Category Archives: Road_Reports

Last blast for Jacek and Sanjai at Bath Half Marathon

Jacek Cieluszecki in the Bath Half Marathon
Jacek Cieluszecki was amongst a significantly reduced field for the 2020 Bath Half Marathon which took place just before the banning of all races was announced

In what would turn out to be the last major race in the southern region before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of all races and mass gatherings, the Bath Half Marathon went ahead in controversial circumstances.

Less than 7,000 of the 15,000 entrants actually turned out for the race in the end amidst fears of the virus spreading amongst large groups of people, given the close contact. There was a virtual race though for those who had signed up but felt they didn’t want to take the risk of attending on the day.

The race organisers were waiting on the outcome of an emergency Cobra meeting from the government before making their decision and off the back of that meeting, the government concluded that it wasn’t the right time to ban large scale events.

That presented many runners with one last opportunity to put all their hard work over marathon season training thus far into practice. Amongst those looking to do that were Bournemouth AC stars Jacek Cieluszecki and Sanjai Sharma.

After taking a break from hard training over the early part of the year, Jacek had struggled to find his best form thus far in 2020. Since the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in early February though, he’d managed to ramp his training back up to what it usually would be and he was beginning to feel like he could soon be returning to his usual formidable form.

As for Sanjai, an ongoing glute issue had played havoc with his training and he was some way off where he would usually expect to be at this stage of the year.

After a significantly below par performance at the Wokingham Half Marathon three weeks prior, Sanjai was hoping he might improve on that at Bath. It had already been announced that the London Marathon was to be postponed, so he knew this training block would be null and void anyway.

The course is predominantly flat and fast and features two identical loops, making it ideal for the many thousands who usually turn out to watch. Given the current climate though, that number would have been significantly lower then usual. The route starts and finishes on Pulteney Street – a beautiful Georgian boulevard in the heart of Bath.

The weather conditions on the day were bleak, with persistent rainfall going from before the race started right the way through to the end. The temperature was also quite low and it reminded Jacek of his Boston Marathon experience when the freezing cold and lashing rain almost forced him to abandon.

Start of the Bath Half Marathon
Despite mass controversy over the decision whether to go ahead with the event, the Bath Half Marathon got underway

Deciding to go out hard from the outset, Jacek went through the first mile at 5:10 pace  which signified that he was not messing around in this one.

He was hoping to run it in around 73 minutes, which would have been roughly the same time he did when he won the Weymouth Half Marathon at the equivalent weekend last year. And a similar time to what he recorded when he won the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon in June.

For the next four miles of the race, Jacek ran at around 5:20 pace before cranking it up slightly over the next couple of miles.  Going through the 10k point in 33:56, it was so far so good for JC.

Over the second half of the race he did well to maintain a similar sort of pace to what he had done up to that point. From miles 8 to 11 he going at roughly 5:25 pace before putting in a quicker one on mile 12 at 5:18 pace.

That left him with just 1.3 miles left to go. In the majority of half marathons it would have been 1.1 miles but the Bath Half Marathon does come up slightly long.

Registering a 5:26 for the last mile, Jacek finished very strongly in the remaining third of a mile to go over the line in 1:11:17 which put him in 38th place overall.

JC powers along at the front of the pack
Jacek put in a sublime performance that showed his form was right back where he would’ve wanted it to be

In such a high standard field, that was an impressive result for JC and his time was much faster than he’d anticipated it would be so that was an extremely pleasing result for him. That put him 4th in the VM40 category out of 412.

Jacek’s average pace for the run was a scintillating 5:22 minutes per mile. That’s a very impressive stat for a half marathon. He’s sad that the season is currently suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak but is hopeful that it won’t go on for too long.

As for Sanjai, he did as well as he could on the day but he was again, some way off his best form. He had actually run the Bath Half Marathon a few times before but his last time was back in 2015, so quite some time ago now. His best time was 1:23:07 which he managed back in 2013.

Sanjai gives it all he's got in the Bath Half Marathon
Sanjai had had a difficult start to the year so he was hoping the Bath Half Marathon might provide at least a hint that he was heading in the direction

This time round he found the wet conditions a real challenge and his ongoing glute issues wouldn’t have helped either. He found it very difficult walking after he’d finished the race.

It was in fact, Sanjai‘s slowest half marathon time since 2010 as he went over the line in a time of 1:29:01. That put him in 453rd place overall and 11th out of 247 in the VM55 category.

With the London Marathon now rescheduled to take place in October, that will give Sanjai time to perhaps get a proper training block behind him, so in that sense, it could be blessing for him.

If he can shake off his injury problems by then and get back on track with his training, there’s every chance he could return to form by the time the race does actually take place.

Sanjai Sharma in action at the Bath Half Marathon
It wasn’t quite the sort of time that Sanjai is used to posting but he did as well as he could under the circumstances

A total of 6,831 people successfully completed the race on the day with the last runner coming in at 4 hours 5 minutes and 24 seconds. Of course, many more runners would have completed the virtual race instead.

The winner of 2020 Bath Half Marathon was Paul Pollock of Kent AC, who clocked a tremendous time of 1:04:14. Jamie Crowe of Central AC took second place in 1:04:38, with Jonathan Cornish of Hercules Wimbledon getting third in 1:05:16.

Youngster Becky Briggs of City of Hull AC was the first woman over the line, finishing in 1:14:34. That put her in 84th place overall. Phillipa Williams of Sheffield Running Club was second lady in 1:15:01 which put her in 91st overall. Then it was Rachel Felton of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers who was third female in 1:15:07. That put her in 94th place overall.

It was a shame for Jacek and Sanjai and all the other runners who took part that the road had to end there. Of course, it hasn’t yet been determined when races will begin to be held again and that will all depend on how well the virus has been contained how the NHS is handling the mass influx of patients.

With many of the Spring marathons being postponed until October, that will certainly be a time to potentially aim for, but this is unchartered waters for society and no one really knows at this point what the future may bring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kirsty Drewett branches out in Larmer Tree 20

Kirsty Drewett taking on the Larmer Tree 20
Kirsty Drewett threw herself into the deep end at the Larmer Tree Races this time round, opting to battle the hills and spills of the 20 Mile distance

Held in what might perhaps have to go down as one of Britain’s poshest venues, the Rushmore Estate, the Larmer Tree Races are always a highlight in the running calendar for keen off-roadies.

The event features a 10 Mile race, which forms part of the Imperial Series treble, along with a Half Marathon on the Saturday. Then it’s the Marathon and the 20 Mile races on the Sunday.

The Larmer Tree Races are always known to throw up some devilishly testing routes, often with some very trying conditions to match. This year was certainly no different in that respect.

The event usually does feature some Bournemouth AC representation, often in the 10 mile race as there are usually one or two members going for the Imperial Series hattrick. In fact, one of them was Kirsty Drewett, back in 2018.

This year, Kirsty returned again but with much tougher task ahead of her. She was bravely taking on the 20 Mile race on the Sunday. With over 2,350ft of ascent to work her way up and some extremely slippery, muddy surfaces to negotiate, it was set to be a real challenge. That’s all good though, as Kirsty certainly likes a challenge.

She’s conquered some pretty fearsome races in the past, including The Beast, which featured 1,800ft of climbing over a 12.5 mile route. She’s also got the Hellstone Marathon which included 3,120ft of elevation in her back catalogue, along with the Purbeck Marathon, the Purbeck 16 and the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon.

The Larmer Tree 20 was around the time when the UK was being battered by storms on the daily. That culminated in a minute delay at the start while the race organisers frantically worked to sort out the aid stations that had blown away over night and clear trees that had gone down across the route. There were also some flooded fields they needed to get through in order to transport some of the water and supplies.

As per usual though, White Star Running did a magnificent job in the face of adversity and once the race got going you would have never known there had been any issues.

Kirsty heads along the waterlogged trails
Kirsty makes her way along the waterlogged trails

Unfortunately, Kirsty wasn’t feeling too great at first which meant she was unable to take in any fluids or fuel over the first half of the race. She thought she might well pay for that later, and inevitably, she did.

Although her legs were feeling pretty good, it became a real challenge for her emotionally. With the super slippery surfaces, the steep descents became absolutely petrifying.

It also one of those “waterproofs on – waterproofs off” kinds of run where she had biting winds, hailstorms and sleet to contend with. Kirsty has no idea how she didn’t get blown off the hilltops in some places.

Kirsty gives the thumbs up
Kirsty gives the thumbs up as she progresses down the track

Despite everything that was thrown at her, Kirsty made it through, successfully completing the course in 3 hours 49 minutes and 19 seconds. That put her in 61st place out of 239 finishers and she was 17th female and 7th in the F40-49 category.

The race was won by Emlyn Hughes of Fareham Crusaders who finished in a time of 2 hours 31 minutes and 51 seconds. Paul Russhard of Lymington Tri Club was second in 2:33:26 with Andrew Hickman of Southville Running Club taking third in 2:42:16.

The top lady of the board was Anna Wieckowska who completed the course in 3:13:31, putting her 16th overall. She was followed by Lynette Porter of Bitton Road Runners who was second lady and 20th overall in a time of 3:15:12. Then it was Fay Bromilow who was third lady and 21st overall in 3:15:56.

Kirsty progresses along the testing tracks
Kirsty’s time of 3:49:19 put her in 61st place overall and 17th female

Although she didn’t feel like she performed overly well on the day, it’s still a pretty good achievement from Kirsty, especially since she wasn’t feeling very well initially meaning she couldn’t put her usual fuelling strategy into practice.

The route was amazing though and the views were spectacular when she reached the top of the high points. The camaraderie of the runners and the kindness of the event staff made it a really great event and one that Kirsty would be keen to revisit.

When Kirsty got back to her car, the surfaces in the parking area had deteriorated so much due to the ongoing weather that she found that her car was stuck!

After running 20.8 miles up and down super steep hills in the wind and rain, that was the last thing she needed. Fortunately help was swiftly on hand though to get Kirsty on her way, enabling her to finally thaw out and begin the recovery process.

Ross Goldsmith competes in the Larmer Tree Half Marathon
Ross Goldsmith trains with Bournemouth AC on Tuesday nights and he took on the Larmer Tree Half Marathon

The previous day’s Half Marathon saw Ross Goldsmith take fourth place overall out of 383 finishers in a time of 1:44:18. Ross trains with Bournemouth AC on the Tuesday night sessions that Tom Craggs organises on the track and is always seen to be running strongly.

The Half Marathon race was won by Mark Stileman of Romsey Road Runners in a time of 1:34:10, which tells it’s own story about how tough the course was.

With over 1,650ft of elevation to encounter, it was never going to be one for a quick time. Trevor McAlister of Ryde Harriers took second place in 1:41:16 with his namesake Gary MacAlister of Avon Valley Runners finished third in 1:42:49.

Ross on his way to a fourth place finish
Ross heads toward a fourth place finish which saw him cross the line in 1:44:18

 

 

 

Ollie Stoten stops off for Cambridge Half Marathon

Ollie Stoten taking on the Cambridge Half Marathon
It was a return to the cut and thrust of racing action for Ollie Stoten as he took on the notoriously fast and flat Cambridge Half Marathon

Featuring a fabulous new route for 2020, the Cambridge Half Marathon offered up the opportunity of a fast time with its predominantly flat profile heading through the city of Cambridge. The course took in several historic landmarks along the way including the iconic University of Cambridge.

With a huge field of over 11,000 runners, it was certainly quite a spectacle as they all took to the start line. Amongst the numerous competitors was Bournemouth AC man Ollie Stoten, making a return to racing after several months away travelling around Europe.

After his time away, Ollie knew that he wouldn’t be tip-top shape but he was more than willing to give it his best shot and see what happened on the day.

Although he’s usually more used to the peaks and troughs of a mountainous or hilly route, on the rare occasion that he does get out on a flat road, Ollie often demonstrates good consistency in his splits.

For his first four miles of the Cambridge Half Marathon, Ollie clocked a 6:15, a 6:14, a 6:14 and a 6:16. He then went on to record a 6:18 and 6:19 for his next two miles.

Ollie Stoten powers on in the Cambridge Half Marathon
Doctor Ollie made a very consistent paced start as he settled into the race

His pace did drop ever so slightly over the next four miles but it was still pretty consistent running, as he registered a 6:22, a 6:24, a 6:17 and 6:20. That toom him to the 10 mile point, where he went through in 1:02:20.

One thing that is often a theme in Ollie’s races is that he finishes strongly. He’s usually pretty good at judging the pace and ensuring he has a fair bit left in the tank towards the end.

Ollie Stoten making headway in the Cambridge Half Marathon
Getting to the 10-mile point at 1:02:20, Ollie now just had round it off with a few strong miles

This race was no different and his last three-and-a-half miles were his quickest of the race, penning a 6:06, a 6:08 and 6:05 before ramping it up a notch again for the last half a mile.

It did come up slightly longer than the regulation half marathon distance of 13.1 miles but Ollie still managed to get over the line in an impressive time of 1:23:56. That put him in 333rd place overall out of 11,273 who successfully completed the course.

Ollie Stoten racing in the Cambridge Half Marathon
It was a good run from Ollie to get in in under 1 hour 24 minutes even though the course was slightly long

Considering he wasn’t in anything close to his best form, that was a decent result for Ollie. He wasn’t enamoured with the time and he definitely feels that previously he had more of an engine but it has helped him discover where he is with his fitness at the present time.

With an average pace for the run of 6:14 minutes per mile, Ollie did actually complete the half marathon distance in 1:21:42 but the course turned out to be 13:45 miles, so he shouldn’t really be too disappointed with that performance.

Ollie Stoten going well in the Cambridge Half Marathon
Ollie looks a cool customer as he heads into the finish

Although he finished the race strongly, Ollie still feels that there’s plenty of work to be done but there’s no doubt he’ll put in the graft required to get back to his best.

The winner of the race was Jonathan Escalante-Phillips who finished in a time of 1:05:36. He was followed by his Cambridge and Coleridge teammate Chris Darling who got over the line in 1:07:10. Alex Milne of Hercules Wimbledon took third place in a time of 1:07:25.

 

Helen O’Neile hits sub-three pace at Hillingdon 20

Helen O'Neile in the Hillingdon 20
Hoping to find out where her endurance was at after very limited training, Helen O’Neile took on the four five-mile laps route at the Hillingdon 20

Having achieved Championship qualification for the London Marathon with her sub-1:30 time in the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in Dubai last year, Helen O’Neile was hoping to have a tilt at a sub-three marathon in April.

Unfortunately, the her 2020 season had barely got off the ground after she found herself in a constant battle with an achilles injury. Despite experiencing pain virtually every time she laced up her trainers, Helen desperately didn’t want to give up on her marathon dream.

Although the injury had caused her to train on a very minimalistic basis, she still managed to achieve some good results, finishing as 3rd lady in the Junction Broadstone Quarter on New Years Day. She was also 43rd in the Southern Cross Country Championships, which was a fantastic result in a field of that standard.

Whilst she had managed to attend some of the track sessions put on by Bournemouth AC coach Tom Craggs on Tuesday nights, she had barely got out for any long runs. Therefore, going into the Hillingdon 20 it was really a step into the unknown for her.

For a start, she didn’t know how her injury would hold up, and also, she wasn’t really sure where her fitness would be at in a long distance run. Nevertheless, she was determined to give it go.

The route for the Hillingdon 20 was a five lap course which the competitors would undertake four times. Helen’s grandma actually lived in a house that was on the route, so she knew she’d have some support from family each time she went past.

Originally she was thinking she’d only do three laps max since she hadn’t really done any long distance training runs and had to be cautious with her achilles as well.

After the first lap, she was going well and was looking at sub-3 marathon pace. Of course, it was still early stages though. She continued on for the second lap and impressively, she once again averaged around 6:45 pace which put her bang on target.

Helen O'Neile in action at the Hillingdon 20
Helen’s gran lived on the route so she knew she’d get some good support along the way and even stop off for a quick cuppa if she needed one!

She was convinced the next lap would be her last one and again kept up a remarkably consistent and solid pace. She had been comfortably under 6:50 pace for every mile of that laps, other than the one the hill in it.

When she got round to her gran’s house she was intending to stop there but her mum urged her to keep going and see it through to the end. She was still feeling pretty good so she thought why not, and carried on for one final lap.

Once again, her pace was extremely impressive over the course of the five miles and she saw the race out very strongly. Getting over the finish line in a time of 2 hours 17 minutes and 10 seconds, Helen had done it. She’d managed it at sub-three marathon pace, finishing with an average of 6:49.

That put her in 45th place out of 415 participants who successfully completed the distance. She was also 3rd female overall, which was a quite flabbergasting result under the circumstances. Naturally, Helen was really pleased with her run and was very thankful that her ankle had held up.

It was only Annabel Gummow of Winchester & District who was 4th overall in 2:00:35 and Jen Granger of Southampton who was 16th in 2:06:17 who finished ahead of her.

The overall race was won by George Suthon of Serpentine in a time of 1:56:56. He was followed by John Borton of Thames Valley Harriers who finished in 1:59:00. Jonathan Horan of Ealing Southall Middlesex was the only other man to get in under two hours, finising in 1:59:44.

Considering the lack of training and extremely patchy preparation Helen had had before the race, it was a quite remarkable result that she was still able to run 20 miles at sub-three pace. That would have given her every chance of doing it on the big stage at London.

Due to her injury and the havoc it had caused with her running over the year so far though, Helen was still unsure whether she would actually end up taking to the start line and was contemplating focusing on an autumn marathon instead when she would really be able to do it justice.

Therefore, for her, the fact that London was postponed hasn’t come as such a blow. She now knows that if she can fully recover from her injury and put together a proper block of training, she has the potential to produce an outstanding time at London in October. At last the coronavirus cloud has a silver lining.

Helen O'Neile taking on the Hillingdon 20
It was a fantastic run from Helen and with the injury problems she’s had she had to be extremely pleased with her effort

 

Heather and Helen lap up the scenery at Dorney Lake timed event

Heather Khoshnevis and Helen Ambrosen went to Dorney Lake Timed Event
Bournemouth AC duo Heather Khoshnevis and Helen Ambrosen headed over to Dorney Lake for a timed event where Heather was aiming to run a marathon and Helen taking part in the Six Hour Challenge

If running up and down by the side of a lake several times is your bag then the Dorney Lake Marathon and Six Hour Challenge is probably the event for you.

The marathon consists of ten out and back laps of the private driveway through the nature reserve at Dorney Lake. As for the Six Hour Challenge – that’s basically as many laps as you can fit in or want to do within the timeframe.

Dorney Lake is a renowned world class rowing venue but it also makes a pretty good base for a running event as well, providing a nice long stretch of flat ground with a superbly scenic backdrop.

That was enough to entice two of Bournemouth AC‘s most celebrated divas over to take part in the proceedings. Heather Khoshnevis had signed up for the marathon race and Helen Ambrosen was going for the Six Hour Challenge.

As they arrived at the event, the ladies knew they faced several laps alongside the lake so endurance would be absolutely key, as would mental strength to a certain extent. Luckily that’s something Heather and Helen have in abundance.

Over the course of the event, they had all seasons thrown at them. Warm sunshine, cloudy outbursts of rain, plenty of wind and even a bout of sleety hail.

That didn’t stop Heather from blasting her way through the ten laps in a scintilating time of 3 hours 28 minutes and 54 seconds. That was enough to see her take 5th place overall out of the 54 who completed the marathon distance. She was also 2nd placed lady finishing just 28 seconds behind Robyn Falck who was 4th overall.

Once again, the power of the fabled yellow and blue vest seemed to give Heather an extra lift as she managed a 13 minute improvement her previous best time having done the event twice before.

Heather Khoshnevis after the Dorney Lake Marathon
Heather ran well to complete the full 10 laps to reach marathon distance in 3:28:54 which put her in 5th place overall

It was Heather’s 134th official so she is something of a seasoned veteran when it comes to going the distance. In 2019 alone she completed at least ten different marathons which says a lot of her running prowess, enthusiasm and tenacity.

The overall winner of the marathon race was Simon Staples who completed the 10 laps in 2 hours 52 minutes and 18 seconds. Paul Davies took 2nd place with a time of 3:15:46 and Nathan Powell was 3rd in 3:20:44.

During the six hour challenge, Helen completed five laps, totalling a half marathon distance. She probably would have done more but was just recovering from a cold at the time so didn’t feel she should push it too much.

That was still a good solid two hours worth of running for her so she was pleased to get that under her belt. She completed the five laps in a time of 2:00:51.

Michael Stocks was the overall winner of the Six Hour Challenge, completed a massive 44.5 miles of the duration. Robert Simonfi was 2nd with 36.7 miles with David Goodwin 3rd on 34.1 miles. He was level with Kristian Tierney but did it in quicker time.

Szabine Simonyi was the leading lady, completing 31.4 miles, putting her 7th overall. Dimi Booth and Margaret Husein were 2nd and 3rd lady respectively, with both finishing on 28.8 miles, although Dimi had a faster time.

Heather and Helen stopped off at the service station on the way back where the young Costa assistant asked if they had attended a stag do. They were both wearing their BAC hoodies with their names on it so that provoked the question. Heather assumed he meant hen do though! If they had been, running so many laps up and down next to Dorney Lake would have been an interesting choice of hen do activity!

Heather Khoshnevis and Helen Ambrosen after the Dorney Lake Timed Event
They hadn’t been to a hen party but Heather and Helen had run several laps alongside Dorney Lake and earned a nice bit of bling

 

 

 

 

JJ Ox sets his stall out in Sherborne 10k

Julian Oxborough is ready for the Sherborne 10k
In his first race of the year, Julian Oxborough went all out in the Sherborne 10k which was staged on roads around Sherborne Sports Centre

The sun popped out for a rare appearance over recent weeks and a beautiful spring morning awaited the 200 or so runners who had signed up for the Sherborne 10k. That included Bournemouth AC resurgent Julian Oxborough who was using the race as a training base as he works toward the London Landmark Half Marathon on 29th March.

Over the past nine weeks Julian has been following a strict training plan designed by Adam Holland who is now coaching him. Adam holds the world record for running a total of 10 marathon in 10 days, all of which he completed in under three hours.

The plan itself is to help Julian achieve his goals over the distances he has targeted and it’s one that he now feels comfortable with. Julian feels he has more potential over middle distance races and is looking to make improvements in that area where possible.
One of his targets at this stage is to run a sub-60-minute 10k and that’s one he’s currently getting very close to.

The Sherborne 10k started off just outside Sherborne Sports Centre and was remarkably well organised with the option to enter on the day. It started at 9am so Julian had plenty of time to relax after collecting his number and get warmed up and focused for the task ahead.

Warm up for the Sherborne 10k
The runners go through their warm up routine before the race gets underway

The course was set on open roads with the first mile taking Julian and his contemporaries around the town area. Julian managed to get into the middle of the pack and felt more relaxed in the early stages then he ever has before in a race.

The first mile was relatively smooth running but Julian knew the hills would be beckoning on the horizon after that. He went through the first mile at 10:20 pace which wasn’t a bad opener.

The hills came into play at about 1.5 miles, when a long steady climb led up the country lane. Julian went through the second mile in 10:36 before embarking upon the third mile which was all uphill. The fourth mile then followed which was again virtually all uphill. These were Julian’s slowest miles of the race at 13:47 and 13:07.

Julian heads toward the finish
Julian heads towards the finish after tackling the gruelling hilly route

With the climbs over and done with it started to get easier from there and Julian went all out on the fifth mile registering a 9:52. Completing the last  mile in 10:54, his official finishing time was 1:10:55.

That was a big improvement on his last 10k time of 1:14:44 that he set at Glastonbury last May. Julian is feeling good about how his training has gone thus far and feels he’s made some good strides forwards. He’s hoping this year will prove to be his best since his comeback to running.

Sherborne 10k medal
The medal Julian received after completed the Sherborne 10k

His benchmark for the London Landmark Half Marathon is 2 hours 30 minutes and he’s feeling optimistic about getting to where he needs to be to achieve that goal. Julian has also recently been accepted to represent the South West Vets Club for the British Masters which has given him an exciting new incentive.

Julian Oxborough at the Sherborne 10k
It was a step in the right direction for Julian as he works toward his goal of a sub 2:30 at the London Landmark Half Marathon

Damian Boyle hits Up on the Downs Half Marathon

Damian Boyle in the Up on the Downs Half Marathon
With the promise of beautiful, rural, farmland setting, Damian Boyle pencilled his name on the list for the Up on the Downs Half Marathon put on by Tricounties Trail Running

The Up on the Downs event consisted of a half marathon and a 10k race was put on by Tricounties Trail Running. As the name suggests, it features and undulating route in lovely rural setting, starting and finishing at Tenantry Farm.

The routes are 95% trail, heading across a variety of terrain over unspoilt farmland, footpaths and bridleways. That along with the promise of some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside, an ancient woodland, quaint  cottages and historic landmarks proved too much to resist for Damian Boyle and he simply had to get involved.

Often working nightshifts on a Saturday night as well, Damian often has to tackle Sunday races off the back of a night of no sleep which makes it even harder for him than it is for average competitor.

Certainly no stranger to tough races though, in his last big race Damian completed the 78.5 mile Thwarted Rebellion race, over very wet and muddy Welsh countryside terrain. Over the course of the race he also wracked up an elevation gain of 14,000ft.

He’s also the 100k Ultra Trail Cape Town which included Table Mountain amongst it’s many high peaks. He’s also conquered the CCC race at the UTMB which he did in 2018. That was 101km in distance with 6,100m of elevation.

Although the half marathon route was pretty undulating and muddy underfoot, Damian enjoyed the run and appreciated the lovely views on offer, just as he did the cake afterwards.

As he usually tends to, Damian excelled over the testing farmland terrain and managed to complete the full, 14.3 mile route in 1 hour 55 minutes and four seconds. That was good enough to see him finish in 5th place in the overall standings.

Of course, that made it a little longer than the standard half marathon distance but, as Andy Gillespie would say, it’s more bang for your buck!!

The fastest man over the distance was Fred Sampson who came in at 1:51:10, so not a long way ahead of Damian by any stretch. Josh Hignell took third place in 1:51:54, then it was Andy Bryce and Dan Prince who both finished in exactly one hour 55 minutes, marginally ahead of Damian.

A total of 105 runners successfully negotiated the extended half marathon course. 111 participants completed the 10k race that also formed part of the event.

Joseph Morrison in the Up on the Downs 10k
Joseph Morrison used to train with Bournemouth AC and he was competing in the 10k race

That included Joseph Morrison who used to train with Bournemouth AC in the Tuesday night sessions on the promenade. He finished in 6th place, clocking a time of 1:03:45.

Over the course of the half marathon route, Damian wracked up a total of 1,411 ft of elevation, which demonstrates that it had it’s fair share of lumps and bumps. His average pace for the run was still 8:02, which is pretty good given the nature of the inclines.

After the event, Damian overheard some of the 10k racers describe the course as brutal. He believes that’s a word that gets banded about far too much these days though. ‘Muddy and ‘slightly hilly’ would have been closer to the mark as far as he’s concerned. And that’s coming from a man who has certainly done his share of ‘brutal’ races!!

Damian Boyle taking on the Up on the Downs Half Marathon
Damian can be seen here just in the background behind Dan Prince

 

 

BAC team win at Wimborne 20

Stu Nicholas and Rich Brawn with team prize trophies at Wimborne 20
Stu Nicholas and Rich Brawn were amongst five Bournemouth AC members taking part at the Wimborne 20 along with Steve Way, Pete Thompson and Estelle Slatford

In what turned out to be a breath of fresh air in comparison to recent weekend days, the weather decided to be kind for once and that inconspicuous yellow object in the sky came out to show its face on the morning of the Wimborne 20.

With little respite from the raging storms in the build up to the race, it was nice to have a break from the cold and rain that been prominent over recent times.

That seemed to put everyone in a good mood and there was a nice vibe about the place when all the runners gathered at the race venue to prepare for the start.

One thing that is synonymous with all the races at Wimborne organised by Wimborne AC is that they have managed to maintain their old school, no frills approach to racing. You just turn up, get your number and run.

Many of those who had put themselves forward for the Wimborne 20 were in training for Spring marathons. Rich Brawn was using it as a training run as he worked towards what he was hoping at the time would be a London Marathon appearance.

Estelle Slatford was hoping the race would help her in her quest for fitness for the Paris Marathon and Stu Nicholas was building up for the Brighton Marathon which was scheduled for the week before London. All those marathons have of course subsequently fallen by the wayside in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

A couple of Bournemouth AC legends were also present in the field in the shape of Pete Thompson and Steve Way. Pete was also down for London and has been running very well of late and Steve was there running with his friend Tim Jones, despite insisting on his retirement from competitive racing.

The line up also included Lonely Goat man Andy Leggott, Twemlow Track Club’s Richard Swindlehust and Tom Andrews of Lytchett Manor Striders as well as Egdon Heath Harriers pair Bruce Campbell and Paul Bullimore.

There was also some good competition in the ranks amongst the women in the race, with last season’s Dorset Road Race League champion Alex Door in action, along with Diana Leggott of Lonely Goat and Emily Freeman of Poole Runners.

Before they started the race Rich was discussing his plans with Stu and Pete and mentioned that he was looking to run any miles that didn’t have hills at 6:30 pace.

When they got going Stu and Rich started off running together and Stu said he’d be happy to run with Rich at 6:30 pace so they set about doing that.

It was quite a hilly three lap course so Rich knew it would be tough to maintain that pace all the way through but he thought having Stu there would help him keep it up for as long as possible. They then got into a group with Richard Swindlehurst and the hometown hope Damian Huntingford of Wimborne AC.

Rich Brawn and Stu Nicholas in the Wimborne 20
Rich (left) and Stu (right) formed part of a mini group along with Richard Swindlehurst (middle) and Damian Huntingford

The group stayed together up until around about 11 and a half miles when the hit the hills on the second lap. Rich began to struggle at that point and started to lose tough with the group.

Once that happened Rich found it quite mentally tough to keep pushing and his pace began to drop. He was also aware that he had the National Inter Counties Cross Country on the following Saturday as well where he’d qualified to represent Dorset. For that reason he thought it might be wise to just ease off a touch for the remainder of the race and not run himself into the ground.

Stu pushed on at that point along with Richard Swindlehurst and they set about working their way up the field.

Having started off at a steady pace, Pete had begun to ramp it up a bit and before long he caught Rich up and overtook him. From that point on, Pete also worked his way up the field, going very strongly as he did.

Pete Thompson at the Wimborne 20
Pete Thompson started off steady but gradually moved through the gears and worked his way up the field

From miles 16 to 19, Rich was down to around 7 minute-per-mile pace and the constant hills had ground him down somewhat. He was overtaken by Paul Bullimore and Bruce Campbell over that phase of the race, as well as Alexander Whitting of Winchester & District.

Despite his conservative first two laps, Stu picked it up well on the third lap and finishing very strongly, working his way up to third place in the end. He finished in a time of 2:07:58, which considering he’d helped Rich out for the first 11 miles, was very impressive.

Also finishing extremely strongly on the third lap, Pete ended up crossing the line not far behind Stu, taking 5th place in a time of 2:08:07. That was enough to net him the prize for first MV35-39.

He came in just two seconds after Richard Swindlehurst who was fourth and first MV50-54 in 2:08:05. Joseph Donworth of Frome Running Club won the race convincingly, clocking a time of 2:00:28. Andy Leggott was over 2-and-a-half minutes back but he took second place in 2:03:05.

Stu Nicholas after taking 3rd place at Wimborne 20
Stu ended the day in third place after progressing through the field well over the second half of the race

Sixth place went to Adam Slater of Bridport Runners and he was also first MV40-44 finishing in 6th place in 2:08:58. Tom Andrews had a cracking run to get over the line in 2:09:37 which earned him 7th place in the overall standings.

Philip Mosley of New Forest Runners took 8th place, finishing in 2:10:30. Next in it was Damian Huntingford who was the first Wimborne AC runner to complete the race. He secured 9th place, finishing in 2:10:42.

Running it in progressive blocks, Paul Bullimore took 11th place, crossing the line in 2:11:44. Bruce Campbell also went with a similar strategy and arrived at the finish in 13th place registering a time of 2:12:17.

Stu Nicholas with 3rd male trophy at Wimborne 20
After helping to pace Rich over the first half of the race, Stu did well to work his way up to third place

After slowing substantially over the latter stages of the race, Rich ended up taking 17th place, completing the course in 2:13:01. Although he was disappointed that his levels dropped over the second half of the race, he was still reasonably pleased with his average pace of 6:40, particularly on such an undulating route.

Rich will soon get another crack at running a 20-mile race at his intended marathon pace when he takes on the Milton Keynes 20 this coming Sunday.

Despite stopping off for a loo break half the way through which set him back a couple of minutes, Steve managed to find the change of gear required to catch his friend Tim up.

That meant upping his pace considerably over the second half of the race but no doubt Steve secretly enjoyed stretching his legs for a bit anyway. He crossed the line in 22nd place in 2:15:35, with Tim coming in in 23rd in 2:15:41.

Steve Way at the Wimborne 20
After a necessary detour, Steve Way rolled back the years in a bid to catch his mate up

Susan Duncan is Weston AC was first lady in, arriving at the finish in 28th place posting a time of 2:17:23. She was followed by Emily Freeman who crossed the line in 2:18:12 to take 32nd place.

Sarah Flanagan of Eton Manor AC was third lady and first FV 40-44 coming in in 2:21:09 which put her in 39th place. Alex Door handled the hilly course well and was next over the line, registering a time of 2:21:25.

Sarah Gurney of Winchester & District was fifth female and first FV40-44, reaching the finish in 2:23:57. That put her just ahead of Diana Leggott who was 44th overall in a time of 2:24:05.

Estelle Slatford in the Wimborne 20
Although it was hillier than she’d remembered, Estelle Slatford did well to maintain a good pace

Managing to keep her pace fairly consistent throughout most of the race, Estelle completed the course in 3:03:35 which put her in 142nd place overall and 37th lady. That also put her in 9th place in the FV 45-49 bracket. A total of 227 runners made it round successfully on the day.

With Stu taking third place, Pete taking fifth and Rich coming in in 17th, that was enough to see the Bournemouth AC trio take home the men’s team prize. They each received a Wimborne trademark, wooden carved trophy.

Stu Nicholas and Rich Brawn with team prizes at Wimborne 20
Stu and Rich formed part of the winning male team along with Pete, who had had to leave before the prizes were handed out

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tag and Ant Clark deliver big performances in Vitality Big Half

Rob McTaggart in the Vitality Big Half
Tag has a history of running well at the Big Half and he was hoping for another fast time in the 2020 event

Having securing a new PB in both previous years of the Big Half Marathon, Rob McTaggart returned to London to see if he could make it three in succession.

He’d certainly made it hard for himself this year after recording his first ever sub-69-minute time at the Cardiff Half Marathon in October. That time of 68:56 was going to take some beating.

Tag always seems to do well in the Big Half though so it certainly wasn’t out of the question that he could come up trumps again. He’s been hitting some big mileage in training, consistently churning out close to 100 mile weeks in preparation for London and the signs suggested he was in good form.

Running a 31:45 at Chichester the previous month would have served as a big confidence booster, especially since he didn’t feel completely on top of his game that day.

Before he did the Telford 10k in December, Tag had struggled to hit the sub-32-minute mark for quite some time, so to do it twice in succession was a clear sign of progression.

This year Tag was joined in the race by his Bournemouth AC teammate Ant Clark, along with several others from the Twemlow Track Club brigade.

Following a long lay off after contracting Epstein Barr Virus last summer, Ant has had to ease himself back into running, slowly but surely, and is now beginning to come back into some really good form.

Finishing the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in 77:25, Ant surprised himself in finding that he’s not actually in bad shape at all. Ever since then he’d been wracking up the miles in training and has been going at a very good pace in some of his longer training runs which suggest his fitness is getting back to something close to where it was.

But what kind of performance could he deliver in his first really big race since recovering from the illness? That was the question.

The course for the Vitality Big Half is quite similar to much of the London Marathon route, only it’s in reverse, so it starts off at Tower Bridge and finishes at the Cutty Sark. The course passes through the boroughs of Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Greenwich.

The day didn’t get off to an ideal start for Tag though after he waited 45 minutes for a train to turn up at Richmond Station. That left him just 29 minutes to run to the Championship area, dump his bag and get in the start pen. Thankfully he just about made it in time though and set off on his way.

As usual, the field was brimming with talent and this year included one of the world’s fastest distance runners in Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia. He ran the Berlin Marathon just two seconds slower than Eliud Kipchoge’s world record so is expected to challenge the Kenyan all the way in the London Marathon this year.

Marius Kipserem of Kenya was also in the line up along with Chris Thompson who looked like he could be the main challenger from the British perspective.

There also were some top British ladies hoping to take out the women’s win including Lily Partidge, Samantha Harrison and Stephanie Davis.

In last year’s race, Tag ended up running alongside Steph Twell for the vast majority of the race. She was the leading woman at the time which meant he got a lot of air time of TV, along with his BAC teammate Craig Palmer.

In this year’s race it was Samantha Harrison who took the race by the scruff of the neck in the early stages and there was a point where Tag was running alongside her which meant, once again, he made it onto BBC red button coverage.

Tag with Samantha Harrison in the Vitality Big Half
Tag was running alongside leading lady Samantha Harrison in the early stages

The pace Samantha was going at wasn’t quite what Tag had in mind though so after the first couple of miles, he began to push on and move through the gears.

Going through the first 5k in 15:55, Tag had found a good group to run with for the next five miles or so. He went though the 10k point of the race in 32:10.

Tag goes through tunnel in the Vitality Big Half
Tag soon accelerated away from Samantha and moved up the gears to settle into a quicker pace

Then, on the ninth mile he decided it was time to leave that group and go it alone. That meant he was in for a tough last five miles and the blustery conditions made it very hard graft for him out there on his own.

Going at around 5:20 pace from miles 10 to 14, Tag had put himself in a potential PB position. He finished strongly with a 5:06 for the last mile. That got him over the line in a stunning new PB time of 1:08:29.

After finishing the race, he was promptly sick, which just goes to show how much he put into it.

Just as he did last year, Tag had come in in 41st place, which wasn’t bad at all in a field of over 22,000 runners. It was 27 seconds quicker than his time in the Cardiff Half Marathon so he was over the moon with that.

As for Ant, he went through the 5k point in 16:59, then got to 10k in 34:24. He wasn’t quite as fast over the second half of the race but was still going at around 5:40 pace for most of the miles with a couple of them a bit quicker.

Ant Clark finishing the Vitality Big Half
The BBC TV cameras capture Ant as he heads down the home straight

The BBC cameras caught him heading down the finishing straight as he was coming in at around the same time as Jenny Spink who was the 8th placed lady.

Clocking a time of 1:14:10, Ant finished in 161st place overall. That was his third fastest half marathon time so it was a cracking result and a real boost for him to know he’s getting back to something close to his best form.

Ant Clark in action in the Vitality Big Half
Ant sped through to a 1:14:10 finish which put him in 161st place

Kenenisa Bekele picked up a convincing win in the end, setting a new course record of 1:00:22. A very gutsy performance from Chris Thompson saw him attack aggressively from the outset and go head-to-head with Bekele. He ultimately had a settle for second place though, finishing in 1:01:07.

In the women’s race, Samantha Harrison was out front for a substantial part of the race but Lily Partridge caught her up in the end and proved to be the stronger of the two, taking out the victory in a time of 1:10:50. Samantha took 2nd place 1:11:01 with Stephanie Davis arriving shortly after to seal 3rd in 1:11:15.

Ant Clark in the Vitality Big Half
It was another stepping stone for Ant on the road back to his best form

Both Ant and Tag will be feeling optimistic about their prospects in the London Marathon and other races going forward after their Big Half runs.

Although he was very pleased with his time, on a perfect day and with perfect conditions, Tag feels sure he has an even faster half marathon time in his locker.

Tag in action in the Vitality Big Half
With another half marathon PB safely in the bank it was a job well done for Tag as he continues to build for the London Marathon

 

 

 

 

 

Sanjai and Graeme get themselves up for the Wokingham Half Marathon

Sanjai Sharma and Graeme Miller in the Wokingham Half Marathon
As a regular part of their London Marathon training routine, Sanjai Sharma and Graeme Miller were in action at the Wokingham Half Marathon

Usually serving as a key race on the road to London for Graeme Miller and Sanjai Sharma, the Wokingham Half Marathon presented them with the opportunity to assess where they’re at with their fitness in preparation for the big event.

Judging by the pace of some of the long training runs he’d been producing recently though, Graeme would have already known that he was running well and in good form. But of course, the proof of the pudding is being able to display it in races.

He had already performed well at the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon on New Year’s Day, finishing in 10th place that day and coming in ahead of some good quality Twemlow Track Club runners.

Unfortunately for Sanjai, his training hadn’t been going quite so well and he wasn’t feeling as positive. Work commitments and the atrocious weather conditions of late had made it very difficult for him to get in the quality or quantity of sessions he usually would.

Every year Sanjai takes part in the Bramley 20 as well which would have been a good training run for him and a good opportunity to gage his progress. Sadly that, along with many other races over the past few weeks, fell foul to the storms and was cancelled as a result.

That made the Wokingham Half Marathon even more important to him as it now represented his first chance of the year to test himself in a race environment.

That said, the Wokingham Half Marathon itself was also under threat due to the obscene amount of rainfall. In fact, on the Monday of the race week itself, some sections of the course were completely under water and bore more resemblance to a river than they did a road.

The race organizers were determined to do what they could to ensure the race went ahead though and even had contingency plan routes they could switch to if need be.

In the lead up to the race, Graeme found himself checking the weather conditions on what seemed like an hourly basis. He wasn’t looking forward to running in 45 mile-per-hour winds and was worried that Storm Dennis would scupper his chances of achieving his goal of a sub-80-minute finish.

Wokingham was actually the venue where Graeme recorded his half marathon PB of 1:15:38 back in 2015, so he knew it would be a good opportunity to go quick if he was feeling good. His last time competing in the race was 2018 where he recorded a time of 1:19:20.

Sanjai also has an impressive resume when it comes to the Wokingham Half Marathon. He’s consistently produced good solid performances there and from 2016, to 2018 he recorded times of 1:21:11, 1:21:13 and 1:21:08. Last year he completed the course in 1:21:55.

The first mile of the route contained a bit of downhill enabling the competitors to get off to a ferociously fast start. Graeme went out hard recording a 5:43 first mile.

He soon found himself in a nice group and began ticking the miles off. He managed to maintain sub-6-minute mile pace for the next four miles.

The strong winds were playing havoc with his asthma though and he got dropped from the group he was running with. He dug in and worked hard to get back in contact with the group only to get dropped again a mile or so later when they hit another section of high winds.

Graeme Miller in the Wokingham Half Marathon
Although he had to combat Storm Dennis on the way, Graeme still managed to maintain a fast pace throughout the run

His pace was still pretty good though and he was going at just over 6-minutes-per-mile pace up to the 11th mile. At that point his left abductor tightened up though and he struggled to run over the last few miles.

Mile 11 was his slowest of the race at 6:25 but he battled on to pick the pace up again and carry on till the end, posting a 6:08 and a 6:03 for the last couple of miles.

Arriving at the finish in a terrific time of 1:18:47 which put him in 88th place overall in a field of 2,632 runners. In the M45 category he was 5th out of 238. That was Graeme‘s fastest half marathon since he recorded that epic PB back in 2015.

As for Sanjai, he didn’t fare quite so well and ended up recording his worst half marathon time for quite a number of years. Crossing the line in 1:28:19, he finished up in 332nd position overall. That put him 18th out of 142 in the M55 category.

Sanjai Sharma in the Wokingham Half Marathon
Sanjai’s time didn’t quite match up to what he’d produced in previous years

Of course that’s still a time that most runners would be pleased with but for Sanjai, he’s used to performing at a much higher level.

Hopefully once the weather improves a bit he’ll be able to vamp his training up though and there is still plenty of time for him to get into reasonable shape, if he’s able to get a decent block of sessions in over the rest of the month and the beginning of next month.

Although really he should really be happy to achieve what he set out to, when Graeme reflects back on it, there is still a tinge of frustration there as he knows he could have gone faster had it not been for his abductor tightening and his asthma.

If anything, it’s a good sign though that, even after such an impressive performance, there is still scope for him to get faster. That can only bode well for his London Marathon prospects when the big day arrives.

Sanjai Sharma and Graeme Miller at the Wokingham Half Marathon
The Wokingham Half Marathon brought about mixed fortunes for Sanjai and Graeme