Category Archives: Road_Reports

Toby Chapman troops all the way in Lavaredo Ultra Trail

Toby Chapman in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail
It was a rocky road ahead for Toby Chapman as he braced himself for the 120km Lavaredo Ultra Trail, incorporating 5,800m of ascent

To say he had a daunting task ahead of him would have to be one of the understatements of the century as Toby Chapman geared up for his toughest challenge yet in the shape the Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

The Lavaredo Ultra Trail weekend includes the Cortina Skyrace, which is 20km and 1,000m of elevation. The Cortina Trail race which is 48km and 2,600m of elevation and finally, the headline event, the Lavaredo Ultra Trail, which consists of a 120km route with 5,800m of ascent.

And as if that wasn’t difficult enough, the race began at 11pm, meaning the first part of it would be conducted over night, leading through to the following day and potentially even the next night.

You’d have to be crazy to go for that option, right? Well, you can certainly put Toby Chapman in that category because that’s the race he went for.

The setting for the Lavaredo Ultra Trail might go some way to explaining why Toby and so many others wanted to go there and put themselves through such a challenging ordeal.

The beautiful mountain town of Cortina in the heart of the Dolomites in Italy is really quite something to behold. It’s steep climbs and spectacular backdrop make it one of the most alluring places to go and visit.

To be fair though, Toby wasn’t there for the scenery. He was there to compete and had certainly put the hard graft in training to get himself into the best possible shape for the task ahead.

Winning the Taunton Marathon in a time that was over a minute quicker than he posted last year and taking 3rd place in the Highland Fling, going 25 minutes quicker than he did last year, Toby had had a pretty successful year thus far.

A good run in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail would give him an even greater sense of achievement. It wasn’t going to be easy though. He knew he had a hell of a journey ahead of him.

Views from the Lavaredo
The magnificent views of the Dolomites from Cortina were nothing short of spectacular as Toby contemplated the huge task ahead

Last year Toby completed the Mont Blanc 90k race which featured 6,220m of vertical and he’d also taken part in the 110km Ultra Pirineu, which included 6,800m of elevation, so he has had experience in high profile mountain events. Starting off at night time though made the Lavaredo something of a different experience and potentially an even tougher prospect.

As the race started, it was straight into the climbing and by the time he’d completed the first five miles he’d already gone up around 2,000ft. That was the nature of the race though and Toby knew he’d have to cope with tougher sections than that as he progressed.

A steep descent followed over the next few miles before he was soon on his way back up again, embarking upon a climb that would take him up a further 2,500ft.

The first checkpoint came 17.9km in and Toby had been running for 1 hour 53 minutes. He was currently in 90th place and had already reached an elevation gain of 821m.

He’d gone over the top of the climb and started to head back down by the time he reached the second checkpoint at Passo Tre Croci. That was 27.9km in and after 3 hours and 3 minutes of running Toby had moved up to 69th place and reached an elevation gain of 1,491m.

Then it was down to Valbona, 34.1km in, with Toby now sitting in 65th place, arriving in a time of 3 hours 39 minutes. So far so good for Toby and he was around about where he wanted to be at that stage.

Another climb followed and Toby was in his element, arriving at Misurina, 42.6km in, in 59th place. He’d now been running for 4 hours 52 minutes and reached an elevation gain of 2,116m.

By the time Toby arrived at the next checkpoint of Rifugio Auronzo, 49.4km in, he had slipped back down to 75th place. He’d begun to struggle a bit going up that ascent and was feeling unwell.

He’d been going for 6 hours 10 minutes and had amassed an elevation gain of 2,719m by this point. It was beginning to take its toll though on Toby.

Luckily, once he reached to top of that mountain, there was a long descent and he was able to gather himself and get into a rhythm. At the next checkpoint, he’d gone back up to 70th place, with 8 hours 19 minutes of running behind him.

He was now 67.1km into the race, so over half way through, which must have been a mental boost. He’d now reached an elevation gain of 3,000m. He was still feeling sick though and that wasn’t a good sign.

Another up-and-over followed, taking Toby to the next checkpoint of Malga Ra Stua, which was 76.6km in. He’d now gone back down to 76th place, arriving in a time of 9 hours 47 minutes. His elevation gain now stood at 3,520m.

It was then a descent down to Pian de Loa, which was 81km in, with Toby losing a further four places to put him in 80th position. He’d now been running for 10 hours 26 minutes. There was still a lot of running to go though. 39 kilometres of it to be precise.

Another long ascent followed for Toby and he did his best to bludgeon his way up it, reaching the next checkpoint at Malga Travenanzes in 12 hours and 4 minutes. That put him in 90th place, which was exactly where he was at the first checkpoint of Ospitale.

He was now 89.8km into the race and had reached an elevation gain of 4,300m. The sickness was really hitting him hard though and over the next 7km he lost a further 29 places, falling back to 119th in the standings.

It was becoming a real struggle for Toby but two things he did have in his locker were stubbornness and determination. He was going to see it through to the end, no matter what.

Amazingly he started to pick up a bit after that and moved up to 110th place by the time he reached Rifugio Averau, which was 100.9km in. He’d now been running for almost 15 hours and had reached an elevation gain of 5,222m.

He’d gained another place by the time he reached Passo Giau, 104.3km in and after 15 hours 39 minutes of racing things were starting to look on the up.

At Mondeval, 108km in, Toby was back to 111th place, arriving in a time of 16 hours 35 minutes. He’d now reached 108km and an elevation gain of 5,544m.

All he needed to do was find the energy for a strong descent down to Arrivo where the finish of the race awaited and with just 12km left, he was nearing the end of his epic journey.

Reaching the penultimate checkpoint of Lago D’Ajal at 117.3km in a time of 17 hours 52 minutes, Toby was almost there. The end was in touching distance. He was now in 117th place and just needed to get his head down and dig deep for the remaining 3km.

As he crossed the finish line, the feeling for Toby was one of relief, first and foremost, since he’d been feeling sick for the last 12-and-a-half hours. But it was also a sense of achievement as well, as despite the troubles he’d had, he’d managed to see it through – and that was something to be proud of in itself.

With a final time of 18 hours 31 minutes and 7 seconds, Toby had come in at 124th place in the overall standings. He’d wracked up an elevation gain of 5,770m over the 121.2km he’d covered.

It truly was a remarkable performance from Toby and, although the sickness had prevented him from finishing as high up the field as he perhaps otherwise would have, it just represented another hurdle for Toby to get over and he managed it well given the circumstances.

A total of 1,302 people managed to complete the course before the 30 hour cut-off point was reached, which shows how well Toby did despite the issues he suffered with.

Toby puts the sickness down to needing to take some proper food on board earlier in the run. That was his downfall on this occasion but it’s always a learning experience when you try to push yourself to the next level and Toby now knows what to do differently next time.

It was still a tremendous experience for Toby and certainly one that will live long in the memory. One of the highlights for Toby was seeing the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, an iconic rock formation of the Dolomites.

Toby Chapman in the Lavaredo Ultra Trail
Toby has vowed to return one day to be reunited with the famous rock formation and have another crack at the Lavaredo, using his experiences this time to improve his fuelling strategy

After the race Toby took a nice relaxing holiday in the Lakes. Or it was going to be a relaxing holiday until he noticed that the Skiddaw Fell Race was on. Well, he was in the area so he thought it would be rude not to.

The race was basically 9.6 miles up to the summit of Skiddaw from Kewsick Football Club and back down again. The route incorporated 2,825ft of climbing though, with over 1,000ft of that being covered in the third mile alone. 

It was certainly a short and sharp one, with some pretty extreme inclines. Toby was up against some pretty hardcore opposition as well but still managed to take 17th place, completing the course in a time of 1 hour 22 minutes and 38 seconds. That was out of a 111-strong field.

After all that running and climbing, hopefully Toby is now taking a well earned rest and allowing himself some time to recharge the batteries and recuperate. No doubt whilst he’s doing that though, he’ll be plotting his next monumental challenge if he hasn’t already done so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitch Griffiths takes flight in Southampton Airport Runway Run

Mitch Griffiths takes on the Southampton Airport Runway Run
After a lengthy injury lay-off, Mitch Griffiths was in flight mode at the Southampton Runway Run 5k

It was up at the crack of dawn for Mitch Griffiths when he took off to catch the early flight from Southampton Airport for a somewhat unique 5k race.

The Southampton Airport Runway Run was set up to raise money for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance charity, with 100% of the proceeds going to the cause.

A bout of Achilles tendinitis had kept Mitch grounded for quite some time but he was hope the wings of change were now on the horizon and he’d be able to rediscover his top gear.

Taking to the start line for this race was definitely a huge step forward in his road to recovery and would hopefully be an indicator that he was ready to put the turbulent times behind him.

The participants gathered on the airport runway waiting for the scheduled 5:30am departure. There were no delays and contenders were soon roaring down the runway.

Start of the Southampton Airport Runway Run
Cleared for take off: The Southampton Airport Runway Run gets underway

Mitch got off to a good start, assuming 3rd place to begin with, just behind one guy and one woman. The rest of the field were left lagging behind.

Completing the first mile in 5 minutes 18 seconds, it was a confident start from Mitch. Did he have the skills to keep control for the remainder of the flight path though? That was the question.

Mitch Griffiths is in third as they go down the runway
To start off with, Mitch was in third position and was going at a very quick pace

For his second mile, Mitch registered an even quicker time of 5:26. He was really excelling and was now up into 2nd position. That left just him with just 1.1 miles to go.

He now needed to just hold the pace, nice and steady, to see him through to a safe landing. Completing the last mile in 5:29, it was a very smooth journey for Mitch. He then propelled on to the finish, arriving in a terrific time of 17 minutes 15 seconds.

Mitch Griffiths enjoying the Southampton Airport Runway Run
Mitch thoroughly enjoyed the experience of lacing up his racing trainers again and put in a performance to be proud of

That secured him a superb 2nd place in a field of 1,000 people, which was a first class display, plain and simple. In fact, it was such a good performance it even surprised Mitch himself. He didn’t expect his fitness to be quite at that level in this early stage in his recovery.

Not one to rest on his laurels though, Mitch was back in action the following weekend, swinging by the New Forest to take part in the Sway Carnival 5-Mile Run.

Starting off from Wilverly Plain, the event was sure to put Mitch’s fitness and form to an even sterner test. He was now faced with the task of keeping his pace up for an additional two miles.

That one didn’t go quite so well for Mitch. He completed the first mile in 5:31 but for a much tougher, off-road course, that was a little too quick and he paid the price for it later as the run progressed.

Saying that though, he did still manage to finish in a time of 29:03, which is very good for a 5-miler, even though the course did come up slightly short. That put Mitch in 6th place on the day.

The start of his Bournemouth AC journey has certainly provided plenty of ups and downs for Mitch so far but he’s now looking firmly back on the recovery trail and can hopefully press on from here and pilot a return to his jet-setting best before long.

The top three: Mitch ran well to take second place in the Southampton Airport Runway Run behind the guy on the left, with the woman on the right taking third

 

 

Kirsty Drewett and Simon Hunt bounce back in the Lulworth Castle 10k

Kirsty Drewett takes on the Lulworth Castle 10k
After a tough battle in the hot conditions in last year’s race, Kirsty Drewitt was hoping she’d fare better this time in the 2019 edition of the Lulworth Castle 10k

This year’s crop of Lulworth Castle 10k participants were greeted with high levels of humidity as they gathered at Coombe Keynes for the annual hilly foray through the luxurious Lulworth Estate.

The route runs through a scenic setting over chalk tracks and woodland paths and located just a stone’s throw away from Lulworth Cove and the Jurassic Coast, it’s a big attraction amongst the Dorset running community.

The last couple of years it was Bournemouth AC’s very own Jacek Cieluszecki, who broke the course record on both occasions. This time he was taking part in the Jurassic Coast 100k which opened up the race for someone else to grab a moment of glory.

Just as they did last year though, Kirsty Drewett and Simon Hunt had thrown their names into the hat and gave their Bournemouth AC vests an airing.

After really struggling in the scorching heat in last year’s event, Kirsty felt like she had unfinished business at the race. Her primary goal was to see the views she missed on that fateful day last time out when the conditions got the better of her. Above all, she just wanted to enjoy the race this time round.

Kirsty Drewett at the start of the Lulworth Castle 10k
Kirsty, in the front right of the picture, gets her race underway

As for Simon, he won the M60 category last year which was a great result so he was looking for another solid performance this time round, although he wasn’t arriving in quite such good shape as he was in 2018.

Simon Hunt in action at the Lulworth Castle 10k
After a good performance which earnt him a category win last year, Simon Hunt returned hoping for another decent run out

He did manage to put in a decent display though, completing the course in a time of 48:45 which put him in 44th place overall and 3rd in the M60 category. It wasn’t quite up there with what he did last year but it was still a reasonable run from Simon and he was pleased with the time. 

Simon Hunt takes on the Lulworth Castle 10k
Crossing the line in 48:47, it was a result Simon was fairly happy with, all things considered

Thankfully Kirsty managed the conditions a lot better this time round. She still found it tough, as she always does in the heat but she enjoyed it a lot more than in her previous experience and ran almost two minutes quicker.

Kirsty Drewett looks across in the Lulworth Castle 10k
Kirsty handled the humidity a lot better this time and had a far more enjoyable run as a result

Finishing in a time of 54:20, Kirsty came in 103rd position overall and 24th female. She was also 10th in the F40 category. It was a good run from and will hopefully go some way toward erasing the memories from that difficult day she had in 2019.

Kirsty Drewett in the Lulworth Castle 10k
Kirsty cruised toward a time that was almost two minutes quicker than what she did last year

Joseph Sherwood of Littledown Harriers swooped in the for the victory, crossing the line in a terrific time of 38:44. That gave him a winning margin of around 1-and-a-half minutes over his teammate Luke Dowsett who was 2nd in 40:12. 

Kevin Drayson of Westbourne RC came in shortly after in 40:15 to take 3rd, with Poole Runners’ frontman Joe Godden putting in an almighty performance to take 4th in 40:20.

The prize for first lady went to Caroline Stanzel of Poole Runners who finished 11th overall in a time of 42:47. Sarah Trim from Running for Time was 2nd female in 45:24, putting her 20th overall.

Anne-Marie Bayliss was 3rd woman in 46:16, giving her 24th place in the overall standings. There were 350 runners in total who completed the course. 

As usual, the atmosphere in the race village was magnificent and goes a long way toward making it such an enjoyable event to be a part of. Don’t be surprised to see Simon and Kirsty return for another reconnaissance in 2020.

Georgia Wood climbs onto podium at Mont-Blanc 23k

Georgia Wood in the Mont-Blanc 23k
Georgia Wood took on one of her toughest challenges yet as she hit the high mountains in the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 23k

It certainly wasn’t your standard 23k race when Georgia Wood headed over to Chamonix for the Marathon du Mont-Blanc event, but then, Georgia isn’t your standard runner.

Incorporating an elevation gain of 1,680 metres, the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 23k would be more than enough to out any runner through their paces.

Of course, with it being set in Chamonix providing the runners with a chance to experience the Alps in all its splendour, the glorious views make the hardship and severity of the climbs that much more rewarding.

The route starts off at Chamonix Aire des parapentes at an altitude of 1,036m before heading over to Trélechamps at an altitude of 1,385m. Then it’s over to Le Béchar at 1,724m before moving onto the penultimate checkpoint of La Flégère at an altitude of 1,865m. The finish of the race was Arrivée Planpraz, standing at a whopping 2,016m of altitude.

The build up to the race hadn’t been the easiest for Georgia, with several colds, viruses and a poorly baby resulting in very little sleep and some tough times to get through. For the most part she’d only really been training at sea level as well as that’s all she could fit in.

She almost didn’t make the trip in fact as her daughter Chloe had a fever right before Georgia and her partner Tom were about to travel. All that only served to make her more determined though to come home with something to be proud of.

Georgia, Tom and Chloe at the Mont-Blanc 23k
Georgia was lucky enough to be able to count on the support of Tom and Chloe whilst she was out in Chamonix

It was around the time when France were getting  some really hot weather so just to make it even more difficult, temperatures were soaring.

The climbs were quite technical, both on the way up and on the descent. Some sections were so steep that you couldn’t really run up them. At one point Georgia slipped on the snow as well, which was quite a strange concept as in 37 degree heat.

The support on certain parts of the course was amazing and because she had a flag on her number, some people cheered her on in English which helped.

Crossing the line in 2 hours 49 minutes and 3 seconds, Georgia was 3rd female to cross the line and 51st overall. In a race of this magnitude that was a fantastic achievement for her.

The top 3 women in the Mont-Blanc 23k
The top three women in the Marathon du Mont-Blanc 23k with Georgia on the right (3124)

Only Lucille Germain who finished 30th in 2:35:52 and Celine Jeannier who was 48th in 2:46:41 finished ahead of her out of all the ladies in the race. There were 1,901 finishers in total.

Georgia Wood getting her prize at the Mont-Blanc 23k
All the prize winners are rewarded on stage in the ceremony at the end

The last climb of the day for Georgia was when she stepped up onto the podium to collect her prize for her magnificent 3rd place finish. That was a very proud moment for Georgia and she was overjoyed to celebrate with Tom and Chloe afterwards.

Georgia Wood on the podium at the Mont-Blanc 23k
Georgia claimed third spot on the podium marking an excellent run out for her
Georgia Wood after the Mont-Blanc 23k
A triumphant Georgia is all smiles as she walks away with flowers and trophy in hand

 

 

 

Linn Erixon Sahlström retains her crown in Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra

Linn Erixon Sahlstrom in the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra
All that stood in the way of Linn Erixon Sahlström reclaiming her Jurassic Coast crown was a measly 110 miles of Coast Path and 15,800ft of elevation. What could possibly go wrong?

Defending a title you won in the previous year of a really big race is always difficult. It’s always a danger that if you anything less than a victory could seem like a disappointment. However, every race is a new journey and a new experience and that is what matters most to Linn Erixon Sahlström. It’s not all about the end result.

She wanted to go back to the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra and possibly have a stab at beating her previous best time but above all she wanted it to be a less painful experience. She wanted to smile more and cry less and generally just enjoy it more.

She knew someone would have to try and break the time of 27 hours and 46 minutes that she registered in last year’s event. She wanted to improve on that, as opposed to just racing for 1st place.

It’s difficult though as, once the race gets going and the adrenaline starts pumping, you tend to get caught up the spirit of the competition and that instinct to be the best takes over.

From the start of the race, it was Karen Fronteras who took the bull by the horns, setting off at a blistering pace, despite the fact that it was a hot day and she had a gruelling 100-mile run ahead of her.

Linn could only try her best to stay close behind her but that almost killed her over the first 10k. She realised she was going to have to let her go and wish her all the best. If she was able to sustain that crazy pace throughout the race she would be a worthy winner, no question about it.

Karen even ran up all the hills from the beginning which is something that is not recommended unless you’re a super elite athlete.

Needing to calm her heart rate down somewhat, Linn tends to struggle a bit in the heat. Luckily she found a guy to trot with whom she’d met during training and they ran at a nice equal pace for three to four hours.

At around the half way point, Linn accidentally passed Karen who had gone the wrong way. At the Chesil Beach checkpoint, which was around 45 miles in, Linn had a freshly made burger from her lovely crew who served her food throughout the run since the food stops from the race organisers offered next to nothing.

Shelley Davies and Linn's support crew for the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra
Linn’s partner Shelley Davies was on hand with the barbeque to provide her with some much needed fuel to get through the energy sapping course

Linn waited until Karen left and then followed her straight out to see what sort of pace she was going at. After 500 metres though, Linn had to go past Karen after she stepped aside on the trail, clearly beaten by the heat and all of her previous exertions.

As she went past, Linn could feel Karen chipping at her heels and she had to get her game face on and show determination not to let Karen pass. The victory was hers to take and as they reached the half way stage, it was very much game on.

After that Linn began to pull away from Karen and a gap opened up between them. The problem now for Linn was that she didn’t know how far behind her Karen was so she couldn’t really afford to let up at all. In a way that was kind of a fun situation to be in in a 100 mile race.

In the middle of the night, whilst passing through Charmouth, Linn heard some people shouting and it sounded like they were screaming her name. As she got closer though, it turned out they were off their heads and one of the guys lashed out at her on the street, hitting her with both hands in a total rage.

Linn blinded him with her head torch and he tried to hit her again but missed, only making contact with her backpack. She waved her poles in desperation but after almost 15 hours of running she was feeling a little dazed so her reactions were quite slow.

It was a scary experience for Linn and to make matters worse she destroyed her head torch afterwards as well whilst trying to put it back on, probably in state of shock. Luckily they carry spare head torches though to account for occurrences like that.

The good thing was, she was now not scared of going through the under-cliff from Lyme Regis to Seaton, or the “Lost World” as they call it. That was a 6-mile stretch across rooted ground, rather like a rainforest. Last year that section freaked her out a bit but this time she was more confident and feeling stronger in the legs.

With around 20 kilometres to go Linn picked up Darren Curtis-White  who, much like her, was going through a rough patch. It was Darren’s first 100 miler and he and Linn both benefited by helping each other out over the latter stages of the race.

Usually Linn tends not to stick with someone for long periods of time. She likes time on her own. However, when you meet someone who is good company and makes you use your best engine, you stick with them.

Crossing the line together in joint 6th place overall, Linn and Darren finished in a time of 26 hours and 37 minutes. She had successfully defended her title and once again finished as 1st female which was a great feeling for Linn.

Linn Erixon Sahlstrom after the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile
She did it again!! Linn ran out as 1st female, conquering the 110 mile route over an hour quicker than she did last year

Arriving 1 hour 45 minutes later, Karen came through to take the runner up spot, finishing 10th overall in a time of 28 hours 18 minutes. Then, a further hour behind her, Simone Durry came in to take 3rd place in the women’s race, with a time of 29 hours 22 minutes.

Feeling strong throughout the race, Linn had loads of running in her legs and had a beautiful day and night out on the trails, smiling and enjoying it for the most part.

What’s more, she beaten her time from last year convincingly, shaving 1 hour and 9 minutes off her time. That was quite some achievement.

By the end of the race, Linn had covered over 110 miles and had reached an elevation gain of 15,810ft. It was an obscenely tough race, make no bones about it but Linn is becoming such an accomplished ultra runner in the way that she handles the extreme challenged that races like this present.

Linn heads past Durdle Door in the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra
Linn passes Durdle Door and continues up the path showing great determination to get the win

Linn was eternally grateful to her partner Shelley Davies, who logistically aced the race navigating a van around the small country roads through day and night. She not only provided Linn with electrolytes and water but also a freshly barbequed bacon sandwiches and burger.

It wasn’t just a win for Linn personally, it was really a team effort and she thoroughly appreciated the support she got from her crew.

The overall winner of the race was Daniel Miller who went over the line in 21 hours and 24 minutes, taking victory by quite a considerable margin. Euan Ross took 2nd place, arriving three hours later to register a time of 24:28 with John Howard taking 3rd in 24:59.

Linn is now recovering but is slowly building up to this year’s big adventure which is going to be the Ultra Tour Monte Rosa. That is another 100 mile race, featuring over 11,500 metres of elevation and an average altitude of 2,000 metres.

That means it’s back to the dreadmill and the Purbecks for Linn and this time with a weight vest and a training mask in order to simulate running at altitude.

Linn, Shelley and Sir Tabor after the Jurassic Coast 100 Mile Ultra
Linn celebrates her remarkable run with Shelley and Sir Tabor, the dog

 

 

 

 

 

 

JC soars through the dark in Jurassic Coast 100k

Jacek Cieluszecki at the Jurassic Coast 100k
Before going into the race, Jacek Cieluszecki had no idea that the Jurassic Coast 100k would prove to be one of his toughest challenges yet

Certainly no stranger to long distance races of a high elevation persuasion, Jacek Cieluszecki has many challenging conquests to his name. He’s tackled the OCC race at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, the Eigar 51 Ultra Trail in the Swiss Alps and the Scott Snowdonia Trail Marathon.

In September last year he took on the 7 Valleys 100k in his native country of Poland along a gruelling route that took in some of Poland’s highest mountains. It would be fair to say that he’s more than proved himself in races of this sort of distance across tough terrain.

The Jurassic Coat 100km Ultra was a different proposition altogether though. Starting at 9pm in the evening, the course ran along the South West Coast Path all the way from Chesil Beach in Weymouth to Exmouth in Devon.

Not only was this one of the most brutal routes imaginable in terms of profile, for the vast majority of the race Jacek was running in pitch black with only a head torch to guide him along the Coast Path in the dark. It was always going to be hugely challenging, even for a runner as accomplished and adept as JC.

Nevertheless, Jacek had a race plan and a pace in mind that he wanted to go at right from the start, so as soon as the proceedings got underway, he settled into it.

With a massive 100 kilometre slog ahead of them, the runners begin their Jurassic Coast journey, much of which they’d be running through the night

The first eight miles were fairly flat and he was going at between 7:30 and 8 minutes per mile. There was a fairly big incline on the 10th mile but other than that it was fairly smooth sailing up until the 20th mile. That was when the climbing really started.

By that time Jacek had taken command of the race and had already built up comfortable advantage over the rest of the field. It was from that point on though that the challenge really began.

For the rest of the race Jacek was tackling a constant melee of steep, sharp climbs, maneuvering up and down steps, through gates and over stiles.  He found this part of the South West Coast Path was tougher than running in the Alps.

With mountains you tend to get long sections up and then long stretches back down. On the South West Coast Path though the trajectory was constantly changing, with frequent inclines, steep descents, steps and rooted sections. It offered absolutely no respite. And the fact that he was doing all this through the night, in the dark, made it all the more difficult.

One part in particular stood out to Jacek and that was the 7-mile section from Lyme Regis to Seaton under-cliff, passing through Undercliffs National Nature Reserve. It was like an ancient forest and was somewhat mysterious and spooky when going through it in total darkness. They call this section the “Lost World”, although fortunately for Jacek there were no dinosaurs around.

Following the Coast Path signs at night was quite tricky as well and there were some diversions where it wasn’t always clear which way you were meant to go. Luckily Jacek knew the route from Weymouth to Beer, more or less. He did take a few wrong turns over the course of the race but didn’t lose too much time.

Spending the entire race out in front, on his own, it was almost as much of a mental battle as it was a physical one for JC. He showed great intestinal fortitude though to keep pushing and showed astounding strength and stamina to finish the last 10 miles strongly when the undulations eased off a bit.

Reaching the finish line in  a time of 10 hours and 46 minutes, Jacek registered a resounding and dominant victory. Over this type of distance and terrain, there are very few runners out there who could match him.

Jacek Cieluszecki after the Jurassic Coast 100k
Jacek coasted in for the win, but although he was a long way ahead, it was far from an easy race for JC

Wracking up a total of 9,341ft of elevation, it was one of the most testing courses Jacek had ever encountered and the overbearing feeling after getting to the line was one of relief for him.

52 minutes went past before the 2nd placed competitor arrived on the horizon. That was Martin Hanicinec, who finished in 11 hours 38 minutes to seal the runner up spot. Then a further 32 minutes went by before Paul Dowling came in to take 3rd place in 12 hours 10 minutes.

Ela Cieluszecka finishing the Jurassic Coast 100k
Jacek’s wife Ela approaches the finish in her first ever 100k race

Jacek’s wife Ela also competed, taking on her first ever 100k race. She did extremely well to finish as 3rd lady in a time of 16 hours and 49 minutes. That put her in 21st place overall.

The prize for 1st female went to Sarah Adams who got round in 15 hours and 19 minutes, giving her 10th position overall. She was followed by Carole Loader who completed the course in 16 hours 7 minutes to take 15th place overall.

Ela Cieluszecka after the Jurassic Coast 100k
A great run from Ela saw her finish as 3rd female in a time of 16 hours 49 minutes

There were 54 finishers in total in the 100k race and making it to the end was an achievement by each and every one of them. A further 15 people failed to make it the end, underlining what a tough and gruelling event it was.

There can’t be too many couples out there who are both capable of running 100k and a double celebration for the Cieluszeckis was certainly in order. They could certainly be forgive for taking some time out to catch up on a bit of sleep first though before getting that party going.

Jacek Cieluszecki after winning the Jurassic Coast 100k
Finishing in 10 hours and 46 minutes, it was a 52 minute gap between Jacek and his nearest rival

 

 

Debut delight for Rob Spencer as BAC blitz Purbeck 10k

Rob Spencer makes BAC debut at Purbeck 10k
Rob Spencer was making his first appearance in a Bournemouth AC vest at the Purbeck 10k

Full blooded, hotly contested, tarmac tearing action on a Friday night, under Dorset Road Race League provision… It could only be the Purbeck 10k.

The latest fixture in what is proving to be a nail biting season saw Bournemouth AC look to get one over on their main rivals Egdon Heath Harriers who were currently sitting joint top in the league standings of the men’s first division. Meanwhile, the BAC ladies were looking to revitalise their challenge in the women’s league.

It wasn’t going to be an easy ride though. Egdon Heath Harriers have proved tough to beat over recent times and they had pulled together a strong men’s team well capable of putting others to the sword.

Then there was Poole AC and Poole Runners to contend with as well. The BAC representatives knew only too well that every point could prove crucial.

One thing they did have in their arsenal though was new boy Rob Spencer, making his official BAC debut. Rob joined from St Albans Striders after recently moving down to the south coast and came with great pedigree.

He’d already run well in a few races in the area over the back end of 2018, picking up a win in the Christchurch Christmas 10k and securing a top three position in both the Boscombe 10k and the Oakhaven Half Marathon in the New Forest.

He’s also crossed the line first in several parkruns round this area recently. It was going to be very interesting to see how he fared in competitive league competition.

Rob McTaggart, Stu Nicholas, Alex Goulding, Tom Paskins and Rich Brawn were also in the line up along with a host of other BAC men to back them up.

After failing to get a team together for the Puddletown Plod, the Bournemouth AC ladies were looking forward to getting back on the leaderboard and they had Tamzin Petersen, Katrina White and Helen Ambrosen in their ranks. There were also league debuts for Lucy du Cros and Roz Parsons.

The course was all on road but as you might expect being on the Purbeck, it was undulating. Starting off from Norden, near Corfe Castle, it was effectively an out-and-back route, heading toward Hartland Moor.

The first 3k was predominantly downhill which meant that the last 3k was sure to be an uphill task.

Start of the Purbeck 10k
With Dorset Road Race League points up for grabs, the competitors are on their way in the Purbeck 10k

Once the race got underway, a lead group of three was quickly formed, containing Rob Spencer, Tag and Matt Papa of Egdon Heath Harriers.

Just behind them, it was Lee Dempster of Lytchett Manor Striders and Chris Alborough of Poole AC. Then it was the Lytchett Manor Striders pair of Sean Edwards and Scott Parfitt.

The lead group of three stayed together for the first four miles before they began the incline back up to Norden. That was when Rob Spencer decided to put the hammer down and pull away.

Rob Spencer in the Purbeck 10k
Rob Spencer looked strong as he assumed control of the race

There was no stopping him after that and he accelerated away to take a glorious debut victory, securing himself a fantastic new 10k PB of 33:19 in the process. No doubt it was a sign of big things to come from Rob as he looked every inch the real deal.

Rob Spencer finishing the Purbeck 10k
It was a convincing win for Rob in his first outing for the club

Tag and Matt Papa had been left trailing in his wake so it then became a tussle between the two of them for the runner up spot.

Then something strange happened. All of a sudden, Matt came to a screeching half. That seemed to confuse Tag somewhat and he wasn’t sure what was going on.

He thought perhaps Matt was going to pass out or something so he stopped to check he was okay. They then go going again.

Rob McTaggart in the Purbeck 10k
Rob McTaggart was having a dual with Matt Papa of Egdon for 2nd place

As they arrived at the finish, Matt seemed to have made a full recovery and managed to find the strength to take out Tag in the sprint finish and snatch 2nd place. His finishing time was 33:44.

It was a bit annoying for Tag the way it happened and meant that he’d missed out on the chance to make it a BAC one-two because he showed concern for a fellow athlete. His time stood at 33:45.

Rob McTaggart finishing the Purbeck 10k
It looked as it Tag would take the runner up spot but Matt snuck up and stole it in the end

15 seconds later Lee Dempster arrived at the line to take 4th place in 34 minutes exactly, with Chris Alborough taking 5th in 34:30.

In a highly impressive team performance from Lytchett Manor Striders, they stormed the race in the DRRL Second Division with Scott Parfitt finishing 6th in a time of 35:10 and Sean Edwards rediscovering his form to take 7th in 35:18.

Next in and third scorer for BAC, it was Stu Nicholas, who claimed 8th position in a time of 35:49.

Stu Nicholas in the Purbeck 10k
Stu Nicholas knew the course so he had an idea what sort of pace he should start off at

Having done the race before, Stu had a better idea of how to pace the run and he made sure he didn’t set off too quickly and burn himself out towards the end.

It was a decent performance with Stu and he was pleased with the end result.

Stu Nicholas taking on the Purbeck 10k
Stu was third scorer for the team, finishing in 8th place overall

Egdon Heath Harriers got their second man in when Paul Bullimore crossed the line to take 9th place in 35:57, also winning the V45 category.

They soon had their third member in when Bruce Campbell completed the race in a time of 36:39, putting him in 11th place. He took home the prize for 1st V50.

Alex Goulding in the Purbeck 10k
After some indifferent performance over recent times, Alex Goulding was looking to put things right at the Purbeck 10k

Bournemouth AC’s fourth scorer, Alex Goulding, came in in 13th place, finishing in an excellent time of 36:46. That was good enough to net him 1st place in the V40 category as well.

Alex Goulding finishing the Purbeck 10k
Alex raced to a 13th place finish and a very good sub-37-minute time

For once, Alex was actually pleased with his performance as well, which underlines what a good run it was as he’s usually his own harshest critic.

Alex Goulding was 1st M40 at the Purbeck 10k
Alex took home the prize for 1st M40 which capped off a very pleasing day for him

Unfortunately, Rich Brawn wasn’t having quite such a good run and he was struggling to get his legs moving.

It had only been four days since Rich got back from a wild holiday in Ibiza which may have involved a few nights of excessive refreshments.

Since he arrived back in England he’d done some pretty hard sessions in the week in a desperate bid to try and restore his fitness. As a result, he was carrying a bit of fatigue going into the race.

Rich Brawn in the Purbeck 10k
Rich Brawn was thrust back into action quickly after a week of partying in Ibiza

To begin with he tried to keep Alex in sight and then after that tried his best to follow the pace of Neil Sexton of Poole Runners. It just wasn’t happening for him though and he wasn’t feeling strong at all.

It became a case of just seeing out the race for Rich and trying not to lose too many more places. To make matters worse, there was a sting in the tail when Mark Packer of Littledown Harriers came steaming past him on the final corner and sped down the home straight compiling a miserable race for Rich.

Crossing the line in 38:01 in the end and taking 26th place, Rich was extremely disappointed with his run. There was one silver lining though and that was that out of all the people who came in in between Alex and Rich, only one of them was an Egdon Heath Harrier. That was Matt Faramus who was 19th, finishing in 37:28.

Rich Brawn finishing the Purbeck 10k
It wasn’t quite the run Rich was hoping for and he found it very difficult to get into a rhythm

He was only Egdon’s 4th scorer though which meant Bournemouth AC had won the fixture in the Dorset Road Race League men’s first division. That was a fantastic result and came as something of a surprise as they were expecting to concede the win to Egdon.

Tom Paskins followed in shortly after Rich, crossing the line in 38:22 which put him in 29th position. That was a much better run from Tom after he’d struggled with a hamstring injury and hay-fever at the previous fixture, the Puddletown Plod.

Tom Paskins in the Purbeck 10k
Tom Paskins had a decent run to take 29th place in a time of 38:22

Next to finish for BAC, it was the effervescent and ever present Matt du Cros, who continued his theme of running every league race so far.

Matt du Cros in the Purbeck 10k
Looking to do all of this year’s league fixtures, Matt du Cros was out there once again

He also fared much better than he did at Puddletown, putting in a solid performance to register a time of 40:42. That put him in 58th place in the standings.

Matt du Cros taking on the Purbeck 10k
A good performance from Matt saw him take 58th place finishing in a time of 40:42

Finishing in 124th place in  a time of 45:11, Phil Cherrett had an uneventful race, which was exactly what he wanted after he was forced to stop and vomit on several occasions in the Poole 10k.

Phil Cherrett in the Purbeck 10k
After a bad day in the Poole 10k, Phil Cherrett was hoping his fortunes would change in the Purbeck 10k

This time had no such troubles though and, although he didn’t push too hard because of his IT band issue, he got round unscathed and that was a step in the right direction.

Phil Cherrett finishing the Purbeck 10k
Phil did well to cross the line in 124th place recording a time of 45:11

The first BAC lady to come in was Tamzin Petersen, who was the 12th placed female, completing the course in 46:09. That put her in 143rd place.

Richard Cannings and Tamzin Petersen in the Purbeck 10k
Richard Cannings helped pace Tamzin Petersen round in a good show of BAC teamwork

She had had her BAC teammate and work colleague Richard Cannings to pace her round and he finished alongside Tamzin, with a chip time of 46:08.

Tamzin Petersen and Richard Cannings finishing the Purbeck 10k
Tamzin an Richard arrive at the finish with Tamzin coming through as first scorer for the ladies’ team

After that it was Mike White who completed the course in 48:03. That put him in 182nd place. Mike was a little disappointed with his time but he’s knows that the chip don’t lie.

Mike White in the Purbeck 10k
MIke White sets off on his way on what promised to be challenging 10k route

He’d like to have been two minutes quicker but he flagged a bit on the return route back to Norden. He enjoyed being out there though and noted the tremendous sunset which helped make it such a lovely evening.

Mike did enjoy seeing his faster club colleagues coming down the other side on the crossover sections.

Mike White finishing the Purbeck 10k
It wasn’t quite the time he was hoping for but Mike gave everything he could over the duration of his run

Assuming the role of 2nd scorer for the women’s team, Lucy du Cros made a solid league debut, finishing as 35th female and registering a time of 49:12. That put her in 193rd place overall.

There was a scare before the race when it was discovered that Lucy didn’t have a club vest. It’s a rule in the Dorset Road Race League that all scorers must be wearing their official club vest to count.

Lucy du Cros taking on the Purbeck 10k
Lucy du Cros was making her league debut for BAC

Luckily, Ian Graham came to rescue, digging an old one out of the archives that he wore when representing the club back in the 50’s. It was a bit tatty and had some holes in it but it just about fit and that was the main thing.

Lucy du Cros in the Purbeck 10k
It may not have been her vest but Lucy du Cros made it her own, finishing as 2nd scorer for the ladies’ team

Although she felt she could have done a bit better, Lucy enjoyed the race and has already signed up for next league race which is the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon in August.

Katrina, Tamzin and Richard in the Purbeck 10k
Katrina, Tamzin and Richard come round the corner looking to get into their stride quickly

She was then followed by the third scorer for the team, Katrina White, who crossed the line in 49:44. That made her 44th female and 204th overall.

Katrina White in the Purbeck 10k
Despite not loving the hills, Katrina White still secured a good sub-50 to finish as 3rd scorer for the ladies’ team

Katrina admits she’s not the best at hills so she found it pretty tough going. Her main aim was just to get under 50 minutes though as she knew it was an undulating course, so from that perspective it was mission accomplished. That was despite losing a bit of momentum in the second half of the race.

Steve Parsons in the Purbeck 10k
Steve Parsons wasn’t exactly raring to go at first but he grew into it as the race progressed

The next yellow and blue vest to arrive at the finish line was Steve Parsons who registered a time of 52:08 to come in in 251st place. It wasn’t a great time by Steve’s standards but he was glad to get round without his hip playing up at all. It was a hip issue that impacted him in his previous league race, the May 5.

Steve Parsons finishing the Purbeck 10k
There was no sign of the recent hip injury that effected Steve in his last league race so that was a big plus for him

Soon to follow in after Steve it was Ian Graham who was 5th in the V70+ category, completing the course in a time of 52:16. That put him in 259th place overall.

As soon as he saw David Cartwright and Ian Barnes there, both in the V70+ category and both from Poole Runners, Ian knew his chances of an age group victory were gone.

Ian Graham in the Purbeck 10k
Once he saw who else was there from his age category, Ian Graham settled for just getting it done

His only aim after that was to get round as best as he could and in the end it wasn’t a bad run from Ian, given the tricky course he was faced with.

It had been several years since Ian last did the Purbeck 10k and he’d forgotten just how tough it is. David Cartwright took out the age group win in the end, finishing in 43:13, with Ian Barnes taking 2nd in 44:44.

Ian Graham finishing the Purbeck 10k
Ian came in as 5th V70+ in a time of 52:16

Arriving at the line soon after Ian but with a slightly faster chip time, it was Helen Ambrosen who took 3rd place in the female V60 category, finishing in 52:15. That put her 260th in the running order.

Helen always finds the Purbeck 10k a difficult race as it’s on a Friday evening after a busy day and it usually tends to be quite warm. She didn’t think she could do better than 8:15 minutes per mile so tried to stick with that although the hills slowed her down.

It was a good workout for Helen though and she enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Carol Jones of Ealing Southall & Middlesex took home the V60 category win in 49:56 with Pauline Worrall of Bournemouth Joggers 2nd in 52:28.

Helen Ambrosen in the Purbeck 10k
Helen Ambrosen was 3rd in the female V60 category, finishing in a time of 52:15

After only just having come back from injury, Dave Parsons found it really tough going. In fact, he said it was the hardest race he’d ever done and his lack of fitness and lack of training had a big impact.

He got through it though, nonetheless, and was glad he did manage to get out there once he’d completed the course. Reaching the line in 59:06, Dave  was 11th in the V65 category and came in 369th overall. Above all, he enjoyed being back racing in the yellow and blue of BAC.

Dave Parsons in the Purbeck 10k
After only recently recovering from injury, Dave Parsons found it very tough but still came in in just over 59 minutes

The final Bournemouth AC member to arrive at the finish was Roz Parsons, who crossed the line in 1:03:37. That put her in 12th place in the V40 category and she was 163rd female on the day with an overall position of 423rd.

Roz Parsons in the Purbeck 10k
Roz Parsons (20) was taking part in her first league fixture for BAC

As she always seems to after races, Roz somehow managed to conjure up a glass of Prosecco afterwards and it was the thinking of that which helped her get to end of the race as quickly as she did.

Roz Parsons finishing the Purbeck 10k
The thought of that cool glass of Prosecco waiting for her at the end fizzed through Roz’s mind as she worked her way round

When the team prizes were divvied out by Ross Wayne of Purbeck Runners at the end of the race, Bournemouth AC were somehow given 3rd place in the men’s competition.

It’s not clear how they worked that out though as whether it was based on three, four or five people and whether it was decided on positions or cumulative time, either way, Bournemouth AC should have won it.

What mattered most though was that they picked up the points in the Dorset Road Race League and it was a huge boost for Rich Nelson and his BAC band of brothers as they look to retain their league title.

With a total of 51 points from their top five, BAC took top spot with the lowest score winning. Egdon Heath Harriers took 2nd with 72 points. Then it was Littledown Harriers who took 3rd with 151 points and Poole Runners 4th with 158. Lytchett Manor Striders ran out easy winners in the second division.

Rob Spencer at Purbeck 10k
Rob spearheaded a Bournemouth AC men’s team that were victorious in the Dorset Road Race League fixture

In the ladies first division Poole Runners reigned supreme yet again, picking up another victory to extend their lead at the top in the overall standings for the season so far.

Littledown Harriers got 2nd and Lytchett Manor Striders took 3rd. The Bournemouth AC team of Tamzin, Lucy and Katrina were 6th with 78 points.

That meant they stayed in fourth place in the ladies first division, just one behind Littledown Harriers. Egdon Heath Harriers are currently 2nd with Poole Runners top.

The win reinstated Bournemouth AC’s position as outright leaders, with the league positions currently being decided on the best four of seven races so far.

That gave BAC a one point advantage over Egdon Heath Harriers. With Poole AC languishing a further four points back, it is beginning to look like it’s going to be a two horse race between BAC and Egdon for the league title this season.

The next fixture is the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon on Sunday 4th August and that will be followed a week later by the Round the Rock 10k in Portland. Bournemouth AC will be hoping to extend, or at least maintain their lead at the top of the table over those two fixtures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Simon Hearn lands in Normandy for The Pegasus half marathon

Simon Hearn at the Pegasus Half Marathon in Normandy
Simon Hearn travelled across to Normandy to take on The Pegasus half marathon in a race where he was hoping to secure a new PB

One week on from all the 75th anniversary of D-Day celebrations and memorials, it was a great time for Simon Hearn to arrive in Normandy.

His main focus was on the Normandy Running Festival though and Les Courants de la Liberté (The Courts of Freedom) where he would take on Le semi-marathon Pegasus.

The Normandy Running Festival is based on the D-Day theme and it’s fitting to stage Les Courants de la Liberté at the location of the battleground where so many of the allied forces gave their lives to fight for the freedom and sovereignty we enjoy to this day.

The Pegasus half marathon was a big target race for Simon and he’d spent several months working to a set training programme that he’d found online and looking to get in the best possible shape he could for the event.

Simon loves to experiment with different training plans and sees them as a way of freshening up his approach and keeping it interesting. It’s also a means of challenging himself and pushing himself to that next level.

For this particular training plan, the indication was that it was working well for Simon. The previous month he’d secured a new 10k PB at the Royal Berkshire 10k in Reading which came out of the blue. It was a huge boost for Simon as it revealed that he was in great form and gave him confidence that he could do well in The Pegasus.

There are no guarantees of course though. He still needed to produce on the day and brought with it some level of pressure. He was going all out for a PB though, which would mean he had to at least get under 1 hour 29 minutes.

His plan was to stick to just under 1:30 pace for the first 10 miles and then just push on from there with everything he had. It was a hot day but there was a slight breeze which helped prevent too much suffering.

Staying with the 1:30 pack for the majority of the race, Simon was itching to pick up the pace at mile 8 but held back and played it safe. He felt good going along at the pace he was running at and didn’t want to rock the boat at this point. He was in his comfort zone and it seemed that all the hard training was paying off.

He’d controlled the pace well and when it was time to go, he accelerated away from the 1:30 group and showed amazing strength. He’d executed his plan extremely well and it was all falling into place.

Sure enough, it turned out to be a fantastic new PB for Simon as he went across the line in 1:28:35. That put him in 126th place in the overall standings in a field of nearly 4,000 people. In his age category, he finished 12th.

The standard of the field was incredibly high as well, with Paul Koech winning the race in a time of 1:05:31. He was followed by Dieudonne Nsengiyumya who finished in 1:06:09 and Loic Letellier 3rd in 1:07:47. In fact, five men went under 1:10, which is pretty impressive.

It was a cracking result for Simon though and thoroughly deserved after everything he’d put into it. He was overjoyed with his new PB. I hindsight, he could have got an even better time if he hadn’t played it safe. That’s okay though as he knows now that he has the potential to go even faster.

To still be able to produce a personal best after eight years of running is really quite remarkable from Simon and it just goes to show, if you really put your mind to something, it’s amazing what you can achieve.

Simon Hearn prepares to take on the Pegasus Half Marathon in Normandy
It had turned out to be the perfect race for Simon and he was over the moon to register such a terrific new PB

 

 

 

Chris O’Brien gets bitten by the ultra bug

Chris O'Brien and Emma Draper at Endure 24
For the second year running, Chris O’Brien teamed up with Emma Draper to take on the Endure 24 event as a mixed pair

Following his epic 14-lap, nigh on 70-mile relentless grind at last year’s Endure 24 event in Reading, Chris O’Brien’s initial reaction was to place the activity in the ‘it was fun, but never again’ filing cabinet and slam the drawer firmly shut.

Running is a funny thing though. In the immediate aftermath of a race, you remember the pain and suffering that you went through. The agony and the hardship are very vivid and prominent in the mind.

Over time though, those memories tend to fade. You remember the feeling of achievement, the ecstasy of success and the thrill of the chase. But you forget about the troubles along the way. The pain and the strife gradually dissipate from conscious recollection.

That might be why, when propositioned again by his Team BugFace  partner in crime, Emma Draper, about lining up for the event as a mixed pair again, he somehow found himself agreeing.

Shortly afterwards he began to wonder, what on earth was he thinking?? It was too late by then though. He’d already agreed to it and there was no backing out now. He had to face the music and run.

It was to be Chris’s fifth year at the event. The first two years he’d completed it was part of a team of five. In 2017, one member of the team was forced to pull out through injury which left them with just four members.

When they had a team of five, Chris’s team had tended to do pretty well, finishing just outside the top four. Of course, it was a little more difficult with only four.

Completing 35 milers in the first two years and 40 miles the following year, Chris had certainly made a valuable contribution to the success of his team.

Last year was the first time he and Emma had decided to give it a go as a mixed pair, which put them in a different category altogether. Of course, it meant the running was a lot more regular and the rest time was significantly less before he found himself back out there for another lap.

Somehow, Chris managed to get through 14 laps, with Emma completing 13. That was a enough to see them wind up with almost 135 miles between them, putting them in  3rd place.

Training hadn’t gone so well for either of them this time round though and they weren’t feeling as fit as they were the previous year.

As a consequence, they agreed to just take it easy and do what they could, so no pressure.  Deep down though, both Chris and Emma have a competitive edge and they didn’t want to slip down too far from the third place they obtained last time round. In truth, they were looking for at least a top-ten finish.

Bugface mixed pair team at Endure 24
Chris and Emma prepare to take to the start line in what promises to be an epic yet brutal next 24 hours

Unfortunately for them though, and all the other competitors, the course was made that much more difficult this year by the conditions. It had rained a lot and the ground was wet, leaving the route extremely muddy in places.

Completing his first 4.87 mile lap in exactly 37 minutes, at an average pace of 7:35 minutes per mile, that was it. He’d started it now. He’d got the ball rolling. All he had to do was keep it rolling for the next 23 hours and 23 minutes.

Emma successfully completed her first lap as well and the race was on. Chris completed his second lap in just under 38 minutes, which was 8 minute mile pace and then pretty much the same for his third lap.

After completing his third lap, Chris was caked in mud and already feeling exhausted. Emma hadn’t had any sleep the night before due to an upset stomach so Chris said to her that he didn’t mind if they called it a day.

Secretly hoping she’d say yes, he got a firm “No, I’m fine. I’ll keep going” response from Emma. For the next couple of laps he mentioned it again to Emma, desperately trying to avert the continuation of this torture. But Emma was determined to continue.

At one point one of Emma’s friends popped her head into his tent whilst he was resting to check that he wasn’t going to quit. What could he say though? He couldn’t let Emma down. And that gave him the proverbial kick up the jacksy that he needed. Like it or not, he was in it for the long haul.

By 5pm Chris had completed his fourth lap and they were sitting in 3rd place out of the 36 mixed pairs in the competition. That was a good incentive for Chris to keep going and keep the pace up.

The next couple of laps he completed in around 43-and-a-half minutes, so at an average pace of just under 9 minutes per mile. That took him up to nearly 30 miles already. But there was still a long way to go. It was only just after 8pm.

Chris managed to fit two more laps in before midnight, finishing each of them in 45 minutes and 42 seconds, at an average pace of 9:21 minutes per mile. He was still going well but it was only the half way stage in the proceedings. He’d now covered close to 40 miles.

For a while Chris and Emma had slipped to 4th place in the rankings but were now back up to 3rd. It was very tight between the two teams though and still all the play for.

The overnight laps were a little more tricky to negotiate, with those on shift having to feel their way through the slippery mud in pitch black, with only the lights from their head torches to guide them.

The course was mixed terrain, taking in some lovely forest tracks and countryside paths. There were a few hills in there as well, just to take the difficulty level up a notch further.

At the half way point in the course there were some crazy folk blasting out rock and roll music from a camper van and handing out cocktails which provided a brief bit of respite.

The mud began to dry out a touch over night, making it less slippery and more thick and gloopy. It had rained a lot on Saturday lunchtime when the race started but had eased off as the day went on.

For his overnight laps, Chris was down to about 10 minute miling but he was still completing them in under 50 minutes. Emma was running most of her laps in around an hour by this point so that meant Chris was getting slightly more rest between laps than she was.

If you take away the time it takes to get from the changeover point to the tent and factor in a toilet stop and some time to refuel and eat something, that doesn’t leave a lot of time though before you’re back out there. hris couldn’t really risk sleeping either as he needed to make sure he was there to take over whenever Emma completed her lap.

Chris started his 12th lap at 6:50am so it was getting light again by then. He managed a quicker lap that time, taking only 47 minutes before passing on the baton.

Then whilst Emma was out on the course there was another huge downpour that not only drenched her but also turned some sections of the course into a quagmire reminiscent of a wet and muddy farmyard that had been driven through several times by a tractor.

One advantage of doing so many laps for Chris though was that he knew the course so well that he was able to find the paths least trodden which helped him get through some of the tougher sections.

They were now a lap ahead of the team in 4th place and only a lap behind the team who was in 2nd. Time was running out though and they knew they were unlikely to catch up.

The event organisers had to divert some parts of the course as they were in such a bad condition meaning Chris’s 13th lap was slightly longer. He ran well though to finish it in 48:48.

Emma got one more lap in before Chris embarked upon his 14th and final lap. Again, he got round with no trouble, completing it in 49:20, bringing his total mileage up to a flabbergasting 70 miles.

Even though the 4th placed team had stopped running at 25 laps, Emma was keen to get her final lap in before the event ended. She did just that, brining her total up to 14 laps and 70 miles, the same as Chris.

Chris and Emma complete Endure 24
Chris and Emma cross the line together for the final time, having completed an amazing 14 laps each of the 5-mile circuit

That gave them a finishing total of 28 laps which was an absolutely staggering effort. In fact, it was many laps as anyone did, as the top two teams also finished up on 28 laps. The only difference was, they’d completed them in a slightly faster time.

That meant it was Runny McRunface who came out on top, completing their 28 laps in 23:34:55, giving them an average lap time of 50:32.

Fuelled by Pizza took 2nd place, completing their 28 laps in 23:55:44, putting their average lap time at 51:17. Then it was Chris and Emma, Team Bugface, taking a brilliant 3rd place, completing their 28 laps in 24:54:10, giving them an average lap time of 53:22.

Chris and Emma after Endure 24
After it was over the overwhelming feeling for Chris and Emma was one of relief

It really was a hell of a performance by Chris and Emma and they’d been rewarded for it with a 3rd placed finish, which they were over the moon about.

Emma had ran five miles further than she did in last year’s event and Chris had completed the same amount of laps but had done it 38 minutes faster than he did last year, with his total running time standing at 10 hours 40 minutes and 17 seconds.

It was a remarkable achievement from the pair of them, particularly given that their training had been patchy at best and the preparation for it less than ideal.

Emma and Chris pick up their trophies for finishing as 3rd placed mixed pair
Emma and Chris pick up their trophies for finishing as 3rd placed mixed pair

What they did have in abundance though was heart, and that was what mattered most in this event. It was about determination and an unshakeable desire to keep going, regardless of what obstacles were put in their way.

The overwhelming lesson from this story is, never give up. Chris could have easily thrown the towel in after the first three laps. He was already feeling tired and less than optimistic about their chances.

But instead of jacking it in, he stuck out and eventually got into a rhythm and he went from strength to strength, knocking out the laps with relentless precision.

Sometimes in running, to get the best results, you have to persevere through the bad times in order to make it through to see the good times. That’s where heart and desire and grit and determination come into play. As Chris and Emma proved in this event, If you have enough of those qualities, you can conquer anything.

Emma Draper & Chris O'Brien were 3rd place Mixed Pair at Endure 24
Completing 14 laps and running almost 70 miles each, Chris and Emma will no doubt look back on this 24 hours with immense pride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jon Sharkey hunts down victory in Civil Service 10k

With the opportunity to become Civil Service Athletic Association 10k champion, Jon Sharkey went over to the Olympic Park for the Civil Service Sports Council Capital Challenge

He doesn’t do many races these days but when he does enter one, Jon Sharkey always seems to deliver. On this occasion, it was over to the Olympic Park in London for the Civil Service Sports Council Capital Challenge which also incorporated the Civil Service Athletic Association 10k Championships.

The course consisted of a road route around the Olympic Park area. Knowing the course wasn’t accurately measured, Sharkey decided, rather than sticking a specific pace, he would just run it according to how he felt.

He must have been feeling pretty good though from the outset as he started off at 5:27 pace for the first mile. He then continued at around 5:30 pace for the next few miles, leaving him with technically only 2.2 miles left.

With a 5:42 fifth mile and a 5:38 for his sixth mile, it was an extremely strong run from Sharkey. He then cranked the pace up even further for the final 0.29 miles.

It was enough for Sharkey to get the line in under 35 minutes, with his official time being registered at 34:59. That saw him seal an excellent victory, giving him a winning margin of 17 seconds over his nearest rival, Robert White, who took 2nd place in 35:16.

The field consisted of 180 people in total but the standard was slightly down on previous years which increased Sharkey’s chances somewhat.

You can only beat whoever is put in front of you though and Sharkey did that so it was a very pleasing result for him. It also meant he could call himself the Civil Service Athletics Association 10k Road Race Champion. Another accolade to add to his decorated resume.

Jon Sharkey in the CSCC Capital Challenge
Sharkey stormed round for the win in a time of 34.59, thus becoming CSAA Road Race 10k champion