Category Archives: Road_Reports

Helen Ambrosen toughs it out at Pen Selwood 10k

Helen Amrbosen took part in the Pen Selwood 10k
Looking to try out some new races, Helen Ambrosen went over to the village of Pen Selwood to take part in the Pen Selwood Tough 10k Challenge

The Pen Selwood Tough 10k Challenge is a small local race staged in the village of Pen Selwood and organised by Gillingham Trotters, that same club who organise the Gilly Hilly race that’s in the Dorset Road Race League.

The capacity of the race is only 110 which gives some idea of the kind of scale we’re talking about. Since it’s close to the Stourhead Estate though, the course is very scenic and there is very little traffic out on route.

Looking to try out some different races that she hasn’t done before, Bournemouth AC lady Helen Ambrosen decided to head over there and give it a go. Helen has been really getting back into her running recently, having not perhaps done as much training as she would’ve liked over the past few months.

She’s been a regular on the Tuesday and Thursday night sessions over the past few weeks though and has been really enjoying the Thursday night sessions in particular, where the routines vary from off-road trails to hills on the seafront Chines.

It was only a week after Helen had had a somewhat disappointing run at the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon, where she completed the course in just over 56 minutes.

She fared much better in the Pen Selwood 10k though and – although it was a slightly shorter distance, she could tell by the runners around her that she’d improved by over a minute from her performance at the Easter Quarter.

Although the Pen Selwood 10k is quite a tough hilly course, Helen thoroughly enjoyed the run and came in with a very commendable time of 54:32. That put her in 47th position out of a total of 93 finishers. She was also the 2nd over 60 lady to cross the line on the day.

Helen was particularly pleased with her last mile which she did in 7:27. It’s always nice when you can finish a race strongly as bodes well for future races to come.

Helen gives thanks to captain Rich Nelson for the brilliant training sessions he puts on week by week which she’s been really enjoying recently. Hopefully if she keeps it up she’ll see even more improvement over the coming weeks and months.

Helen Ambrosen was in action at the Pen Selwood 10k
Helen was pleased to make a noticeable improvement on her performance from the previous week at the Easter Quarter, crossing the line in 47th place with a time of 54:32


Simon Hearn hits up Regents Park Half Marathon

Simon Hearn took part in the Regents Park Half Marathon
After the previous race he’d signed up for, the Reading Half Marathon was abandoned due to snow, Simon Hearn opted to go for the Regents Park Half Marathon instead

The Regents Park Half Marathon was a contingency plan for Simon Hearn after his target race, which was the Reading Half Marathon, was abandoned due to snow a few weeks back. Simon had even travelled up to Reading the day before and had booked to stay the night at a hotel so as it turned out he’d had a wasted journey.

Although he was disappointed that the race had been called off, Simon knew that it couldn’t be helped and it was all down to circumstances beyond the control of the race organisers. Of course, safety always has to come first in these situations.

That said, he didn’t want to let all the training he had done for the Reading Half Marathon go to waste so his response was to quickly line up a replacement race. That’s how he found the Regents Park Half Marathon.

It was billed as a fast, flat course which Simon thought would probably suit him well. As the day of the race arrived conditions were pretty good. Certainly better than they were at Reading a few weeks prior anyway! There was no wind present and only slight drizzle to content with.

On the whole Simon felt good, although he had a few slight niggles. The field consisted of around 300 people and the course was five laps of Regents Park, with each lap measuring at roughly 2.5 miles.

Simon started off okay and felt fairly strong. On the first lap though, he found that, although the course was supposed to be flat, there were a few undulations. He then thought “Pants! I’ve got to do this five times!!”

Despite that though, he managed to stay on pace and was running with the 1st lady up till mile 8. At that point he started to flag a little and his pace began to drop. He knew then that he’d have to make up some time if he was going to get a sub 1:30 time. Unfortunately though, he just didn’t have it in him. He got to mile 10 and then just had to hang on for the remainder of the race.

Once he’d finished his 5th and final lap, the race was complete and Simon crossed the line in a time of 1:31:28. That put him in 39th place overall and he took 7th place in the MV40 category, so not a bad result for Simon , all things considered.

Simon tends to be pretty consistent with his running and always looks to stay under 1 hour 32 minutes for a half marathon so he achieved that target. Finishing under 1:30 is always a bonus and he’s done that on many an occasion. This time it was not to be though.

His split times for each lap illustrate how he began to tire as the race went on and slipped off his earlier pace. He completed the first lap in 17:34 and the second lap in 17:42. The third lap was slightly slower at 18:05 but still roughly on track.

It was on the fourth lap that he began to struggle a bit, clocking an 18:42. Then once he knew he wasn’t going to make up the time on his final lap to get a sub 1:30, he cruised in with 19:22 final lap.

He still enjoyed the race though and was relatively pleased with the result. He said he didn’t think he’d do a multi-lap half marathon again though as he found it a touch repetitive. On the bright side, though, he got to know Regents Park very well!

Simon Hearn took part in the Regents Park Half Marathon
Completing the 5 lap Regents Park Half Marathon course in 1:31:28, Simon finished in 39th place out of 294

Rich Nelson and Pat Robbins grind out the miles in JP’s Exe to Axe

Rich Nelson takes on JP's Exe to Axe
Rich Nelson was back in long distance action at the JP’s Exe to Axe 22 mile race along with Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins

The year’s edition of the JP’s Exe to Axe featured two brave, budding Bournemouth AC bloomers in the shape of captain marvel Rich Nelson and ultra-extraordinaire Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins. The Exe to Axe course runs from Exmouth Sea Front and follows the South West Coast Pat for around 22 miles before finishing up on the Esplanade at Seaton.

The Exe to Axe race is now in its 16th year and is a brute of a race but carries with it the caveat of containing breath-taking views throughout from magnificent cliff top settings. The race is split into four different segments.

The first stage is 4 miles long and runs from Exmouth to Budleigh. On this part, you go past the Geo Needle at Orcombe Point. It measures 5 metres tall and marks the beginning of the World Heritage Site that the runners are about to go through.

After that it’s Budleigh to Sidmouth, which is 6 miles long and features some of those outstanding views along the way. This stage takes the runner inland toward the River Otter before working its way back to the coast.

Startline for the JP's Exe to Axe race
The runners line up on the start line for the 2018 JP’s Exe to Axe

It’s then Sidmouth to Branscombe Mouth, which is just over 6 miles and there is where the going gets tough. The runners must climb to the top of Salcombe Hill, then down towards Salcombe Mouth and onto Salcombe Beach.

The final stage is from Branscombe Mouth to Seaton, which is a little over 4 miles. The part involves some serious climbing up to the top of Hooken Cliffs. A landslip on the Old Beer Road several years ago meant to route had to be changed from what was previously a 20-mile distance to closer to 22 miles. It’s a downhill run towards Seaton and onto the Esplanade before the final stretch along the sea front leading to Axe Valley Sailing Club.

Having not really done any long-distance training in the lead up to the race, Rich Nelson was dubious about how he would fair on such a tough and lengthy course. But he was prepared to give it a go, citing a tactic of walking up the steeper climbs and running the rest of it.

Exe to Axe coastal path runs from Exmouth to Seaton
The Exe to Axe race runs along the coast line from Exmouth to Seaton and incorporates some breathtaking views

Rich has been suffering with ongoing calf issues for quite some time now which have really begun to hamper his enjoyment of running somewhat. But it is starting to look like things are on the upturn now and fingers crossed he’s over the worst of it.

With the lack of training that he’s had though, Rich knew he was always going to find it tough but he was hoping he’d be able to dig in and make it through. And that’s exactly what he did. Sticking to his tactic of walking the hills and running the rest, Rich was able to make it to the 17-mile point in reasonable nick.

It was the last 5 miles of the race that really hit him hard. It’s not surprising really. Most people wouldn’t dream of entering a race like this without an adequate amount of training beforehand. But Rich is an experienced veteran of many a marathon in his time and managed to find the resolve to see it through.

It was a feeling of great relief for Rich as he finally reached the finish line, completing the race in 4 hours 11 minutes and 51 seconds. That is not a bad time at all considering the enormity of the task and the circumstances it was under. It put Rich in 88th place overall out of a field of 201 finishers.

Rich Nelson in the JP's Exe to Axe race
Rich Nelson put in an almighty effort to make it to the finish and to his credit he came out of it with a fairly decent time given his recent injury woes

For Pat ‘Paddy’ Robbins, there were no such issues. Pat is currently in training for the 24 Hour European Championships where he will be representing Great Britain. In preparation for that he’s really been stacking up the weekly mileage.

Given the challenge Pat is due to undertake when he hits the 24 Hour European Championships in Romania at the end of May, the 22-mile Exe to Axe race was a drop in the ocean. Of course, for Pat, just the same as everyone else, it still had its ups and downs.

Pat managed the race well though, crossing the line in 20th place with a time of 3 hours 21 minutes and 48 seconds. That put him 10th in the M Over 40 category. It was another step forward for Pat in his journey toward his big target race and no doubt they’ll be many other tough long distance runs he has to battle through before the big day arrives.

Pat Robbins in the JP's Exe to Axe race
The Exe to Axe race was merely a gentle training exercise for Pat Robbins as he is set to line up for Great Britain in the 24 Hour European Championships at the end of May

Steve leads the Way at the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon

Steve Way leads as the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon gets underway
Steve Way (3039) assumes pole position in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon with Rob McTaggart (3031) in behind

It was another great local event in Bournemouth that showed just how vibrant and popular the running scene is in this area at the current time. The Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon attracted participation from five Bournemouth AC members, including some of the club’s big hitters.

Since the race is staged with exactly two weeks to go until the London Marathon, or Southampton, the Bournemouth Bay Half is the ideal foil for those running either marathon to test themselves one final time and see how their form is ahead of the big day.

The route started at Bournemouth Pier before heading in the Sandbanks direction for the first couple of miles before turning a heading back onto the promenade. It then goes along the promenade back past Bournemouth Pier, then on past Boscombe Pier, through to Southbourne and all the way down to Hengistbury Head.

It then turns up and winds back round onto the overcliff road, following that road all the back to Boscombe where it dropped back down onto the promenade for the final stretch to the finish at Bournemouth Pier. It was pretty much the same as the Bournemouth 10 route and also the Easter Quarter Marathon that was on the week before.

One of the BAC big hitters looking to polish up his supreme skills ahead of the London Marathon was Steve Way. Steve has been in scintillating form of late, as demonstrated when he won the Bournemouth 10 at the end of February in 55 and a half minutes.

Once again, he was going for a quick time at the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon and pretty much as soon as the race got underway, Steve found himself at the front of the field, blowing everyone else away with his amazing acceleration.

Steve Way at Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve Way was looking for another big performance to follow up his win at the Bournemouth 10

Although he’d been churning out the heavy mileage in training that week and for many weeks in the lead up, usually getting up to almost 120 miles, Steve still managed to find the strength to maintain his super quick early pace throughout the race.

That was essentially what pleased him most about his run. The consistency to keep banging out the 5:20 pace miles. It’s what he looks for most in his training.

It was always going to be a formality from the outset and, needless to say, Steve was first to the line, sealing another superb race win in a staggering time of 1 hour 10 minutes and 31 seconds.

Steve Way in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve ran a good consistently paced race to seal the win in a very impressive time of 1:10:31

Lewis Green of Team Willow was almost 2 minutes behind when he crossed the line in 2nd place in 1:12:23. Andrew McCaskill took 3rd in 1:13:55.

Although he was pleased with the result, Steve had secretly been hoping for a sub 70 performance. It was difficult though with no one up there with him to race against and push him go as fast as he possibly could.

The run still bodes well for his form though going into the London Marathon and also for the Comrades Marathon in June, which is his primary focus of the year.

Steve Way flying in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Steve looks to be absolutely flying as he approaches the finish line

Steve wasn’t the only BAC member with a specific target in mind for the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. László Tóth was looking to complete the race in 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Dreaming of making the trip across the pond to take part in the New York Marathon, László knew that a 1 hour 21 minute time would be enough to see him qualify for the race. He wanted a bit of leeway though in case of any particularly tough miles toward the end of the race so sensibly decided to go all out for 1:20.

Lazslo Toth in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
László Tóth was looking for a sub 1:20 finish to qualify for the New York Marathon

So the question was, could László achieve his target? And the answer – a resounding yes! He came up with the goods, running a phenomenal race to clock a magnificent new PB time of 1:19:53. This put him in 12th place on the day and, as one would expect, László was delighted with his performance.

All he needs to do now is save up the money and he could be heading out to New York, although he did say that getting enough readies for the trip out there could prove even harder that actually achieving the target time.

Last year in the Bournemouth  Bay Half Marathon, László registered a time of 1:20:44, so impressively he’d managed to top that by 51 seconds.

Lazslo strides to the finish of the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
It was mission accomplished for László
as he took 12th place finishing in a time of 1:19:53

Another man who has his sights set on a super quick time at the London Marathon is Rob McTaggart. By contrast though, Tag wasn’t especially bothered about the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. He surmised that it was too close to London to be of any real benefit and thus could only be detrimental if he went out too hard.

As it turned out, the race didn’t go very well for Tag anyway. He woke up late that morning and only had breakfast 40 minutes before the race was due to start. He then got a terrible stitch about 2 miles in and as a result, decided to cut his losses and turn it into a reasonable pace 18.5 mile training run.

Rob McTaggart in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Rob McTaggart didn’t have one of his better runs but was looking at bigger picture as he focuses on his primary target of the London Marathon

That ‘reasonable pace’ run as he called it, led Tag to a 1:20:57 finish and still put him in 14th position in the standings.

On the whole though, Tag’s marathon training has been going really well and he recently secured a huge new half marathon PB of 1:10:25 at the Big Half in London. He also finished a close 2nd to Steve at the Bournemouth 10 with a time of 55:48.

Rob McTaggart in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Tag has been in superb form lately and is expecting big things in London this year

Coming in 23rd place, in a time of 1:23:33 was another recognisable face in the shape of Billy McGreevy. Billy is doing the ABP Southampton Marathon in a week’s time and this was his last long training run before that.

He ran 9 miles before taking to the start line for the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon so it was a progressive long run for him in the end.

Billy McGreevy on promenade in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Billy McGreevy was using the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon as part of his last long training run before the Southampton Marathon

Ordinarily, Billy would have been doing the London Marathon but even though he had a qualifying time, having run a couple of sub 3 hour marathons last year, he forgot to register in time. He then decided to enter the Southampton one instead.

Billy McGreevy in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Even though he’d done 9 miles before the race started, Billy still completed the race in an excellent time of 1:23:33 which put him in 23rd place

Taking on what was essentially her first ever half marathon, except some random one she did many years ago before she joined BAC, Kirsty Drewitt was heading into uncharted waters.

She does have a burning desire to do some longer distance races though and is looking to work her way up the distance ladder. This year she did all three of the Imperial Series 10 races, so that was the Lytchett 10, the Bournemouth 10 and the Larmer 10.

Considering how tough some of those races were, particularly the Larmer 10, she was pretty much half marathon ready anyway after doing all those.

She had been lacking a bit of motivation for training though in the lead up to the Bournemouth Bay Half and had also picked up a niggling foot injury the week before.

Kirsty Drewett looking happy in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Kirsty Drewett was taking on her first ever half marathon since joining BAC

Despite that, she got her game face on and made it to the start line on the morning of the race. She had adjusted her expectations slightly, due to the lack of training and niggle she’d picked up but once the race got underway she actually felt really good.

The usual sea breeze we are familiar with along the promenade was absent and even though it was an overcast day, Kirsty felt like she was overheating.

Her foot injury started playing up on around the 8th mile so she didn’t push on too much from there and instead opted to cruise home.

Finishing in an excellent time of 1:45:18, Kirsty took 246th place overall out of a field of 920. She was the 32nd lady to cross the line and came 10th in the F35 category.

Kirsty beats Superman in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Kirsty was pleased to be able to say that she finished ahead of superman in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon

Understandably, Kirsty was thrilled with her time and was really pleased with how strong she felt throughout the race. There are certainly some good things to come from Kirsty and it will be interesting to see how she progresses in future longer distance races.

Despite competing in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon, Kirsty much prefers off-road running or cross-country to going up and down the promenade. Her go to place for training runs is often the Purbeck, which shows she has an affliction for the more adventurous kind of run.

Weighing in with a huge PB, registering a time that was over 5 minutes quicker than her previous best was Sam Laws. Sam’s mightily impressive effort of 1:58:01 put her in 491st place overall and she was 110th lady on the day. She also finished 17th in the F45 category.

Sam Laws in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Sam Laws is currently training for the Southampton Marathon, which will be her first ever stab at the 26.2 mile distance

Sam’s previous best half marathon attempt of 2:03:59 was set at the Bournemouth Bay Run last year. These were promising signs for Sam as she enters the final stages of her training for the Southampton Marathon, which takes place on the same day as London.

Having really put the mileage in in training, Sam should have stood herself in good stead for what will be her very first marathon attempt. It was great to see signs that the hard work she’s been putting in is paying off and that her times are coming down.

Sam Laws bursts toward the finish in the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Sam makes a burst toward the finish to record a magnificent PB of over 5 minutes

Henna Patterson, who sometimes trains with BAC on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, also ran the Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon. Her goal was to complete the race in under 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Henna duly accomplished her mission, crossing the line in a time of 1:49:56. That put her in 325th place overall and made her 52nd lady. She is currently training for a half iron-man and is looking to do the Bournemouth Marathon in October.

Henna Patterson in Bournemouth Bay Half Marathon
Henna Patterson sometimes trains with BAC on Tuesday and Thursday nights and was aiming for a sub 1:50 finish






Ollie Stoten seals victory in CTS Exmoor Ultra

Ollie Stoten took part in the CTS Exmoor Ultra
On a very wet day and in extremely muddy conditions, Ollie took on the 32.8 mile CTS Exmoor Ultra, the toughest race of the CTS Series

Even the horrid weather and horrendously boggy conditions couldn’t dampen Ollie Stoten’s spirits as he claimed a magnificent victory in the Endurancelife CTS Exmoor Ultra Marathon.

The race took place on the western side of Exmoor National Park, a true mecca for the battle hardened trail runner. The course featured steep climbs, long descents, open moorland, thick wooded valleys, dizzying cliffs and exquisitely beautiful rivers along a stretch of coastline that is unsurpassed. In fact, the race organisers profess that there is no other course in Britain with such a variety of terrain in such a compact area.

The Exmoor course is thought to be the toughest in the entire CTS Series and is a gruelling test of endurance for even the most accomplished of trail or fell runners.

Fortunately though, Ollie is one of the most accomplished ultra runners out there and the huge elevation and often off-road nature of his training stood him in good stead for the huge challenge ahead of him.

Ollie Stoten in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Ollie was in his element on a course that featured 6,415 ft of ascent

The event featured four different races; a 10k, a half marathon, a marathon and the ultra that Ollie did. The distance of the ultra race was billed at 32.8 miles and it included 6,415 ft of ascent. That didn’t worry Ollie though and in fact, a race of that sort of profile is generally his forte.

At the 1st checkpoint, Ollie was the 3rd person to arrive in a time of 45:27. After 1 and a half hours of running, Ollie arrived at the 2nd checkpoint, still in 3rd place.

As he reached the 3rd checkpoint Ollie came in with two of his contemporaries and they were just over a  minute behind the leader, Ian Symington. They were now half way through the race.

Before they reached the next checkpoint Ollie had managed to reel in the leader and the front group were back together. Only briefly though before Ollie decided to make his move as they were going up one of the many brutal hills.

Ollie Stoten in muddy CTS Exmoor Ultra
Ollie was in 2nd place at the half way point in the race, before he really began to turn the screw, leaving his rivals trailing in his wake

Once he’d opened up a gap, he was determined to hold onto his advantage, hammering it along the next flat section for around 10 to 15 minutes in an attempt to preserve his lead.

Reaching the 4th checkpoint in a time of 3 hours 32 minutes, Ollie had 1 minute and 43 second advantage over Galen Reynolds who was 2nd. By the time he got to the final checkpoint, Ollie had extended his lead to over 6 and a half minutes, coming in with a time of 4 hours 40 minutes and 16 seconds.

That meant he could cruise to the finish, knowing that he had the win in the bag. It was a great feeling for Ollie and he was elated as he crossed the line, completing the monstrous course in a time of 5 hours and 56 seconds.

Ollie Stoten approaches the finish in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Approaching the line in just under 5 hours and 1 minute, Ollie was delighted to seal a quite brilliant victory

8 minutes and 26 seconds went by before Galen arrived at the finish line to take 2nd place in a time of 5:09:22. Ian Symington took 3rd place in a time of 5:17:25.

It was a superb achievement for Ollie. However, he is not one to rest on his laurels and said that he would love a tilt at the course record on a drier day when the conditions are more favourable. The current course record stands at 4 hours 34 minutes and 50 seconds.

Great win for Ollie Stoten in CTS Exmoor Ultra
Finishing with a winning margin of over 8 minutes, it was a very proud day for Ollie

It was a day of double celebration though for Ollie, as his partner, Gail Brown, finished as 1st placed female, crossing the line in a time of 6 hours 37 minutes and 17 seconds.

Gail has been coming along to some of the Tuesday night interval sessions with BAC lately but considering this was her first proper long distance run, she did extraordinarily well. The 2nd placed lady was Daisy Jackson, coming in with a time of 6 hours 41 minutes and 40 seconds.

Ollie Stoten and Gail Brown were winners of the CTS Exmoor Ultra
In what turned out to be a truly memorable day for the pair, Ollie Stoten and his partner Gail Brown scooped the prizes for 1st placed male and 1st placed female



Toby Chapman tears up Taunton Marathon

Toby Chapman in Taunton Marathon
Toby Chapman was in action in this home town for the Taunton Marathon

With the race being staged in his home town, Toby Chapman couldn’t resist another tilt at the Taunton Marathon. Last year, Toby took 6th place in a time of 2:48:11, so he could use that as a benchmark to see where he’s at as he enters a very crucial stage in his training.

In just over two weeks time Toby will be up in bonny Scotland competing in the Highland Fling Ultramarathon. Whilst the race doesn’t involve throwing any logs around, it does consist of 53 miles of trail along the West Highland Way through Loch Lomand and The Trossach’s National Park. It also features 7,500 ft of elevation so will represent a true test of stamina, strength and desire.

Hoping that a good run out in the Taunton Marathon would set him up nicely for his main target race, Toby was looking for a strong performance.

The Taunton Marathon course was predominantly flat but featured two massive hills. One on the 5th mile and the other on the 19th mile.

With the blistering pace Toby set off at, it was only Robert Farley of Bitton Road Runners who was able to keep up with him. For the first 10 miles of the race, the pair stayed together.

After that though, Robert got into the lead and managed to build up a small gap. That remained the case until around the 20th mile, when Toby was able to reel him back in.

Feeling strong at that point, Toby went straight past and went for the win. The question now was, would his body hold out for the remainder of the race? And the answer was yes, it most certainly would.

Toby Chapman approaches finish of Taunton Marathon
Toby approaches the finish and holds his alarm aloft as the realises he is going to be victorious

All those miles of hard training are really paying off for Toby and he was able to finish strongly to record a fantastic victory, crossing the line in a tremendous time of 2 hours 41 minutes and 10 seconds.

Coming in just under a minute behind, Robert took the runners up spot in a time of 2:42:07. The third placed runner was almost 6 minutes behind, so it had been very much a two horse race.

Toby Chapman wins Taunton Marathon
Crossing the line in 1st place, Toby finished 7 minutes quicker than he did last year, underlining the progress he’s been making this year

Toby was really pleased to get the win and was even more pleased with how good his body felt in the process. This was indeed a promising sign for the big race ahead.

Winning the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in February and taking 2nd place in the Two Bays Tough Ten Challenge, Toby has had a very good year thus far. He’ll be hoping that continues as he embarks on his toughest challenge of the year so far when the Highland Fling comes round.

Toby Chapman is victorious in Taunton Marathon
Toby was extremely pleased with his winning time of 2:41:10




Cracking victory from Josh Cole at Easter Quarter Marathon

BAC men at start line for Easter Quarter Marathon
Some of the Bournemouth AC men’s team on the start line for the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon. Left to right: Stu Nicholas, László Tóth, Josh Cole, Rich Brawn, Ross Smith

Taking place on the Saturday over the Easter break, it was always going to be tricky for Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson to scrape a competitive team together for the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon. It was absolutely imperative to do so though since this year it was a Dorset Road Race League fixture so points were up for grabs.

Inevitably though, some people were away visiting family or had made plans for the Easter break knowing they’d get more bang for their buck in terms of taking days off work.

It also clashed with the Anglo Celtic Plate which took several of BAC’s top athletes out of the equation as they were there competing for their country or supporting those that did.

Thankfully, a rallying cry from Rich was answered by several members and they did somehow manage to pull a decent team together, with 10 men and 6 ladies lining up to take on the 6.6 mile route starting at the affable Boscombe Pier.

It was a rather grey and uninspiring day at first which didn’t really seem to spark too much enthusiasm amongst the BAC contingent as they were getting prepared to hit the ground running.

BAC men on start line at Easter Quarter Marathon
The BAC men talk tactics before the race gets underway as László sports his ‘on brand’ blue hat

That said, the promise of a captain’s cream egg for everyone who took part did seem to buoy their spirits somewhat and, with a klaxon sounded by the Easter Bunny, they were soon off down the promenade, with the wind in their sails – for the first part of the race at least anyway.

A small lead group soon broke away from pack, containing Josh Cole of BAC and three Poole AC members. As they went clear, a strong chase pack formed behind them including László Tóth and Stu Nicholas.

The course was practically the same as that of the Bournemouth 10 except, instead of starting at Bournemouth Pier, you started at Boscombe instead, making it 3 and a half miles shorter.

It was still a case of bombing it along the promenade till you get to the end, turning up on the slope that leads toward Hengistbury Head, then working your way back onto the overcliff and heading back that way.

Rich Brawn and Stu Nicholas - Easter Quarter Marathon
And they’re off! Rich and Stu have a laugh before the serious business begins

Those who had done the Bournemouth 10 the previous month knew exactly what was coming at every turn, although to be fair, most Bournemouth AC runners are very familiar with the area anyway, which may have given them a slight advantage.

When they got onto the overcliff, there was a bit of a headwind, making the 3rd, 4th and 5th miles significantly tougher. As they came off the overcliff though and got onto Boscombe Spa Road, it was then a nice downhill finish so they knew they could afford to push hard for the remaining mile and a half, if they had anything left in the tank.

At the front of the field, Josh Cole was running a very smart race and had stayed tucked in behind the Poole AC trio the majority of the way. As he approached the 5 and a half mile point, which was just coming up to the end of the overcliff road, he made his move.

At first, one of the Poole AC members tried to go with him but Josh then put in a second spurt and was soon out front on his own. From that point on, it was all academic as Josh raced toward the finish at breakneck speed.

It was a magnificent victory for Josh, crossing the line in a stunning time of 35 minutes and 46 seconds. Jamie Grose of Poole AC was 2nd in a time of 35:53, with Chris Alborough and Brian Underwood, also both from Poole AC, taking 3rd and 4th in 36:03 and 36:10 respectively.

Josh Cole won the Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Josh Cole was given a nice bottle of red for his troubles after winning the race in supreme style

After running an incredibly tough marathon at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park the weekend before, Stu Nicholas was in action again, but he did mention before the race began that his legs were absolutely shot.

The elevation gain in the QE Spring Marathon was said to be greater than that of climbing up Mount Snowden, or for those who know it, the equivalent of hauling yourself up the beastly Butser Hill 7 times.

On top of that, Stu was going off on holiday almost immediately after the race, so had to make a quick getaway and head to Heathrow in order to catch his flight.

Despite all that though, he showed tremendous commitment to the cause by turning out and giving his all. By the way he ran, you wouldn’t have known he’d been through such a tough ordeal the week before though and Stu finished the race in a stellar time of 37:33, putting him in 8th place.

Shortly after, László arrived at the finish line, having also ran extremely well to take 11th place with a terrific time of 37:48. This weekend László is in action again at the Bournemouth Bay Run where he will be competing in the half marathon.

The Easte Quarter Marathon race gets underway in Boscombe
László takes off down the promenade with Rich Brawn in behind at the left of the screen

The next BAC member over the line and 4th scorer for the men’s team in the Dorset Road Race League was Ross Smith, who came in 22nd place.

Despite not having done a lot of running recently, Ross is the kind of person who can just turn up and put in a brilliant performance out of the blue. That’s exactly what he did at the Easter Quarter Marathon, displaying great strength to keep to a consistent pace throughout and cross the line in a solid time of 39:18.

Finishing as the 5th scorer for the team, Richard Brawn came in in 44th place in a fairly decent time of 41:33. Rich wasn’t really feeling overly enthusiastic about the race at first but once it started he soon got in the mood.

Richard Brawn at Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Rich Brawn is ready and raring to go on the start line at Boscombe promenade with Ross Smith in the background

For the first couple of miles along the promenade towards Southbourne, you kind of felt compelled to push hard, since the wind was behind you at that point. Rich felt that he needed to start quite quickly in order to compensate for the time he might lose running into a headwind on the way back.

Sure enough, the wind was a factor and did slow him down a fair bit as he went along the overcliff. He became embroiled in a few battles along the way but showed good resilience and determination not to be overtaken by anyone.

At one point, the leading lady came up right behind Rich. Thinking back to what happened in his 20 mile race a couple of weeks before, when he got overtaken by the first lady in the final few kilometres, he was determined not to allow that to happen again.

Finding some extra strength, Rich managed to build up a bit of a gap between himself and Amy Bond of Poole AC. With the increase in pace, he also managed to gain a few more places before reaching the end of the overcliff road. Once he got onto Boscombe Spa Road he knew he could afford to start his kick toward the finish.

He almost gained one more place as he came up behind Stephen Ogles of Poole Runners but Stephen just managed to hold him off. At the same time Rich also had to fight hard to stay ahead of Charlie Griffiths of Westbourne, who was finishing quickly behind.

Ultimately, Rich was pleased with his run as his average pace of 6:20 was a second quicker than in the 10k PB he got at the Boscombe 10k in November.

Finishing as the first placed lady, Amy Bond took 46th place overall, crossing the line in a superb time of 41:37. The 2nd placed lady was Charlotte Bunch, also of Poole AC in a time of 42:06, with Lesley Moore making it a Poole AC 1-2-3, taking 3rd place in a time of 43:51.

Just stealing in in front of BAC’s Nikki Sandell to take 4th place was Clare Martin of Purbeck Runners, who crossed the line in 69th overall in a time of 43:56.

Nikki arrived at the finish 6 seconds later, clocking an impressive time of 44:02. Given the fact she’d done no speed work and had also lost some endurance as well after suffering with a long standing Achilles injury, this wasn’t a bad result for Nikki.

As well as the physical difficulties she’s had, Nikki has also been struggling a bit mentally and feels like perhaps she’s lost her running mojo a bit. Seeing that she was still capable of putting in a competitive performance though despite the lack of training must give her some sense of encouragement. She’s hoping once the track season gets underway again it might reignite that spark that she’s been missing recently.

Coming in immediately behind Nikki, taking 71st place was Jud Kirk. Jud’s time was registered at 44:14, which was not a bad run at all for him. He was also the first V60 to cross the line.

In contrast to most of the participants, Jud actually found the start of the race along the promenade a lot tougher than the second part of the race when he went back along the overcliff.

It usually takes Jud a little while to get his motor running at full speed these days so he’s not ideally suited to the faster starting races. It’s more as the race goes on that his strength begins to serve him well and he starts to pick up some places as others begin to tire.

He also tends to like the tougher or more hillier sections of the course, meaning he actually preferred the stretch along the overcliff road, despite the headwind coming into play.

The next BAC member over the line and winning the women’s V50 category in her first race for Bournemouth AC was Julia Austin. Julia has just recently moved to the area and has been joining the BAC training sessions for the past couple of weeks. Finishing as the 11th placed lady, Julia took 106th position overall with her time of 46:52.

Crossing the line a couple of places after Julia was Michael Cowham, who completed the course in a time of 46:54. Michael enjoyed the race but feels like he’s just struggling for speed a little at the moment.

Michael Cowham in Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
It was good to see Michael Cowham back out there again, looking focused and determined

Michael’s wife Cherry, who runs for Westbourne AC, was also in the race, finishing just 10 places after Michael. There was a 51 second gap between the two of them.

Coming in one place ahead of Cherry was Jo Dilling, who had a fairly decent run to come in as 13th placed lady on the day and 117th overall. Jo’s time was a solid 47:44.

Playing it safe at the beginning, Jo felt like she perhaps started a little too pensively but she was worried about running out of steam towards the end of the race. Plus she wanted to save some energy for a final kick in the last mile.

Captain Rich Nelson came in shortly after, taking 122nd place overall in a time of 47:55. Rich has lost his competitive edge a little with running over recent times and has been plagued by persisting calf injuries that have impeded his training somewhat.

Over the past few weeks though, Rich has showed something of a resurgence and has been back at training and has even been finding a bit of speed in the interval sessions.

This weekend Rich is taking on the Exe to Axe 22 mile coastal run which goes from Exmouth seafront along the South West Coast Path to the far end of the Esplanade at Seaton.

Rich Nelson at Rotary East Cliff Easter Quarter Marathon
Captain Rich Nelson was back in action, using the race as a little warm up Exe to Axe the following weekend

Coming in as 18th placed lady, Joy Wright crossed the line in a time of 48:28, putting her in 130th place overall. Joy has been focusing mostly on the track recently and has had some good successes, including a 3rd placed finish in the 400 metres at the last meeting.

Following immediately after Joy was Steve Parsons, who crossed the line in a time of 48:30. Steve has recently been plagued by a knee injury that he is finding very difficult to shake off. It’s an IT band issue that is quite common place amongst runners.

He was hoping it wouldn’t effect him too much during the race but as soon as he set off it began to flare up and it hampered his progress during the race a fair bit. Despite the injury though, Steve dug in and managed to complete the course. He was limping a little bit afterwards though and it was clear he had aggravated it to some extent.

Taking 154th place in the standings, Phil Cherrett was the next BAC member over the line. The previous month, both Phil and Steve had run their furthest distances ever in a race at the Bournemouth 10. After that though, Phil had missed a week of running due to the cold weather and the snow and he’d then contracted a flu virus that knocked him for six.

In fact, the next run he got in was just four days before the Easter Quarter, so he knew he wasn’t in his best shape going into the race. After the first 3k, the discomfort began to set in and it was a bit of a struggle for the remainder of the race.

Nevertheless, Phil dug deep and managed to complete the race and, in truth, he was happy just to get around without stopping. He’ll now look to start getting his fitness back over the coming weeks.

Steve Parsons and Phil Cherrett in Easter Quarter Marathon
Steve Parsons and Phil Cherrett both had fitness concerns going into the race but they wanted to give it a go

The next BAC member to reach the finish was Louise Price, who was the 41st lady over the line. Her time of 52:49 put her in 210th place overall. Louise enjoyed the race and said she felt better than she has in all her other recent races.

It was certainly nice to see a bigger contingent of ladies out for a race, rather than just the customary three in order to scrape together a team for the league points.

Only two more people crossed the line after Louise before Mark Westcott arrived to take 213th place in a time of 52:58. It was Mark’s partner Helen Ambrosen who rounded things off from a BAC perspective, finishing as 84th placed lady and 267th overall with her time of 56:10.

As far as the team competition for the Dorset Road Race League goes, we know that Poole AC won the ladies contest claiming each of the top 3 places. The BAC ladies team of Nikki, Julia and Jo would have taken 2nd place.

It would appear that it was the same result for the men as well, with Poole AC taking top spot and Bournemouth AC in 2nd. Poole AC had 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 17th positions. BAC had 1st, 8th, 11th, 22nd and 44th.

Considering it was a bit of a makeshift team and the fact that some of Bournemouth AC’s top runners were at the Anglo Celtic Plate, this would have to go down as a pretty decent day for BAC.

After the race, Rich Nelson kept his word and dished out a Cadbury Cream Egg to everyone who ran to reward them for their egg-cellent performances. I’m not sure how much he had to shell out for that but they tasted all white so it was definitely worth it.

BAC men's scoring team at Easter Quarter Marathon
Stu, László, Josh, Rich and Ross gave Bournemouth AC 2nd place in the men’s team competition for the Dorset Road Race League



Heartbreak and Heroics from BAC Boys at British 100k Championships

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Anthony Clark was representing England in the Anglo Celtic Plate 100k, along with BAC teammate Jez Bragg

It was a proud day for Bournemouth AC as two club members had been selected to represent their country in the Anglo Celtic Plate which was held at Redwick in South East Wales on Saturday over the Easter break.

Both Anthony Clark and Jez Bragg were pulling on an England vest for the British 100k Championships race and they weren’t there just to make the numbers up. They were aiming to be serious contenders for the title. And what’s more , their fellow BAC teammate Steve Way was also there, running in the 50k race.

It was Anthony’s third year in a row competing at the Anglo Celtic Plate. Last year he took home a silver medal, completing the distance in a phenomenal time of 7 hours and 4 minutes. This was 27th best 100k performance of all time by a British runner.

However, the question was, could he improve on that this time round? And more importantly, could he go one better and claim the title? It was always going to be a tough task, with so many top international athletes vying honours, but it was one that he was ready for and one he was really relishing.

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
It was Anthony’s third consecutive year of being selected for his country at the Anglo Celtic Plate

Joining him this year in England colours was his club teammate Jez Bragg. Jez has has history with the Anglo Celtic Plate, winning the event back in 2009 with an incredible time of 6 hours 58 minutes. Finishing 100k in under 7 hours is the ultimate dream for any ultra runner but it is extremely difficult to achieve. That time put Jez 21st in the list of all time British performances.

Both Ant and Jez had blitzed through some monstrous training over the past few months to get into the best shape they possibly could for the race. The lead to a few 90 to 100 mile weeks for Jez and some weeks approaching 120 miles for Ant.

Unfortunately for Jez though, it was not going to be his day. With just 24 hours to go before the race, he came down with a nasty stomach bug. This meant he was confined to bed throughout the Friday afternoon and he was unable to eat. It was far from the ideal preparation when you’ve got a 100k run to do the next day.

On the Saturday morning, it was a huge effort for Jez just to get out of the hotel room and make it to the start line. Despite the horrendous state he was in, he felt like he had to at least give it a go. He figured the feeling of pulling out wouldn’t be as bad as the niggling question in the back of his mind of could he perhaps still have mustered up a strong enough run.

Incredibly, Jez still managed to run 23 and a half miles and was actually only slightly below his intended race pace as well, despite visits to the bushes every couple of miles. He was running on an empty tank though and in the end it took its toll and he was forced to pull out.

Jez Bragg in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Although he wasn’t feeling well, Jez Bragg felt he had to at least give it a go and showed great courage just to make it to the start line

Unfortunately there is no hiding place in a 100k race and there’s no way you can just wing it. You have to be at your best in terms of fitness, which Jez was, but you also need the same when it comes to your health. That is what Jez didn’t have on his side.

At least he gave it a go though and that’s more than anyone could have asked when an athlete is in that kind of state. Obviously he was gutted to have to step off the course whilst representing his country, especially after he’d put in so much hard training to get into peak condition. It goes to show though, no matter what preparation you do and how well you are performing, there are simply no guarantees with running. Anything could happen on the day.

Ant Clark was desperately hoping all would go smoothly for him as he looked to go one better than his silver medal winning performance of last year by taking top spot. Of course, it was going to be an extremely tough challenge defeating so many international class athletes. Ant was in great shape though and had certainly put the hard graft in with his training.

Ant Clark with Pat Robbins in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Pat Robbins was crewing for Jez and can be seen here on the left in the rather fetching hat

From the outset, it was Ant and Scotland’s Rob Turner who were leading the way. Ant reached the 50k half way point in a time of 3 hours 26 minutes and 17 seconds, with Rob just 2 seconds behind. It looked like it could well be a two horse race, but there was still a very long way to go so anything could happen. Between the pair of them though at least, the race was on!

As the race went on, Ant and Rob exchanged positions a number of times provoking a real buzz of excitement amongst the spectators. The pair were never too far away from each other though and it began to look like it could go down to the wire.

Eventually, Ant managed to edge away slightly, building up a lead of just over a minute. He knew though, despite the advantage he had, he could not afford to let up one tiny bit and simply had to keep pushing.

Ant Clark in Anglo Celtic Plate 100k
Ant was locked in an intense tussle with Rob Turner of Scotland for the vast majority of the race, with the lead changing hands on several occasions

On the 49th mile, Ant had a twinge in his hamstring and as he continued, it began to cause him problems. The pain was manageable but it meant that he couldn’t stretch his leg out fully, resulting in a slight drop in pace.

Seizing his opportunity, Rob began to claw the gap back and on mile 51 to 52, he made the decisive move, passing Ant and powering on to take control of the race.

This was a huge psychological blow to Ant and, at that point, he actually thought about giving up. Then he looked up the road and saw that Rob had actually stopped. It appeared he was suffering from a bit of cramp.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Ant was going well and had built up a lead of just over a minute until he felt a twinge in his hamstring

That raised an alarm bell for Ant. All was not lost. In a 100k race, anything can happen. Even if he couldn’t catch Rob, there were no guarantees that Rob was going to finish even. He knew he had to bit the bullet and soldier on.

He managed to hold firm after that but was around 30 seconds off his planned pace. The course was a flat, 2 mile road loop, so the 100k distance meant going round 32 times.

As he reached the start of the final lap, he heard a voice projecting out of crowd. It was Steve Way, telling him to go for it and give it everything he’s got. At this point, Ant thought what the hell, there’s nothing to lose now, so he cranked the pace up and tried to catch Rob.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Once he got onto the last lap it was make or break for Ant and he found some extra energy to crank the pace up a notch in a last ditch bid to chase Rob down

Over the course of the lap he managed to make up 40 seconds on Rob and gap had reduced significantly. Despite somehow finding the energy to tear through the last mile at 5:25 pace. With 400 metres to go, there was just 20 seconds between the pair making for an extremely exciting finale.

Unfortunately for Ant though, he just ran out of road and Rob finished in a winning time of 7 hours 30 minutes. Ant crossed the line just 7 seconds later. Although he was slightly gutted not to have come out on top, he had to be proud of his new PB, which eclipsed his time the previous year by 3 and a half minutes.

It was frustrating for Ant as well as he was so close to a sub 7 hour finish but it wasn’t to be. If everything had gone a hundred per cent smoothly, perhaps he would have done it, but to get through a 100k race without any hitches would be incredibly fortuitous, it has to be said.

Ant Clark in British 100k Championships
Despite his best efforts, Ant just ran out of time before he could catch the leader and had to settle for a silver medal again, finishing just 7 seconds behind Rob Turner of Scotland

It was a fantastic dual though between Ant and Rob and made for some intense and and nail biting viewing for the watching crowds. Ant had certainly done himself, his club and his country proud and to secure another British Championships silver medal was a huge achievement.

Meanwhile, in the 50k race that Steve Way took part in, there was actually only three people doing it, including Steve. They set off at the same time as all the 100k runners but knew that instead of 32 laps, they only had to do 16.

Well, I say only 16, but that’s still almost 32 miles, which isn’t a piece of cake by any stretch of the imagination. Steve was viewing it as a training run though as he continues to knock out the 120 mile weeks and build his fitness up in preparation for the Comrades Marathon in June.

Steve Way in Anglo Celtic Plate 50k
Steve Way was also in action at the Anglo Celtic Plate competing in the 50k race and using it as a training run for the Comrades Marathon in June

The Comrades Marathon is a 90km “Down run” route starting in Pietermaritzburg in South Africa and finishing in Durban. All Steve’s runs from January until then are with that in mind.

This year Steve will be looking to improve on his 9th placed finish last time out, when he completed the “Up run” course in 5 hours 49 minutes. It alternates between “Up” and “Down” each year.

Steve’s training has been going well recently, as was highlighted by his recent victory in the Bournemouth 10 mile race, where he fended off competition from BAC teammates Rob McTaggart and Josh Cole.

As far as the 50k at the Anglo Celtic Plate goes, Steve’s plan was to complete the race in under 3 hours – and to do so without killing himself in the process. He succeeded on both counts, reaching the 50k distance in a very impressive 2 hours 58 minutes and 3 seconds.

Within that run, Steve was particularly pleased to have posted a 2:29:50 for his marathon split, so it was a very good performance indeed from him. His average pace for the 50k was a remarkable 5 minutes 41 seconds and his splits during the run were extremely consistent, never going above 5:47 after the first couple of miles.

Steve Way in Anglo Celtic Plate 50k race
On reflection, Steve was very pleased with his time of 2:58:03 for the 50k and it demonstrated the promising shape he’s in at the moment

The fact he was able to do a 20 mile trail run the next day demonstrated just how good a shape he is in at the moment and bodes very well for his big target race in a couple of months time. He joked that he might even book his flight to South Africa soon if things continue in the same vain.

After he’d finished his race, Steve stayed behind to cheer Ant on for the remainder of his run and by the sounds of it, his support had a very positive impact on Ant, especially in his final lap. Another BAC member, Pat Robbins was also present, crewing for Jez and Gemma Bragg was of course also there to support her husband as he battled on in difficult circumstances.

In the aftermath of the Anglo Celtic Plate, the question for Ant will be, does he go back again for the third year running and this time, secure that elusive sub 7 hour time and who knows, perhaps take home a gold medal next time. We’ll allow him a bit of recovery time before he commits to that!

As for Jez, he’s now on the look out for another 100k race to take his frustrations out on. If he manages to find one, his contemporaries will certainly have a real battle on their hands. After such a hard few months of training in the lead up to the Anglo Celtic Plate, it’s only natural that he would want it to culminate in a race of some sort.

And for Steve, his record of the best British 100k of all time is still well and truly in tact. That performance was registered in 2014, when his time of 6 hours 19 minutes and 20 seconds propelled him to the top of list. And to be fair, that time has looked pretty untouchable ever since.


Another step forward for Stu Nicholas in Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon

Stuart Nicholas goes in Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon
The Queen Elizabeth Country Park was the venue for marathon number 42 for Stu Nicholas as he moves ever closer to magic 50

Apparently, it’s Spring now, although you wouldn’t know it from all the snow and freezing temperatures we’ve been having lately. According to Second Wind Running it is though as they staged their Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon on Sunday, 25th March.

This was another stepping stone for Stu Nicholas in his quest to reach a landmark of 50 marathons by the end of 2018. This quest has seen him tackle some pretty tough races of late including the Phoenix Running ‘Jaw Dropper’ Marathon on a very muddy towpath alongside the River Thames and the Dark Star River Marathon which followed a trail up one side and down the other side of the River Adur, once again, an extremely muddy affair.

As anyone who’s had the pleasure, or perhaps a more apt way of describing it would be the pain, of running around the Queen Elizabeth Country Park area will know, it can be a very tough place to run. There are generally lots of ups and downs to contend with and often very muddy and slippery surfaces to negotiate.

Members of the Bournemouth AC cross country league squad will remember the location well as it played host to one of the most gruelling races of all time, featuring a mammoth trek up and down the punishing Butser Hill three times over. In fact, some of them still have nightmares about it to this day.

Whilst he was pleased to see that the course for the Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon did not include a revisit to Butser Hill, it was still set to be very tough route, with a greater elevation gain than the equivalent of climbing Mount Snowden.

Nevertheless, Stu knew he would just have to grit his teeth and get through it, no matter how tough going it was. The race director put everyone’s minds at rest before the race started by mentioning that, although Butser Hill wasn’t in the route, the total ascent was akin to climbing Butser Hill seven times!!

The course consisted of two very muddy and very testing half marathon loops and kicked off with a brutal climb up through the woods near the visitor centre. It was a very up and down route so gave the quads and the toes a real hammering.

After taking the first lap at quite a steady pace, Stu arrived at the half way point in a very comfortable 2nd place, completing the lap in 1 hour 35 minutes. He now knew what hills and inclines lay ahead, but despite that, he decided to ramp the pace up.

He got to mile 23 thinking all was well. He was even egging on the half marathon runners who had started their race an hour later. Then all of a sudden – crash! He had hit the wall. He couldn’t run at all and his hamstrings felt really tight. He didn’t know where he was and had no water on him. Luckily some friendly half marathon runners gave him a bottle and a Tribe energy bar which helped.

Stu Nicholas surfs the mud in the Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon
All was going smoothly for Stu up until mile 23 when he suddenly hit the wall, making it very difficult for him to continue

Finally, he trudged over the line with his legs left very battered and blistered. His time of 3 hours 40 minutes and 5 seconds gave him 7th place out of a 134-strong field. The winner of the race was Alex Whearity of Reading Joggers who completed the course in a stunning time of 3:10:34. He was almost 23 minutes ahead of his nearest rival and Reading Joggers teammate Paul Beechey who crossed the line in 3:33:22.

Looking at the stats on runbritain, Stu is actually faster on paper than all six of the athletes that finished ahead of him but unfortunately, there is little you can do when you hit the dreaded wall. The culmination of doing so many tough marathons over recent months may well be taking its toll on his body.

Of course, the most important thing for Stu though is that it’s another one ticked off his list, bringing his total number of marathons run to 42. He has a little rest now before his next one in May so hopefully that will give him some time recuperate and reinvigorate his energy supply.

Stuart Nicholas went in Queen Elizabeth Spring Marathon
With a little bit of refuelling, Stu managed to make it over line, finishing in 7th place in the end with a time of 3:40:05

New Forest Running Festival goes ahead with snow issues

Trevor Elkins & Richard Brawn in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Trevor Elkins (left) and Richard Brawn (right) were taking on their first ever 20 mile race and they were doing so in the most extraordinary of conditions

On a weekend where snow played havoc with running fixtures up and down the country, one event that did survive the entrenchment of the white stuff was the New Forest Running Festival.

With several races called off including the Eastleigh 10k and the Reading Half Marathon, the latest cold snap from the ‘Beast from the East’ had more than made its mark.

The organisers of the New Forest Running Festival, however, were determined to battle against the adversity and stage each and every scheduled race over the Saturday and the Sunday. That included a 20 mile race, a 50k race and a 50 miler on the Saturday. Then for the Sunday, it was a 10k, a half marathon, a 10 miler and a 20 miler.

Conditions weren’t too bad on the Saturday, with only a light smattering of snow to contend with and, although the temperature had dropped rather dramatically, the three races were able to go ahead as planned without too many problems.

The snow began to fall a bit more heavily on Saturday afternoon and it continued throughout the evening and into the night. By the time Sunday morning arrived, it was full blanket coverage.

Despite that, the race organisers were determined to proceed with the races as planned and in the morning they announced that each race would be delayed by an hour to give people extra time to make their way to the Red Shoot Camping Park where the races started off.

There was also the small matter of having to ferry the participants over from the parking spot at Headlands Business Park to the start area, which they did via a series of shuttle buses. To their credit, the race organisers did a fantastic job to ensure everyone could get to where they needed to be before each race was due to set off.

The first race of the day was the 10k, which featured Bournemouth AC member László Tóth. László had met up with a couple of friends of his from the Sweatshop running group, Cristina Lujan and Rose Bygrave.

Lazslo Toth and friends in the New Forest Running Festival 10k
László Tóth took part in the 10k race on Sunday morning and was accompanied by Rose Bygrave and Cristina Lujan

Before the race began, Cristina and Rose asked László if he would like to run with them. Although László is a very fast runner in his own right, he also very much enjoys the social element to running as well, so naturally he said yes. As a result, he was able to coast along at a very comfortable pace and just enjoy the experience and take in the uniquely enchanting, snow capped surroundings.

The trio stayed together throughout the race, with Cristina completing the course in a time of 1:06:12 putting her in 34th place. Following shortly after, Rose crossed the line in 35th place in 1:06:24 and László crossed the line a second later in 36th.

It wasn’t about time and placings for László though. It was purely about catching up with some friends and enjoying the run and he succeeded on both counts.

Lazslo Toth and friends after New Forest Running Festival 10k
Cristina, László and Rose completed the race in around 1 hour 6 minutes and were glad to receive their medals on an extremely cold morning

The next race to start was the half marathon distance, and that was then followed by the 10 mile and 20 mile races, both of which started off together. The 10 miler was a one lap route, with the 20 miler consisting of two laps of that same route.

In the 20 mile race, Trevor Elkins and Richard Brawn were taking on a 20 mile race for the first time ever. They had only ever done up to a half marathon before in an actual race, so this was going to be an intriguing experiment.

It was also going to be an interesting test for Gemma Bragg, who was racing a 20 miler for the first time since the birth of her son Milo 6 months ago. After that she took some time out from running to concentrate on mothering duties but she has been gradually building her fitness back up since the turn of the year.

Her first race back was the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in February, where she finished as 3rd lady in a time of 1:35:57. Since then she’s done a couple of 20 mile runs in preparation for the New Forest race so she knew was in shape to be able to complete it but she had no real idea what time she’d be capable of.

Gemma Bragg in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
It was only Gemma Bragg’s second race since the birth of her son and it was bound to be a testing one for her

As for Rich, he’d been gradually building up his portfolio of long distance runs since the turn of the year, having completed a 16 mile run, a couple of 17 mile runs, an 18 mile run and one 20 mile run, which included 8 miles of off-road.

Trevor had also upped his mileage since the turn of the year and had been clocking some pretty high weekly totals. He’d only gone up to 16 miles in training though so this would be his longest ever run to date.

After running his 18 mile training run at 7:30m/m pace and completing his 20 mile training run in 2 hours 34 minutes, Rich was full of confidence going to the New Forest Running Festival Race. He believed that if conditions were good, he could get in in under 2 hours 30 minutes. He’d concurred with Trevor and they’d both agreed that would be a good target to aim for. It would mean averaging 7:30m/m which seemed achievable.

Trevor Elkins & Richard Brawn in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Trev and Rich were excited about the prospect of doing their first 20 mile race and were keen so see how they would handle the endurance

Once they were out there on the course though, it was a different ball game altogether. The constant undulation made it very tough to keep to set pace and the ground was very soggy due to all the melting snow.

Rich had his brother Dave there supporting him, along Dave’s partner Gabrielle. Dave, who runs for the Portsmouth Joggers, had taken part in the 10k race earlier that day, finishing in 6th place. Gabrielle had completed the 50k ultra race that was on the previous day.

Trevor was suffering a bit from a cold and had actually considered pulling out of the race, as he knew the freezing conditions weren’t going to help with that. But he decided to give it a go anyway and dosed up on some meds in a bid to relieve his suffering as much as possible.

To start off with, the runners were taken right to the top of the first hill as the race organisers had decided the course would be too long if they started in the same place as the 10k and the half marathon.

Sunday's 20 miler gets underway
Off they go! The 20 miles of torment (I mean pleasantries!) begin

Once they got going, they almost immediately turned off road and onto a muddy trail the lead up the hill and into the woods. This was a sure sign of what was to come. It wasn’t going to be an easy ride.

Rich soon realised that his watch was set to kilometres, as opposed to miles, which was going to make it very difficult for him to pace the run as he doesn’t often work in kilometres. He thought about stopping his watch and switching it to miles and then starting it again but ultimately decided to just leave it as it was.

In fact, it did cross his mind that it might be a blessing in disguise that he couldn’t really monitor the pace he was running at. The intention was for Rich and Trevor to run the entire race together anyway, so if they were doing that, it didn’t matter too much anyway. Trevor could always keep an eye on the minutes per mile pace.

For the first few miles, they were probably going a bit too fast and Rich began to worry that it would be unsustainable. They settled down a bit though in the 4th mile which had some tough inclines and then began to just take it as it comes and start chalking those miles off, or kilometres in Rich’s case.

It seemed as if the first 7 miles had been mostly uphill, so they glad when they began the downward curve that would take them almost to the end of the first lap. After a much more manageable 3 miles they were nearing the half way point.

They reached the 10 mile point in 1 hour 13 minutes, which meant that in theory they were on course to hit their target time if they could replicate that in the second half of the race. The problem was though that they hadn’t got back to the Red Shoot Inn yet, which was where the finish was, so they knew it was going to be quite a lot further than 20 miles by the time they actually reached the finish line.

Trev Elkins & Rich Brawn in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Trevor and Rich were going well at the half way point, reaching the 10 mile mark in around 1 hour 13 minutes

Rich was trying to do the maths in his head but as far as he could gather, it was still feasible they could complete the 20 miles in under 2 hours 30 minutes, although perhaps not the race itself if it was going to end up being quite a bit further.

As they set off on their second lap, it became apparent that perhaps it wasn’t going to be quite so quick this time round and that they would have to dig in a bit to keep the pace up.

Throughout much of the race, they had noticed there was a woman behind them. She was often coming in and out of view but it was a good incentive for them to keep going, knowing if they slacked off she would catch up with them.

It was on the 14th mile that the game changing moment happened for Rich and Trevor. Rich looked over his shoulder and noticed that the woman was sneaking up closer and closer. He suggested to Trevor that they might have to put in a little spurt to get away from her. He asked Trevor if he had enough energy to do that and Trevor didn’t feel he had and told Rich to go on ahead.

Rich was feeling fairly strong at this point, so he began to up the pace and Trevor dropped back. Rich was really digging in in an attempt to put some distance between himself and the first lady. After all, he was desperate not to get ‘chicked’.

Richard Brawn in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
When the leading lady began to loom ever closer on the horizon, which was forced to go it alone in an attempt not to get ‘chicked’

After a while, Rich had managed to build up a bit of distance between himself and the woman, who had now overtaken Trevor. Rich kept going, full steam ahead and soon there was no one in sight. He still knew though, if he slackened off, she would catch him up.

Then with 7k to go, she came back into view and he knew he was going to be in for a rough ride in the latter stages of the race. The woman was going at a serious pace and as they got into the final 3 miles, Rich knew it was mostly downhill the rest of the way so he could really afford to hit the gas and give it all he’s got.

The lady behind was still going at an almighty speed though and, although Rich had upped his pace significantly, it became apparent that she was going to get past him.

Sure enough, at around about the 30km mark, she overtook him and Rich had nothing left to fight with. The woman soon left him for dust. He then realised he recognised the woman. It was in fact, Valeria Sesto, whom he had had a battle with on a previous occasion, which was at Lymington parkrun. On that occasion as well, Valeria had come from behind to overtake Rich and finish ahead of him.

Richard Brawn poses during New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Rich couldn’t quite hold on and Valeria Sesto overtook him with around 3k left

It was now all about time for Rich. The question was, could he make it to the 20 mile point in under 2 hours 30 minutes. He actually did reach the 20 mile mark in around 2 hours 27 minutes so effectively he had hit that target. Sadly though, he knew there was still a way to go to get to the finish.

At around the 20.5 mile mark, he arrived at the approach to the finish and saw his brother Dave up the road cheering him on a taking pictures with his camera. It was a very welcome sight to see the last turning to the finish line come into view. He crossed the line in 7th place in a time of 2:30:43.

Richard Brawn after New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Rich was pretty happy with his finishing time of 2 hours 30 minutes and 43 seconds. Not bad for a first 20 mile attempt!

Since Rich had powered on, Trevor had really begun to struggle. The cold and flu had left him completely sapped for energy and his lack of similar distance training runs meant the last quarter of the race became increasingly challenging. In the end he was reduced to virtually a run/walk sort of pace.

To his credit though, he didn’t give up. He kept going and kept grafting all the way to line, arriving in a time of 2:49:11. That put him in 15th position. It turned out he’d actually been overtaken by Gemma at some point during that last 5 miles as well.

Gemma had had a storming run and had finished up as 2nd placed lady in a very impressive time of 2:38:13. That put her in 10th position overall. The was a very impressive outcome for Gemma, especially as she hasn’t really raced a lot over recent times.

The first 10 miles of the race went smoothly for Gemma and she reached the half way point, or what should’ve been the half way point, in just over 1 hour 15 minutes.

Gemma Bragg in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Gemma was going well after the first half of the race, reaching the 10 mile mark in around 1 hour 15 minutes

Things got noticeably tougher on the second lap and on mile 14 she really began to suffer, with some very tough hills forcing her pace to drop slightly. She managed to pull it back though and get back into her rhythm okay.

Her husband Jez Bragg, who is also a very accomplished Bournemouth AC runner, was out on the course to support her and was pushing Milo around in the buggy, as the pair often do when out running.

As it was a two lap route, Gemma got to see Jez twice during the run and it was nice for her to have some support out there to help keep her motivated for the task ahead.

Mile 17 was another tough one for Gemma, as she battled hard on the inclines to maintain her pace knowing that the last three miles were pretty much downhill so would be much easier to negotiate. She showed great character to finish the race strongly and seal her 2nd place in the ladies competition and a top 10 position overall.

Gemma Bragg in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
Gemma had an excellent run, finishing as 2nd placed lady in a stellar time of 2:38:13

Sam Laws was also meant to be doing it but something went wrong with her application and it turned out that in fact they hadn’t received it. She still went out and did her own 20 mile training run though instead.

Her friend Julia Marsh, who is a member of Christchurch Runners but sometimes comes to train with BAC on Tuesday nights did run it. Julia and Sam have been doing a lot of their longer marathon training runs together, as Sam is competing in the APB Southampton and Julia is running the London Marathon. Julia completed the 20 miler, or 20.5 miles as it turned out to be, in 3 hours 20 minutes and 20 seconds.

The winner of the race was Tom Lovegrove, who finished in 2 hours 17 minutes and 30 seconds. Vince Fowler was 2nd and took the prize for 1st vet in a time of 2:19:17. The first lady, Valeria Sesto actually crossed the line in a time of 2 hours 30 minutes on the dot.

Reflecting on his run, Trevor acknowledges that perhaps he isn’t quite marathon ready just yet. On another day though and with a clean bill of health, who knows what would’ve happened? He has already said he might consider doing the race again next year and if he does so, he’ll make sure he’s properly trained and primed to go the full distance.

Despite the extreme weather conditions, all four BAC members enjoyed the run and it was certainly a unique and unforgettable experience running through a New Forest covered in a beautiful white layer of snow. In fact you could even say there was something magical about it. And it’s probably not something that’s likely to happen again round here any time soon (famous last words!).

Gemma Bragg & Richard Brawn in New Forest Running Festival 20 Miler
In what could only be described as extremely testing conditions, all four BAC members deserve great plaudits for completing the race and remaining positive in the face of adversity