset. He was remarkably consistent in that one, completing the three marathons in 5:51:08, 5:52:04 and 6:10:46.

A month later he went on to run the London Marathon in a time of 3:49:13, which was a very good result. Then on Sunday, 14th August 2016 he recorded his fastest 54321 Salisbury 50k, completing the race in 5:03:10.

Two further races in December that year saw Andy reach the milestone of 70 marathons. He was now well on his way toward the big 100 and there was simply no stopping him.

As he’s matured through the years, Andy has gradually began to take on more and more marathons throughout the years, each time adding new ones to his repertoire whilst continuing to return to each of the ones he’d previously done. That technique has helped him massively wrack up his numbers over the past few years.

His last sub-four-hour marathon was on 23rd April 2017 at London, where he finished in a time of 3:58:10, proving that even as a wily old fox, he’d still got it. Then a week later he was back out there for the North Dorset Village Marathon.

The three Atlantic Coast Marathons later that year took Andy up to 80 marathons, leaving him with just 20 to go to reach treble figures.

In May 2018, Andy added the Devon Coastal Challenge to his long list of marathon exploits and that went on to be the first year where he had completed three Coast Challenges. He also took part in the Jurassic and the Atlantic Coast Challenges.

His total of number of marathons for the year went up to 11 in 2018, after he also completed the North Dorset Village Marathon and the 54321 Salisbury 50k.

By the start of 2019 he was on 92 marathons, leaving him with just eight to go. In March this year he completed the Jurassic Coast Challenge, which another three ticked off the list.

In May he took on the North Dorset Village Marathon for the fourth consecutive year before the Devon Coastal Challenge in May brought him up to 99 leaving him with just that final one to complete the set.

Now that he’s done that one, he’s penciled his name down on that very exclusive list of runners who have managed to successfully negotiate 100 marathons. Most of them would have probably taken a lot longer than Andy has to do it though.

Andy Gillespie's 100 Club Marathon medal and t-shirt
This would have to go down as one of the hardest to earn medals that there is out there in any sport

He’s completed all of his marathons in the space of 15 years, which is a pretty incredible achievement. That’s an average of almost 7 per year.

What’s all the more impressive is that Andy has managed to get through every single one of his marathons without a single DNF. That might also be something that perhaps not too many members of the 100 Marathon Club can say and speaks volumes about the character and courage of the man.

Out of all of his 100 marathons, the PB of 3:27:36 at London in 2011 would have to go down as his best performance. Certainly from a training and speed perspective anyway.

That year Andy did all the Bourrnemouth AC Tuesday night sessions when they had Steve Way and Liz Yelling pushing them on. The race went perfectly to plan and Andy managed to achieve his goal of a sub 3:30 time. Not bad for a ‘slow mo’ eh.

Until then he’d always been jinxed with the London Marathon and something always seemed to go wrong either before or during the race. He has thought though that sometimes, when things have gone badly, it’s a good performance just to finish so you shouldn’t be too disheartened about the time.

It would be hard for Andy to pick a favourite but he does always enjoy the 3-day events.  The Pembrokeshire one that they used to have in November in particular stands out. Because the clocks had gone back at that time of year, it was usually dark by the time he finished. And the weather was always cold and wet.

Andy remembers coming through Fishguard on the third day of one of them and a bloke asked him how far he had run. Andy told him “about 70 miles”. He then heard the guy turn and say to the lady he was with “moron reckons he’s run 70 miles!!” It did make Andy giggle to himself.

There used to only be about 40 to 50 competitors and the wildlife and scenery on the route was amazing, not to mention the spirit that grew each day between the runners.

There were only ever about three of four people at the finish with no spectators. It was the complete opposite to the London Marathon. Sitting by the log fire in the pub on the Sunday night is something Andy remembers very fondly.

Although he did successfully managed to complete all the marathons he started, there were a couple of times that Andy came close to a DNF. One time was the Dorset Doddle in 2012. It was 32 miles from Weymouth to Swanage.

The weather that summer had been wet for weeks but on the day it turned out to be 56 degrees and blistering sunshine. Andy sweats a lot at the best of times but as fast as he took on board the sports drinks he sweated them back out again. He even stopped off for a shower in a surfer’s bay at Kimmerage. After getting half way up the big hill at Chapman Pool he just sat down.

If a helicopter had come round the corner at that point he would have got on it. He managed to pick himself up and get to the next checkpoint about two miles from there.

He ate what they had at the checkpoint and sat in the shade for a few minutes, then went again. As he hit Swanage he bought an ice cream which quickly melted and ran down his legs as he shuffled along the seafront.

When he bought the ice cream the guy in the shop commented that he looked hot, to which Andy replied saying that he’d just run all the way from Weymouth. The shop assistant then came back with the ultimate response of “Why?”

As they carried on chatting Andy had to ask him to hurry with the change as it was a race after all. Almost 150 people pulled out of the race that year.

He almost failed to complete the first day of the Atlantic Coast Challenge in 2016 as well. That was due to illness. Once he got to Newquay the organisers asked him to consider not carrying on.

He battled on though and as she caught and passed him, one lady said he sounded like a pug. At the next checkpoint the organisers tried to pull him out and Andy had to quickly leg it when they turned their backs. You’re never too old to pull a stunt like that if needs must.

That year Andy was unable to complete days two and three but since they were separate marathons and he didn’t register for them on the day, they didn’t count as official DNF’s. He was still peeved though.

It was in the Atlantic Coast Challenge of 2015 that Andy had his worst running experience when a guy in front of him tripped up and rolled towards the cliff edge. Andy and the others screamed at him to grab hold something.

If he had rolled one more time he would have gone over and it was a good 100 ft drop from there. It was a very close call and Andy and the others helped him back up. He didn’t seem to realise how lucky he was and seemed to be more concerned about just finding his glasses.

It was at St Agnes coast guard station on day two and Andy still remembers it vividly to this day. He will no doubt be tip toeing through there when he gets to that point again this year.

Andy Gillespie and his granddaughter finishing the Salisbury 54321 50k
Andy’s granddaughter joins him as he heads down the home straight enabling him to share that special moment with his one of his nearest and dearest

There have been a few challenges, both mental and physical along the way but that’s the whole point of it really. You either give in to your doubts and fears or you overcome them. Andy is of the firm belief that once you know you can succeed at something, you will get there in the end, not matter what. After all, that’s why they invented paracetamol, right?

It is thought that Andy might even be the first ever Bournemouth AC member to reach the 100 marathon milestone which is something that he can be immensely proud of, especially when you think of all the athletes who have pulled on the coveted yellow and blue vest over the years.

Andy’s story is a testament to the fact that with the right attitude and the right level of commitment and determination, anyone can achieve their dreams. You just have to go out there, give your all and make it happen.

What now though? Now he’s hit the big hundred, are there any signs of him hanging up his marathon shoes or turning his attentions to some shorter, easier stuff? Of course not. In fact, Andy can’t wait to get out there for his next big challenge.

At the moment he’s struggling with a few niggles but is hoping to be on the start line for the next Atlantic Coast Challenge in six weeks time. Then once he gets going, the target will then change to making it to day three.

Now he’s reached that esteemed landmark he’s now going to have to start thinking about and working towards his next big target. What that will be is yet to be determined though. Is there a 200 Marathon Club?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice work from Simon Hearn in London Summer 10k

Simon Hearn at the London Summer 10k
After completing a half marathon race there last year, Simon Hearn returned to Regents Park for the London Summer 10k

As he ramped up his training in preparation for the Maidenhead Half Marathon, Simon Hearn made a trip up to the big smoke for the London Summer 10k which was staged at Regents Park.

The course consisted of a three lap route and was predominantly flat, besides one gentle incline and followed a tarmac path within the boundaries of Regents Park.

As Simon and the other runners embarked upon their journey they’d head past various different sections of the park including the boating lake and the famous Regents Park Broad Walk, along with the Money Fountain and London Zoo.

It wasn’t the first race Simon had taken part in at Regents Park. Last year he competed in the Regents Park Half Marathon, finishing in a time of 1:31:28, putting him in 39th place overall and 7th in his age category.

This time round there was a bit of a headwind on some sections of the 10k route but it didn’t stop Simon from bursting round in a suitably speedy time, getting over the finish line in 40:09. That was good enough for 8th place out of a possible 250 people, so a decent result for Simon.

He was also the 1st Vet of any description to finish which earned him a nice classy bottle of plonk, not that he drinks alcohol though. Still, it was nice to get a prize and to experience the prestige of finishing as first vet.

Although he would have liked to have snuck under 40 minutes in an ideal world, it was still a pleasing performance from Simon’s perspective and should give him confidence for the impending Maidenhead Half Marathon.

Hoping that a PB could be on the cards if all goes smoothly, Simon will be going into the Maindenhead Half Marathon all guns blazing. The course is very fast and flat as well which will suit Simon down the ground.

His current best for the distance is 1:28:35 which he did earlier this summer at Les Courants de la Liberte in Normandy, where they celebrated the D-Day landings.

If he manages to eclipse that he’ll be no doubt cracking open a vintage bottle of Vimto to celebrate another achievement to be proud of. And if the tough regime of his training programme is anything to go by, there’s every chance he could do it.

Simon hearn took the prize for 1st Vet in the London Summer 10k
A great result for Simon saw him take the prize for 1st Vet with his time of 40:09

 

Stu Nicholas scurries through first ever 100k at RAT Plague

Stu Nicholas takes on the RAT Plague
It was a big step up in distance for Stu Nicholas and he had his work cut if he wanted to complete the 64 mile Roseland August Trail “Plague” race

What usually springs to mind when you think of The Plague? The devastating worldwide pandemic that wiped out a huge percentage of the population between 1347 and 1351 perhaps? The lethal disease they called the Black Death was introduced to humans by fleas that were carried by rats and other ground rodents.

In this case though, it was something not quite as profound, but almost as terrifying. Organised by MudCrew Ltd, the Roseland August Trail Race Series (The RAT) featured, as it’s showpiece event, the 100k whopper along the South West Coast Path of Cornwall they call The Plague.

With the route incorporating over 12,000ft of elevation, it is most certainly not a race to be taken lightly. In fact, as far as 100k races go, this would have to go down as one of the most brutal out there.

Plus, with the race starting out a 12:05am in pitch black surroundings, the difficulty level increases tenfold as the runners have to navigate there way over the tough coastal terrain with only a head torch to guide them for a large part of the race, with no light emerging until sunrise some six-or-so hours in.

Surely no one would be mad enough to do that for their first ever stab at the distance would they?… Step forward Stu Nicholas.

Now, Stu doesn’t tend to do things by half measures. Last year he completed no less than 14 marathons over the course of the 12 months to see him reach the unassuming landmark of 50 marathons. They included some back-to-back ones over the same weekend and many uniquely tough and intriguing challenges.

Earlier this year he completed the Enigma Quadzilla, which consisted of four marathons in four days. That was an event he ended up finishing as the joint winner.

Despite all those achievements though, the Plague was going to be a different kettle of fish altogether. It would undoubtedly take him to knew levels of suffering and force him perhaps to dig deeper than he ever has before to achieve his goal. And for this particular race, there was only one clear goal, and that was to complete it. By any means necessary. Actually that’s not strictly true, there’s only one means he’ll be using, and that’s running.

The race started off from Porthpean Outdoor Education Centre, which is quite near St Austell, where Stu is originally from. MudCrew had set up a camp site there for the runners to relax in before and after the event.

Stu Nicholas is ready for the RAT Plague
Stu (on the right of the picture) prepares for the start of the Plague

The Plague was an out-and-back route, so it was basically 50k along the South West Coast Path in a south-westerly direction heading toward Falmouth. The turning point was just after Bohortha.

The way it’s organised is quite good though as there are four different distance races in the event, with 32 miler (Black), a 20 miler (Red) and an 11 miler (White) all starting at different times, from fixed points along the same route. Therefore, when the plague runners are on their way back, they will encounter batches of other runners along the way who are competing in the race of whichever distance they chose.

Seeded as one of the top contenders, Stu got to start near the front which was a bonus. Or rather it would have been, except that a group consisting of the first 20 or so runners took a wrong turn through the village of Porthpean and ended up having to double back on themselves and filter into the main field.

Stu Nicholas on the start line of the RAT Plague
Stu lines up on the start line waiting for the signal to get the race underway

As a result, Stu ended up in the last quarter of the field and ended up reaching the first checkpoint with only 20 minutes to spare. It was a less than ideal start to the proceedings for Stu.

He spent the rest of the night gradually catching his fellow competitors and overtaking them where possible.

Come dawn, he was 28 miles in, so only had four left until the turning point. He was still working his way up the field and going past people who had set off too fast. In fact, it could even have been a blessing that he went to wrong way at the start and got slowed down as a result.

Stu Nicholas makes his way through the night in the RAT Plague
Embarking upon his journey just after midnight, Stu knew he would be running a substantial part of it in the dark

As if the starting at night, the extreme distance and the testing terrain didn’t make it tough enough, there was also a 50mph wind for Stu to contend with. That was a headwind for the way out but then once he hit turning point, it would be a tailwind for the way back which was a blessing.

The first five miles and the last five miles were the most brutal parts of the entire course, with over 500 coast path steps to deal with on top of the seismic elevation.

On the way back, Stu hardly saw any other 64 milers, aside from Charlie Ramsdale, a lady who he was yoyoing with for quite a bit of it. Eventually, by virtue of his lanky legs, Stu was able to pull away from Charlie over the last few miles.

That sealed a top five finish for Stu which was a terrific result considering it was his first ever 100k. Completing the course in a stellar time of 13 hours 33 minutes and 17 seconds, it was a performance he could be extremely proud of.

Stu Nicholas finishes the RAT Plague
Stu arrives at the finish to bring his race to an end after 13 hours and 33 minutes of running

The winner of the race was Tom Carthey of Freedom Racing who finished in a staggering 1:38:07, giving him an average pace of 10:54. Shane Nesbitt of MudCrew Running was 2nd in 13:00:45 which put his average pace at 12:11.

Mary Menon took 3rd place overall and of course, 1st lady, completing the course in 13:20:27 at an average pace of 12:30. Then it was Daniel Jones who finished in 13:23:51 giving him an average pace of 12:33.

After that it was Stu in 5th place, with his average pace for the run standing at 12:42. Charlie Ramsdale took 6th place and 2nd female in a time of 13:57:58.

Stu Nicholas gets his medal after the RAT Plague
Stu is awarded his very heard-earned medal after a truly incredible achievement

Only 91 of the 140 people who entered the Plague actually completed the full 64 miles which gives a good indication of how tough the course actually was.

Stu wasn’t the only one in his household who was in action at the Roseland August Trail event though. His partner Anna Trehane was also in action, making a massive step up in distance to complete the Black race, with was 32 miles.

Anna Trehane makes her way in the RAT Black race
Stu’s girlfriend Anna Trehane took part in the 32 mile Black race
Anna Trehane in the RAT Black race
Anna completed the 32 mile course in 7 hours 56 minutes

Managing to complete that in a time of 7 hours 56 minutes and 33 seconds, Anna ran very well to place 94th out of 215 finishers and she was the 28th female over the line.

Katherine and Anna Trenhane in the RAT Black race
Anna (right) and her sister Katherine (left) both took on the RAT Black race

Anna’s sister Katherine also ran, getting over the line in 7:09:11 which put her in 52nd place overall and made her 10th lady over the distance.

Katherine Trehane in the RAT Black race
Katherine makes her way along the South West Coast Path of Cornwall
Katherine Trehane mkaes her way in the RAT Black race
Katherine was 10th placed lady finishing in 7:09:11

It was certainly a weekend to remember for Stu, Anna and Katherine and one that, once the recollection of the pain and suffering they went through begins to subside, they’ll look back on extremely fondly and with immense pride.

Katherine, Anna and Stu celebrate their RAT achievements
It was a proud moment for Stu, Anna and Katherine as they stood with their medals after a monumental effort from each of them

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makeshift BAC squad roll in at Round the Rock 10k

Ed Porter makes debut in Round the Rock 10k
Ed Porter was making his Bournemouth AC debut at the Round the Rock 10k

After sealing a splendid victory at the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon the previous weekend, the Bournemouth AC men’s team should have been marching over to Portland full of confidence for the Round the Rock 10k, which was the next fixture in the Dorset Road Race League. The problem was though, they’d struggled to get a competitive team together.

Team captain Rich Nelson had searched in every corner and crevice to try to find some fast men to bolster the squad for the race but he’d had no luck. As a result, they were left with line up that looked like it might struggle, on paper at least.

In any case, it was going to be difficult to emulate last year’s success when they picked up maximum points, or rather, minimum points, since the lowest score wins in the Dorset Road Race League.

When it transpired that Mitch Griffiths was going to miss the race after he’d been called over to Dubai on a work trip, Rich knew he was really up against it when looking for a replacement.

It didn’t happen which meant that the only five men left who had actually entered the race, other than Rich and Dave Parsons, would all be scoring for team. That included valiant vet Jud Kirk, fidelity seeker Matt du Cros, consistent top fiver Richard Brawn, comeback king Alex Goulding and making his Bournemouth AC debut, Ed Porter.

After failing to field a team of three in the last three fixtures, the Bournemouth AC ladies team managed to get a side together for Round the Rock, with Julia Austin, Tamzin Petersen and Helen Ambrosen on the entrants list.

Their hopes of topping the table had long since evaporated and it was looking more like it would be a mid-table finish for them. Nevertheless though, a good backend to the season wouldn’t go amiss. Also, with three fixtures already out of the equation, they didn’t really want to risk not getting a team out for any of the remaining fixtures.

Along with the five predicted scorers for the men’s team, Membership Secretary supremo Dave Parsons was also in action and was hoping for a much better run that he had at the Purbeck 10k back in June where he struggled to get going.

Wayne Walford Jelks also popped up to make a cameo appearence after scoring a number late on and rushing over to Portland in an attempt to get there for the 10:30 start.

Unfortunately, due to some traffic hold ups along the way, he arrived around 20 minutes after the race had officially started. It was chip timed though so he quickly laced up his trainers and set off on his way.

In fact Jud, Alex and Richard only just made it in time for the start of the race after their journey took a little longer than anticipated. They frantically nipped up the stairs to collect their numbers seconds before the 10:15 cut-off time. It wasn’t the ideal preparation for an all-important league race.

It had rained a fair bit in the few days leading up to the race but come race day, the conditions were pretty good. The wind had also died down a touch from the ferocious gusts that had swept over Dorset the day before and threatened to disrupt the BAC Bournemouth parkrun takeover.

Once the race instructions had been given out and the athletes had gathered on the start line, the wheels were set in motion and the fun and games were underway.

The usual protagonists were at the front of the field from the get-go, with Lee Dempster of Lytchett Manor Striders the obvious favourite to pick up the victory with no Jacek Cieluszecki present.

One of the few Poole AC men still turning up to races, Chris Alborough, was also there, along with Paul Bullimore of Egdon Heath Harriers who had run really well at the Stur Half the previous weekend.

One-time Bournemouth AC man Sean Edwards, who has now rejoined his previous club Lytchett Manor Striders, is back running well again and he was also up near the front.

One man who was also present in the lead group but was perhaps a slightly less recogniseable face was that of BAC newcomer Ed Porter.

Ed Porter in the Round the Rock 10k
Ed Porter was making his Bournemouth AC debut and he was up near the front of the field from the outset

Having attended Bournemouth AC training sessions for the past few months now, Ed had really impressed with his tremendous turn of pace and strength and stamina to go with it.

That had led Rich Nelson to apply some gentle persuasion to convince Ed to put pen to paper and sign up for the club. To begin with, Ed wasn’t too sure as he was uncertain how he would measure up to the other top athletes in the area in a race situation. Eventually he agreed to join though and it was exciting to see him pulling on the yellow and blue jersey for the first time.

Front runners in the Round the Rock 10k
The lead contenders take to the front as the runners set off on their way

Then there was a group in behind that featured Alex Goulding and Neil Sexton of Poole Runners, along with Adam Corbin of Westbourne RC and Bruce Campbell of Egdon.

After being troubled by a soar heel at the Stur Half which prevented him from going out all guns blazing, Richard Brawn wasn’t sure how he would fare at Round the Rock but he felt that, since it was a shorter race, he’d have more chance of being able to get around without being effected too much by the injury.

He felt it would be too risky to try to go with Alex and Neil though so sat in a group just behind them along with Vince Fowler of Littledown Harriers, Joe Godden of Poole Runners and a couple of Royal Manor of Portland members, who were enjoying the advantage of home turf.

Richard Brawn takes on the Round the Rock 10k
After suffering from the effects of a heel injury at the Stur Half, Richard Brawn was hoping he’d fare better over a shorter distance

As the race progressed, Lee Dempster began to take control, building a sizeable advantage over Chris Alborough and Sean Edwards. Paul Bullimore and Ed were quite closely matched in the battle for 4th place on the road.

The first 5k of the course features quite a bit of downhill, so you can really pick up some speed there. Unfortunately though, what goes down must come up, meaning the second half of the route contains some very testing climbs.

There was a bit of headwind as they went down the hill towards the southern part of the island on mile three and that was where Rich Brawn began to find it a little tough going. Vince Fowler and Joe Godden moved ahead of him at that point.

However, on the way up the hill, he began to really feel strong. He managed to catch up with the group he had been running with on the way down and leave them behind as he powered up.

That was really encouraging from Rich’s perspective. Now he just needed to focus on what was in front of him and try to keep Alex Goulding and Neil Sexton in sight.

Richard Brawn in the Round the Rock 10k
Richard felt strong on the way up the hill and managed to get ahead of the pack he’d been running with

Meanwhile, at the front of the race, it was to be Lee Dempster’s day and he picked up another impressive win to add to his collection, getting to the line in a time of 34:18.

Chris Alborough cruised in to claim 2nd place in exactly 35 minutes, with Lee’s Lytchett Manor Striders teammate Sean Edwards sealing 3rd place in 35:27.

Aside from the emergence of Egdon Heath Harriers, Lytchett Manor Striders are fast becoming the team to watch in the Dorset Road Race League. They have absolutely stormed the Second Division this season and could be major contenders when they return to Division One next season.

Ed Porter racing the Round the Rock 10k
As the race unfolded Ed found himself locked in a battle for 4th place

It was an Egdon verses Bournemouth AC battle for 4th place with Paul Bullimore and Adam Davies of Egdon up against Ed from BAC. Paul Bullimore found the strength to pull away from Ed in the end and managed to secure 4th position, crossing the line in 36:11.

Ed had had a brilliant run though and to get 5th place in his first ever Dorset Road Race League fixture was an astonishing achievement. He arrived at the finish to register an excellent time of 36:20, underlining the huge potential he has to compete at the top level.

Adam Davies took 6th position in a time of 36:34, with Robert Doubleday of Poole AC finishing 7th in 36:45.

Ed Porter finishing the Round the Rock 10k
A tremendous performance from Ed saw him take 5th place in a time of 36:20

Alex Goulding and Neil Sexton were having a right old ding-dong battle for 1st place in the M40 category and had been neck-and-neck virtually the whole way. It looked like it was going to go right down to the wire until, on the way down toward the finishing straight, a car pulled out from one of the side roads.

The marshall tried to direct them behind the car but Neil thought she was telling him to turn left so he started to run down the road, not realising he was meant to be carrying straight on.

Alex Goulding in the Round the Rock 10k
Alex Goulding (114) was gunning for the top M40 spot

That put Alex in the clear to take 8th place and seal the trophy for 1st M40, registering a time of 37:06. That meant Neil had to settle for 9th place and no prize, crossing the line in 37:12. He did take maximum Poole Runners club championship points on the day though so all was not lost for Neil. Plus it was a brilliant PB for him as well.

Who would have come out on top if Neil hadn’t gone the wrong way, it’s difficult to say, but Alex does have a pretty mean injection of pace on him and a competitive edge that makes him very hard to beat in situations like that, so you wouldn’t bet against him.

Alex Goulding racing in the Round the Rock 10k
Alex maintains a good pace as he heads down the hill

Adam Corbin took 10th place for Westbourne RC in a 37:20, with Bruce Campbell the second man to come in for Egdon Heath, taking 11th place and 1st M50 in a time of 37:41.

Lytchett had their third man in when Edward Crawley crossed the line in 12th place, registering a time of 37:54.

Alex Goulding finishing the Round the Rock 10k
An 8th place finish in a time of 37:06 was enough to see Alex claim the 1st M40 prize

After getting to the top of the hill ahead of the pack he was running with, as the route flattened out, Richard was determined not to let them overtake him again.

Vince Fowler was finishing strongly though and did manage to find his way past Richard to take 13th place in a time of 38:09. On the downhill stretch toward the home straight, Joe Godden had one final go at overtaking Richard but he was having none of it and managed to dig in and retain his position.

Crossing the line in 38:17, Richard came in to take 14th place and was the third BAC member home. It was a decent run from him and was a 33 second improvement on his time from the previous year.

Richard Brawn finishing the Round the Rock 10k

Damian Hayward was the first runner in from Royal Manor of Portland, winning the sprint finish for 15th place ahead of Joe Godden who had to settle for 16th. Their times were 38:22 and 38:23 respectively.

Charlie Lawson was the third runner in for Egdon Heath, coming in in 19th place, before Jamie Barrington in 21st and Ian Middlebrook in 23rd completed their team of five scorers to give them the victory in the Dorset Road Race League First Division.

Matt du Cros in the Round the Rock 10k
Matt du Cros ticks another race off on his quest for the fidelity award

Poole Runners had Paul Currah in at 22nd, Steve Claxton in at 26th and Ian Luke in in 31st position which was enough to give them 2nd place in the DRRL.

Littledown Harriers also had five team members in before the fourth Bournemouth AC man had crossed the line but because they didn’t have anyone finishing higher than 13th place, BAC got 3rd place for the fixture, which was about as good as they could have hoped for under the circumstances.

Matt du Cros checks time in the Round the Rock 10k
Matt checks he’s still on track to make it home in time lunch

Matt du Cros had a fairly decent run though, crossing the line in 41:22 which put him in 42nd place overall. Considering he hasn’t really done in any speed work at all over recent weeks, that was probably the best he could have expected really. Once he gets back into his regular training routine, he should start to see his times improve significantly.

Matt du Cros finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Matt pushes toward the finish to take 42nd place in a time of 41:22

Getting to the line in 55th place, Juk Kirk was the fifth man home for BAC, recording a time of 43:14. He’d finished just ahead of a rival in the M60 category in Andrew Stratton of Edgon Heath Harriers, who followed in just after in a time of 43:23.

Jud Kirk starts the Round the Rock 10k
After arriving at the venue a bit late, Jud Kirk quickly got changed and got into gear

Unfortunately though, the first prize in that age category had already gone to Stephen Hogarth of Poole AC who had crossed the line in 47th place in a time of 41:56.

Jud Kirk in the Round the Rock 10k
As he always does, Jud was looking to contend for top honors in the M60 category
Jud Kirk finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Jud heads down toward the finish to take 2nd in his age group

The first BAC woman over the line was Julia Austin who was having a good battle for supremacy with Louise Austin of Littledown Harriers.

Julia Austin starts the Round the Rock 10k
Julia Austin (11) gets her race underway

In the end it was Louise who came out on top, completing the course in 47:02 to take 1st F40 and 86th place, whilst Julia came in in 47:08 to take 1st F55 and 88th overall. That made Julia 9th placed lady in the race.

Julia Austin in the Round the Rock 10k
Julia looked to maximise her speed on the downhill sections
Julia Austin finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Julia gives a wave to the camera as she heads down to a 1st F55 finish

Not far behind Julia, finishing in 95th place and 11th female, it was Tamzin Petersen, who clocked a time of 47:33. Tamzin has been closing the gap on Julia over recent times and even finished ahead of her in the May 5 race earlier in the year.

Tamzin Petersen starts the Round the Rock 10k
It was a third year in a row at the Round the Rock 10k for Tamzin Petersen (205)

Tamzin had Julia in her sights for the vast majority of the race. It was on the downhill sections though that she seemed to struggle, since they were into a headwind. Because she’s so small and lightweight, any kind of headwind will make it tough for her and she gets blown back so easily.

Tamzin Petersen in the Round the Rock 10k
Tamzin was getting blown back by the headwind as she made her way down the hill

It was on those sections that Julia managed to open up a bigger gap over a Tamzin. At one stage she was over a minute ahead. However, with the wind behind her on the way up, Tamzin made up a fair bit of ground on Julia whilst on the ascent.

In the end the gap between the two of them was only 25 seconds so that was a decent result from Tamzin and the strong second half of the race had left her feeling content with her efforts. What’s more, she’d beaten her time from last year by 40 seconds.

Tamzin Petersen in the Round the Rock 10k
Tamzin gives the thumbs up as she heads toward the finish after a strong second half of the race

Another category prize went to a Bournemouth AC member when Helen Ambrosen crossed the line in 149th place, to take 1st in the F60 category.

After a difficult run at the Stur Half the previous weekend, Helen was pleased to bounce back with a much better performance in this one. Her finishing time was 52:49.

Helen Ambrosen in the Round the Rock 10k
Helen Ambrosen was hoping for a better run after struggling at the Stur Half the previous weekend

As Helen was the third lady in for BAC, she completed the scoring team and they finished in 4th place in the Dorset Road Race League Division One, behind Egdon Heath Harriers, Littledown Harriers and Poole Runners.

Egdon Heath Harriers had Alexandra Door who was 2nd lady in a time of 42:17, Hannah Martyn who was 5th female in 45:25 and Sophie Elford who was 7th lady in 46:35.

Helen Ambrosen finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Helen races toward a 1st place finish in the F60 category

Vicky Ingham of Poole Runners picked up the win in the ladies competition, crossing the line in a time of 40:56, which put her in 39th position overall.

Laura Pettifer of Kenilworth Runners was 3rd lady, completing the course in 42:48 which put her in 51st place overall.

Dave Parsons in the Round the Rock 10k
Dave Parsons was going so well he was overtaking cars at one point

In stark contrast to his run at the Purbeck 10k, Dave Parsons had an excellent run at Round the Rock, completing the course in 56:58, which put him in 7th place in the M65 category and 203rd overall.

Dave Parsons finishing the Round the Rock 10k
After finding it touch at the Purbeck 10k in his last league race, Dave had a much better run on this occasion

On this occasion he felt strong all the way round and being two minutes quicker on a much tougher course was a very pleasing result for Dave.

Wayne Walford Jelks finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Although he missed the start it didn’t stop Wayne Walford Jelks getting out on the course and shooting the breeze

Since he arrived late, Wayne Walford Jelks didn’t quite get to complete the full course but he did still manage to run 4.58 miles of it which he completed in 35:43 so at least he didn’t come all that way for nothing at least. A total of 262 runners successfully completed the course.

Wayne Walford Jelks finishing the Round the Rock 10k
Wayne managed to complete most of the course and enjoyed his run even though he didn’t get an official finishing time

That 4th place kept Bournemouth AC in 4th position in the Dorset Road Race League Ladies First Division for the season so far. There was a change at the top of the table though and the win for Egdon Heath Harriers had seen them leap frog Poole Runners into 1st place, moving one point ahead. With three fixtures to go, that sets things up nicely for an enthralling title race as those matches play out.

In the Men’s First Division, that win brought Egdon Heath Harriers to within one point of Bournemouth AC, who sit top with four wins and two second places. Egdon now have three wins and three second places so it is extremely tight between the two. How they perform over the three remaining fixtures will determine who takes the title.

The next fixture is the Littledown 5 on Sunday 15th September and with that one being a very local fixture, Rich Nelson has managed to assemble a pretty strong team out that look capable of claiming a vital win. On their current form though, Egdon certainly can’t be counted out and it’s sure to be an intriguing clash of the titans.

Alex was pleased to secure another trophy for the mantelpiece

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mark Hillier hits up Al Andalus Ultimate Trail

Mark Hillier takes on Al Andalus Ultimate Trail
Mark Hillier took on what was potentially going to be his biggest challenge yet when he geared up for the five stage, 230km, Al Andalus Ultimate Trail

This might well have been his toughest challenge yet and that’s saying something when you look at Mark Hillier’s back catalogue of extraordinary feats.

He’s taken on and conquered the gruelling 80 mile trek over the Jurassic Coast they call The Oner, which featured 10,000ft of climbing over the 24 hours. To give an inkling into how tough that race is, it has a 50% dropout rate. Say no more.

He’s also done battle in the deserts of Morocco in the 6-day, 254km Marathon des Sables, an event renowned for being the toughest footrace on earth. Then there was the Pilgrim Challenge and Race to the King, a couple of tough two-day events.

In Al Andalus Ultimate Trail though, he finally met his match. Al Andalus Ultimate Trail is a 230km ultra-marathon contended over a five stage format.

Set in the Andalusian region of Spain, each stage offers a different challenge heading through the Poniente Grandino and the chance to experience the culture and the ambiance of the beautiful Granada Provinse.

The intense heat and the diverse terrain amplify the difficulty of the task but the splendour of the natural parks make it a highly thought of event amongst the international running community.

The route covers stretches of the famous GR-7 footpath and across several natural parks rich in agriculture and history including Sierras Loja, Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama.

The event began with a 39km jaunt from Loja to Alhama de Granada which featured a total ascent of 1,330m. Mark made a very good start, completing the course in a time of 3 hours 51 minutes and 56 seconds.

That put him in overall 5th place which was a promising opening stage and he was only 11 minutes behind the winner of the stage Manu Pastor.

It was the second stage though where Mark really set the competition alight. The route went from Alhama de Granada to Játar and was 48km long, incorporating 1,640m of elevation. This was where Mark really came into his own.

This stage took the runners up into the mountains and included some fairly technical climbs. It was just one of those days where Mark felt strong though and he was inspired by the amazing landscape and terrain he was running in.

With about six miles remaining, he began to realise that he was in with a chance of winning the stage so he gunned it to the end from there.

Reaching the line in 5 hours 8 minutes and 49 seconds, he’d done it. He’d come out on top, with a winning margin of 13 minutes over the previous day’s winner Manu Pastor and Sarah Sawyer who he arrived in with.

With the time gap being so big, Mark was elevated to the top of the leaderboard with that win which, after, two tough stages, was a fabulous achievement.

Mark wasn’t getting carried away just yet though. He knew there was a lot of hard running still to be done in the three remaining stages.

Winners from day 2 of Al Andalus Ultimate Trail
Mark (third from the right) stands alongside his fellow prize winners after he emerged victorious on Stage 2 of the event

Stage 3 consisted of 39km from Játar to Jayena and included more tracks through the mountains with a total ascent of 980m. Despite his impressive exploits the previous day, Mark performed well, securing another top ten finish.

Completing the course in 4 hours 20 minutes and 48 seconds, Mark took 9th place on the day. He did concede almost 45 minutes to Manu Pastor though, who again won the stage in a time of 3:36:36. He was now firmly in command of the race.

Next it was onto Stage 4 and that was the big one of the event. The route from Jayena to Alhama de Granada was 67km in length (42 miles) and incorporated 2,031m of ascent.

And as if that wasn’t tough enough, it was an extremely hot day, with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees. This was always going to be a make or break day for Mark and the other leading contenders.

Could they withstand the intense heat and did they have enough in the tank after three gruelling stages to see them through such a long, arduous session? There was certainly somewhere to run on this one, but there was nowhere to hide.

For the first 26 miles of the course, Mark was feeling fine. It was going so well that he was beginning to dream of finishing as one of the top three men. That would have been an extraordinary achievement. Unfortunately though, things were about to take a turn for the worse.

By mile 29 he found himself in a severely dehydrated state and the last 13 miles of the day were complete and utter torture. After 9 hours 37 minutes and 36 seconds out on the course, Mark made it to the line, putting him in 15th place for the day.

It took a lot of support and encouragement from his co runners to help see Mark through the latter stages of the day and in particular one German dentist who dragged him along and refused to let him give up. Dentists are usually famed for being the administers of torture but on this occasion it was quite the opposite.

Having shipped quite a lot of time to the main contenders on this stage, Mark’s challenge for a top three finish in the event were now over. He’d conceded almost two hours to Sarah Sawyer who was 1st on the day in a time of 7:35:05 and Edwin Lenaerts who was 2nd in 7:39:54.

The final stage was Alhama de Granada to Loja, which totalled 37km and featured a further 1,120m of ascent to negotiate. With four testing days already completed, the runners who were still standing by this point were really taken to their limits having to get out there again and get through this last long route.

As the race got underway, Mark wasn’t feeling too bad at first. After the first three miles though, he could tell he was still suffering from the previous day’s exertions. He had very little energy and realised he’d need to take it easy to make it through okay.

He’d set off with the elites each day but on this occasion he quickly got spat out of the back. At the start of the race they’d been asked by the race organisers if any of them wanted to form a team of three. 14 miles in, Mark came across a teammate who was in a spot of bother.

By this point he wasn’t too concerned about time so Mark decided to stick with his teammate and finish together. After 6 hours 22 minutes and 11 seconds of running, Mark made it the end and he’d done it. He’d gone all the way and completed the entire event. That was an achievement in itself.

After all thoughts of time had gone out the window by the final stage and Mark had taken it upon himself to help his teammate get over the line, his overall time stood at 29 hours 21 minutes and 20 seconds. It was a hell of a lot of running for a five-day period.

That saw Mark place 15th in the overall standings out of the 37 people who managed to successfully complete all five stages. Of course, if he’d run harder in that last stage he would have been a lot higher but it didn’t matter to Mark. It was really all about completing the task and getting through all five stages. That was enough of a challenge for anyone.

After the leader at the end of the first three stages, Manu Pastor, has abandoned on the fourth stage, it was Sarah Sawyer who came through for the win in the end, emerging victorious in both the last two stages. Her finishing cumulative time was 24:32:17.

Chris Lamb took 2nd place in 25:19:41 with Edward Lenaerts in 3rd with a cumulative time of 25:33:45.

It has certainly been a rollercoaster ride for Mark. He’d gone from the highs of winning stage two and being overall leader to almost calling it quits on the fourth stage where he suffered greatly.

It was an amazing event though and Mark had found it even tougher than the Marathon des Sables, and that’s saying something. He loved it though and is even contemplating going back next year to have another crack at it.

What struck him most about Al Andalus Ultimate Trail though was that it was without a doubt the friendliest event he’d ever been part of and he met some great and truly supportive fellow ultra lunatics on the way.

Upon his return home, Mark professed that he wasn’t going to put his running trainers on for the rest of the summer. He did have a couple of weeks break after that but wasn’t able to resist the temptation to lace up his sneakers again for too long.

As far as his next conquest goes, so far Mark hasn’t got anything concrete in the diary but he’d keen on the idea of doing the Druids Challenge in early November, which is marathon a day for three consecutive days. Then he’d thinking about the Endurancelife Ultra and Coastal Challenge at the end of November.

Perhaps after putting himself through the trials and tribulations of Al Andalus UltimateTrail, these future events will seem like a piece of cake to Mark. On thing is for sure though and that’s that when it comes to running, Mark certainly likes to have his cake and eat it.

Mark Hillier in Al Andalus Ultimate Trail
Mark experienced some huge highs and some difficult lows over the course of the event but he came of it smiling and that’ what it’s all about

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

JC spearheads Sturminster Newton smackdown for BAC

Bournemouth AC team for Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
A strong looking Bournemouth AC squad with some famous faces and a doggy mascot prepared to battle for league points in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon

In the first race of a Dorset Road Race League double header over the first two August weekends, a steely Bournemouth AC squad headed out for the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon.

Team captain Rich Nelson had once again worked wonders to pull together a super-strong men’s team that looked more than capable of challenging for top honours.

With the likes of Jacek Cieluszecki, Rob Spencer, Toby Chapman and Jon Sharkey all down on the list, it was a mouthwatering line up for the yellow and blue army.

Unfortunately, in the week leading up to race a late reshuffle was required when Rob Spencer was called out to work and Jon Sharkey was forced to pull out.

Rob was hoping to be around but works offshore in the oil industry so when he gets the call, he has to be on hand to head out to whatever the designated location. That means it’s not always guaranteed he’ll be able to make any race he signs up for.

That was a big blow as he would have been a major contender to follow up his victory at the Purbeck 10k with another win, but alas, it was not to be.

That left a void of two places that needed to be filled and it turned out to be two Bournemouth AC legends that stepped up to the plate. Having not run a longer distance than six miles since he was forced to abandon the Comrades Marathon with a hamstring tear, Steve Way was back in action.

He wasn’t expecting to run well after having been out for so long and knew his fitness wasn’t anywhere near what it normally is. He was intending to run it with a friend of his who was marathon training though, so was planning to take it nice and steady, with the simple aim of just getting round.

It had also been a while since Pete Thompson had been seen in competitive race action but he’d been getting in some decent training over recent times and was feeling in reasonable shape.

Word had got around that he was in quite good form as well and the previous day, he’d finished first at Bournemouth parkrun. Unfortunately he didn’t bring a barcode so it didn’t go down in the results, but it was a good sign that his fitness was there and he was ready to put in a performance.

They had back up as well, with Stu Nicholas, Mitch Griffiths, Richard Brawn and Matt du Cros also signed up, along with decorated veterans Ian Graham and Andy Gillespie.

There was also a ladies team expected, with Tamzin Petersen, Helen Ambrosen and Lucy du Cros all registered for BAC. On the morning of the race though, Lucy decided to give it a miss after suffering the after effects of an extremely late night the previous evening which meant she’d had minimal sleep.

She still turned out to support her brother Matt though who knew he had to run. Matt is going for the fidelity award this year which you get for taking part in all 12 of the Dorset Road Race League fixtures.

Unfortunately, with Lucy dropping out that meant there would be no scoring team for the ladies which was a bit of a disappointment. Nevertheless, Tamzin and Helen were determined to fulfill their part of the bargain and get out there and give their all.

After getting called over to Dubai on a work trip, Mitch Griffiths was also unable to make it to the race. The assignment would also keep him out of the Round the Rock 10k the following weekend as well so that was a double blow for Mitch, especially as he was to retain his Dorset Road Race League category win that he collected last season.

Realising that he wasn’t required to make up a scoring team and since he wasn’t needed for a lift on this occasion either, Ian decided to not to go in the end. He had been planning to switch his entry to the 5k instead of the half marathon but opted to save his energy for his forthcoming walking holiday across Scotland.

Andy Gillespie suffers from shingles from time-to-time and he was actually hoping someone else might step in to take his place. But there were no takers so he showed up ready to tow the line. It was a week before he was due to join the 100 Marathon Club by completing the 5,4,3,2,1 Salisbury 50k.

One good thing from a BAC perspective was that JC was there and that meant there was a good chance they’d have the race winner in their ranks. Jacek wasn’t a hundred percent confident though.

As a consequence of training for the 120km UTMB, he’d done very little speed work in the run up to the Stur Half. All his training had been geared toward lengthy and high elevation sessions as opposed to fast running on the road.

He had had one run out at Poole parkrun but had been beaten that day by both Rob Spencer and Lee Dempster. Lee was also in the line up at the Stur Half so he was liable to pose a threat.

On the morning of the race it was an overcast day and it seemed like virtually ideal running conditions. That was a stark contrast to the previous year when it was blistering hot sunshine.

Once they got going though, the runners could tell it was actually quite humid. There wasn’t that same coastline breeze that you usually get around the Bournemouth and Poole area as Sturminster Newton is a bit more inland.

The course started from Station Road, just outside Railway Gardens but rather than an out-and-back, it was more a kind of loop but finishing on the High School playing field where the race HQ was situated.

In the early going, it was JC at the front of race, setting the pace alongside Toby Chapman and Lee Dempster. They were also joined by Jamie Hinton, who doesn’t run for any of the Dorset Road Race League clubs but looked pretty useful.

Lee decided his best chance of coming out on top was to take the race on, so he laid down the gauntlet, opening out an advantage over the rest of the field.

Jamie and Jacek were in hot pursuit though and were in no mood to let Lee out of their sights. Jacek in particular was not going to concede defeat that easily and sat in behind waiting for the right moment to pounce.

It was exactly at the six mile point that JC caught Lee up and went past him. There must have been a sigh and a rolling of the eyes from Lee as Jacek assumed the reigns and went hurtling off.

The same thing had happened in the last half marathon race they’d clashed in which was the Puddletown Plod, and Jacek went on to win that day. It now looked very much like it was going to happen again at the Stur Half.

Once he takes the lead in a race, Jacek invariably doesn’t relinquish it from there, so Lee knew his chances of picking up the victory had probably evaporated with that move.

Jacek carried on pushing and managed to extend his lead at the front to around about a minute-and-a-half before making it to the line in a highly impressive time of 1:14:42.

Jacek Cieluszecki in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Jacek Cieluszecki ran well to claim a magnificent victory, getting to the line in 1:14:42

Considering his lack of speedwork, that was an excellent run from JC and he naturally he was overjoyed with the result. Lee had once again had to settle for 2nd place, coming over the line in 1:16:18.

He was followed by Jamie Hinton shortly after, with Jamie taking 3rd place in a time of 1:16:40. Then it was Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat who paced the run well to take 4th place in 1:17:19.

Weighing in with a mightily impressive performance, Stu Nicholas took 5th place and was 2nd scorer for BAC, crossing the line in a time of 1:17:50.

That was an excellent performance from Stu and showed that even though he’d been training hard for his Rat Race 100k along the South West Coast Path, he hadn’t lost any of his speed on the road.

That was a very good sign and a huge confidence booster going into his first ever 100k. It was also an improvement of almost five minutes on his time from last year.

Stu Nicholas in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Stu Nicholas had a stellar run, finishing in 5th place in a time of 1:17:50

Bournemouth AC’s leading contenders for the Dorset Road Race League title are Egdon Heath Harriers and they had their first man over the line when Paul Bullimore arrived to seal 6th place in a time of 1:18:03.

Chris Wood of Wimborne was 7th in 1:18:41 with Richard Swindlehurst of Poole AC taking 8th in 1:18:48.

Toby Chapman didn’t have one of his best runs coming in at 9th place in a time of 1:19:20. Ordinarily he would have been much quicker and would have been a lot closer to the front but he wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day.

It was still well worth the trip though for Toby as his presence had massively boosted the club’s chances of taking top spot for the fixture in the Dorset Road Race League. Plus, living in Somerset, it isn’t too often Toby gets to travel round this way for a race so it was really good to see him there.

Toby Chapman in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Swapping sunny Somerset for the depths of Dorset, Toby Chapman made a rare appearance for the club

Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders completed the top ten, crossing the line in 1:20:35, with Duncan Ward of Dorset Doddlers arriving in 11th place with a time of 1:21:07. Then it was Bournemouth AC’s fourth man to finish, Pete Thompson, taking 12th place with an excellent time of 1:21:28.

Starting off quite steadily at first, Pete grew into race, gradually picking up the pace  and moving through the field as did so. He didn’t even have a watch so he wasn’t concerned about time or pace. He just ran it entirely on how he felt and that proved to be a tactic that worked well for him.

It’s in line with Pete’s general approach to running now, which is basically just to enjoy it instead of getting so caught up with statistics and going to all kinds of lengths to get the best out of himself.

It was that competitive element that really effected Pete mentally in the past and the obsession ended up consuming him. He’s now in a much better place though and is just enjoying his running with putting any pressure on himself to deliver outrageous times.

Pete Thompson in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Pete Thompson proved he’s hitting some form, getting to the line in 1:21:46

That left BAC needing just one more member to come in to complete their scoring team of five for the men’s Dorset Road Race League points.

That man was Rich Brawn, who arrived at the finish in 1:24:34 to take 20th place in the overall standings. Rich had been suffering from a heel injury in the weeks leading up to the race and had had his foot taped up by the club physio on the Tuesday before the race, after his training session.

He’d been told not to run on it after that until the day of the race so that’s what a did. Keeping the tape on to alleviate the pressure from his heel throughout the week, Rich was full of energy come race day on the Sunday.

However, his heel soon began to hurt on the day before he’d even started running and he knew he was in for a tough morning. The pain was often manageable but over a half marathon distance he knew it was likely to effect him.

The first three or four miles of the race went okay but he soon began to experience problems. The heel was too painful to put pressure on so he had to put his weight more toward the front of the foot if possible. That made it difficult for him to use his strength to help him go quicker.

It became a bit of a slog for Rich and he knew he wasn’t running well and wasn’t going to be close to the 1:23 PB he set at the Puddletown Plod in June.

Managing to drag himself up the hill that went from mile 11 to most of the way through mile 12, Rich caught and overtook Neil Sexton from Poole Runners, which he thought must have meant he’d had a half decent run. He’d also overtaken Charlie Lawson from Egdon Heath Harriers as well, which he knew could be crucial in the Dorset Road Race League battle.

It was then just a downhill path by the side of the school field before turning in and heading down the finishing straight. As he approached he could see the time was around 1:24:30 which he was really disappointed with.

Rich Brawn in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Rich Brawn races to line to complete the scoring team of five for the BAC men’s team

In fact, it wasn’t much of an improvement on his time of 1:25:16 from last year and he felt he should have been on a different level to what he was then. It was also a minute-and-a-half down on his time at the Puddletown Plod on what should have been, if anything, a slightly easier course, so that was disappointing for Rich.

The silver lining was though that BAC had taken out the team win and that was the most important thing so in that respect, he was pleased.

Next to make his presence felt on the home straight for BAC, it was the great Steve Way. He’d run it with his friend Tim Jones from Poole Runners at roughly the pace he said he was going to, crossing the line in 1:35:49. That put him in 71st place overall.

Since it was his longest run since being sidelined after Comrades though, Steve was pretty happy with that and it was certainly a step in the right direction. No doubt he’ll be back fighting fit looking more like the Steve Way we all know and love some time soon.

Steve Way in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Steve Way approaches the line to a rapturous applause from the onlooking crowd

Coming in not too far behind Steve, and as the next BAC member over the line, it was Matt du Cros, who finished 77th in a time of 1:37:47.

That was nowhere near as fast a time as he’s capable but with very minimal training behind him, he was relatively pleased with that effort. Plus it was another notch on his way to the fidelity award which was the most important thing from Matt’s perspective.

Matt du Cros in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Matt du Cross arrives at the finish in 77th place with a time of 1:37:47

Next in for the yellow and blue army and first lady for the club, it was Tamzin Petersen. She’d found it pretty tough going in the humid conditions, especially since the course seemed to be mostly uphill. That left her feeling pretty tired by the time she reached the latter stages.

With her energy levels low, the final climb seemed like a real drag and it she found it difficult to haul herself up, but she did it in the end, reaching the finish in a time of 1:52:39.

That put her in 152nd place overall and 22nd lady on the day. She was also 2nd in the Senior Female category. Although it was 10 minutes slower than the half marathon PB time she’d set at the Fleet Pre-London earlier in the year, it was still an improvement of 7 minutes on her time from last year. That might have been partly due to the fact she didn’t stop at the aid station for ages eating sweets and drinking Vimto this time round though.

Tamzin Petersen in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
A relieved Tamzin Petersen makes her way to the finish having found the hill over the last section very tough going

Next over the line for BAC, it was marathon guru Andy Gillespie, who came in at 1:54:09. That put him in 157th place overall and 9th in the V60 category.

Having been fairly adamant that he wouldn’t be running any sort of a fast time on the day, it was actually a fairly pleasing performance from Andy and he was glad to make it through unscathed.

There have been times when Andy has sacrificed his entries in races for the good of the team, enabling someone else faster to take up the place. He’d sometimes found that to be detrimental to his own performance in future marathons and coastal challenges though so it was good that he’d kept his number for this fixture.

Completing the Stur Half meant that he could now switch his focus to the impending Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 race, where he would finally become a marathon centurion.

Andy Gillespie in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Andy Gillespie brings his race to a conclusion having made it round with no dramas

After starting off too fast, Helen Ambrosen found herself in troubled waters as the race progressed. Her pace soon began to wane when the hills came into play and the humid conditions did not help her plight.

She was finding it so tough that she even stopped running on a couple of occasions. Luckily she found the character to continue onto the end though, despite the difficulties, and ended up crossing the line in a time of 2:00:42.

Whilst it wasn’t her finest hour, or rather, her finest two hours, she still took 2nd place in the women’s V60 category and was 188th overall and 42nd lady over the line.

Helen Ambrosen in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Helen Ambrosen got her race strategy wrong which left her in a bit of a pickle as the race went on

As far as the team prizes for the race went, it was a victory for Bournemouth AC, with Jacek, Stu and Toby emerging as the top trio. Lytchett Manor Striders took 2nd with Lee Dempster, Scott Parfitt and Mark Ormonde in their top three. Then it was Egdon Heath Harriers, with Paul Bullimore, Arthur Simon and Charlie Lawson.

For the Dorset Road Race League men’s first division, it was a resounding win for Bournemouth AC, with the team of JC (1st), Stu (5th), Toby (7th), Pete (10th) and Rich (15th) reigning supreme. Egdon Heath Harriers took 2nd with Dorset Doddlers in 3rd.

The first female to cross the line on the day was Kirsteen Welch of Sidmouth RC who completed the course in 1:24:56. That put her in 23rd place overall.

Alexandra Door of Egdon Heath Harriers was 2nd female, stepping over the line in 1:32:39 to put her in 56th place overall. Then it was Gemma Russhard who took 3rd lady in a time of 1:35:20, putting her 66th overall. A total of 309 athletes successfully completed the course.

Egdon Heath Harriers were victorious in the women’s team competition, with their top three of Alexandra Door, Sophie Elford and Hannah Martyn. Poole Runners were 2nd and Poole AC third. The same also went for the Dorset Road Race League ladies first division.

In terms of the league positions, that left Bournemouth AC in a healthy position at the top of the men’s first division with four wins and two 2nd places to their name.

Egdon Heath Harriers were sitting in 2nd place, with two wins and four 2nd places. After failing to get a team out for the last three fixtures, Poole AC were now languishing well behind in 3rd place and it looks every bit a two-horse race for the title. BAC are though, very much in the driver’s seat it has to be said.

In the ladies first division, Poole Runners are top, just ahead of Egdon Heath Harriers but only by one point. Then it’s Littledown Harriers in 3rd and Bournemouth AC in 4th.

Next it was onto the following Dorset Road Race League fixture which was the Round the Rock 10k, where a very depleted and makeshift BAC men’s team would look to give it their best shot and a ladies team of three were hoping to reinvigorate their challenge in the women’s first division.

The Bournemouth AC team await the start of the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
It was great to see some high profile club members stepping in at late notice to help the team out on a day where the cream rose to the top and BAC came out on top

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rich Brawn is propelled to new heights in Spitfire Scramble

Rich Brawn back in D&T colours at Spitfire Scramble
Rich Brawn was back in the colours of his former club Dacorum & Tring as he took part in the 24-Hour Spitfire Scramble event as part of a mixed team of five

In one of his final acts for his former club Dacorum & Tring back in July 2016, Rich Brawn went over to Hornchurch Country Park to compete in the Spitfire Scramble 24-hour event. That was a month or so before he relocated to Bournemouth.

It was a great way to sign off for Rich, by spending some quality time with his clubmates and doing what they all loved doing most… Socialising and running.

Three years down the line, Rich was back again, reunited with his former clubmates for another 24-hour extravaganza. It was only in the days leading up to the event though that Rich learned of his inclusion.

The Dacorum & Tring men’s team captain Jamie Marlow had contacted him to find out if he was available. His team had had a member drop out so they needed to find a replacement.

Since he didn’t actually have anything planned for that weekend, other than a marathon training run on the Sunday, it was the perfect opportunity for Rich to catch up with his old running buddies so he agreed to join the team.

Of course, there was the small matter of running quite a lot over the 24 hours but that was something to worry about later down the line. At that moment he was just excited that he was going to see his D&T friends again.

Back in 2016, Rich competed as part of a men’s team of eight. As it panned out, each member of the team completed four 5.9 mile laps, which equated to almost 24 miles per person. That was by far the furthest Rich had ever run at that point in time and the team finished 2nd in their category.

This time they were doing it a mixed team of five, which would inevitably mean more running, more miles, more fatigue and a far more challenging experience. Rich’s running had improved a lot over the three years since he was last there though so he was up for the challenge.

The only problem he did have was that he seemed to have developed a soar heel over recent times which noticeably flared up when he was running and after he’d finished a run. That was a bit of a worry, as he knew, in a 24-hour relay event, he would finish a lap and would then soon be back out there doing another lap, so he couldn’t afford to be in pain when heading out for his next run.

On the way to Hornchurch Country Park the traffic was quite bad so it took Rich a bit longer than anticipated to get there. He arrived just in time to see Jamie Marlow set off on the first lap.

Rich got his stuff out of the car and put it in his tent. He was going to be on the fourth leg, so had a bit of time to catch up with his D&T friends before he had to get read to run.

Jamie Marlow ran a blisteringly quick first lap, finishing in  35 minutes which set a precedence and left Rich and the other members of the team wondering how on earth they were going to follow that up.

Jamie Saunders then took over for the second leg before handing over to Chris Marriott for the third leg. Rich then took up the reigns and set off the fourth leg.

Rich wanted to go at a reasonable pace but he wanted to conserve his energy, knowing there would be many laps and many more miles to come.

It was quite a testing course in places, with quite a few mild inclines and one tough gravel section on the fourth mile that Rich found really energy sapping.

Once he was over that though, it was a nice drive down the hill and back toward the field where everyone was camping and where the changeover would take place.

Rich Brawn powers along in Spitfire Scramble
After a three-year hiatus Rich was back out on the 5.7-mile Spitfire Scramble course

Completing the lap in 37 minutes and 23 seconds, Rich then passed the baton onto Ania Gabb who was running the fifth leg for the team. After she’d ran, it would then be back to Jamie Marlow and the process would be repeated.

Rich and Ania had ran together in a couple of 20-mile races in the lead up to their Spring marathons so it was nice that they could team up in this event.

The next time round Jamie Marlow took it a little more conservatively before handing over to Jamie Saunders who set off on his second lap. It was a gap of around 2-and-a-half hours from the time Rich finished his last lap to the time he had to start his next one.

That made it quite tricky as it wasn’t really enough time to eat any proper food or get a decent amount of rest. He was feeling okay for the time being though and was soon back out there on his second lap.

This time Rich took it easier over the first couple of miles and saved his energy for the mid to latter part of the route. That seemed to work better and he felt like he had a much better run, coming in in a time of 37:27, which was almost exactly the same time he’d run the first lap in.

Rich Brawn pushing hard at Spitfire Scramble
Rich ran his second lap in a very similar time to his first

By the time they’d all finished their second laps, the team were way out in front in the mixed teams of five category. They were already a lap or two ahead of the team that was currently in second place.

That was good as it afforded them a bit of breathing space and meant to pressure to keep banging out fast laps was off, to some extent. None of them wanted to let the team down though so they kept going at a relatively fast pace.

Rich and Ania had heard them say over tanoy that there was a prize for the most consistent laps and for that you just had to get three laps in in as closer time as possible.

Since Ania had somehow managed to run exactly the same time for her first two laps and Rich had only a four second difference between his, they both fancied their chances for that prize. All they had to do was run one more lap of a similar time.

Unfortunately though they both slowed down a touch on their third lap. Rich came in around about 50 seconds slower, which he was a bit disappointed with.

It had started to get dark by the time Ania got her run underway which made it a bit more difficult. Randomly she also got a nose bleed on the way round as well which had never happened to her before.

She came in a minute down on her times for the first two laps, which left both her and Rich thinking they’d probably missed out on the consistency prize.

The next time they went out, they were all going to be running in the dark and knew they’d be needing their head torches to help guide them on the right path and navigate safely through the wooded sections. This was where things started to go wrong for the team.

When Rich set off on his lap, he soon realised that the head-torch he had didn’t give off much light. That made it very difficult for him to see where he was going.

Rich Brawn on a night lap at Spitfire Scramble
As darkness fell events were about the to take a turn for the worse for Rich and the rest of his team

It would have been too much of a risk to attempt running at a fast pace in the pitch black, so he slowed right down. He was also finding it difficult to see the arrows telling him which direction to go in and it wasn’t long before he took a wrong turn.

The path he was running on took him back to the path that all the other runners were on. The only problem was, they were running in a different direction to him. This really confused Rich but he thought, he best turn and run in the same direction as everyone else.

Then, just after he’d gone through 2-miles on his watch, much to his dismay, he saw the 1-mile marker. He realised then that he must have taken a detour of about a mile when he went off piste. It was very demoralising, as the last thing you want to be doing in a 24-hour race is running additional miles.

He had no choice but to carry on and bang out the rest of the lap so that was what he did, eventually reaching the changeover point after having been out there for just over 50 minutes.

It was frustrating for Rich as he knew it would mess up his average lap time as but what was done was done. He couldn’t change it now. What made matters worse was that when he finally arrived to hand over the batten he couldn’t find Ania and because it was dark and he had his head torch on, she couldn’t tell that it was Rich either.

He trundled up towards camp to ask if anyone had seen Ania and they said she’d gone down to the changeover point. Rich went back down and it was then that they managed to find each other and Ania set off on her way.

After that mishap at the start of her leg, Ania was thinking things could only get better from there. She was wrong about that though. She too ended up veering off course and getting lost for a while. Luckily she was with another runner when it happened.

She also fell over a couple of times as well whilst she was out there so she was relieved to get back to the changeover point in one piece and put the disastrous lap behind her.

After his leg Rich had retired to his tent to have something to eat and try to get some rest before he was due to head out for his next one. He’d found fueling to be a bit of a problem as there wasn’t really enough time to eat anything substantial and every time he did have something it gave him a stomach ache during his next run.

After his last experience he was praying he wouldn’t have to do another lap in the dark. By the time he took over for his next lap it was 3:45 am. It was still dark when he started running but over the course of the lap, it gradually began to get lighter, which was a huge relief.

Feeling a little more energised after the rest that he’d had, Rich managed to get round his next lap without any hitches. Finishing in 43 minutes, he was pleased with the run. That meant he’d now covered 29.5 miles in total, having completed five laps.

Rich Brawn poses at Spitfire Scramble
Rich had never been more relieved to see daylight again as he completed his early Sunday morning lap

He immediately retired to his bed, knowing it would be a while till he’d have to be back out there again. After a good two hours of sleep he felt much better and almost felt ready to go again when it was time to head down to the changeover area.

It was a bonus to be running in broad daylight again as well and that spurred Rich on to put in a good shift, getting round in 42 minutes this time, which was an average pace of 7:23.

It was certainly not as quick as his earlier laps the previous day, where his average pace was around 6:30, but it was still a decent effort considering it took him up to a total of 35 miles.

Rich Brawn headind down the path at the Spitfire Scramble
Rich heads down the path on his penultimate lap of the event

What was most relieving was that the end was in sight as well. He now knew there was only time to do one more lap each. On his sixth lap, Chris Marriott had really struggled with an ankle injury and he’d been forced to slow down dramatically and even walk some sections.

Ania was also injured by the time she embarked on her sixth lap and she ended up having to walk the majority of it. Plus she was completely exhausted from doing so many miles and her body was telling her enough is enough.

That left just the two Jamies and Rich still going for the seventh and final lap. Both Jamie Marlow and Jamie Saunders got through their last laps okay which left Rich to head out on the course for the last time.

Knowing it was his final lap was a real boost for Rich and, although it was tough, he felt relieved knowing he could rest afterwards and it would essentially be mission completed.

With that in mind he found the strength for one final push and ended up completing the lap in 41 minutes which was a minute quicker than his previous lap.

As he approached the finish he sprinted towards the line, elated to have finally made it to the end. In fact, he finished so strongly that he got 10th overall for the Spitfire Scramble home straight segment on Strava.

Rich Brawn posing again at Spitfire Scramble
Finding a bit of extra bounce for his final lap, Rich finished with a flurry to round off a great 24-hour’s work in style

In total the team had completed 33 laps over the course of the 24 hours. That equated to 137 miles in total. It was a quite staggering effort from each of them. Their average lap time was 42 minutes 14 seconds, which was pretty impressive given how difficult it got towards the end.

They finished 7 laps ahead of the team that finished 2nd in the Mixed Teams of 3 to 5 category, so it was a very comfortable victory in the end. They even finished fourth in the overall team competition which was a considerable achievement considering that included teams of eight, where each member would have needed to run a lot less often.

After the event had finished, Rich and his teammates stayed behind to be presented with their trophies for 1st place in the Mixed Teams of 3 to 5 category. It was a great way to end a fantastic weekend for Rich and his Dacorum & Tring friends.

Mixed 3 to 5 category winners at Spitfire Scramble
Rich and his teammates picked up a trophy each for winning the mixed 3 to 5 category

Individually, Rich had covered 42 miles over the course of the 24 hours which he was really pleased with. He felt it would be good marathon training as well to do such a laborious endurance event.

The best thing about the weekend for Rich though wasn’t even the running part. It was actually seeing and catching up with all his friends and former clubmates from Dacorum & Tring. They always hold a special place in his heart so to be back with them again was a great experience.

Along with the team Rich was in, Dacorum & Tring had several other teams competing across the various different categories including a mixed team of seven. They all gave it everything over the duration of the event and there was a great spirit and togetherness around the camp.

Some other members even turned up to man the marshalling posts as well doing some long shifts out in the woods helping to ensure the smooth running of the event.

Overall it was a terrific weekend for Rich and he was grateful to be a part of it. Not only did he return to Bournemouth with a gleaming trophy, he also came back with some fabulous memories to cherish.

Rich Brawn and teammates won the mixed 3 to 5 category
Rich really enjoyed the weekend and is was great to see all his Dacorum & Tring friends again and share the gruelling and glorious moments with them