By his own admission, Andy Gillespie isn’t one of the fastest runners on the Bournemouth AC roster. Nor does he possess the most trophies or prizes on his mantelpiece. As a consequence, he sometimes questions whether that makes him unworthy of wearing the fabled yellow and blue vest. In reality though, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sometimes running isn’t just about getting to the finish line first and how quickly you’ve run. It’s about the magnitude of the achievement. It’s about the commitment and dedication you put in to see it through and overcome the challenges and the adversity.
Andy is a veteran of over 100 marathons and last year at the Salisbury 54321 event, he earned his right of passage into the 100 Marathon Club. That speaks volumes for the kind of athlete is. The determination he possesses and the will to succeed in the face of any challenge put before him makes him a role model for many in the running community.
Having completed all those marathons since 2004 as well, it only took him 15 years to reach that incredible landmark. A lot of the events he did were three marathons and three days coastal challenges as well which he’s always had an affinity for.
What’s all the more impressive and an even bigger reflection of his character is that in all those marathons and ultras he’s conquered, he never had one single DNF. If he was on the start line, he was going to make it to the finish, not matter what. There’s something to be said for a man with that level of tenacity and never say die attitude.
A lot of the races and events he’s completed have left him with a medal and a huge sense of achievement. But not many have brought him a prize it would be fair to say. That all changed when he headed over to Cornwall for the Newquay 10k.
The Newquay 10k has a fairly undulating course with some testing inclines along the way. In fact, it begins with a short sharp climb which is followed by a nice downhill and flat stretch.
There is then a steady incline which starts at around 1.5 miles and continues all the way to mile 3. A bit more downhill comes into play after that enabling the runners can pick up the pace before the gradual climb up to finish which starts at about mile 5.
When he’s in shorter distance races, Andy usually feels a little out of his comfort zone and the pressure to find his top gear and to perform at a high intensity is something he often finds difficult.
Opening with a 7:04 for the first mile, Andy was well on his way. But would have enough to maintain the pace? That was the question. His pace dropped a little over the next couple of miles when the long climb came into play, posting a 7:58 and a 7:48.
Once he hit the descent on mile 4, he was able to pick up the pace again and went through both the next two miles in 7:10. That left just one more climb over the latter stages of the race.
Completing the 6th mile in 7:21, it was then just a case of getting through the last 0.2 of a mile. Andy did that at 7:50 pace which led him to a 46:50 finish. That put him in 182nd place out of 790 runners.
That was enough to see Andy take first prize in the Male 60-64 category which he was over the moon about. That was 46 seconds quicker than Peter Allen of Newquay Road Runners who was 2nd in the Male 60-64 category, finishing in 47:36.
Since it’s not a regular occurrence for Andy to win a prize of any sort, it was a bit of a novelty for him. It was also exactly a minute quicker than his time at the Boscombe 10k at the end of November last year so that represents progress for Andy.
Despite the age category win though and the fact that he is working on his speed a bit to try and get quicker, Andy will always be more of an endurance athlete at heart. He’d sooner run a grueling, hilly off-road marathon than a fast, flat 10k, any day of the week.
In a place that’s synonymous with the thrills and spills of fast-paced racing, what better setting could there be than Goodwood Motor Circuit for three of Bournemouth AC’s quickest turbo chargers to get into gear.
In fact, the talented trio of Dave Long, Rob Spencer and Rob McTaggart were hoping they would be in with a shout of taking the team prize at the Chichester 10k, which starts out at the entrance of Goodwood Motor Circuit and ends with a lap around the circuit.
As is often the case with very fast, flat races with the provisions for a big field though, the event attracts a very high calibre of athlete. In fact, some of the best distance runners in the country were there contesting including the likes of Andy Vernon.
The first 6km of the route are on public roads as the route heads past the Rolls Royce factory and along Stane Street, a historic Roman road. It then heads through Strettington and back toward Goodwood via New Road.
It then enters the motor circuit from Claypit Lane and after a full lap of the motor circuit has been completed the finish on the Pits straight lies in wait.
It was at the Chichester 10k last year that Dave Long recorded his current 10k PB of 30:01. That lopped 41 seconds off his previous best time before that which was set in the Supersonic 10k at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival.
He knew from that it was the kind of race where, if he gets a right, it could yield a terrific result. The same went for Rob Spencer and Tag as well.
They’d both put in some sensation performances towards the back end of 2019 and had been training well thus far since the turn of the year.
Tag had secured a new PB of 31:29 at the Telford 10k in December, breaking that illusive 32 minute barrier for the first time. He’d also delivered a sensational performance in the Cardiff Half Marathon to complete the course in 1:08:56.
As for Rob Spencer, he’d sealed a new PB and the Christchurch Christmas 10k with a time of 32:07 and completed the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Half Marathon in a magnificent time of 1:11:06.
Needless to say, there was a lot of potential for big performances between the three of them as they lined up on the starting grid, well fuelled and ready to go.
Dave opened with a very exuberant first couple of miles, posting a 4:40 and a 4:43 mile. He had the Barcelona Half Marathon to think about in a couple of weeks time and that was his main target race, but in such a fiercely competitive field, it was easy to get swept along.
In fact, Disco got through the first 5k in 14:45 which would have been a PB for him.
Rob Spencer and Tag ran together for the first mile, both starting off with at 4:55 pace. Rob Spencer was slightly quicker over the second mile, managing to maintain roughly that same pace and Tag went through around five seconds slower.
Both recorded a 5:10 split for the third mile and Rob Spencer went though the 5k point in 15:34 which would have been a PB for him. Tag went through the 5k point in 15:38 which wouldn’t have been far off a PB for him either.
Managing a 5:03 and a 5:04 for the fourth and the fifth mile, Disco picked it up again a bit in the sixth mile to post a 4:56 before finishing strongly to complete the course in an excellent time of 30:35.
That was good enough the put him in 21st place. That might seem quite low down for a time like that but it emphasizes the tremendously high standard of field that the Chichester 10k attracts.
With one eye on the Barcelona Half Marathon, that was about the sort of time Disco was aiming for so he was pretty pleased with that effort.
Rob Spencer was very consistent in pace for the second 5k, posting a 5:04 for the fourth mile, a 5:07 for the fifth mile and a 5:05 for the sixth mile.
Tag dropped off the pace slightly on the fifth mile but managed to pick it up again on the sixth mile and the pair both finished strongly.
Rob Spencer went over the line in 31:35, which was a fantastic new PB for him. That put him in 32nd place in the overall standings.
Arriving at the finish 10 seconds later, Tag came in at 31:45, which put him in 35th place. Considering it was a day where he wasn’t quite feeling at his absolute best, that was actually a really good time from Tag.
Before he managed it at the Telford 10k, Tag had been trying to manufacture a sub-32-minute 10k for quite a while, so it was good news that he’d been able to produce another one so quickly.
Tag was also feeling quite heavy legged after his exertions at the Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill the weekend before, and a long run that he did the next day.
Tag’s main focus from now onwards will be London’s Big Half in March where last year he managed a sub 1:10 time.
The race was won by Nick Goolab of Belgrave Harriers who finished in a superfast time of 29:01. Ben Bradley of Aldershot, Farnham & District and Own Hind of Kent AC were second and third, both completing the course in a time of 29:11.
Charlie Hulson of Liverpool AC took fourth place in 29:14, with Ross Skelton of Hastings AC taking fifth in 29:18. Jake Shelley of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers was sixth in 29:40, before Andy Vernon came over the line to take seventh place in 29:46.
A total of 1,529 runners successfully complete the course.
In terms of the team competition, even though all three Bournemouth AC members ran so well and recorded such quick times, it was only enough to see them finish as third best team on cumulative time.
Having been the scourge of Bournemouth AC for many years now in the Hampshire League Cross Country, it was Aldershot, Farnham & District who picked the team win.
They had Ben Bradley who was second, Andy Vernon who was seventh and Alex Pointon who finished 11th in a time of 30:09. That gave them a highly impressive total time of 1:29:06.
Another club with a tendency to outdo BAC in the Hampshire League Cross Country, Southampton AC, managed to secure the second placed team position.
They had Jonathon Roberts who was eighth in 30:00, Ben Brewster who was 29th in 31:26 and Rikki James who was 33rd in 31:43. That gave them a cumulative time of 1:33:11.
The BAC trio of Disco, Rob Spencer and Tag finished as the third placed team with a total combined time of 1:33:57.
This outing at the Chichester 10k will no doubt prove a good springboard for the three of them though and it will certainly be exciting to see what kind of performances they can produce in their next big target races over the coming months.
After a dream start to the season in which both the Bournemouth AC men’s and women’s teams emerged victorious at the Broadstone Quarter, the yellow and blue army headed to the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon to try to consolidate their positions in fixture two.
With Jacek Cieluszecki, Steve Way, Toby Chapman, Ant Clark and Stu Nicholas in the line up, they knew they had a good chance of doubling their lead at the top of the men’s first division.
They couldn’t count their chickens just yet though as Egdon Heath Harriers had also managed to assemble a dangerously competitive team of five including Jonny Cooper, Paul Bullimore and Adam Davies.
It had all the makings of an exciting showdown between the two first division heavyweights. After a decent showing in the first fixture, Twemlow Track Club were out in force again and they were bolstered by the return of last year’s Dorset Road Race League men’s individual winner Lee Dempster.
Making his Twemlow Track Club debut after moving over the dark side from BAC, Jez Bragg was also in action and looking to help spearhead his new team to promotion from division two.
The Bournemouth AC ladies team had strength in numbers at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon, which was refreshing to see as they’d had difficulties getting a team of three together for some of the fixtures last season.
They had no less than seven women turning out, ready and raring to tackle the tough, hilly course and give their best for the vest. Last season’s highest point scorer for the team, Tamzin Petersen, was in action, as was popular new recruit for the 2020 season, Heather Khoshnevis.
The team were also buoyed by the return to road race league action of Caroline Rowley, after several years away from the local race circuit. It was good to see her in and amongst it again and her presence seemed to give everyone a lift.
Bringing home a second win for the season was going to prove difficult though after injuries prevented Emma Caplan and Helen O’Neile from taking part.
Egdon Heath Harriers looked like they would provide the main threat and with last season’s Dorset Road Race League women’s champion Alex Door in their ranks. Poole Runners and Lytchett Manor Striders were also likely to be in contention for team honours.
It wasn’t just Dorset Road Race League club runners who had been attracted to the race though. GB international Adam Holland had also thrown his hat into the ring, along with Jonny Suttle of Bristol and West AC.
As soon as the race got underway it soon became evident that Adam Holland had designs on coming away with the race win. He very quickly opened up a big gap at the front of the field and no one seemed prepared to even attempt to match his pace.
The chasing pack was lead by Jonny Suttle, with Lee Dempster and Mark Smith of Twemlow Track Club in just behind, along with Christopher Peck of the other new team for the 2020 season, Dorchester RIOT.
Toby Chapman was the highest place Bournemouth AC runner in the early stages of the race and he was joined by Harry Lauste of Twemlow Track Club and Jez Bragg in the third group out on the road.
JC and Ant Clark held themselves back at first, looking to either ease their way into the race or run it at a very controlled pace, as opposed to hell for leather all the way. Stu Nicholas was also held back by the fact that he’d forgotten to tie his shoelace and had to stop during the first miles to tie it up.
As the race progressed though and they reached the half way point, it was Ben Renshaw of Bridport Runners who started to move through the field.
In fact, he was going so well, he almost caught up with Adam Holland who had been way out front on his own for virtually the whole race. It turned out Adam had too much of an advantage though and was able to hold on for the win, crossing the line in a magnificent time of 1:14:42.
Ben was only 11 seconds behind in the end, securing second place in a time of 1:14:53. Because Adam runs for Tavistock AC though, it was maximum points for Ben in the Dorset Road Race League, or rather minimum points.
After he’d taken third place at the Broadstone Quarter behind Chris Alborough and JC, Ben was starting to look like a real contender for the Dorset Road Race League individual title in the 2020 season.
Johnny Suttle took third place in a time of 1:15:08, with Christopher Peck taking 4th in 1:15:36. They were followed by the Twemlow Track Club trio of Harry Lauste (1:15:40), Lee Dempster (1:15:58) and Mark Smith (1:16:43).
Ant Clark proved that form is temporary but class is permanent as he reached the line in a super quick time of 1:17:25. That was way better than he’d been expected to run so he was really pleased with that performance.
After having to completely stop running when he was suffering from Epstein Barr Virus last summer, Ant has gradually worked his way back into form and is looking on track to be back at his best in the near future.
After taking the first half of the race very steadily he began to move up through the gears and worked his way up the field, ending the race in 8th position. That secured him the prize for second V40 behind Mark Smith.
Richard Swindlehurst was the fourth Twemlow Track Club member to arrive at the finish, netting the prize for 1st V50, finishing in a time of 1:17:42. Only four scorers are required in the second division so that was enough to see them pick up the team win for the fixture.
Egdon Heath Harriers then got their first two men on the board with Jonny Cooper taking 11th place in 1:17:47 and Paul Bullimore finishing 12th in 1:17:59. Duncan Ward of Dorset Doddlers was 2nd V50, crossing the line in 1:18:09 which put him in 13th place.
Despite the shoelace incident, Stu Nicholas ran well to come in as Bournemouth AC’s second scorer, taking 14th place in a time of 1:18:38. He was followed shortly after by JC who recorded a 15th place finish, crossing the line in 1:18:59.
He was going for more of a controlled training run approach rather than an all-out racing mode so given that, it was a decent run from Jacek’s perspective.
Twemlow Track Club had their fifth man in when Jez Bragg arrived at the finish to take 16th place in a time of 1:19:06. It was a strong debut for his new club for Jez.
Adam Davies was Egdon Heath Harriers third scorer of the day, recording a time of 1:19:17. Toby Chapman wasn’t quite in the form he was in last year when he finished second to Steve Way and this time round he had to settle for 18th place, crossing the line in 1:20:03. He was the fourth Bournemouth AC man in.
Neil Sexton of Poole Runners put in a fine display to take 20th place in a time of 1:20:31, just behind Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders who was 19th in 1:20:03.
Bruce Campbell was fourth scorer for Egdon Heath Harriers, putting in a very strong performance to finish in a time of 1:21:10, just ahead of Steve Cook of Twemlow Track Club who was 22nd in 1:21:20.
That left Bournemouth AC and Egdon Heath Harriers just need one for man to complete their scoring teams of five. Originally it looked like it would be between Richard Brawn and Julian Thacker to see who came in first.
Richard’s technique is usually to take it quite steady on the hills in races so he doesn’t put himself in any difficulty. That strategy didn’t work too well at Blackmore Vale though as there are so many hills and he ended up losing quite a bit of ground over the first half of the race.
On the eighth mile, Julian actually caught Richard up and pulled alongside him. That was enough for Rich to decide to really turn the screw. He began to pick up speed and push on and from that point on he was looking forward as opposed to behind.
Towards the end Rich got in a battle with Steve Claxton of Poole Runners and over the last couple of miles they were jostling for position, overtaking each other constantly.
They ended up pushing each other on though and overtook Nick Berry of Dorset Doddlers in the process. Then on the final hill, Steve Way came galloping up behind them.
He had clearly decided to put some work in over the latter stages of the race and was finishing very strongly. Steve continued to push on up the hill, also overtaking Luke Dowsett of Littledown Harriers before reaching the finish to claim 29th place.
Steve’s finishing time was 1:24:34 and that was enough to give Bournemouth AC the victory in the Dorset Road Race League. Steve Claxton won the battle between himself and Rich Brawn, crossing the line in 31st place with a time of 1:24:43.
Rich followed in five seconds later to take 32nd place in a time of 1:25:48. Julian Thacker rounded off the scoring team of five for Egdon Heath Harriers, crossing the line in 1:25:26. That was enough to see them take 2nd place in the Dorset Road Race League first division.
In the ladies race, Alex Door opened her race winning account for the season putting in a fine display to secure a superb sub-1:30 time. She took 55th place overall, in 1:29:33 which was enough to give her a winning margin of well over six minutes on her nearest rival.
Dawn Andrews of Lytchett Manor Striders was second placed female, getting to the line in 1:35:55 which put her in 84th place overall. Dawn’s teammate Judith Vlaarkamp finished as third lady, registering a time of 1:36:53.
It was to be Egdon Heath Harriers’ day though and Victoria Barnett and Hannah Martyn arrived at the finish close to get to secure them the team victory. Victoria’s time was 1:38:06 which put her in 100th place overall and Hannah was next over the line in a time of 1:38:12.
The first Bournemouth AC lady to complete the course was Heather Khoshnevis who clocked a time of 1:42:21. That was one of the best times she’s done at Blackmore Vale Half Marathon for a number of years.
It seemed that once again, the magic yellow vest had done the trick as she recaptured her form of days gone by. She’s participated in a couple of the BAC track sessions taken by Tom Craggs and is already feeling the difference in strength and found she had added determination to get to the finish line.
Finishing as 12th placed female, Heather took first prize in the F55 category and was 133rd overall. She enjoyed sharing the moment with the other BAC ladies and described it as a great day at the races.
The next BAC lady to reach the line was Tamzin Petersen who posted a time of 1:48:09. That put her in 177th place overall and made her the 23rd placed woman.
She found the crosswinds difficult to contend with when she was making her way up the inclines and because she’s very lightweight she often finds that headwinds effect her more than most.
Caroline Rowley made a marvellous comeback to the road race league by finishing as third scorer for the team. She registered a time of 1:51:21 which put her in 198th place overall and 31st lady. She was also fifth in the F45 category.
That meant the Bournemouth AC women had finished in fourth place for the fixture which was a respectable result given that some of their top names were out of action. Lytchett Manor Striders took second with last season’s champions Poole Runners down in third.
Caroline was just pipped to the post by her BAC teammate Ian Graham who managed to overtake her on the last hill. He’d had her in his vision virtually the whole way round but wasn’t really gaining any ground on her and wasn’t expecting to catch her up.
Ian had overtaken a Lytchett Manor Striders runner and about the 11-mile point and thought he might have been in his age category. It turned out to be Stephen Littlecott who was only 64 but Ian didn’t know that at the time.
Stephen had stuck with Ian for a bit but then he’d managed to pull away so was hoping to do his best to keep Stephen behind him. That may in turn explain how he managed to catch Caroline over the course of the last mile when he was pushing hard.
Ian’s finishing time was 1:51:13 in the end which put him in 197th place. There was no prize for the over 70’s but if there had been it would have gone to David Cartwright of Poole Runners who finished in 111th place overall in a stellar time of 1:39:16.
Jim Brumfield of Egdon Heath Harriers also managed to finish ahead of Ian, finishing in a time of 1:50:10 which put him in 190th place.
Closer to the front of the field, Adrian Townsend had been on antibiotics, which seemed to be making him feel sick. As a consequence he took the first three miles very easy before pushing the pace a bit over the next five miles which he ran with one of the Littledown Harriers.
A strong finish saw Adrian go take about five places over the over the last mile. Finishing in a time of 1:31:55, Adrian took 63rd place overall, in what was his third time of running the race.
Blackmore Vale was to be Phil Cherrett’s first ever half marathon race. He wasn’t sure what it would bring but he was definitely up for giving it his best shot.
Bournemouth AC team captain Rich Nelson was on hand to help shepherd Phil round the course and ensure he was running at a manageable pace.
Rich worked hard to maintain a pace of roughly 8 minutes per mile and led Phil through the race up until they got to the point where they knew Phil would be in line for a sub 1:45 finish. Then Rich slowed his pace down and allowed Phil to push onto the finish.
The pacing had been spot on for Phil and he made it to the finish line in a time of 1:44:39, which put him in 145th place overall. It was a very good first stab at the distance for Phil and he was chuffed that it all went to plan.
Rich ended up crossing the line in a time of 1:45:13 which put him in 149th place overall.
Although she hadn’t been feeling well all week, Estelle Slatford was still keen to do the race for several reasons. One was that she’d done it before and enjoyed to rural setting and undulating nature of the course.
Two was that she knew there were going to be a number of the ladies there so she knew it would be fun. And thirdly, she knew it would be a good training run.
Considering how bad she was feeling before the race and how windy it was, she was pleased with her finishing time of 1:53:24. That put her in 208th place overall, 36th female and sixth F45.
Helen Ambrosen wasn’t far behind Estelle and she was really pleased with her run, getting to the line in a time of 1:54:46. That put her in 219th overall and made her 39th lady and second F60.
Helen actually finished just four seconds ahead of Frances Anderson of Egdon Heath Harriers who is also 63 years of age.
Occupying 231st and 232nd positions on the leaderboard, BAC duo Katrina White and Sam White finished in 1:55:56 and 1:56:16 respectively.
Katrina would have liked to have got closer to 1:50 but on that course and in those conditions, she had to be reasonably pleased. She finished as 45th female.
As for Sam, she had a terrific run and was actually shocked at the time she produced. She thought she’d be over two hours. Although she found it tough mentally and physically, especially with all those hills, she was very pleased with the outcome. It shows she’s in a good place as the begins her training for the London Marathon at the end of April.
Rounding things off for the Bournemouth AC brigade, Ken Parradine completed the course in a time of 2:06:51, putting him in 283rd place. At the ripe old age of 76, Ken is doing well to still be posting those kinds of times. A total of 354 runners successfully finished the race.
With two wins in the first two races, Bournemouth AC are sitting pretty at the top of the table. Egdon Heath Harriers now had a second and a third place to their name and it would appear they will once again be the main challengers for the league title. Poole AC didn’t have a team at Blackmore Vale but they could also be in contention.
Twemlow Track Club look as if they’re going to be the dominant force in the second division and judging by the first two fixtures, they should breeze to promotion.
Their win at Blackmore Vale elevated Egdon Heath Harriers to the top of the women’s first division with Bournemouth AC dropping down the second. With Poole Runners and Lytchett Manor Striders also in the mix it could be a very exciting race for the title this season.
The next Dorset Road Race League fixture on the list was the Lytchett 10 but due to the threat posed by storm Ciara, thew race organisers were left with no option but to cancel the race. They will look to pencil it into the calendar again later down the line.
That means that next up, it’s the Marnhull 12k, which, despite being scheduled for weekend before the London Marathon, has sold out. It could be a tricky task for the Bournemouth AC men to continue their winning streak there as they may not have the strength in numbers there but as usual, Rich Nelson will do what he can to ensure the club fields competitive men’s and women’s teams.
After picking up the victory in last year’s Maverick New Forest ‘Short‘ race, Chris Phelan-Heath was back again to defend his title in the 2020 edition.
He completed the 6km trail route in 23:47 last time round which saw him comfortably fend off the challenge of Sam Davis who was second in 25:21.
But could he repeat the same heroics in this year’s race? That was the burning question. The Maverick races are always named after and sponsored by a specific make of product, often a trail shoe of some sort. This year’s event was called the Maverick Adidas Terrex Original New Forest.
As usual there were three different routes to choose from. The ‘Short’ distance, which, as with the previous year, was 6km. The ‘Medium’ distance was 17km and the ‘Long’ race consisted of a 24km route.
There was only ever going to be one option for Chris though. He’s not keen on running long distance and specializes in the shorter, sharper stuff.
The route for all three races started off in the Holmsley inclosure, with the ‘Short’ route remaining within the boundaries of the inclosure for the duration. The ‘Medium’ and ‘Long’ routes head onto the Brownhill and Wilverly inclosures.
There were some short, steep slopes to contend with on the routes and the trails have a tendency to be quite wet and muddy at this time of year so it wasn’t going to be all smooth sailing for Chris and his rivals.
Sam Davis was back again and looked likely to provide the main threat for Chris in his title defence. There were other runners there who could also be capable of challenging on the day though so Chris knew he’d have to put in a performance if he wanted to repeat his 2019 success.
Chris was coming off the back of a very strong win in the Maverick USE Exposure Dark Series Dorset, where he finished comfortably ahead of his Bournemouth AC teammate Stu Glenister. The Maverick New Forest was destined to be a much tighter affair though.
Due to all the recent rain, conditions in the Holmsley inclosure were extremely wet. That meant some sections of the course were super muddy and there were also some flooded patches to content with which made things interesting.
As it panned out, Chris and Sam were to run the entire race together, jostling for position at the front of the race. Sam has a lot of pedigree, with a 1:21 half marathon at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival to his name and a 2:58 time at the London Marathon last Spring.
It was a real grudge match between the two of them and the lead changed hands on numerous occasions throughout the race. Crucially, Chris managed to pull away from Sam very slightly in the final mile and that proved to be enough.
It was another superb victory for Chris and this time round it was certainly a hard fought win. Crossing the line in a time of 25:01, Chris had a winning margin of four seconds in the end over Sam, who took second in 25:05. Sam Pociecha wasn’t too far behind either, arriving at the finish in 25:10 to seal third place.
With an average pace of 6:14 for the run, it was a very strong performance from Chris, especially when you consider how tricky the conditions were that day. He will be hoping his victory will be a springboard to another very successful year for him in 2020.
This time last year Mitch Griffiths was made his Bournemouth AC debut by taking the runner up spot to Paul Russhard of Lymington Tri Club in the Dark Moors 10-Mile race. He was back again in 2020, hoping to go one better and pick up the victory this time round.
Paul Russhard was back again to defend his title though and in last year’s event, he finished over three minutes ahead so there was a fair deficit for Mitch to make up if he was to have any chance of overturning that result.
Of course, a lot can happen in a year though so there were no guarantees either of them would be able to display to same form they showed in the 2019 encounter.
Mitch’s first year for BAC had it’s ups and downs. He picked up an achilles tendon injury in March that kept him out for a good few months. When he returned to action again in June, it took him a while to gain his fitness back and find the same level that he was on before.
Gradually he managed to pick his times back up though until he was in top form again around September time. After that he ran Poole parkrun in 17 minutes flat and posted a new 5-mile PB of 28:13 at the Littledown 5.
He then proceeded to secure a new 10-mile PB of 58:36 and the Great South Run which he then proceeded to beat in the Wimborne 10, clocking a mightily impressive time of 58:21.
He’d certainly proved he was very accomplished at the 10-mile distance but could he carry that form into a night race, that was a the question?
The Dark Moors event is hosted by White Star Running and is held at Moors Valley Country Park, meaning it’s trails and woods all the way for the participants of both the 5-mile and 10-mile races.
Setting off at 6:15 minutes per mile pace for the first mile, even though it was mostly uphill, Mitch settled into a decent rhythm and went along at a similar pace for the next four miles.
The sixth mile was all uphill, so that was slightly slower but he picked the pace up again over the next two miles leaving him with just two miles left. He managed those at around 6:20 pace, giving him a finishing time of 1 hour 3 minutes exactly.
Considering it’s a trail race, at night, in the pitch black, that’s actually a very good time from Mitch. It eclipsed his time from last year by 22 seconds. However, it wasn’t enough to defeat Paul Russhard who was once again, the runaway winner.
This time he got round in 1:00:44, which was 43 seconds slower than what he did last year. But it was still a fantastic time that was way too quick for anyone else to content with, even Mitch.
The gap between the pair had closed though to less than three minutes this time round so that was something additional to take out of it from Mitch’s perspective. Adam Cox of Mendip Triathlon and Running Club took third place, coming in in a still very good time of 1:03:49.
Kari Mack of Bognor Regis Tone Zone Runners was first female, crossing the line in 12th place overall with a time of 1:09:29. That was enough to see off the challenge of Valeria Sesto of New Forest Runners who came in in 1:11:11 to take 14th place.
Then it was the Lymington Tri Club pair of Kelly Conrad and last year’s female winner Gemma Russhard who finished in 16th and 17th places in times of 1:11:48 and 1:12:06 respectively. A total of 364 runners successfully completed the course.
Mitch’s pace averaged out at 6:17 for his run and, although he’d been comprehensively beaten by Paul Russhard again, he still had fun out there and was pleased with the improvement over his time from last year.
At the end of the race he was presented with a rather nice hip flask as well for sealing the runner up spot which was a good bonus. If Mitch can steer clear of injury in 2020, he could well be in for a cracking year and no doubt has many more PB’s ahead of him over the coming months.
As is the tradition with the Dorset Road Race League, the new season kicked off on New Year’s Day with the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon, organised by Dorset’s most sociable runner, Sarah Swift, and her Poole Runners posse.
For Bournemouth AC, the race marked the beginning of their defence of the First Division Men’s League title they won in 2019. And for the ladies team, it marked the renaissance of a new era, with some exciting new names on the club roster along with the return of some more established names recovering from injury woes.
Once again, the duty falls to team captain Rich Nelson to try to piece together a competitive squad for each of the 12 designated fixtures for the 2020 season.
At one stage it looked as if it might be a struggle for the Broadstone Quarter but then several members of the Bournemouth AC old guard came through and threw their hats into the ring. That included Steve Way, Ant Clark and Jacek Cieluszecki.
There was even an appearance from a certain Mr Graeme Miller, who hasn’t competed in a league race for a number of years now.
Graeme has been plagued by a long running glute issue which confined him to a treadmill for all of the early part of year in 2019. Then he had an operation on his hand over the summer and didn’t really get back training on the road until right at end of the year.
Even though he didn’t want to race it, Craig Palmer also came forward to say he’d step in if required to help the team out. Even if he’s running at tempo pace or as another training session of some sort, he’s usually quick enough to finish fairly high up anyway and is always prepared to do what’s needed to ensure the team come away with a victory.
Alex Goulding and Matt du Cros were also in attendance as well, helping to form what, in the end, turned out to be a very strong men’s squad.
For the ladies, Emma Caplan was back in action after a lengthy injury lay-off over the latter part of 2019. She’s been having trouble with her knee and, following an MRI scan, found out she’s got patella tendinopathy. It seems to be a bit of lottery in the sense that some times it is fine and other times it flares up, so she has to manage it carefully.
The team was also boosted by the edition of Helen O’Neile, who joined towards the end of 2019. She has great pedigree and finished as 3rd lady in her BAC debut at the Wimborne 10 in November just days after signing up.
Also, making her long awaited Bournemouth AC debut was Heather Khoshnevis. Heather raced for Littledown Harriers last season and was often contending for the top prize in her age group. She also runs a training group on Tuesdays and Thursdays which several of the Bournemouth AC members attend.
As ever with the league races, the competition was strong. Chris Alborough of Poole AC was a serious contender the way he’s been running of late. His teammate Rob Doubleday was also there, along with Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat RC.
Paul Bullimore from Egdon Heath Harriers was in action as well and the newly formed Twemlow Track Club entered their first season in the league with a host of names that could be potential challengers including Richard Swindlehurst, David Jones and Gareth Alan-Williams.
In the ladies race, last year’s Dorset Road Race League champion Alex Door got back on the horse and began her title defence. Caroline Stanzel of Poole Runners would also be a contender, as would Diana Leggott, who runs for Lonely Goat RC.
The Broadstone Quarter route starts and finishes on the Broadway in Broadstone and consists of two laps round a notoriously triangular circuit, with the first lap containing an extra section to make up the distance.
With it being a two-lap course, that of consequently means that the competitors have to tackle the infamous Gravel Hill twice!! A great way to ease them into the new year.
Running it as part of a longer training run, JC wasn’t looking to go hell for leather. He wanted it to be a strong and solid run and after running to the start from where he lives, he opted not to start too aggressively.
Completing the first lap in 21:38, JC was, at that moment in time, in 5th position. He was feeling pretty good though so decided to up the pace on the second lap.
When he reached Gravel Hill for the second time, he began to chase after Chris Alborough and Ben Renshaw from Bridport Runners who were out front.
On Dunyeats Road, with about half a mile left, Jacek caught Ben from Bridport. He was closing in on Chris as well but the gap proved too big in the end and Chris picked up the win, finishing in a time of 35:45.
On this occasion, JC had to settle for a runner up spot, getting the line in a time of 35:58 but he was happy with his run overall and knows that, had he been racing hard from the outset, it could have been a different story.
For his second lap, JC was actually the fastest man in the field, completing it in 14:20, so that suggests he’s back in pretty good shape again, which is pleasing.
Ben Renshaw took third place in a time of 36:04, ahead of Andy Leggott who was fourth in 36:25. James Bewley of Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets AC was 5th in 37:24, just in front of unknown under-20, Adne Nesje Hernes, who took 6th place in 37:32.
Rob Doubleday gave Poole AC their second runner over the line, finishing in 7th place in a time of 37:53, with Craig Palmer getting Bournemouth AC their second man over the line to take 8th place in the same time.
Instead of out-and-out racing, Craig decided it would be more beneficial to incorporate a training session into his race, so he did it as two lots of eight minutes, followed by four reps of three minutes, with a bit of recovery in between each rep.
For the first eight minutes he ran at a controlled pace of 5:35 minutes per mile. For the second eight minutes he went at 5:45 pace, despite Gravel Hill being part of that meaning he had to work extremely hard on the way up giving him 10th overall on that Strava segment.
Then for the three minute efforts he ran at 5:11 and 5:12 pace for the first two, before a 6:08 which included Gravel Hill and a 5:17 to finish off. He lost three places at the end as he was finishing on a recovery but he’d done what he set out to do so was pleased with the session.
Shortly after Craig had got over the line, the next two Bournemouth AC members arrived, with Ant Clark taking 9th place in a time of 37:58 and Graeme Miller coming in in 10th with a time of 38:11.
They were both excellent runs from two of BAC’s old school thoroughbreads. After a disappointing run at Round the Lakes on Boxing Day, Ant bounced back extremely well, finishing with an average pace of 5:48 minutes per mile, which is not considering two lots of Gravel Hill were included in that.
Graeme’s only real goal was to get round in a faster time than he did in 2018, which was the only other time he’s run the course as it is now. He went out hard and enjoyed running a few miles on Ant’s shoulder before Ant pulled away on the final climb.
With a superb average pace of 5:51 minutes per mile, Graeme managed to eclipse his time from two years ago by nearly two minutes so even judging by his own high standards, that was an excellent run.
The Bournemouth AC trio of Craig, Ant and Graeme were followed by a hat trick of Twemlow Track Club recruits in the shape of David Jones, Richard Swindlehurst and Gareth Alan-Williams.
Neil Sexton of Poole Runners had a good run finishing in 14th place with a time of 38:29 before the Egdon Heath Harriers train arrived. Jamie Barrington took 15th place in 38:35 with Bruce Campbell following shortly after to take 16th in 38:42. Paul Bullimore was 18th in 38:49.
Dave Hicks was the third man in for Poole AC, finishing 19th in a time of 38:53 before Egdon Heath had their fourth man over the line when Simon Arthur clocked in at 38:55.
The Dorset Road Race League win for the first fixture was sealed by Bournemouth AC though when Alex Goulding completed the course in a time of 39:09 to take 22nd place.
Alex’s approach to this year’s race was heavily influenced by his memories from the last time he did the Broadstone Quarter back in 2017. That day he started off way too fast, not having been familiar with the course.
Careering down Lower Blandford Road at breakneck speed he was thoroughly enjoying the descent and flying past several of the faster runners. His enthusiasm was short lived though as hadn’t appreciated quite how draining it would be running up Gravel Hill.
For the last kilometre that day, he remembers being absolutely exhausted and having no energy left to take on the runners that were zooming past him in the closing stages.
This time he was determined not to make that same mistake. New year, new Alex! His new mantra was to start off slow. “Think of those hills,” he kept telling himself.
However, he ultimately ended up going slightly too slowly for the majority of the way which left him with a huge surplus of energy as he neared the end of race.
Although a fast effort enabled him to overtake a few of the runners in the final minutes, it wasn’t enough to see him beat his time 2017 time which was 50 seconds quicker. Nevertheless, he had still brought the win home for the team though so that was what mattered most.
Jon Spear and Steve Cook rounded things off for Twemlow Track Club in 23rd and 24th place before Liam Openshaw and Gareth Hale completed the scoring team for Poole AC in 25th and 26th.
Still insisting on his retirement from competitive running, Steve Way paced his friend Tim Jones of Poole Runners round to a sub-40 finish of 39:39, giving him 29th place.
Steve crossed the line in 31st place with a timed of 39:43. That was still an average pace of 6:05 though so a fairly decent run on that course. Nathaniel Willmore of Poole Runners was the last man to get in under 40 minutes, finishing in 39:54.
In the ladies’ race, it was Emma Caplan who struck gold, finishing in exactly 41 minutes. Even though it was her slowest ever time in that race, it was nice to pick up the win. Her times over the years she has done have been extremely consistent though, having completed it in 40:51 last year, 40:36 in 2016 and 40:20 in 2012.
Due to a knee injury, Emma hasn’t been running as much as she’d like recently so it was good that she’s still able to preform at such a high level.
According to an MRI scan, she’s suffering from patellar tendinopathy which has a tendency to flare up from time to time. Whenever it does, she’s restricted to non-impact exercises like swimming, which is a frustration for her.
Juliet Champion of Poole AC finished as second lady, completing the course in 41:24 which put her in 44th place overall. Although she wasn’t feeling the freshest considering it was New Years Day, Helen O’Neile did well to take the prize for third lady.
She crossed the line in a time of 42:10, which put her in 53rd place overall. That’s two top three finishes in her first two races for BAC for Helen so a very good start to her new club journey for Helen.
It wasn’t all a bed of roses for Helen though as she did manage to injure her ankle in the race which has given her cause for concern. She’s hoping for a speedy recovery but it’s difficult to tell with these sorts of injuries how long they will last.
She finished one place behind Matt du Cros who took 52nd place in a time of 42:09. That was a 10 second improvement on his time from last year so it was a pretty good run from him.
Caroline Stanzel of Poole Runners was 4th lady in a time of 42:43, which put her in 61st place overall. Diana Leggott arrived at the line in a time of 43:25 to finish as fifth lady and 67th overall. Last year’s champion Alex Door stepped into the new year by finishing as 6th placed female a time of 44:12.
Jud Kirk was almost a minute quicker than the time he posted at last year’s Broadstone Quarter, getting over the line in a time of 45:07, which put him in 93rd place overall.
Usually Jud looks to challenge for top honours in his age category but he’s come to the realisation though that he has a lot of work to do from now onwards if he’s going to get to that level again.
Andy Clements of Poole AC was a comfortable winner in that catgegory, finishing 34th overall in a phenomenal time of 40:22. Realistically, even getting within a couple of minutes of that would be good for Jud.
Stephen Hogarth, also of Poole AC was second in that category in a time of 44:32 which put him in 78th place overall. Jud had had to settle for fourth on this occasion, behind Andrew Stratton of Egdon Heath Harriers who was 87th overall in 44:56.
Sealing the women’s first division win for Bournemouth AC in her debut run, Heather Khoshnevis got to the line in 48:01, which put her in 140th place overall and made her 18th placed lady.
Heather was also second in her age category to Liz Goldsack of Purbeck Runners who finished in 47:24, putting her in 126th place overall.
It was the 10th time Heather has done the race in the last 11 years and that was her fastest time since 2011 so that was a magnificent performance from her. She thinks it must be down to the power of the coveted yellow and blue vest.
After a difficult season last year, it was great for the Bournemouth AC ladies to open with a win in the first fixture and this will hopefully prove a stringboard for them to achieve much better results in 2020.
Ian White nearly gave up his number in the lead up to the race as he knee had played up in a training run. It was too late to do any transfers though so he decided to just go out easy and see what happened.
At first he was running with the captain of ship, Rich Nelson and they slowly picked their way through the field. It was on the downhill parts where Ian’s knee hurt the most but once that was out the way, he was confident he was going to finish and began to push on a little.
That culminated in a decent sub 50-minute finish as Ian crossed the line in a time of 49:43 to take 159th place. He felt very motivated throughout the run and quantified as some good solid miles as he works toward his goals of a sub-20-minute 5k by the end of the year.
Captain Rich wasn’t far behind either, getting to the line in a time of 50:19, which put him in 166th place overall. It was good to see Rich and Ian employing a bit of old fashioned BAC teamwork as well to help push each other on.
This year the pressure will be eased off a little on Rich as Tom Craggs has taken on a coaching role within the road runners division of the club and is running some of the Tuesday night sessions. That should free up a bit more time for Rich who often struggles to juggle work time and family life with all the duties he has to do for the club.
With no David Cartwright there, Ian Graham thought he had a golden opportunity to take the 70+ category. As always though, another V70 popped up to deprive Ian of that accolade. That was Jim Brumfield of Egdon Heath Harriers, who Ian hadn’t seen for ages.
Jim finished in a time of 52:17, putting him in 190th place. Ian came in in a time of 53:06 which put him in 204th position overall. Ian was still quite happy with his time though, even though he missed out on the prize.
Next in for BAC, it was the one and only Louise Price, who crossed the line in 53:49. That put her in 215th place overall and she was 38th lady and 9th in the female 50-59 category.
Although it wasn’t her fastest time at the Broadstone Quarter, it was still a fairly decent run from Lou’s perspective and she was glad to be able to get through it without any niggles.
Finishing in 232nd place, Paul Whitty was next over the line in a BAC vest. He completed the course in a time of 55:02 which put him in 36th place in the male 50-59 age category.
After she’d been struggling with a hip injury, Helen Ambrosen initially didn’t think she’d be able to run. The day before though, she decided to give it a go and planned on running the first lap steadily to see how it went.
Fortunately, everything seemed fine so she began to up the work rate on the second lap and finished the race well. Crossing the line in a time of 57:28, Helen finished in 260th place overall and was 63rd lady and 2nd in the Female 60-69 category.
First place in that category went to Caron Stevens of Royal Manor of Portland who got over the line in 56:18, putting her in 253rd place overall.
It was the fifth consecutive year Helen had done the Broadstone Quarter and she enjoyed it and found it to be a great start to 2020. She was pleased to see her teammates doing so well as well and picking in the win in the women’s race.
The new year started very well for Sam White as she nailed down a new quarter marathon PB, arriving at the finish in a time of 58:17, which put her in 274th place overall. She was 66th lady out of 156 and was 14th in the female 50-59 category.
Although she found it to be a challenging route, Sam settled into a good stead pace and managed to hold on and still managed to find the strength for her trademark Samantha sprint finish.
The last Bournemouth AC member in, but by no means the least, was Davey Boy Parsons, who got over the line in 1:00:35. That put him in 298th place overall and 9th in the male 70+ category.
Before the race started, Dave wasn’t feeling too well and it was so hot in the gym where the numbers were distributed that he felt like he was going to faint.
Once he got going though, he felt a little better and was having a good little ding-dong with Ade Holloway of Wimborne throughout the race. In the end Ade, just managed to the better of Dave, outgunning him in a ferocious sprint finish.
It was certainly a great way to start the new season for Bournemouth AC, with both a men’s team win and women’s team win. One could even be so bold as to say, they’ve started as they mean to go on.
After the race, the prizes were dished out and then the trophies for the 2019 season were handed out. The ceremony was compered very well by BAC’s very own Jon Sharkey and Steve Way was the celebrity guest who handed out the prizes. They both brought a nice light-hearted and humorous flavour to the proceedings.
Perhaps it will be both the Bournemouth AC men’s and women’s teams who are up there collecting their prizes on New Year’s Day 2021. It’s going to be an intriguing and enthralling season ahead, that much is certain.
In keeping with tradition, Toby Chapman was back at his parents’ place for Christmas which gave him the opportunity to take part in the Clevedon Boxing Day Race for 2019.
The Clevedon Boxing Day Race is organised by Clevedon Athletic Club and consists of quite an undulating 4-mile route with a fairly testing ascent starting right near the end of the second mile.
It has something of a festive feel to it though since it is the holiday season and usually attracts plenty of runners who dress up an the appropriate Christmas related attire, including Santa outfits, elf and reindeer costumes.
Despite that though, the event tends to attract a high quality field, with plenty of top talent battling it out at the front of the field. The wet conditions didn’t seem to have dampened the spirits of the competitors as they lined up in the start area.
Toby opened with a 5:17 first mile before the inclines began to come into play for the second mile. He went through that in 5:36 before hitting the toughest climb on the route.
Completing the third mile in 5:53, it was then onto the mostly downhill fourth mile leading to the finish. Managing to find enough left in the tank for a strong sprint finish, Toby polished off the last mile in a super quick 5:08 which got him to the finish line in 21:41.6.
That was just enough to net him 18th place ahead of William Cheek of North Somerset AC. It wasn’t quite as quick as he’d run in previous years but it was still a decent performance from Toby, with his average pace for the run coming in at 5:29.
In last year’s race he crossed the line in 8th place, clocking a time of 20:44.6 and the previous year (2017) he was 11th in a time of 20:48.9.
In the 2019 edition there were a total of 972 participants, which is a good turn out for a Boxing Day event. The race was won by Felix McGrath of Bristol & West AC in a time of 19:34.1.
He was followed by his Bristol & West teammate Andrew Chambers who finished in 19:45.9. James Rodgers of North Somerset AC prevented Bristol & West from securing a one, two, three, taking third place in 20:18.4.
Joe Conners of Bristol & West was 4th in 20:22.3, just edging out Alex Crossland of Clevedon AC who went over the line in 20:22.8.
Emma Pallant of Aldershot, Farham & District was 1st female in a time of 21:50.2 which put her in 22nd place overall. She narrowly fended off the challenge from Stephanie Barnes of Bristol & West AC who was second lady in 21:59.0 and Jenny Spink, also of Bristol & West, who was third lady in 22:02.3.
Toby will hopefully be back in action for the next fixture in the Dorset Road Race League which is the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon. He has a great record there, finishing second to Steve Way last year and winning the race in 2018 and 2016.
At this year’s edition of the festive Boxing Day blowout in Poole Park it was more a case of “through the lakes” rather than “Round the Lakes”.
Such was the unprecedented amount of rainfall in the days leading up to Christmas, much of the pathway around the park was looking waterlogged and washed out.
That didn’t stop the race from going ahead though and it didn’t seem to stop the 245 participants from thoroughly enjoying themselves as they splashed through the perpetual puddles.
The line up for the race included three Bournemouth AC members. Ant Clark opted to represent his second claim club which is the newly formed Twemlow Track Club. Jud Kirk was in his familiar yellow and blue colours though and Kirsty Drewett ran the race in tandom with her dad Robert.
Along with the streaming surface water that the competitors had to contend with, the weather conditions were somewhat unfavourable, with a howling wind and teeming rain dominating the morning’s proceedings.
The 10k course was based around the same boating lake and cycle track as the ever popular Saturday morning haunt of Poole parkrun. It consisted of one lap round the flooded cycle track followed by three full laps round the lake and the cycle track.
Southampton AC came over to raid the Poole party and their runners occupied five of the top seven places, with William Bryan picking up the win in a lightening quick time of 32:14.
The runner up spot went to Daniel Mulryan of Thames Valley Harriers in a time of 32:30, with Sam Costley of Southampton taking third in 32:39.
Another Southampton man, Will Brewin, took 4th place in a time of 32:49 before Callum Gillett of Reading and Rikki James, also of Southampton took fifth and sixth places, both finishing in 33:02.
Dom Willmore of Poole Runners finished 8th in a time of 34:17, with Ben Lewis of Poole AC coming in just behind him in 34:24. Andrew Ridley took the prize for first over 50, crossing the line in a time of 36:32 which put him in 15th place.
Ant Clark was the first Bournemouth AC affiliated runner to make it to the finish line, clocking in at 37:09, which put him in 20th place. It wasn’t one of Ant’s finest performances but it was another step forward on the comeback trail for him.
Before the Wimborne 10 in mid-November, Ant hadn’t raced for several months after he found out he was suffering with Epstein Barr Virus, a muscle wasting illness.
Picking up the prize for first over 60, Jud Kirk arrived at the finish in a time of 43:21, putting him in 52nd place in the overall standings. That was a decent result for Jud and it was always a welcome reward to pick up the category win. His cause may have been helped somewhat by the conditions though which seemed to keep the numbers down somewhat.
As well as being a keen runner and triathlete, Jud is also swimming coach and he said he was glad he could swim given the amount of water on the course that day.
Kirsty enjoyed some precious family time with her dad as they negotiated their way through the water and the wind to cross the line 1:01:57 and 1:01:58, with Robert taking 212th place and Kirsty in 213th.
Conflicting work routines mean Kirsty and her dad very few opportunities to meet up and spend time together so it was nice that they could make the most of that chance on this occasion.
There was also a Junior Relay Race on where the youngsters were paired up with a partner via lucky dip, each running a one mile leg. Several Bournemouth AC juniors took part in that race but they were unable to stop the Poole AC pair of William Rabjohns and Leo Riggs from emerging victorious.
William completed his leg in a superfast time of 5:13 which was the fastest out of anyone. Then Leo brought it home in 6:01 to give them a team time of 11:14.
BAC youngster Oscar Matthews was in the team that came second. He raced to a superb 5:40 time in his leg before handing over to Lexie Brown of Poole AC who got round in 6:12, giving them a cumulative time of 11:52.
Another Bournemouth AC starlet, Erin Wells, was in the team that came fourth. She completed her leg in 6:36 with Izzy Rabjohns of Poole AC taking the second leg and registering a time of 6:41. That gave them a combined time of 13:17.
The other BAC member in action was Mariah Marshall and she formed part of the team that took 5th place, completing her leg in a time of 7:01. She ran the second leg, with Camilla Brown of Poole AC getting round in 6:36 before handing over the baton. Their combined time was 13:37. There were nine teams taking part in total.
What better way to prepare for the Christmas festivities than running a marathon three days before the big day? It certainly provides you with a great opportunity to create a big calorie deficit which can then in turn be filled with all the mince pies, turkey and Christmas pudding that you can shovel down. And perhaps even more so when it’s one that is as testing as the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon.
As well as being a few days before St. Nicholas comes down the chimney, it was also the day before Stu Nicholas‘s birthday, so he was certain to have two reasons to celebrate at least. Could he make it one more though this time round by ending the season with a victory?
Two years ago in fact, he did do just that, in this very race, seeing off the challenge from Neil Kevern of Bracknell Forest Runners to seal the win in a time of 2:47:12.
Stu would very much have loved to repeat those heroics in the 2019 edition. This year he was joined in the race by his Bournemouth AC compadre Jez Bragg.
Jez is a well known and highly respected member of the running community, not just in Dorset, but also on a national scale. He’s competed for his country numerous times, including at the Anglo-Celtic Plate 100k, where he won on a couple of occasions. He also took home a gold medal at the Commonwealth 100k Championships.
He also ran across the entire length of New Zealand which was 3,000km, taking 53 days which made him the fastest person to have done that on foot.
More recently he’s completed the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race, which was 315 kilometres with 15,500 metres of ascent. In what might perhaps even be his biggest achievement to date, Jez completed the Tor des Geants, where he covered a total distance of 394km in 95 hours and 24 minutes.
Despite all those incredible achievements, Jez has been suffering an ongoing battle with Ulcerative Collitis and Crohns, a lifelong inflammatory Bowel Disease. That has seen him go through some very difficult times over years but he’s never thrown the towel in and the fact he has had to battle such a vicious illness makes his successes seem all the more unfathomable.
Having completed the Beachy Head Marathon at the end of October in a race where his BAC teammate Jon Sharkey stopped off to get married half way through, Jez proved there that he had a marathon in him.
The Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon would be Stu’s 12th marathon of the year and despite making it to the 50 marathon landmark and the end of last year, his enthusiasm to go the distance had not been quelled. In fact, he’d even stepped it up a notch when he completed the Roseland August Trail 100k along the coast of Cornwall.
The course for the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon runs from South Parade Pier to the end of the Hayling Billy Line and back, providing a unique blend of multi terrain surfaces for the participants to get to grips with.
To begin with it was Pete Concannon in his first ever marathon who took the race by the scruff of the neck. He set off at a furious pace, leaving everyone else including Jez and Stu for dust.
Chris Brebin Sayers was in second place but was quite a way back. Then it was Stu and Jez. The BAC duo were together up till 11 miles. That was until Stu had to stop to tie shoelaces. That was a rookie error that could have proved costly.
Fortunately for Stu, he was able to come back and catch Jez up. He then decided to press on and began to pull away as they approached the turning point.
It was then a case of trying to reel in the two guys who were still out front. That wasn’t going to be easy though by any stretch of the imagination. Pete Concannon had blasted through the half way point in a superfast time of 1:20:27.
He had an advantage of almost five minutes over Chris Brebin Sayers who was second at that point in 1:25:20. Stu was a further 20 seconds back, arriving in 1:25:40 and Jez was 16 seconds behind his at 1:25:56.
Chris Brebin Sayers blew up massively over the second half of the race and it wasn’t long before both Stu and Jez had gone past him. The race was on now for Stu and he’d got into a good rhythm and set about chasing Pete down.
It seemed an almost impossible task to make up five minutes over the second half of a marathon but it was worth a go. Pete began to fade and his pace dropped significantly. Stu stayed strong and was progressively eating up the ground between them.
The gap between the two had been dramatically reducing to the point that there was now only seconds in it. Unfortunately for Stu though, it was too late and Pete made it to finish line before he could catch him.
The winning time was 2:50:29. Stu crossed the line 23 seconds later to take second place in 20:50:52. Jez crossed the line in a comfortable third place in the end, clocking a time of 2:53:43. That gave him an average pace of 6:31 minutes per mile, with the course coming up slightly long at 26.67 miles.
Alexander Whearity of Reading Joggers was the only man to come in in under three hours. After such a promising first half of the race, Chris Brebin Sayers slipped to 8th place in the overall standings on this occasion.
Even though they didn’t pick up the race win on this occasion it was great to see the Bournemouth AC pair running so well. Considering he hadn’t really done any specific marathon training and the fact that he has to just get out as and when he can due to having a small child, it was a very good run from Jez’s perspective.
He completed the second half of the race in 1:27:46, which was less than two minutes slower than his first half. As for Stu, he actually ran his second half faster than his first, completing it in 1:25:11. That demonstrates how strong he is at the moment.
It was Stu’s fifth time of running the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and his 12th marathon of the year. There could easily have been a temptation to tone it down for Stu after he reached his 50 marathon landmark at the end of last year but he hasn’t really done that. He’s kept on going.
Stu enjoys the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon so much that he’s already signed up for the race again next year and no doubt he will once again be a serious contender to pick up the race win.
As far as 10k races go, the Telford 10k has got to be up there with the best of them. It’s a fast, flat course and it’s also heavily tree-lined meaning it’s well sheltered from the wind.
Even in unfavourable conditions, there’s still a great chance of a fast time at Telford and that’s what gets the top athletes flocking over. Of course, having so much high calibre competition around can also help runners reach their full potential.
It’s a race that Rob McTaggart has been interested in for a number of years now. Every year though, his chances of rolling out the perfect performance have been scuppered in some kind of way.
One year he’d planned to go up there a weekend of heavy snow meant the race was cancelled. Another year he was sick in the car whilst he was on his way up and felt so bad that he ended up turning round and heading back home.
Last year, he did finally make it to the start line but had an off-day, resulting in a finishing time of 32:29. Whilst that was still a very fast time, it wasn’t what he’d gone there for. He was aiming for that illusive sub-32.
Ever since then that had remained a primary goal of Tag’s but he still hadn’t quite been able to fulfill it. He’d managed it on the track, finishing in 31:29 at the Ladywell 10,000m in September. The closest he’d come on the road through was a 32:08 at Eastleigh.
This year he managed to make it the start line again, so that was one hurdle over with. Now he just had a produce the performance of his life to make it count.
Although he wasn’t feeling at his absolute peak, Tag knew he was in good shape. He won the Boscombe 10k at the end of November and in October he ran well in the Cabbage Patch 10, finishing in 53:03.
That month he’d also produced one of his best ever runs at the Cardiff Half Marathon, recording 10k, 10-mile and half marathon best times all in the space of one race, finishing in an incredible time of 1:08:56.
The question at Telford was, did he have one more extra special performance left in him before the year was out? It was a bleak and blustery day and the course was wet, with lots of leaves strewn across the path.
There is a short section of downhill near the beginning which can help runners to quickly shift into a good pace. Going through the first mile in 5:01, Tag had made a good start and knew that the race was on.
He then ran a 5:18 for his next mile split before producing a fantastic 4:57 for his third mile which put him right back on track. Going through the 5k point in 15:42, it was looking for Tag at the half way stage.
It was effectively a two lap course with a bit added on at the beginning. Tag got to end of the first lap in 16:23. Maintaining the pace he was going at wasn’t going to be easy but he knew, if he could, he was going to be in for a blinding run.
For his fourth mile, Tag registered a 5:14, before getting through the fifth mile in a superb 5:10. Over the course of the second lap, he was overtaking people left, right and centre.
Many of the runners had gone out too hard and were beginning to suffer. Not Tag though. He had paced it well and hence was moving up the field rapidly.
Despite going so fast, he still had more left in the tank heading into the final mile and was then able to post his fastest mile of the race at 4:57, equalling his pace for third mile.
That just left the remaining 0.2 of a mile where he upped the pace even further as he headed for the finish. Crossing the line in a phenomenal chip time of 31:25, Tag had smashed his 10k PB and finally achieved that much sought after sub-32 on the road.
Such is the incredibly high standard of the event that that time only put him in 73rd place but that didn’t matter. It was about the time for Tag and having that kind of calibre of runners around him helped spur him on.
Amazingly, 16 runners came in in under 30-minutes, with Adam Craig sealing the race win in a time of 28:32. That was also a new course record for the Telford 10k, beating the previous best time of 28:51, which had stood for 15 years.
Omar Ahmed of Birchfield Harriers also came in under the previous course record, getting to the line in 28:39. Alex Teuten of Southampton also ran well to secure an official PB of 29:33 which put him in 9th place. A total of 1,128 participants successfully completed the course on the day.
For Tag though, it was a fantastic way to round off what has turned out to be an outstanding year for him. After a disappointing London Marathon earlier in the year, he has showed great character to completely turn it around and end on a huge high. He’ll now have every reason to be optimistic about what’s in store for him in 2020.