Last Sunday saw the return of the Dorset Road Race League and it was over to Portland for a tough, turbulent 10 miler that was sure to sort the men from the boys.
Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson had worked hard to assemble a really strong team for the race in the hope that they might be able to come out on top over a consistently solid Poole AC line up.
With the bonus of Rich managing to wangle a couple of late entries to the race, the yellow and blue crew was assembled and ready to be unleashed on the uncompromising island circuit.
In their arsenal were last year’s race winner Jacek Cieluszecki, who tore round the course in dominant fashion on that occasion, registering a time of 54 minutes 24 seconds.
In his first race official race for Bournemouth AC, Craig Palmer was hoping for a good run to follow up his 2nd place in the Purbeck 10k the previous weekend.
There was also a wealth of talent on the undercard for BAC as well, with Tom Paskins returning to Portland after a stunning performance last year saw him take 8th place in a time of 62:10.
Also lining up for BAC after his double marathon a few days earlier was Stu Nicholas, who won one of them and very nearly won the other until he blew up before the last lap.
Adding to that motley crew were László Tóth, who had run a terrific parkrun at Bournemouth the day before, finishing in a time of 17:50. Plus the ever strong and ever reliable Graeme Miller, who had run really well in the half marathon race at the Poole Running Festival to take 6th place in 1:22:30.
Currently in training for the Cross European Dualthlon Championships, Ross Smith was also in action and was hoping to follow up a decent 10k performance at the Poole Running Festival where he took 12th place in a time of 37:24 with another strong display.
They were supported by Rich Brawn, who has had a few PB’s himself over recent times, including a parkrun best of 18:19 at Poole a few weeks prior. Ian Graham was also in action, still looking spritely despite being into his 70’s.
As the race got underway, it quickly became apparent that it was going to follow a similar pattern to last year, with Jacek way out in front, driving up the inclines like they weren’t even there.
Even Craig couldn’t live with that kind of early pace but he’d established a fairly sizable advantage himself over the 3rd placed runner behind him.
The course is basically a lap and a half round the island, starting just down the road from Portland Red Triangle Cricket Club, which is where the finish is located.
From the start, the route leads down to Portland Bill lighthouse at the most southerly point of the island. Once the first three miles have been completed, there is a turn before the runners head back in the direction they came from, making their way back towards the north of the island.
The 5th and 6th mile feature a beast of a hill that leads up through the town. The worst part is knowing that because the second half of the race is a smaller lap going over what you’ve already done, so you have to go up the hill twice before getting to the top when you can finally cruise into the finish.
The way Jacek cruised up them seem more like a mole hill than a mountain. With his recent lack of speed training and having ran a tough 17 miler at the Pubeck the day before, JC wasn’t expecting to be able to better his time from the previous year.
He still ran well though, crossing the line in a time of 55:54, which was enough to seal a comfortable win. JC’s average page for the run was an impressive 5:33, which is amazing for such a tough, hilly course.
Just under 3 minutes later, Craig arrived at the finish to take a sublime 2nd place with a time of 58:51. Again, his average speed of 5:53 per mile was super impressive for race of that sort of profile. That made it a magnificent 1,2 for BAC.
Taking 3rd place for Poole AC was Brian Underwood, in 59:01, with teammate Chris Alborough in 4th finishing in 61:04.
Despite the tragic end to his Teddy Bears Picnic Challenge Run, leaving his feeling completely shattered in the aftermath, Stu showed tremendous character to bounce back from the disappointment and take 5th place on the day, finishing in an excellent time of 61:10.
Tom East of Poole Runners took 6th place in a time of 61:51, with the Poole AC duo of John Bassinder and Dave Hicks taking 7th and 8th in 62:04 and 62:18 respectively.
Weighing in with a mind-blowing new 10 mile PB of 62:36, Ross was 3rd scorer for BAC and assumed the final place in the top 10. It was an incredible performance from Ross and one that even he himself was quite surprised at. It certainly bodes well for his training though as he works toward his big duathlon event at the end of October.
Filing in immediately after Ross was his BAC compatriot Graeme, who took 11th place in a time of 62:39. Graeme was relieved that the sun hadn’t come out to play after such an intensely hot week, and the overcast conditions certainly worked in favour of the runners.
Embroiled in a tussle with László for the first 7 miles, it was the moment when Ross came flying past him at 5.5 miles as if he was standing still that gave Graeme the wake up call he needed.
That gave Graeme someone to chase at least for the second half of the race and helped him get into gear. Ross is very strong on the hills though had a tendency to pull away from Graeme on the inclines before Graeme would catch up on the descents.
Before the race Graeme had mentioned to his wife Carole that he though he was in shape for a finish of around 1 hour 3 minutes so he was pleased with his run.
After the race, Graeme quickly rushed back to grab a shower before heading off to camp out at Wimbledown over night in order to get tickets for the tennis on the following day.
Tom didn’t have quite as good a run as he did last year, but still turned in a solid performance, crossing the line in 16th place in a time of 63:36.
As for László, he started off promisingly but as the race wore on, he began to tire and his energy levels were depleted. The exertions of the previous day at parkrun may have taken its toll on him as he suffered a fair bit over the final climb.
Crossing the line in a time of 65:12, László was very glad to get the race over and done with but he still took 22nd place in a highly competitive field.
Chalking almost 4 minutes off his time from the previous year, Rich Brawn had a very good run, underlining the excellent progress he’s been making of late.
Finishing in a time of 65:58, Rich came in 28th place, just behind Joseph Sherwood of Littledown Harriers, who he was having a good battle with as they worked their way up to the top of the last hill.
Remembering what happened to him last time after he started off too quickly and really suffered over the second half of the race, Rich tried to take it a bit easier this time, hoping that he’d have some energy saved up for later in the race.
The first couple of miles are predominantly downhill as you head towards Portland Bill so they are always faster. As he got onto the uphill sections, Rich began to find it difficult to establish and maintain a good pace.
Although he found the hill up through town on the 5th and 6th miles tough going, he knew from looking at his mile splits on Strava from last year’s race that he was going quicker than he did then.
It was on the 7th mile that he started to feel strong and began to start going past some of the runners who had previously overtaken him on the way up the big climb the first time.
That was encouraging for Rich and it gave him the impetus to really dig in that final climb and finish strongly. As he reached the cricket pitch where the finish line was located, he was really pleased to see that the clock hadn’t gone past 1 hour 6 minutes yet and made a dash for the line to get in just before time ticked over.
It had been a few years since Ian had done the Portland 10. In fact, his last appearance in the race was 2014. Now in the over 70’s bracket, Ian has had to reduce his weekly mileage somewhat but still enjoys getting out when he can.
Having not done any 10 mile runs in training in the build up to the race but with a couple of 9 milers under his belt, Ian’s only real aim was just to get around and also to enjoy it if he could.
During the race Ian became involved in a tussle with a lady from Poole AC. There was even a bit of argy-bargy as she pushed past him looking for her preferred racing line. This got on Ian’s nerves a bit and he proceeded to sit on her shoulder for the rest of the race, just to annoy her.
Crossing the line in a time of 89:15, Ian came in 156th place overall. He also scooped the prize for 1st place in the 70+ category which was a fantastic reward for his efforts.
Fortunately it didn’t require a penalty shootout to determine who should win the team competition, although in saying that, the race organisers did manage to get it wrong initially when giving out the prizes. They incorrectly awarded 1st prize in the men’s team competition to Poole AC when it should in fact have been Bournemouth AC.
The team competition for the race itself was decided by the cumulative time of the top four runners from each club. The team of Jacek, Craig, Stu and Ross were almost 6 minutes faster than the Poole AC team of Brain Underwood, Chris Alborough, John Bassinder and Dave Hicks. The 2nd BAC team of Graeme, Tom, Laszlo and Rich Brawn were 3rd.
As far as the Dorset Road Race League goes, it is always the positions of the top five that count for the men’s team competition, so that was a clear victory for Bournemouth AC, with Jacek, Craig, Stu, Ross and Graeme as the scorers. Poole AC were 2nd with Poole Runners in 3rd.
For the ladies team competition, Bournemouth AC unfortunately didn’t have any female members out so there were no points for them there. Poole Runners were the victors in the ladies first division, with Littledown Harriers in 2nd and Egdon Heath Harriers in 3rd.
In the league tables so far, it’s very tight at the top of the men’s first division, with Bournemouth AC now reestablishing their position at the top of the table ahead of Poole AC.
Both teams have three fixture wins to their name, with BAC having managed three 2nd places. Poole AC have two 2nd place finishes but miss out on top sport as they only managed 5th in the Bournemouth 10 fixture.
The ladies team have not dropped down to 4th place in the league after failing to field a team in the previous two fixtures (Portland 10 and North Dorset Village Marathon). Poole Runners top the first division table, with Littledown in 2nd and Poole AC in 3rd.
Hopefully BAC will have more success in getting a ladies team out over the next few races and they can look to climb back up the table.
For the men’s competition, if Bournemouth AC can take this momentum into the next league fixture, the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon on 5th August, and the Round the Rock 10k the week after, they will have a great chance of reclaiming the title back from Poole AC. It’s going to be tight though, so it’s certainly all to play for in the coming months.