Category Archives: Road_Reports

BAC find ingredients for success at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon

Team BAC at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Ian Graham, Jud Kirk, Stu Nicholas, Rich Brawn, Tamzin Petersen and Andy Gillespie were among those taking part in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon on a very hot summers day

The latest Dorset Road Race League fixture pitched Bournemouth AC in Sturminster Newton for a tough, undulating half marathon in the sweltering heat as this unprecedented summer of sizzling sunshine and soaring temperatures continues.

Thoughts of fast times and PB performances went out the window when the weather forecast showed how hot it going to be and the warmth of the sun could be felt lightly singeing the skin as the runners made their way from the race HQ in the Sturminster Newton High School fields to the start line on Station Road.

It was more a case of hoping that the body would hold out without overheating throughout the course of the 13.1-mile country road route. Much of the course was over similar ground to that of the North Dorset Village Marathon that took place on the first weekend of May. Some of the Bournemouth AC members were familiar with it from that.

With Rich Nelson away on holiday in France, Rich Brawn stepped in to deputise as team captain for the race and assumed the duties of organising and assembling a team that could hopefully be in the running for a vital league victory.

With the margins at the top of the league too close to call between Poole AC and Bournemouth AC in the Men’s Division One, the points in this fixture were absolutely crucial.

With a lot of hard work chasing up various team members and looking to establish a strong line up of at least five high standard scorers, Rich Brawn now has a new-found respect to what Rich Nelson does for every race. It is certainly an unenviable task.

Come the day of the race it wasn’t looking overly promising, with Steve Way, Josh Cole, Stu Nicholas and Graeme Miller having signed up but the notable absence of a high quality fifth scorer. Rich had a feeling that he himself was going to have to step up and bear the burden of being fifth scorer for the team.

Then, whilst he was in the car on the way to the race, Rich received a message from Steve Way saying that he’d had to abort his long run and call his wife to pick him up. That meant that from the place where he’d ended up, there was no way he was going to make it to the start line in time.

Steve has been suffering from a calf injury that kept his training runs down to a minimum over recent weeks. Unfortunately, the prominence of that injury looks as if it might rule him out for the World 100k Championships, which is in # weeks’ time. That would be hammer blow for Steve after working so hard to achieve his 3rd place finish at the Comrades Marathon and earn his place in the GB squad.

Rich was desperate to register a BAC win for the fixture so he could go back and deliver the good news to Rich Nelson but it was beginning to look as if that might be in doubt. He tried to remain positive though as he jogged over the start line with Stu Nicholas and Andrew Brookes and prepared to do his bit for the team and give it absolutely all he’s got.

Just as they arrived at the start-line meeting point, out of nowhere, Craig Palmer and Dave Long suddenly turned up. Rich was hugely received to see them as he had been in discussion with both them in the build-up to the race and had been hoping they would be able to make it.

Dave had been part of the Bournemouth Athletics League team that had famously sealed promotion to Division One and had competed in the 5000-metre race at the track meeting at Kings Park the previous day.

It was the final fixture of the season and after that the lads went out for a hugely well-deserved celebration, meaning many a beer was sunk over the course of the evening. As a result, Dave was still half cut when he arrived just before the start of the race.

Having also been out on the razz the night before, Craig was also feeling a little worse for wear as he prepared to take to the start line. They’d both put the team first though and showed up anyway with the aim of ensuring Bournemouth AC would win the fixture.

Needless to say, Rich was very pleased to see them and that had cast a completely different complexion on the race now. There was now a very realistic chance that BAC could come away with the points.

Once the race got underway, a small lead group was quickly established, containing both Josh Cole and Stu Nicholas. Graeme Miller wasn’t far behind them, with Rich just slightly further back.

There was quite a bit of downhill in the first mile, so it was a good opportunity for the runners to settle into a good early pace. When Rich came up behind Graeme, he thought perhaps he might be going a little too fast so nestled in behind his BAC teammate.

It soon became apparent though that Graeme wasn’t going at his normal pace. Rich then manoeuvred round him and pressed on. In fact, Graeme had felt a tightening of the hamstring right from start, preventing him from striding out.

Although he wasn’t in complete agony, he knew if he had continued he would have done himself some real damage. Reluctantly, he was forced to pull out, meaning for the first time in 18 years of running, he had to come to terms with a DNF.

It was a double blow for BAC as Graeme was also down the for the Round the Rock 10k race in Portland the following weekend. Unfortunately, with his hamstring in a bad way, that also rules him out of that fixture as well.

Not realising that Graeme had pulled out, Rich spent the entire race expecting him to come up and overtake him at any point. As he reached the latter stages of the race he started thinking he must be having an absolute blinder to still be ahead of Graeme.

About four miles into the race Craig and Dave, who had started the race very steadily, caught up with Rich. The three of them ran together for the next two-to-three miles. They were trying to work out what they needed to do to ensure BAC got the win in the Dorset Road Race League. Craig figured at that point they’d probably done enough if things stayed the same.

At around the seventh mile, Sean Edwards caught up with the trio, making it a BAC four out on the road. Sean couldn’t score for Bournemouth AC though in the league since he had already scored points for his previous club of Lytchett Manor Striders.

As Sean began to push on and Craig and Dave went with him, Rich took the opportunity to ease off the throttle a bit and take in an energy gel. He was worried that he might blow up in the latter stages of the race in the punishing heat.

Unfortunately, Graeme wasn’t the only BAC member who was forced to abandon the race. Adrian Townsend had also bailed out about 4.5 miles in suffering from stomach issues. Back in April, Adrian pulled out of the London Marathon for the very same reasons.

For years now, Adrian has suffered from IBS. Usually it’s okay when he’s running but on the odd occasion it does become a problem, giving him bad stomach cramps. Sadly, this was one of those occasions and had to stop running and shuffle back to the car.

It was a blow for Adrian but he did at least know that he had an imminent holiday to look forward to that would include some epic running in the Alps, which was very excited about.

The last three miles of the race were predominantly uphill. The gradients weren’t super steep but they were just long and enough to slow the pace a bit and force you to call on the deeper levels of your energy reserves.

Spending the vast majority of the race on his own, Josh Cole cruised in to take 2nd place in a time of 1:17:33. Iain Trickett of Dorset Doddlers had run away with it, having built up a margin of almost four minutes over Josh to take the race win in a time of 1:13:43.

Josh Cole on his way to a 2nd placed finish
Josh Cole on his way to a superb 2nd place

It was still a good strong run from Josh though and a decent time in such trying conditions. Amazingly, it was the third time Josh has finished as runner up in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon. In 2016 he came 2nd to Robert Mann of Exeter Harriers, crossing the line in a time of 1:14:39.

The best time he’s recorded in the race was in 2014, when he came 2nd to BAC teammate Pete Thompson, finishing in a time of 1:14;14. That was a year when Bournemouth AC dominated the standings with Jon Sharkey and Simon Munro making it a 1,2,3,4 for BAC and Tag and Toby Chapman giving them six out of the first 7 finishers.

Josh Cole wins 2nd place at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
Josh collects his prize for a well deserved 2nd place

In fact, Bournemouth AC do have quite an illustrious history in the Stur Half, boasting the race winner for four years in a row from 2009 to 2012, with Steve Way winning it in 2012 and 2010, Stu Fox winning it in 2011 and Tag winning it in 2009. Then in 2007, Mark Hargreaves claimed victory.

In the latter half of the 1990’s, a Bournemouth AC member won it for five consecutive years with Duncan Hurdwell winning it in 1999, 1998 and 1996, Larry Austin in 1997 and Billy Nixon in 1995.

Josh Cole claims 2nd place at Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
It the third time Josh had finished as runner up in the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon

Not too many of those years would have seen as hot weather on race day as the 2018 edition did though and Stu Nicholas found it a real struggle to deal with the relentless sunshine. Having run two marathons on the same day the previous weekend as well, completing a Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathon double, Stu wasn’t feeling in tiptop condition when they jogged down to the start-line.

Managing to rally well though and dig deep, he still completed the course in an excellent time of 1:22:37, putting him in 9th place on the day. Considering his previous exertions and the hot conditions on the day, plus the hilly route which did slow him down towards the end, that was a very good run from Stu.

Stu Nicholas on his way to a 9th placed finish
Stu Nicholas had a strong run taking 9th place in the standings

Overtaking a few more runners as they coasted through the latter stages of the race, Craig, Dave and Sean arrived on the finishing straight together. It was Craig who strode in to win the sprint finish, taking 10th place, with Sean in 11th and Dave in 12th. All three finished in a time of 1:23:12.

By the time he got onto the last long hill of the race, Rich had been running on his own for ages. In fact, since Sean, Craig and Dave had eased away, the only person he’d really seen was Mitchell Griffiths of Westbourne RC who was quite far up the road.

Sean Edwards, Craig Palmer and Dave Long near the finish
BAC solidarity: The trio of Sean Edwards, Craig Palmer and Dave Long ran much of the race together before a sprint to the line ensued

On the final climb, Matthew Brown of Littledown Harriers overtook Rich, going very strongly in the final stages. He then had a bit of tussle with Chris Heckford of Wimborne AC at the top of the hill before eventually relinquishing that position as well.

With his watch having been set to pace and distance, Rich had no idea what time he was on for as he approached the finish leading into the school fields. He knew though, judging by his mile pace that he was in for good time and probably a PB.

As he got on the finishing straight he was ecstatic to see the clock ticking down towards the 1 hour 25-minute mark. It was a tremendous run for Rich, crossing the line in a time of 1:25:16, which put him in 18th place overall.

As fifth scorer for the team in the Dorset Road Race League, Rich was really pleased with his run and was a two-minute improvement on his previous best set at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival last October.

Rich Brawn powers to the line in the Stur Half
Rich Brawn powers his way to a fantastic new half marathon PB time of 1:25:16

The next BAC member to arrive at the finish was Jud Kirk. Jud has his eyes on the prize in the 60-64 category in the Dorset Road Race League and is actually leading the way in that competition after all the fixtures that have taken place thus far.

Nigel Haywood of Purbeck Runners is hot on the heels though and in the Stur Half, it was Nigel who came out on top, finishing in 52nd place in a time of 1:33:43. Jud hadn’t actually realised Nigel was ahead of him and when he crossed the line in 57th place with a time of 1:35:07, he assumed he’d taken top spot in the MV60 category.

That wasn’t the case though and it was the first race ever that Nigel had finished ahead of Jud. Jud was cursing his luck after the race finished as, had he known Nigel was ahead of him, he would have made more of an attempt to chase him down.

In the DRRL standings though, Jud still leads the 60-64 category, but it’s incredibly tight, with Jud on 199 and Nigel on 203 (lowest score wins). That means it’s all to play for in the next matchup at Round the Rock if Nigel has entered.

After having what he described as “a horror show” Ben Walliman crossed the line a time of 1:40:45, putting him in 78th place. It was all going okay for Ben after the first four miles but the wheels came off soon after that and he found the rest of the race a real struggle.

The uncompromising heat took its toll on him, as did the tough hills over the last few miles. Ben is certainly capable of better though, having clocked a time of 1:32:41 in the Stur Half back in 2015, as well as 1:30:07 at the Bournemouth Bay Half that same year. Sometimes as a runner though, you have those days where it just doesn’t quite click and this was one of them unfortunately for Ben.

The next BAC member over the line was Andrew Brookes, who came in 90th place registering a time of 1:43:41. Again, Andrew found it tough going on such a hot day and with so many undulations to contend with. It was about 6 minutes down on his time at the RunThrough Lee Valley Park VeloDrome Half Marathon that he’d run the previous weekend, so he is capable of quicker. Given the conditions and course profile, it was still a solid run from Andrew though.

Crossing the line in 114th position, Andy Gillespie crossed the line in a time of 1:50:44. It could be said that a half marathon is a bit too shorter distance for Andy as he much prefers his longer races, but it was a good training exercise in preparation for the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event where he is set to take on the 50k Ultra Marathon this Sunday.

Completing his longest race for quite some time – and longest run in fact to be fair, at the ripe old age of 71, Ian Graham showed he’s still got it, crossing the line in a good, solid, sub-two-hour time.

Taking 162nd place with his effort of 1:59:05, Ian was 3rd MV70 over the line on the day, fending off tough competition from Roberto Panter of Egdon Heath Harriers, who came in shortly after with a time of exactly two hours.

Ian Graham eats an ice cream after the Stur Half
Ian Graham seemed to get more of the ice cream on his face than in his mouth and it melted quickly in the hot sunshine

Unfortunately, it was another fixture where the BAC ladies failed to get a team out, meaning they’ve now slipped down to fifth in the First Division table out of seven teams. Hopefully more ladies will be available in the remaining fixtures, otherwise the threat of relegation could be a looming large on the horizon.

The only lady who turned out at the Stur Half was Tamzin Petersen. Having not done many long runs recently and perhaps not having been training as regularly as she would have liked, Tamzin was treating the Stur Half as more of a training run than a race. She was hoping to use it to kickstart her journey back to her best form.

With the pressure off a bit, Tamzin ran the race in a fairly relaxed mode, stopping at each water station to ensure she remained well hydrated in the intense heat. She also found one aid station that was offering fizzy drinks, sweets and cakes so she stopped off there for a while to make the most of what they had on offer.

In spite of that, she still managed a sub-two-hour finish, reaching the line in a time of 1:59:35, which put her in 166th position overall. That made her 27th female on the day. Hopefully that will be a springboard for her to push on from as she prepares to take on the Round the Rock 10k this Sunday.

Josh Cole with prize for 2nd place
Josh was awarded a huge chocolate brownie for his troubles

When the prizes were handed out at the end, Josh was given a massive brownie cake for coming 2nd overall. The BAC trio of Josh, Stu and Craig scooped some bottles of wine for taking 2nd place in the team competition behind the top three of Poole AC who were Brian Underwood (3rd in 1:18:11), Gareth Alan-Williams (4th in 1:18:53) and Chris Alborough (6th in 1:21:06).

Stu Nicholas and Josh Cole from 2nd placed team
Stu and Josh were part of BAC team that took 2nd place in the race, along with Craig

In terms of the league positions for Men’s First Division, Bournemouth AC came out on top quite comfortably in the end, with the positions of Josh, Stu, Craig, Dave and Rich giving them 45 points. Poole AC took 2nd place in the fixture with their top five, including who came 6th, accumulating a total of 60 points. Again, the lowest score is the better in the DRRL.

With the day starting off with a worrying situation for Rich Brawn as stand-in captain, it had turned out to be a rip-roaring success in the end and he was very grateful to each member of the team who came out to battle the hellacious heat.

Rich Brawn after Sturminster Newton Half Marathon
It turned out to be a great day for Rich Brawn who captained the team to victory as well as recording a terrific new half marathon PB

With the next fixture, the Round the Rock 10k in Portland, taking place this Sunday, Rich will be hoping the team will be able to carry that momentum through and can put in another strong performance and perhaps even seal another Dorset Road Race League victory.

The ladies also have a pretty strong line up of four for the Round the Rock race as well so hopefully they will be vying for top position as well and can give themselves something to build on for the remainder of the season.

Stu Nicholas and Josh Cole were part of the 2nd placed team
It was a brilliant day for Bournemouth AC in the end, taking another fine Dorset Road Race League victory in the Men’s Division One

 

Manol Dimitrov mixes it up in Montreux Sky race

Manol Dimitrov in Montreux Sky
Manol Dimitrov was up against some top level competition in the 37km Montreux Sky race, featuring 2,500m of elevation

In what must surely be one of the most difficult and technical races in the Swiss Alps, the Montreux Sky race is 37 kilometres in length and features 2,500 metres of ascent. That was the task that Manol Dimitrov was up against as he prepared to do battle with a very competitive field of mountain race specialists and experienced Alpine campaigners.

Manol wasn’t phased by the elite competition though, or the distance and elevation. He’s become very accustomed to taking on tough mountain races himself and knows what it takes to excel on that type of terrain.

Having recently completed the 60.4km race at the Scott Snowdonia Trail event with 2,376m of elevation, he’s in great shape to deal with the rigours of the relentless climbs. In fact, after taking a few wrong turns whilst out on the route, Manol managed to add an extra 12km to the route and an additional 4,000ft of elevation. Incredibly he still managed to finish in 5th place in the race, but he was actually in the lead when he took his first wrong turn.

Unfortunately, with mountain ultra running, you can never take anything for granted. There are numerous scenarios that can make or break the race and no matter how hard you’ve trained or how experienced you are, you can still come a-cropper.

Manol found that out to his cost in the 48km Cortina Trail race in June where he was forced to abandon with stomach issues just 16.4 miles, having already vomited twice.

A week later he bounced back though, showing great resilience to complete the 42km Buff Epic Trail race which incorporated over 3,300m of vertical, finishing in just under 7 hours and 24 minutes.

So having having had his fair share of ups and downs (if you’ll excuse the pun) in his recent mountain forays, Manol was hoping that all would go smoothly at the Montreux Sky race and that he would go some way toward realising his true potential.

The route starts off from Leysin, heading towards Montreux via the climb to La Berneuse and the impressive Tour of Aï, Mayen and the Famelon.

It then moves onto the top of Malatraix and Aveneyre peaks which feature some stunning views of Lake Geneva. The ridges then work their way along the top of Rochers-de-Naye before the downhill finish leading to the quayside in Montreux.

Picturesque though it may have been, in reality, the race was even more difficult than it sounds. The reason for that was that the route was not very well developed and was extremely rough in places.

The trails were narrow and technical with many parts demanding a certain level of expertise to negotiate them. The gradients were extremely steep, with some requiring hiking. There was one traverse that was super narrow and on a camber, forcing a very cautious approach.

At the end of the race there was a huge 11km descent from around 2000m down to Montreux at 350m. It was on this descent from the top of Rochers-de-Naye that Manol was second quickest in the whole race over a 2.5 mile Strava segment.

Although it was a very tricky course, Manol handled the technical aspects well and managed a lofty 9th place finish in what was a very high calibre field. A total of 446 people successfully completed the race.

Manol’s time of 4 hours 41 minutes and 56 seconds was less than 35 minutes behind the race winner Tom Evans, who runs for the Hoka One One team and has also represented Great Britain, winning a bronze medal at the World Trail Running Distance Championships.

In fact, quite a few of those who finished ahead of Manol were sponsored athletes, running for teams like Hoka, Salomon and New Balance.

Of course the advantage of being a sponsored athlete and getting paid for it means these athletes can devote a lot more time to their training, so the fact the Manol was able to mix it with them was a testament to his ability. In fact, this would probably have to go down as Manol’s best performance of the season so far.

Manol Dimitrov in Montreux Sky
Crossing the line in an outstanding 9th place, Manol completed the technical 23 mile course in a time of 4:41:56, reaching in elevation gain of 8,400ft

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Paskins kills it at Run Killarney Half Marathon

Tom Paskins in the Run Killarney Half Marathon
Tom Paskins went over to Ireland in search of a PB and a first ever sub 1:20 effort in the Run Killarney Half Marathon

He definitely seems to have some sort of affinity with running in Ireland. Maybe it’s the rugged and unforgiving nature of the landscape, with its unpredictable weather-fronts and frequent undulations which provides such a testing yet enchanting environment.

On the other hand, perhaps it’s the Guinness and that distinctly authentic and organic flavour of the ‘straight from the factory’ ebony nectar that draws him over. Who knows? What we do know is that Tom Paskins comes into his own when taking to the turf on the Emerald Isle.

On his last visit to Ireland, Tom took part in the Extreme North Quadrathon where he had the unenviable task of completing four marathons in four days. They weren’t your average half marathons either. The event was based in Donegal up in the northern reaches of the country where, each day he would do battle with the Wild Atlantic Way.

The hills on each stage of the race were brutal as well but Tom seemed to prosper in this kind of environment and, as it turned out, he won all four stages of the Quadrathon, proudly bringing the title back home with him to Bournemouth.

It was actually a runner he’d met at the Quadrathon in Donegal who had recommended to Tom that he visit County Kerry, proclaiming it to be a beautiful place. That inspired Tom to book a short break in Killarney and to do the Run Killarney Half Marathon whilst he was at it.

Looking at the results from the previous year and the finishing times of the top runners he knew a repeat of his Quadrathon victory was extremely unlikely. The results did seem to imply though that it was a course where fast times could be achieved.

The route profile revealed a fair few undulations but no real testing hills to worry about. There was also a lengthy two mile stretch of downhill which made it an ideal course for him to have a crack at that much sought-after sub 1 hour 20 minute target he’d been chasing for quite some time.

Tom’s previous half marathon best was 1:20:33 at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival in 2016.

Having struggled in the heat at most of his recent Dorset races, Tom was banking on some cooler conditions at Hibernia, a place they call the Land of Perpetual Winter. And it did indeed live up to its name, delivering a cool, crisp morning as the runners were bussed out from Killarney to Moll’s Gap for the 8am start.

Tom Paskins on the start-line for the Run Killarney Half Marathon
Tom assumes his place on the start-line for the Run Killarney Half Marathon

It was then simply a case of running the 13.1 miles back into town. The runners were also quite lucky to get a tailwind, which helped massively since the route was all in one direction, from Kenmare to Gleneagle Hotel near Killarney town, as opposed to a loop or an out-and-back.

The Run Killarney course is claimed to be one of the world’s most breath-taking routes in terms of the scenery as it passes through Killarney National Park and Muckross House and Gardens.

The race began on a sharp downhill curve which meant everyone got away quickly, compromising Tom’s plan to start steadily.  Having been caught out going off too fast in races before he was weary of that but found he was unable to stop himself.

Amazing scenery at the Run Killarney
The Run Killarney course is renowned for its stunning scenery throughout

Getting caught up in the rush, he registered a 5:41 first mile. At that point he feared he might have blown the race as it seemed a little too quick for the first mile of a half marathon.

Once the undulations began to kick in though his pace slowed down to a more reasonable tempo and Tom found he was able to stay strong and keep the pace consistent thereafter.

Using the two-mile downhill segment between miles 3 to 5 to bank a few faster miles, Tom was well on his way to a promising time. He hit mile 13 in around 1:19:10 and could then see the finish line 200 metres ahead.

Tom heading downhill
Tom used the long downhill section to post a few very fast miles

A frantic sprint to the finish was now required for Tom to get the time he was hoping for. Luckily, he had just enough left in the tank and was delighted to cross the line in 1:19:46. He’d done it! He’d finally broken down that elusive 1:20 barrier!

That put Tom in a very impressive 20th position in a field of just under 1100 participants.

Tom takes some refreshments on board
Tom takes some welcome refreshments on board

Although Tom enjoys running the big city major marathons, there’s something he finds very inspiring about running amidst wild Celtic landscapes like this one. His performances at the Quadrathon last year and the Loch Ness Marathon in 2014, where he also had a really strong run, have shown him that.

He particularly loved the slogan on the back of his finisher’s t-shirt which seemed to sum up his whole experience. It read: “Run Wild, Run Free, Run Killarney”.

Tom Paskins gives it his all in the Run Killarney Half Marathon
A top run from Tom saw him achieve his target of a sub 1:20 half marathon for the first time ever

Two marathons in one day equals one tired Stu

Stu Nicholas takes on his second marathon of the day
After completing the 28.5 mile Dorset Invader Marathon in the morning, it was then over to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the Midnight Marathon in the evening

Just doing one standalone marathon isn’t enough of a challenge for Stu Nicholas these days. In fact, he often tends to run two marathons in quick succession.

From the start of the year, his goal was to make it to 50 marathons by the time 2018 is out. That was from a total of 37 that he’d completed by the end of 2017.

Doing two in one go may seem like a lot of hard work, which it most certainly is, but it kills two birds off with one stone essentially and brings him closer to his milestone much more quickly than if he was just to do the one.

That’s the theory anyway, although in practice it can be an extremely difficult prospect, even for a man of Stu’s immense talent and drive. In his last attempt at a marathon double header, Stu took on the Black Knight Challenge Run on one day and the Teddy Bear’s Picnic on the following day.

Winning the Black Knight Challenge Run, he set himself up nicely for a potential double victory as the Teddy Bear’s Picnic Challenge Run got underway.

Sure enough, he was soon in the lead, with a significant margin over the rest of the field. It looked as if he was coasting in for another win when, all of a sudden, on the sixth and final lap, he suddenly blew up and his body flatly refused to take him any further.

That meant that after 21.85 miles, he was forced to abandon, meaning his intended 46th marathon had not come into fruition. It was a tough break for Stu and would mean he’d have to find some way of squeezing in an additional unscheduled marathon between now and the end of the year.

One thing that DNF did do was to heap the pressure on Stu to complete his next marathon double-header – and it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

On Saturday 28th July, Stu was pencilled in for the Dorset Invader Marathon, an undulating, 95% trail route on a dismantled railway line from Stalbridge to Spetisbury.

After completing that marathon, the plan was to head over to Queen Elizabeth Country Park for the Midnight Marathon, a night run staged along the South Downs Way which was on that very same day but starting at 9 in the evening.

So… the challenge was set for Stu. But could he complete both marathons? Did he have enough in his locker to conquer two tough trail marathons in effectively one day? It was a huge task, but if anyone was apt enough to take it on and succeed, it would be Stu.

As if it wasn’t going to be hard enough, the Dorset Invader race was actually 28.5 miles long, consisting of one big 15 mile loop and then a slightly smaller 13.5 mile loop to follow. The conditions on the day were warm but a touch blustery.

Stu Nicholas in Dorset Invader Marathon
Stu took it nice and steady at first bearing in mind he had another marathon to complete in the evening

Knowing he had another marathon to complete later that evening, Stu took it very steadily. Starting off at a very casual pace, he gradually ramped it up as the race went on to finish very strongly.

On this occasion, he wasn’t thinking about positions at all. He was simply concentrating on getting to the end and using the minimum amount of energy he could and with the least amount of wear and tear.

Amazingly, Stu crossed the line in 3rd place, finishing in an impressive time of 3 hours 38 minutes and 23 seconds, despite taking it relatively easy by his standards. That was out of 256 who completed the distance.

Once that race was done, he scooped up an armful of Dorset-based goodies and headed home to relax and refuel before heading off to QE Country Park.

Goodies and prizes from Dorset Invader
The spoils from Stu’s first marathon of the day, the Dorset Invader

It felt a bit odd to be having porridge as his evening meal but Stu knew he had to be fuelled up for this race just the same as he would be for any marathon he was running on any given morning. It was his first ever night race so he had no real idea what to expect or how to fuel and prepare for it correctly.

The conditions as he lined up for his second marathon of the day were cloudy and windy. On exposed sections of the course, it could even be a little chilly.

After his earlier marathon, Stu felt like he had a bit of a hip flexor strain but, although the pain was present, it fortunately didn’t seem to worsen as the race went on.

The course began with a couple of miles within the country park before heading out onto the South Downs Way where the rough and rugged terrain awaited.

Stu Nicholas in the Midnight Marathon
It was still light when he first set off in the Midnight Marathon but as darkness fell a new experience ensued for Stu

The views can be spectacular on a clear night, with the stars in the obsidian sky above, the hilltops and lights of the villages below visible as you look out across the Downs. A head torch was a necessity for every runner in order to find their way along the route as darkness fell.

As he progressed along the course, Stu took full advantage of the aid stations for refreshments such as crisps, watermelon and cola, since he knew he was in deficit from his earlier exploits.

Although his feet took a bit of a battering from rocky surfaces underfoot, Stu managed to make it round the course. The tempo was very much dictated by the terrain and the darkness but he did it, completing the course in 4 hours 4 minutes and 32 seconds to take 15th place in the standings.

Medal and t-shirt from the Midnight Marathon
The medal and t-shirt Stu was given after completing the Midnight Marathon

A total of 239 participants started the race, with 232 of those making it to the end. Most of them probably hadn’t already done a marathon that morning though like Stu had.

That brings him up to marathon number 47 now, leaving him with just three left to complete by the end of the year. With a full five months still remaining, that should hopefully be enough time for Stu to hit his target. Then the celebrations of a fantastic year’s work can truly begin.

Medals from both the Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathons
Stu killed two birds with one stone by completing both the Dorset Invader and Midnight Marathons in one day

László dazzles in the Very Long Bath Half Marathon

Lázsló Tóth competed in the Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
A temporary diversion from track activity saw Lázsló Tóth head over to the Bath Running Festival to tackle the Very Long (and very hilly) Half Marathon

The Bath Running Festival Half Marathon certainly wouldn’t be categorized as your standard half marathon race. It’s 16 miles long for a start! It also incorporates over 2,000ft of climbing, with some vicious hills that are enough to test the mettle of runners of all abilities.

Fortunately, Lázsló Tóth hadn’t come for an easy ride. He’d arrived in search of a challenge that was really going to take him to the limit – and in the Very Long Bath Half Marathon, he’d certainly found that.

Lázsló going well in Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
Lázsló was looking for a race that would give him a true test and the Very Long Half Marathon at Bath Running Festival would certainly do just that

The route incorporates some of the toughest hills in Bath, including the original Roman Fosse Way which comes into play just after the 10km point. Then there’s the climb up to Little Solsbury Hill at 13k before the final ascent back up to Sham Castle at the end of the course.

The breath-taking views of Bath and the surrounding valleys at the top of each hill certainly help to make the effort to get up the climbs all the more rewarding.

Lázsló goes by the castle in the Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
The picturesque surroundings on route gave the Bath Running Festival a unique feel

Concentrating primarily on his track work over recent times, Lázsló has found he’s quite adept at running 800m and 1500m races and has featured in the Southern Athletics League for BAC at the last couple of meetings.

Two weeks ago, at Woking, he completed the 800m in a stunning time of 2:08.1 and registered an improved 1500m time of 4:28.3, showing real promise in these newfound disciplines.

Lázsló Tóth in Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
Lázsló has been doing a lot of his running on the track recently so it made a nice change for him to get out on the roads in a longer distance and a more undulating environment

Of course, he still enjoys his road running forays though and the Bath Running Festival Half Marathon gave him a great opportunity to test his endurance and strength in in a longer distance run.

The first 6k of the race are nice and relaxed, heading down North Road before turning off at Sham Castle Lane to join the Kennet and Avon Canal at Sydney Gardens. The route then heads along the canal to Bathampton and over the toll bridge before lopping round underneath it.

It then follows alongside the River Avon before heading to Bath Easton where the first of three big climbs lies in wait. The original Roman Fosse Way heads straight up the hill with a steep gradient in effect as the terrain changes to woodland.

Lázsló looking composed in Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
Lázsló reaches the top of the final hill up to Sham Castle

After that it’s down St Catherine’s Valley and onto some country lanes for a short time before the steepest climb of the course must be negotiated at 10.5k. That is followed by some much needed flatter ground along the Charmy Down Ridge and a small descent before the climb up to Little Solsbury Hill at 13k.

Once at the top of Little Solsbury Hill, the route then re-joins the River Avon at Bath Easton and retraces its steps back over the toll bridge and onto the canal before heading back up North Road towards Sham Castle, finishing with a lap around the lakes.

Lázsló poses in Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
Lázsló shows the fun side to character which he combines well with his competitive edge

Tackling the tough hills very well and making good use of the downhill sections, Lázsló powered round the course, completing the 16 miles in a stellar time of 2 hours 8 minutes and 34 seconds which, given the profile of the course, was a very good time.

After the race was over, Lázsló moved quickly onto preparing for his next exploit which was the SOAR Summer Mile that he was due to take part in the following weekend. The SOAR Mile is staged on the track in the magnificent Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

Lázsló crosses the line at the Bath Running Festival Half Marathon
Lázsló crosses the finish line with his head held high, finishing in a superb 6th position in a very competitive line-up

Tag darts in for the win at the D’Urberville Dash 10k

Rob McTaggart leads the D'Urberville Dash 10k
Rob McTaggart was the sole Bournemouth AC entrant into this year’s edition of the D’Urberville Dash 10k

Staged on a lovely scenic loop starting and finishing at the D’Urberville Centre in Wool, the D’Urberville Dash 10k features a testing mixture of road, woodland trail and field pathways.

In last year’s race it was Richard Brawn who flew the flag for Bournemouth AC, finishing in 22nd place with a time of 41:35. This year it was Rob McTaggart who was the singular BAC representative in action.

Although his primary focus is often running in the track team for the British and Southern Athletics Leagues, Tag also likes to do the odd 10k road race and has great pedigree at all distances, in particular marathons.

Back in April he defied the hot weather at the London Marathon to race round in a time of 20:30:40, beating the likes of Steve Way to take the accolade of being the first Bournemouth AC member to hit the line.

Since then he’s had mixed fortunes in road races, finishing in 92nd place in the Vitality 10,000 with a time of 32:32, 3rd in the 10k at Poole Running Festival in 33:42 and 9th in the Eastleigh 10k with a time of 32:57.

Tag did the D'Urberville Dash as part of a longer training run
Although he was running it as part of a longer training run, Tag’s pace was still too quick for the rest of the field

Approaching the race as part of a moderate paced 12.5 mile training run, Tag wasn’t intending to go hell-for-leather. He was just really looking to sustain a strong pace throughout the race.

After some chaotic scenes last year when more people than expected turned up and entered on the day, significant enough numbers had signed up in advance this time round to mean that entries on the day were not permitted.

The course is a tricky one, featuring some long sections along a very thin woodland path that has many twists and turns. The off-road terrain makes it tricky to get a good rhythm going but it’s a nice challenge to undertake, with the countryside setting making for an enjoyable outing for the most part.

Running at a speed that to him may have been moderate but to most others would be unattainable, Tag was out in front for the first few kilometres of the race, accompanied by Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat RC.

At around the 4 kilometre mark, Tag began to ease away and from that point on, it was just a case of cruising round for the win.

Tag races to victory in the D'Urberville Dash 10k
A good, solid run saw Tag cruise in to win the D’Urberville Dash 10k in a time of 36:26

Crossing the line in a time of 36:26 it was an impressive run from Tag, given that he was in cruise control for much of it and was essentially just treating it as part of a longer training run.

Arriving almost a minute back, Andy Leggott took 2nd place in a time of 37:22, with Dave Hicks of Poole AC following in shortly after in a time of 37:30.

It wasn’t the first time a Bournemouth AC member has won the D’Uberville Dash. Karl Welch actually claimed victory back in 2014, completing a course in a time of 36:10 that day.

Tag cruising to victory in the D'Urberville Dash 10k
Tag finished almost a minute ahead of his nearest rival Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat RC

 

 

Ollie Stoten braves the Brecon Beacons 10Peaks Long Course

Ollie Stoten in the 10 Peaks Brecon Beacons
It was another extremely challenging race for Ollie Stoten as he got ready to do battle in the Brecon Beacons on the 10Peaks Long Course

He’s no stranger to tough, hilly ultra-marathons but this one was so challenging, even Ollie Stoten was in for a rough ride as he took on the Long Course in the 10Peaks Brecon Beacons event.

Just the profile of this race alone would be enough to scare most runners off, with the daunting task of having to scale 10 peaks across an 89-kilometre distance incorporating 4,800 metres of ascent.

The Brecon Beacons is a notoriously difficult landscape for running on, so much so that it has been used as an army training ground for generations and is currently the location utilised by the SAS to put recruits through their paces.

Featuring some spectacular naturally glaciated landscapes and iconic red sandstone cliffs, the Brecon Beacons is home to Southern Britain’s highest point, Pen Y Fan.

Standing at a monstrous 886 metres, the summit of the Fan offers some incredibly stunning views of the Black Mountains, the Bristol Channel and the beautifully sculpted ridge-lines that the runners had to negotiate throughout the race.

Of course, there were nine other very challenging peaks for Ollie and the rest of the competitors to tackle on route as they set out from the race headquarters at Talybont-on-Usk.

To begin with, it heads out to the most westerly point of the course, the Black Mountain, passing over the first two high peaks of Fan Fawr (734m) and Fan Lila (632m).

The next peak is the second highest of the race, Fan Brcheiniog, at 802 metres. That is followed the fourth peak, Bannau Sir Gaer, which stands at 749 metres.

Ollie Stoten in amongst the hills of the Brecon Beacons
The hills of the Brecon Beacons provide a stunning backdrop as Ollie makes his way up one of the many peaks he was required to scale that day

The return journey follows a more northerly route back to Talybont with the toil of some of very painful climbs counterbalanced by the most spectacular landscape and stunning views that South Wales has to offer. That includes the highest and most iconic mountain of the South, Pen Y Fan.

From there it’s just a couple of peaks remaining until the downhill run to Talybont Reservoir and a short flat section then brings to race to its conclusion.

Finding it tough going on such a hot day, Ollie got stuck in a dehydration cave after water was rationed to 1 litre for every two-and-a-half hour stretch.

For much of the race though he was in the lead group, running alongside Galen Reynolds and Ben Thomas. They certainly helped save Ollie’s morale whilst he was able to stay them.

It was Galen who came out on top in the end, completing the race in a staggering new course record of 10 hours 52 minutes 11 seconds. Ben wasn’t far behind, crossing the line in 11 hours 4 minutes and 11 seconds.

As for Ollie, he sealed a magnificent third place, arriving at the finish in a superb time of 11 hours 16 minutes and 19 seconds. It was a super result for Ollie and one which, given the terrain he was running on and the exceedingly tough conditions, he should be very proud of.

To start off with there was a field of 82 people with 54 of those making it to the finish line within the 24-hour cut-off time. The non-completion rate demonstrates just how extraordinarily tough this race actually was.

In total, Ollie had covered an astronomical 54.88 miles and had amassed over 14,900 feet of elevation. That’s a crazy amount of running and climbing to be doing in one session but then – that’s just the way Ollie likes it.

Ollie Stoten braves the 10 Peaks Brecon Beacons Long race
Completing the gruelling 89km course with 4,800m of ascent in a phenomenal time of 11 hours 16 minutes, Ollie took a well deserved third place

 

 

Manol and Jacek scale the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon

Manol Dimitrov in the Scott Snowdonia Trail Ultra Marathon
Manol Dimitrov was taking on the 60.4km Ultra Marathon at the Scott Snowdonia Trail event, with Jacek Cieluszecki going in the Full Marathon

We’ve been getting used to seeing Bournemouth AC athletes taking things to the extreme over recent times. Whether it’s Steve Way in his well revered podium finish at Comrades, JC conquering the world at Wings for Life, Ant Clark with his silver medal at the British 100k Championships, Jez Bragg with his 100k at Belvès, Toby Chapman’s 90k renaissance at Mont Blanc, Pat Robbins at the 24 Hour European Championships, Mark Hillier at the Marathon des Sables, Ollie Stoten in the Namib Desert, Andy Gillespie at the Devon Coast Challenge… The list is endless. Then you’ve got Pete Thompson to takes goes beyond extreme to the verging on unimaginable with his challenges.

It would certainly be fair to say that BAC members are synonymous with pushing themselves to the limit in some of the toughest races and biggest challenges they can find. The latest example of that theme saw Manol Dimitrov and Jacek Cieluszecki tackle the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon.

The Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon is a challenge in every sense of the word. Featuring a 60.4km Ultra Marathon, a 43.4km Full Marathon, a Half Marathon and a 10k, with elevation gains of up to 2,376m, the Scott Snowdonia is designed to push its participants to the peak of their powers.

Opting for the 60.4km Ultra Marathon race, Manol Dimitrov knew he’d have his work cut out to complete such a gruelling, mountainous course with such a huge and difficult ascent profile. In saying that though, this is exactly the kind of challenge that Manol relishes.

With a real affinity for taking to the high peaks, Manol is very much at home on this type of terrain. In fact, it’s in these types of races that he truly excels.

Last summer Manol and Jacek both took on the OCC Mont Blanc race, a 56km course with 3,500 metres of vertical. Jacek finished 23rd out of 1,565 starters that day and Manol came in 63rd, putting him firmly in the top 5% of finishers.

In one of his more recent mountain exploits, it didn’t quite go so well for Manol. It was the 48km Cortina Trail. Unfortunately, on that occasion Manol was suffering with some stomach issues and was forced to retire 16.4 miles in, having already vomited a couple of times.

Faring a little better in his next outing a week later, Manol came in 164th place in the 42km Buff Epic Trail race. The route included over 3,300m of climbing and took Manol 7 hours 23 minutes and 57 seconds to complete.

The Scott Snowdonia Trail races start and finish in Llanberis, a place known as the Welsh outdoor capital. With its iconic and spectacular climbs up the highest peak of Snowdon, featuring breathtaking panoramic views of the Snowdonia National Park, there are surely no more striking trail marathon routes in the entire UK.

Despite the early elevation, Manol started off really quickly and was in the lead after the first 6 miles. It turned out though, he was too quick and the marshals hadn’t yet managed to put out all the markings in the spots they should have. That resulted in Manol taking a wrong turn and he had to then stop, reorient and go back.

By the time he got back onto the correct path, four people were in front of him. It was a frustrating blow but there was no time to dwell on it. I had to pick up where he left off and continue.

Later on he took another wrong turn, descending down a path he wasn’t meant to be going down. Again, he had to stop, reorient and find his way back onto the correct route.

Manol Dimitrov training on Snowdon
Manol had done some training on Snowdon back in June so he knew the terrain. That didn’t necessarily mean he knew the route though!

It was the third time he went wrong though that was the real killer for Manol. He had been climbing and climbing up this goat track for what felt like an eternity. Little did he know though, there had been a gate between the rocks that he’d apparently missed. It was pretty difficult to spot, especially since he was focusing on his running and was on his own for the vast majority of the time.

It turned out he’d added an extra 12km onto the route and around 4,000ft of additional elevation. That’s a pretty big penalty to pay for a few wrong turns but if you go off piste at Snowdon, that’s the kind of consequences you could face.

Although his chances of winning the race had effectively been ruined, Manol refused to let it get him down, which is a real testament to his attitude and character.

On the downhill run in to the finish at Llanberis, he absolutely smashed it, registering a sub-16-minute 5k which, after 45 miles and nearly 7 hours of running, not to mention 11,800ft of climbing, is pretty damn impressive.

Managing to reel in a few people who had inadvertently overtaken him after his various mishaps, Manol incredibly finished up in 5th place with a time of 6:54:35.

It was a a truly great show of strength from Manol, both mental and physical. It wasn’t so much a positive showcase of his navigational skills, but if the course had been marked out properly and clearly, those detours could’ve been avoided.

It would’ve certainly been interesting to see what he could have done if he had managed to follow the correct path. Who knows? He could even have found himself on the top of the podium.

Perhaps he just felt that 60.4km and 8,000ft of climbing up Mount Snowdon simply wouldn’t enough and he felt compelled to take the scenic route.

Manol Dimitrov in Scott Snowdonia Ultra Marathon
Despite going wrong on several occasions, Manol rallied well to take 5th place in a time of 6:54:35

As for Jacek, he had wanted to do the Ultra Marathon but the places for that race filled up pretty quick so he ended up doing the Full Marathon instead. That was still a good 43.4km and 1,685 metres of elevation, so still a tough route that would prove extremely testing, even for an athlete of JC’s calibre.

To say Jacek has been in good form lately would be an understatement. In fact, he’s been killing it since his spectacular victory in the Wings for Life race at Melbourne.

That was followed by double delight at the Poole Festival of Running when he won both the 5k and the Half Marathon. He then claimed another victory in he Maverick ions-8 X-Series Exmoor 15k, although he had been intending to do the 42k until he took a wrong turn.

After that he won the Lulworth Castle 10k before blowing everyone away to defend his title at the Portland 10.

The Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon was going to be a tougher prospect altogether though, with a competitive field including top British international distance runners Callum Rowlinson and Adam Holland.

With such a competitive line up, Jacek knew he was going to have to be at his absolute best to stand any chance of coming out on top.

The race effectively comprised of three different sectors. The first 3.5 miles lead you up and are followed by 1.5 miles through some marshy fields.

The second part is a fast section which is undulating in places. This is the segment where road runners could probably gain some advantage.

The last part is the ascent up Snowdon, followed by the descent back down. This section is by far the hardest and includes a brutally steep stretch on mile 22.

Once you reach the top of the summit, it is then downhill all the way to the finish line at Llanberis. It’s a fast descent but you have to be careful on it as there are rough and rocky parts to negotiate. So much so that many people ended up taking a tumble or two on the way down.

At the beginning of the race there was a lead group of four, containing last year’s winning and course record holder Callum Rowlinson, Adam Holland, Jack Oates – who is an ambassador for Ant Clark’s X-MIles company – and of course JC himself.

At mile 5, Adam Holland, who is in the top five in the world for marathon victories, started to turn the screw and built up a solid gap. Jacek decided to stay at his pace, cruising along in 4th place, around 30 seconds behind Callum and Jack. Saving some energy for the latter stages, Jacek knew full well that everything could change on the final ascent on Snowdon.

Jacek Cieluszecki with Jack Oates and Callum Rowlinson
Jacek running alongside Jack Oates and Callum Rowlinson

From around miles 16 to 22, the course was all uphill culminating with that massive steep section on mile 22. It was over these uphill miles that Jacek made his move. He went past Callum first to take third before overtaking Adam to climb to second.

That left only Jack out front. Jack was having a really strong run though and for a 22-year-old, he’s a phenomenal runner. As it panned out, JC just didn’t quite have enough in the tank to catch Jack and he was able to seal the win, smashing the course record as he crossed the line in a time of 3:37:54.

Arriving at the finish less than five minutes later, Jacek took 2nd place in a time of 3:42:41. This was still comfortably under the previous course record that Callum had set last year of 3 hours 51 minutes, so, whilst it may not have been a win, it was still a mightily impressive performance from JC.

Having to settle for third place on this occasion, Adam Holland crossed the line in a time of 3:58:55. As for Callum, he didn’t make it to the finish in the end as he was forced to abandon due to a back pain.

All things considered, Jacek was pleased with his performance, although he did feel a slight lack of freshness in the legs over the final section. He enjoyed the event though and it was good to be in a really competitive race and pit his wits against some other top class athletes.

Next up, JC turns his attentions back to the local scene as an opportunity arises for him to complete a Portland quadruple, having won the Portland 10 and Round the Rock last year and having already retained his crown at the Portland 10 this year. The Round the Rock 10k takes place on 12th August and JC will definitely be the man to beat again in that one.

No doubt they’ll be more stories of mountain exploits from Manol in the near future since he seems to revel his high altitude forays. There will be more from JC as well as he is set to compete in a 100k mountain ultra in Poland in September.

Jacek Cieluszecki in Scott Snowdonia Full Marathon
Jacek powered up the final ascent on Snowdon, moving from 4th up to 2nd but he couldn’t quite catch the leader Jack Oates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Edwards and Chris O’Brien leg it in Lytchett Relays

Team Extreme Edwards in Lytchett Relays
Running in the family: Sean Edwards with his unique inter-club family team

Occasionally it’s nice to get involved in an event that is predominantly about having fun and enjoying being part of a team and that is essentially what the Lytchett Relays are all about.

The premise behind the event organised by Lytchett Manor Striders is to run as part of a team of five, with each member taking one leg of the 5k off-road circuit across heathland, gravel paths and grass tracks at the scenic Holton Lee grounds.

Although it is fundamentally a competitive race, the Lytchett Relays has a fun, family friendly vibe to it and a very social kind of atmosphere to go along with it.

As well as the option to pitch a tent and stay the night, there was also a barbecue and homemade cakes, a bar that opens from the afternoon onwards, a disco in the evening, plus races the the kids to get involved in.

There are three categories for the teams to compete in, depending on whether they are comprised of all men, all ladies or a healthy blend of both. There were also categories for individuals as well, just consisting of overall male and overall female, regardless of which team the person was in.

One man who flourished in the individual competition was new recruit Sean Edwards. Sean has arrived a BAC with huge pedigree, having previously represented the club that organised the Relays event, Lytchett Manor Striders.

Now looking to step up his game even further, Sean saw Bournemouth AC as the ideal club to help him move forward with his running.

Although it was his first race donning the yellow and blue vest of BAC, on this occasion, Sean was really representing Team Extreme Edwards.

Interestingly, Sean’s transfer over to BAC meant that all five members of Team Extreme Edwards run for different clubs, despite all being from the same family.

Sean’s dad represents Poole Runners, whilst his step mum runs for Hamworthy Harriers and her sister wears the colours of Dorset Doddlers. Sean’s sister who still represents Lytchett Manor Striders completed the family five.

Taking the last leg for his team, Sean ran a blistering lap, tearing round the course in a time of 16 minutes 55 seconds. That turned out to be the 2nd fastest time out of anyone on the day. Only Brian Underwood of the Poole AC Mixed team was able to better that, finishing in a time of 16:26.

With the help of Sean’s lightening quick effort, Team Extreme Edwards finished in 24th place overall out of a total of 68 teams. Their total combined time was 2 hours 1 minute and 15 seconds. Out of the 23 teams in the Mixed category, Team Extreme Edwards were placed 15th.

Since it was in very hot conditions, with the race starting at 3 in the afternoon, and considering the course was quite bumpy in places, Sean was very pleased with his performance. He’d also done Poole parkrun in the morning on that same day, which makes his time seem all the more impressive.

Sean Edwards in Lytchett Relays
Super Sean tore round the Holton Lee course in a terrific time of 16:55 which made him second quickest individual

The other Bournemouth AC runner in action at the Lytchett Relays but under the guise of Verwood Runners was Chris O’Brien. Chris does some coaching with Verwood Runners and was helping to complete a Mens team for the race.

Chris has been suffering a bit with injury for quite some time now, having contracted a glute issue back in January. In fact, it’s something to do with his pelvis being stuck in the wrong position on the left-hand side.

It has been okay for Chris over recent months when he’s been participated in longer distance competition, like the Endure 24 event he did in June, where he completed almost 70 miles within the allotted time.

It’s more the shorter distance stuff that causes him discomfort. That is why the one 5k lap he’d be doing at the Lytchett Relays would be a good test for him.

Fortunately, other than a bit of stomach cramps, Chris felt fine throughout the run and, although it wasn’t a particularly fast time for him, he was still the quickest member of his team, completing the course in 20 minutes 18 seconds.

It was an all-male team that Chris was part of, and their total combined time was 1 hour 50 minutes and 6 seconds, which put them in 12th place overall. Out of the Mens teams that put them 5th out of 9. Individually, Chris came in at 40th place, out of a total of 177 runners.

The run gave Chris the confidence to book a place in the Hoburne 5 league race at the end of September and he’s looking forward to booking more races in the future where he can don the yellow and blue of BAC.

Chris O'Brien in Lytchett Relays
Chris O’Brien competed as part of a Verwood Runners 3 team that took 12th place in the overall standings

Building up his speed again to level it was at before when he completed his first sub three hour marathon at Abingdon last summer will take quite some doing, but Chris has the tenacity to get back there. It will just take time and a degree of patience.

The overall winners of the Lytchett Relays were the Poole AC Mixed team of Brian Underwood (16.26), John Bassinder (17:40), Lesley Moore (21:23), Dave Hicks (17:09) and Gareth Alan Davies (17:01). They finished in a total combined time of 1 hour 29 minutes and 39 seconds.

That gave them a 2 minutes 36 seconds margin over Poole Runners Mens team 1, who won the male category in a total combined time of 1:32:15. They had Steve Claxton (18:20), Steve Yates (18:32), Paul Currah (18:36), John Towner (19:12) and Dom Wilmore (17:35) in their line up.

A Poole Runners Mens team 2 took 2nd place in the male category with Colin Somers (19:12), Steve Ogles (19:17), Mike Akers (18:58), Nat Willmore (19:30) and Andrew Humphries (18:40) running for them, giving them a total combined time of 1:35:37.

Poole Runners also took first prize in the ladies category as well, with the team of Kate Philpotts (20:15), Sharon Shaw (21:58), Gemma Oliver (21:58), Paula Barker (22:22) and Joanna Westhead 22:59) completing the race in a total combined time of 1:49:32.

The Poole Runners Ladies team 2 took 2nd place in the female category, with their team comprising of Esther Downes (26:17), Faye Law (26:45), Emma Shore (25:10), Rachael Barry (24:52) and Sarah Swift (23:37) achieving a total combined time of 2:06:41.

The top lady in the individual was Fern Kimber of the Super Speedy Juniors who finished in a time of 19:48. Kate Philpotts of Poole Runners was second in 20:15, with Lucy Payne of Plumbers Mates in third in 21:22.

As for Sean Edwards, he now turns his attention to the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon, which will be his first league race representing BAC. He’s also signed up for the Round the Rock 10k the following weekend and will no doubt prove a very useful edition to the team in those upcoming fixtures.

Team Extreme Edwards in Lytchett Relays
The Lytchett Relays proved a fantastic outlet for families, friends and club-mates to get together and enjoy a day’s running, food, entertainment and all-round great fun

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Toby Chapman returns to conquer Mont Blanc 90k

Toby Chapman in Chamonix for the Mont Blanc 90k
Toby Chapman was out for redemption in the Mont Blanc 90k race after he was forced to abandon last year due to altitude sickness

The Mont Blanc 90k race represented unfinished business for Toby Chapman. This time last year he was in the Mont Blanc 80k race as it was then, battling with severe altitude sickness that would eventually put pay to his chances of completing the race.

He’d managed almost 50km and been running for 9 hours 35 minutes before being forced to withdraw from the race. It was gutting for Toby not to be able to complete the distance after working so hard to get himself into the best possible shape he could. But when you’re running on mountains as high as Mont Blanc, with its 6000 metres of vertical, it’s never going to be plain sailing.

Also experiencing disappointment in his other attempt at a mountain ultra race in 2017, the Saloman Ultra Pirineu, a 110k race in the Spanish Pyrenees, Toby had had a couple of tough blows to deal with that year. At the Ultra Pirinieu he’d completed a massive 96km before being forced to pull out through severe dehydration.

It was frustrating as he’d had less than 15k left to go. But again, there is so much uncertainty when running on these kinds of extreme mountains. You can think you’ve cracked and then all of a sudden something hits you and it’s game over.

A lesser man might have decided off the back of those two DNF’s that perhaps these huge mountain ultras just aren’t for them. But not Toby. All they did for Toby was to add fuel to the fire and instil in him an even greater, steely determination to go back and make amends.

At the Mont Blanc 90k he was desperate lay the ghosts to rest of those two DNF’s that had been haunting him ever since.

Of course, that’s easier said than done though. With its ferocious 6220 metres of vertical and 91km length, the race is recognised as one of the most technical ultra trail races in France and is certainly one of the most demanding of its kind.

With narrow, exposed footpaths, snowy sections and an average altitude of over 2000m, the race presents plenty of difficult challenges to overcome.

That said though, the sensational scenery makes up for the difficulty, offering up some incredible sights to behold, including the Mont-Blanc sunrise, the Emosson dam in Switzerland, the Mer de Glace glacier and the sparkling lights on the way down to Chamonix.

The race starts off at Chamonix at an altitude of 1095m and doesn’t get an lower than that throughout. The first 10k is a climb of 1371m which took Toby an hour and 42 minutes to scale. That put him in 41st place at checkpoint number one in Brévent.

Toby Chapman is on his way in the Mont Blanc 90k
Toby set out with a steely determination to make it to the end this time, no matter what it takes

The next checkpoint was Flégere at 18.1k, where Toby arrived in 2 hours 35 minutes putting him in 54th place. Then, by the time he reached the next checkpoint, Tete Aux Vents, at 21.6k, Toby had climbed to 36th place.

Next up was the descent down to Buet, where Toby rolled up at in 3 hours 54 minutes. It was 27.7km from the start, so just under a third of the distance had been covered at this point. Toby had now slipped back to 54th place.

By the time the next checkpoint arrived, the total elevation gain was up to 2500m. Toby had now been running for just over 5 hours and had completed 34.4km.

It was then back down to La Villaz at 38.6km before heading up to Barrage Emosson at 43.6km. It was on the way up to that checkpoint that Toby started to suffer from the altitude. It’s not surprising really since he was at an altitude of over 1800m by that point.

Toby Chapman makes his way along the testing 90km route
Toby makes his way through an area of lush vegetation as he progresses along hugely testing 90km route

Giving himself just over three and a half weeks training out in the Mont Blanc region before the race, Toby had hoped this would provide him some opportunity to get used the altitude a little better.

The problem was though that they’d had such heavy snowfall that winter that he was limited in terms of what altitude level he could actually get to.

Whilst out there, he did some good training with his Bournemouth AC teammate Manol Dimitrov though, who does a lot of mountain running and knows how to handle that type of terrain.

In fact, the week before Toby did his Mont Blanc race, Manol had featured in a 48km mountain race called the Cortina Trail. Unfortunately he had some stomach issues of his own and had vomited a couple of times before abandoning 16.4 miles in.

Manol Dimitrov did some training with Toby in the lead up to the race
Manol Dimitrov was on hand to accompany Toby on some tough mountain excursions in the lead up to the race

It would normally take a runner at least two-to-three weeks to acclimatise properly to high mountain altitude but the more you run in that environment, the more you can learn about what happens to the body and how you can adjust nutrition and speed to cope with the altitude better.

Once Toby got to the top of the climb up to Barrage Emosson he was in 68th and had now racked up an elevation gain of nearly 4000m. It was then down to Chatelard Village at 47.9km, where he arrived in 73rd place with a time of just under 7 hours 54 minutes.

Next it was the climb up to Cotogne, which was the checkpoint he failed to reach last time round. It was on the way up there that he finally succumbed to altitude sickness on that occasion.

He wasn’t about to let that happen again though and powered his way up to the top, arriving in 81st place and in a time of 9 hours 28 minutes. He’d now at least improved upon what he did last year which was a relief, but he didn’t want it to end there.

The next checkpoint was the Col Des Posetties at 57.7km. Arriving in just over 10 hours, Toby has now in 84th place and had reached an elevation gain of over 4400m.

Toby Chapman using his trekking poles
Toby making use of his trekking poles, a valuable asset for mountain ultra running

After that there was quite a bit of descending to do before he got onto the final climb. It was Le Tour first at 62.7km which he reached in 10 hours 41 minutes. Then it was down to Les Bois at 72.8km. Upon reaching that milestone, Toby was now in 80th place and had been going for just under 12 hours and 9 minutes.

It was then onto the final climb, first up to Montenvers and then onto Plan de l’Aiguille. When he arrived the final aid station, Toby was tempted to stop at that point. He knew he was close to town so it would have been easily done.

It seems unfathomable that a runner could go all that way in the race and then pull out so close the end. But that’s how tough these mountain races are. They are as much a mental battle as a physical one.

Grinding out the last climb, once he reached the top, there was no turning back then. He was now in 94th place and had been running for 15 hours 12 minutes. His elevation gain was now up to over 5900m and he’d completed 83.7km of the course.

All that was left was to head down the remaining 8km to Chamonix where the finish awaited. Having gained a few places on that final descent, Toby arrived there in 90th place, crossing the line in a truly remarkable time of 16 hours 9 minutes and 20 seconds.

Toby Chapman crosses the line in the Mont Blanc 90k
That magical moment where Toby crossed the line knowing all his months of hard training and sacrifice had paid off

His total distance covered had reached 93.5km (58 miles) and he had amassed an elevation gain of 6827m (22,400 ft). It had been an incredible journey and he had now had the satisfaction of getting closure on the two DNF’s he suffered last year.

It was a moment Toby will no doubt remember as being a pivotal one in his running legacy. Managing to complete the race despite his problems with altitude sickness was a huge achievement and one that means a great deal to him.

It also showcased the improvements he’s been making in his running over recent times. He’s feeling a lot better in himself and a lot better whilst he’s out there racing, which is great to see.

Toby Chapman reaches the end of an epic race
Although he was exhausted, Toby was thrilled to have made it to the end and laid the ghosts of last year to rest

There were 676 people who managed to complete the race this year and a further 300 or so who were unsuccessful in making it to the end, underlining just how tough it is.

To come in 90th place out of all those competitors was a simply monumental achievement from Toby. Perhaps even more so considering that most of those who finished ahead of him belong to proper mountain ultra clubs and most likely train on that sort of terrain on a regular basis.

When you put all that into perspective, it really was a fantastic run from Toby and he’s done himself proud, his family and friends proud and of course, his club proud as well.

Toby takes some time to reflect after a huge achievement
Toby takes some time out to let it all sink in after an epic journey that saw him realise his dream of conquering the Mont Blanc 90k