As the Dorset Road Race League season reaches an enthralling climax, the penultimate fixture saw the Bournemouth AC team make the short trip over to Wimborne to tackle the Wimborne 10. It was a day when the BAC men’s team could potentially seal the league title, should it go their way.
The only team that were in a position to be able prevent the yellow and blues from confirming top spot were Egdon Heath Harriers. They needed to win both remaining fixtures in order to do so though and even then, they’d probably have to hope that Bournemouth AC didn’t finish 2nd in both of them.
Leaving the mathematics aside though, the task for the BAC men’s team was quite simple. Win the fixture and they would officially be champions.
After a storming win at the Littledown 5, the Bournemouth AC ladies had put themselves back in the picture for a possible 3rd place finish. They were vying with Littledown Harriers for that honour and it was fairly close between the two clubs. A good scoring team performance would be vital at the Wimborne 10 to keep their hopes alive.
In the days leading up to the race the BAC men’s team suffered a hammer blow when Rob Spencer got called off-shore to work. Rob works on the oil rigs and in that job it isn’t always set in stone when you’ll be called upon.
Of course, team captain Rich Nelson always knew that was a possibility and did try his best to organise some back up to account for that eventuality.
He did manage to wangle a place in race for Ant Clark, who would be racing for the first time since he was forced to pull out of the Comrades Marathon back in June.
There was more bad news in store though for the club when Matt du Cros pulled out after experiencing some calf problems which had prevented him from training. After Rob was taken out of the equation, Matt would have been elevated into one of the five scoring positions so that was even more a blow that he couldn’t make it.
From a personal perspective it was a devastating blow for Matt as he was going for the fidelity award, which you get for running all twelve of the Dorset Road Race League fixtures.
He’d already done all ten of the previous fixtures so only needed the last two and he would have realised that achievement. Sadly, it was not be though for Matt and his fidelity hopes went out the window.
That meant it would fall to Jud Kirk to bring it home for the team as 5th scorer. There were no takers for the final number that was going spare which meant Rich Nelson had to step up and take his place on the starting line.
In for the ladies, Helen O’Neile was drafted in to make her Bournemouth AC debut only a couple of weeks after she first attended a training session.
Helen had impressed everyone with her super speed in training and captain Rich was extremely keen to get her involved and signed up as quickly as possible.
She also has a Championship starters place in waiting for the London Marathon next year so it made sense for her to join the club so she could activate that entry.
Also in action for the ladies, Joy Wright continued on her journey having participated a spate of recent long distance races, somehow managing to know one out almost every week.
First it was the Windsor Half Marathon at the end of September. Then the week after that she did the Half Marathon at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival. Then a couple of weeks later it was the Great South Run. That was followed by the New Forest Stinger. And now, here she was again in a third consecutive 10-mile race.
The Wimborne 10 race starts off from Pamphill Village Green on Vine Hill. A small race HQ had been set up complete with a bag-drop and massage tent and some partaloos for the runners to utilise when they arrived.
The Wimborne 10 has something of an old school feel to it. In the modern world where technology rules the roost and in the era of chip timing and big inflatable finish line arches, the Wimborne 10 has somehow managed to preserve a distinct level of simplicity in its approach to the fundamentals of racing.
In short, it’s pretty much just the same as it would have been back in the old days. Someone fires a gun, the race starts, and as the runners arrive at the finish, someone writes down their number and time as they go over the line.
In fact, it seemed quite a rarity for a road race in this day and age for a gun to be fired in order to get the proceedings underway. Once it did get going, a lead group began to establish themselves at the front of the field.
That consisted of Lee Dempster of Lytchett Manor Striders, Chris Alborough of Poole AC, Dom Wilmore of Poole Runners, Jacek Cieluszecki of Bournemouth AC and Mark Smith of the newly formed Twemlow Track Club.
Ant Clark wasn’t too far behind that lead group. Having not raced in such a long time, he wasn’t really sure how he would get on but since it was a very local race for him, he thought he’d give it a go and put his fitness to the test.
The first couple of miles are downhill which helped to ease the runners into it before the undulations began. The first real testing climb comes on the fourth mile. After that though there’s a nice downhill stretch to recover followed by fairly lengthy flat section.
The course is probably famed mostly for the steep hill on the last mile which is a brutal interjection at a point in the race where most of the participants would really be starting to tire.
After a stunning performance at the Great South Run the previous month, Mitch Griffiths was hoping for another sub-60 10-miler and all the ingredients were there for another great race for him. Last time Mitch ran the Wimborne 10 was in 2017 when he ran it in 60:15, so he knew he was well capable of a fast time on this course.
Also having featured in the Great South Run, Rich Brawn had run pretty well on that occasion but his time of 1:02:11 didn’t quite match up to what he produced the previous year.
He’d worked really hard in training though since then to get into the best possible shape for the Wimborne 10, even doing double runs on some days. He was absolutely determined to get back his best form after a plantar fasciosis issue had hampered his progress somewhat.
Although he knew he wasn’t in his best shape going into the race, Jacek Cieluszecki ran surprisingly well and produced a performance that wasn’t too far off the sort of pace he would normally go at for an undulating 10-miler.
He crossed the line in a time of 55:27 which put him in 4th place overall. That also netted him a lovely wooden carved trophy for 1st MV40.
Chris Alborough has been running really strongly of late and he took that form into the Wimborne 10, coming up with a fine display to seal the race win in a time of 54:22.
That was just enough to see off Dom Wilmore of Poole Runners who was 2nd in 54:32. Lee Dempster didn’t cut any corners on this occasion, taking 3rd place in a time of 55:07.
Mark Smith came in in 5th place with a time of 56:35. He was followed by Poole AC’s second man, Robert Doubleday, who crossed the line in 56:35.
Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders took 8th place recording a time of 57:34 before Egdon Heath Harriers had their first man in. That was Jonathan Cooper who got over the line in 57:41.
Considering he’d been out for such a long time, Ant Clark had a surprisingly good run, getting round in a time of 57:44, which put him in 9th place.
That’s a testament to the tremendous ability Ant possesses within him to have gone through everything he has been through and to come out with such a strong performance.
He’d actually contracted Epstein Barr Virus which is a disease that causes the muscles in the body to waste away. He actually caught the virus way before he travelled to South Africa for Comrades.
Because he’d been training so hard though, his body was so physically fit that the virus didn’t actually effect him. It was only when he started tapering that it began to take hold and noticeably attack him.
Since then Ant has been under doctor’s orders not to do anything too strenuous, so it was a while before he was allowed to get back running again. He’s had to very steadily ease himself back into it and it’s been a lengthy and frustrating process.
It was the first time he’d actually been allowed to get racing at the Wimborne 10 and it was great to see him back out there. Hopefully it will be the start of a stellar comeback for Ant.
Poole AC had their third man in, who was Barry Miller, in a time of 58:11, which put him in 12th position. 10 seconds later, the unmistakeable figure of Mitch Griffiths appeared on the horizon.
He’d only gone and done it again! Yep, it was another spectacular PB from Mitch, with his time of 58:21 bettering his performance at the Great South Run by 15 seconds. That put him in 14th place overall.
Mitch had to rush off quickly afterwards so didn’t even get to pick up his prize for 2nd placed Senior Male. It was another truly magnificent display from him though and his running continues to go from strength to strength.
The next Egdon Heath Harriers man over the line arrived five seconds later and that was Simon Arthur. He crossed the line in 58:55. The battle was really on now, with Poole AC and Bournemouth AC both having three runners in and Egdon Heath Harriers with two.
Ryan Pegoraro was the fourth Poole AC man in, completing the course in a time of 59:01 which put him in 18th place. Then, in 21st place, Egdon Heath Harriers had their third man in in the shape of Graham Sherwin. He finished in 1:00:26.
Then to complete their scoring team of five, Alan Barnett reached the line for Poole AC, taking 24th place in 1:01:33. That was to prove hugely significant in the 2019 title race.
Julian Thacker was the fourth Egdon Heath Harrier to arrive at the finish, clocking a time of 1:01:42. He may have been unaware of the intriguing battle that was going on behind him.
Rich Brawn had been running with Neil Sexton of Poole Runners for virtually the entire race. There were also quite a few other Poole Runners members around that position in the field.
It turned out that Neil was leading the Poole Runners club championship league table and Paul Currah who was on the road just up ahead was his main challenger.
Neil didn’t want to lose out to Paul in the race so he was doing his best to keep in check with Paul as he and Rich ran together just a short distance behind.
On around about the 7th mile, Neil and Rich finally overtook Paul but he wasn’t done yet. He was determined to hang in there and make a real contest of it.
As they approached the final hill, Rich was beginning to struggle a bit with the pace and had had to let Neil go. He was thinking that perhaps he might be able to catch up again on the final hill.
As they got close to the top of the hill and the road began to flatten out, Rich made his move. He swept past Neil and the other Poole Runners and continued on down the long and drawn out finishing straight.
There was still a third of a mile left to go though and as they neared the finish, Damian Huntingford of Wimborne AC was the first to go past Rich.
Then it was the resurgence of Paul Currah who also came flying past Rich. Not to be outdone, Neil then followed suit along with the other Poole Runner, Matt Robbins.
Rich was content to let the three of them battle it out as he was happy to see that as the clock ticked down, he had done enough to finish in under 1:02.
Neil ended up coming out on top in the Poole Runners internal battle, taking 28th place in a time of 1:01:44. Then it was Paul in 1:01:45 and Matt in 1:01:46.
Even though he’d lost a few places on the finishing straight, Rich was happy to cross the line in 1:01:49, which put him in 32nd place overall. That was Rich’s second fastest ever 10-mile time and eclipsed his time from last year by 16 seconds.
Rich had overtaken Bruce Campbell of Egdon Heath Harriers on the way up the hill and he was their fifth scorer, crossing the line in 34th place in a time of 1:01:55.
It was now just a question of when Jud would arrive as since he was going to be 5th scorer for Bournemouth AC. Before that though, the first BAC lady arrived on the scene. That was Helen O’Neile.
Before the race Helen had been thinking that she’d ideally like to come in in around 1:06 but she hadn’t done many long runs in the build up to the race so was unsure if her endurance would be there.
As it turned out though, she had a fantastic run, getting to the line in a superb time of 1:06:07. That was enough to see her take the prize for 3rd placed female.
Caroline Stanzel of Poole Runners was the first woman to make it to the line. She registered a time of 1:04:42, which put her in 50th place overall.
Following in shortly after was her Poole Runners teammate Charlotte Bunch, who crossed the line in 1:04:56 to finish as 2nd lady. She was 53rd in the overall standings.
For Helen, it was a dream debut and to be taking home a trophy in her first ever race for BAC was a very pleasing outcome.
Finishing in 86th place in a time of 1:09:11, Jud completed the Bournemouth AC scoring five. That was a couple of minutes off the time that Jud set at the Wimborne 10 last year but he was marathon training then so was in better shape.
That was good enough for 3rd place though in the MV60 category for Jud, behind Stephen Hogarth of Poole AC who finished in 1:07:49, taking 78th place.
The winner of the MV60 category though was Stephen’s Poole AC teammate Andy Clements, who finished in a staggeringly quick time of 1:02:4 which put him in 39th place.
The second Bournemouth AC lady to get the finish was Joy Wright, who recorded a time of 1:12:13 to come in in 113th place in the overall standings.
That was only 45 seconds off the time she produced at the Great South Run and this was on a more hilly course so that was a pleasing result for Joy.
She also finished as 12th placed female on the day and when they were giving the prizes out afterwards, she was over the moon to find that she’d finished 2nd in the FV40 category. She therefore got to take home one of the little wooden trophies which was a great way to round off a terrific morning for her.
Despite having done 10 miles over the Purbeck the day before as well as a couple of other runs during the week, Rich Nelson put in a decent display to finish in a time of 1:15:43. That saw him positioned 153rd overall and 20th in the MV45 category.
Getting over the line in 2nd place in the MV70 category, Ian Graham had a good run to record a time of 1:19:24. That put him in 197th place overall.
The category win for the MV70 went to David Cartwright of Poole Runners though who posted a fantastic time of 1:10:07 to finish in 91st place overall.
The final BAC member to complete the course was Helen Ambrosen who crossed the line in 1:23:32. That put her in 245th place overall and 63rd lady. She was also 1st on the FV60 category which meant yet another of the wooden trophies went to a BAC member.
With so many category prizes and terrific individual performances, it was a brilliant day for BAC in one respect. In terms of the team competitions, the trio of Jacek, Ant and Mitch were 2nd place in the men’s with a cumulative time of 2:51:32. They were behind the Poole AC three of Chris Alborough, Robert Doubleday and Barry Miller who were 1st with a total cumulative time of 2:49:28.
In the women’s team competition, Poole Runners easily won it with their team of Caroline Stanzel, Charlotte Bunch and Melanie Austreng giving them a total time of 3:20:20. In fact they also had a second three that were quicker than any three from any other club in Zoe Barrett, Sarah Swift and Paula Barker.
However, as far as the Dorset Road Race League went, the Bournemouth AC men’s team had actually only managed 4th position, which was unprecedented for them. Egdon Heath Harriers, Poole AC and even Poole Runners had finished ahead of them.
Whilst on the face of it that seemed a bit of a disappointment though, there was a silver lining, or rather, perhaps a gold lining, if you will. And that was the fact that Poole AC had won the fixture and not Egdon Heath Harriers.
Therefore, because Egdon Heath needed to win their last two fixtures, that handed the title to BAC. Although this wasn’t perhaps quite the way they’d envisaged it happening, by virtue of their excellent performances in other races over the course of the season, the club had once again been confirmed as champions.
They had every right to be proud of that achievement as well. With stiff competition from Egdon Heath Harriers who pushed them all the way as well as some strong team efforts from Poole AC, Littledown Harriers and Poole Runners, it was a fantastic result for the club.
Despite all the challenges and adversity they had faced, the BAC men had come together and delivered when it really mattered and that was testament to all the hard work put in, largely by Rich Nelson as team captain and also by each member who came out to represent the club.
The BAC ladies team also finished 4th for the fixture, with Poole Runners coming out on top, Littledown Harriers in 2nd and Egdon Heath Harriers 3rd.
That effectively sealed 3rd place for Littledown and condemned BAC to 4th place in the table. It’s gone down to the wire between Poole Runners and Egdon Heath Harriers for top spot though. Basically, whichever one of them wins the final fixture will be champions.
That will set up an exciting climax in the ladies’ race at least at the Boscombe 10k. As for the men though, with the league title sewn up, they can afford to just go there and enjoy the occasion. Knowing the competitive spirit that exists within BAC though, they will go out all guns blazing anyway and look to round off an excellent season with a win.