It didn’t prove too difficult for Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson to get a team together for the latest fixture in the Dorset Road Race League calendar which was the Littledown 5.
Since it was such a local race and only a five miler as well, there were plenty of the yellow and blue army chomping at the bit to get a piece of the action.
Even Craig Palmer and Dave Long, who haven’t featured in many of the league fixtures this season, agreed to turn out, although they were adamant that it would be a strictly tempo-paced run for them as they hone their fitness for bigger target races.
That said, Craig and Dave’s tempo run pace was likely to prove faster than most of the athletes in the field would be able to go so it was still worth having them in the team.
Also present in the line up was local celebrity Pete Thompson, who has been running well lately and seems to have rediscovered some great form.
These days Pete is all about just enjoying his running though. He won’t allow himself to get bogged down in the competitiveness of it like he has done in the past. He just does it for fun now but that doesn’t mean he won’t give it his all and perform to a high standard when he does pull on the hallowed yellow and blue vest.
Straight outa trackville, Joy Wright and Harriet Slade also joined the team, each making a rare appearance on the road. The BAL is in its off-season at the moment which gives them some opportunity to deviate from track duties and vary it up a bit.
Joy has been suffering a fair bit with injuries over recent times but she has always maintained the desire to get out there and compete and that says a lot about her character.
Harriet has been experiencing some plantar issues of late which seem to effect her more when she runs on the road. With track running, she’s usually fine and doesn’t find it especially painful. When she’s pounding the tarmac though, that’s a different matter.
Of course, an ever-present in the Dorset Road Race League so far, Matt du Cros took another step closer to the fidelity award. After this there would only be two fixtures remaining for him to complete in order to take home the fidelity prize.
After recording a stonking victory in his first race for Bournemouth AC at the Purbeck 10k, Rob Spencer was back in league action and was likely to be a major contender for top honours at the Littledown 5.
After missing out on the last two league races, the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon and Round the Rock, due to work commitments, Mitch Griffiths was back in the line up for BAC as well.
It was frustrating for Mitch as it was the first time in quite a while he’d actually been fit to compete in a league match but he was in Dubai so was presented from doing so. Before that he’d been out of action for about 7 months due to Achilles tendonitis.
Last season Mitch won his age category division in the Dorset Road Race League and he was hoping he’d be able to have a go at defending his title but sadly he won’t have done seven races now.
When the race first started, to everyone’s surprise it was Craig Palmer who sprinted off and into the lead. He was meant to be running it at tempo pace so for a while that put the cat amongst the pigeons.
It turned out it was all in name of banter though and Craig soon eased up let his teammate and training partner Rob Spencer take up the reigns at the front of the pack. And once Rob does that, he’s usually pretty difficult to catch.
If anyone could do it though, it was going to be Lytchett Manor Strider, Lee Dempster, who has triumphed in a number of local races over recent times. He was hot on Rob’s heels. Josh Cole was also in a mix as well in the opening stages of the race.
It was good to see Poole AC return with a strong line-up after a notable absence of many of their top runners from the previous four Dorset Road Race League fixtures.
They had Chris Alborough and Mark Smith in the chasing pack which also included Stu Nicholas of BAC. Dave Long was taking it very steady, tagging onto the back of the group, kitted out in his blue tempo t-shirt.
Alex Goulding was in a group just behind them, along with Neil Sexton of Poole Runners, who he’d had a good battle with for the M40 prize at Round the Rock. Robert Doubleday and Dave Hicks of Poole AC were also in that group.
As the race progressed, Pete Thompson began to move through the field and work his way up toward the front, as did Mitch Griffiths. They were both running strongly and smoothly as they hunted down their rivals up ahead and picked them off, one by one.
The first half of the Littledown 5 course is actually a fair bit tougher than the second half, with more gradual inclines present. In the second half of the race, the gradual declines are more prominent, enabling those who have paced it right to pick up the pace a bit over the latter stages.
Sure enough, Rob Spencer‘s lead at the front of the field turned out to be unassailable and he cruised in for the victory in a superb time of 26:39. With an average pace of 5:17 minutes per mile, he finished up 23 seconds ahead of Lee Dempster who was 2nd in a time of 27:02.
Josh Cole had been forced to pull out of the race with a hamstring injury, much to his frustration and, had that not happened, he would surely have featured in and around the top placings.
Chris Alborough of Poole AC took 3rd place in a time of 27:12 ahead of his teammate Mark Smith who crossed the line in 27:44. Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders completed the top five, registering a time of 28:03.
Weighing in the stunning and somewhat unexpected PB of 28:06, Stu Nicholas arrived at the finish in 6th place, beating his previous best 5-mile time by 10 seconds.
Stu has recovered well from his 100k Roseland August Trail race and has been in fantastic form ever since, picking up a marathon victory in the Crafty Fox Marathon the weekend before the Littledown 5.
In fact, Stu was the first of a contingent of four consecutive Bournemouth AC runners to reach the finish. Managing to latch onto the back of Craig and Disco’s training run, Mitch Griffiths was able to leverage that to help drive his pace forward.
Towards the end of the race, Mitch began to push on and ultimately managed to secure a new PB, crossing the line in 7th place with a time of 28:13. That eclipsed his time at the Hoburne 5 last year by two seconds.
A couple of seconds later, Pete Thompson arrived at the finish to take 8th place in a time of 28:15. He was followed in by Craig Palmer who was 9th in what, for him, was a very steady time of 28:17.
That meant Bournemouth AC already had five men over the line out of the top nine places, meaning they’d easily won the Dorset Road Race League fixture.
After a disappointing 3rd place finish at Round the Rock in the previous fixture, they needed to bounce back to negate the threat of Egdon Heath Harriers, and they’d certainly done that emphatically.
Poole AC got their third runner in when Gareth Alan-Williams arrived to complete the top ten, finishing in a time of 28:18. Kevin Willsher of Lordshill Road Runners came in in 11th place in 28:19 before Dave Long arrived to take 12th in 28:21.
Craig and Disco continued their training runs after the race, going on to complete almost 18 miles each in total.
Completing the top five for Poole AC and giving them 2nd place in the men’s first division of the DRRL for the fixture, Robert Doubleday and Dave Hicks took 13th and 14th places respectively in times of 28:39 and 28:42.
Securing a new 5-mile PB of 28:42, Alex Goulding came in in 15th place. That bettered his previous record by 2 seconds. Unfortunately the age categories for the Littledown 5 were slightly different than usual, with the first male vets category being 35-44, which meant he wasn’t in contention for a prize.
On the Thursday before the race Alex, Rich Brawn and Stu had gone out for a Littledown 5 course reccie, so they had it in their heads exactly where they needed to go. Unfortunately, the same didn’t apply to Neil Sexton of Poole Runners.
Neil was quite close to Alex again towards the end, just like he was at Round the Rock. Unfortunately, the curse of going the wrong way was about to strike again for Neil.
Just on the approach toward the cricket pitch at Littledown where the finish was located, there was a small alleyway which the runners needed to turn into. Neil promptly missed the turning and continued round to the right before the marshal stopped him and informed him that he’d gone the wrong way.
For that to happen once was an anomaly but for it to happen twice was down right bizarre. After the race, Neil came to the conclusion that he might need to study the course map a bit better next time in future races.
It wasn’t until the 20th runner in the overall standings crossed the line that Egdon Heath Harriers got a scorer on the board. That meant, like Bournemouth AC at Round the Rock, Egdon would have to settle for 3rd place in the DRRL for the fixture.
Suffering from dreadful plantar fasciosis over recent weeks, Rich Brawn had been unable to do any proper long runs and had really struggled to train as hard as he usually does.
As a result, he was worried that his standards might be slipping and that eventually he would get found out. He was still hoping for a sub-30-minute finish but as soon as the race started, he could tell he wasn’t feeling particularly strong.
He struggled in the second mile of the race and that soon began to get him down and he struggled to recover from that point on. Mark Packer from Littledown Harriers had caught him up and was poised just behind him.
That was a problem for Rich as Mark had outsprinted him before in the Purbeck 10 league race a few months back and he was worried that the same thing might happen again.
In a way though, having Mark behind him kind of spurred Rich on as he didn’t want Mark to overtake him so he did his best to up the pace towards the end and give everything he could try and get away.
He couldn’t do it though and as they edged closer to finish, Mark launched off and overtook Rich. Rich didn’t have enough left to even give Mark a run for his money.
Then Peter Doughty of Westbourne RC entered the fray as well and manoeuvred alongside Rich. The pair had a terrific tussle on the way toward the line but in the end, Rich wasn’t strong enough to keep going and had to concede defeat.
It was gutting for Rich to lose two places close to the end and what was even more disappointing was that on his approach to the finish the clock had just ticked down past 30 minutes, which compounded Rich’s misery. He crossed the line in 30th place with a time of 30:02.
After a period where he’s been some way off of his top form, Matt du Cros is now starting to run well again and has been getting his speed back in training. Completing the course in 31:38, he took 48th place in the standings.
It was a very similar time to what he produced in the May 5 at Canford Heath earlier in the season, where he finished in 31:18, so it was a decent run from Matt and another step forward on the road back to his best form.
Reaching the line just 1 second later, Harriet Slade finished as 2nd placed lady and 49th overall in a time of 31:39. That was a superb run from Harriet and a very strong PB which she was naturally pleased about.
It was an improvement of 1 minute and 18 seconds on last time she ran the Littledown 5 back in 2017 so that demonstrates good progress from her over the last couple of years.
The 1st placed woman was Vicki Ingham of Poole Runners who came in 1 minute 14 seconds ahead of Harriet. She finished in 38th place overall in a time of 30:53. Alexandra Door of Egdon Heath Harriers crossed the line as 3rd female in a time of 32:29, which put her in 59th place overall.
The 2nd BAC women to arrive at the finish was Joy Wright, who was 6th placed female and 2nd in the 35-44 category. That was a pretty good result for Joy and she was pleased with her time of 35:22, which put her in 88th place in the overall standings.
It wasn’t a very long wait before Bournemouth AC’s scoring trio was complete, with Jo Dilling reaching the line 36 seconds later to take a position of 9th placed lady.
Her time of 35:58 was good enough for a 94th placed finish and put her 2nd in the 45-54 category. That gave BAC a comprehensive team victory in Dorset Road Race League for the Littledown 5 and earned them a bottle of wine each for the team prize at the presentation afterwards.
Coming in in 66th place, Tom Paskins was some way off his best form but he hasn’t been doing a lot of running recently so it wasn’t a surprise. He clocked a time of 32:51.
The next BAC member home was Phil Cherrett, who followed up on his 5k PB at the New Forest Marathon event the previous weekend by securing a new 5-mile PB of 33:12.
That was two seconds quicker than his time at the Hoburne 5 last year and put him in 73rd place in the overall standings. It was great to see Phil coming back so strong after an IT band injury that impacted his running for quite some time.
Finishing in 85th place overall, Jud Kirk arrived at the finish line in a time of 34:46. That was just four seconds behind Mike Jurd of Wimborne AC who was a rival in the 55-64 category.
Tamzin Petersen and Mike White came in together, in 106th and 107th with Tamzin finishing in a time of 37:18 and Mike completing the course in 37:20.
Tamzin’s time wasn’t quite as quick as what she did in the May 5 earlier in the season when she ran 36:03, but it was faster than her Hoburne 5 time last year. For Mike it was around two minutes off the time he produced at Hoburne last year.
A spate of Bournemouth AC members reached the line in around the 40 minute mark, with Steve Parsons taking 150th place in a time of 39:56. Then it was Katrina White in 153rd place in exactly 40 minutes. She was followed by Andy Gillespie in 154th place with a time of 40:09.
Steve’s time was similar to what he did in the May 5 earlier in the season. In fact it was just 23 seconds slower. That’s some way off of his best form though, which he was in last year when he completed the Hoburne 5 in 36:35. Once he starts training more regularly again he’ll be hoping he can work his way back to those sorts of times.
As for Katrina, she was 1 minute 14 seconds off of the time she registered at the Hoburne 5 last year. She’s got the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Half Marathon just around the corner though so that is her big focus at the current moment in time.
Andy is struggling to find his speed and wasn’t able to get close to the 37:31 time he posted at the Littledown 5 in 2017. He’s also been suffering from a heel problem and recently which flared up a little during the race. That may perhaps have been down to the softer trainers he opted for.
The next BAC member over the line was Helen Ambrosen who clocked in at 41:01, putting her in 163rd place in the overall standings. She was the 39th lady to complete the course and was 7th in the 55-64 category.
Then it was over to the legend that is Mr Dave Parsons, who had an excellent run, getting round in a solid time of 42:32. That put him in 181st place and 8th in the 65+ category.
That just left Louise Price to round the morning off from a BAC perspective. She got to the line in a time of 44:30 which put her in 198th place in the overall standings. She was the 63rd female to finish and was 16th in the 45-54 category.
It’s been a while since Lou has done a five miler but that time wasn’t anywhere near her best. She’s been away quite a lot recently though and has done very little running so it didn’t come as a surprise that her fitness had dropped to some degree.
So what does all that mean in terms of league positions going into the final two fixtures of the season? Well, in the ladies first division, Bournemouth AC cannot win the league title. That will be contested by Egdon Heath Harriers and Poole Runners. They can, however, finish in 3rd place, where they currently sit, on level pegging with Littledown.
In the men’s first division, Bournemouth AC are occupying top spot but they aren’t mathematically home and hosed yet. They need to win one of their two remaining fixtures in order to seal the league title.
If Egdon Heath Harriers were to win both remaining fixtures and BAC were to finish 2nd in both, they would then both have identical records. The title would then need to be decided on something else. Individual race wins perhaps.
In order to capture the league title outright, Egdon Heath Harriers would need to win both remaining fixtures and BAC would need to finish 2nd and 3rd or worse.
The best way of course to ensure neither of the latter two scenarios come into play would be for Bournemouth AC to get the team victory in the next fixture, which is the Wimborne 10. That would get the league title done and dusted with one fixture to spare.
Thus it will be all hands to the pump come 17th November when the yellow and blue army will be gunning for glory and looking to confirm their supremacy in the Dorset Road Race League for the second year running.