In the first race of a Dorset Road Race League double header over the first two August weekends, a steely Bournemouth AC squad headed out for the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon.
Team captain Rich Nelson had once again worked wonders to pull together a super-strong men’s team that looked more than capable of challenging for top honours.
With the likes of Jacek Cieluszecki, Rob Spencer, Toby Chapman and Jon Sharkey all down on the list, it was a mouthwatering line up for the yellow and blue army.
Unfortunately, in the week leading up to race a late reshuffle was required when Rob Spencer was called out to work and Jon Sharkey was forced to pull out.
Rob was hoping to be around but works offshore in the oil industry so when he gets the call, he has to be on hand to head out to whatever the designated location. That means it’s not always guaranteed he’ll be able to make any race he signs up for.
That was a big blow as he would have been a major contender to follow up his victory at the Purbeck 10k with another win, but alas, it was not to be.
That left a void of two places that needed to be filled and it turned out to be two Bournemouth AC legends that stepped up to the plate. Having not run a longer distance than six miles since he was forced to abandon the Comrades Marathon with a hamstring tear, Steve Way was back in action.
He wasn’t expecting to run well after having been out for so long and knew his fitness wasn’t anywhere near what it normally is. He was intending to run it with a friend of his who was marathon training though, so was planning to take it nice and steady, with the simple aim of just getting round.
It had also been a while since Pete Thompson had been seen in competitive race action but he’d been getting in some decent training over recent times and was feeling in reasonable shape.
Word had got around that he was in quite good form as well and the previous day, he’d finished first at Bournemouth parkrun. Unfortunately he didn’t bring a barcode so it didn’t go down in the results, but it was a good sign that his fitness was there and he was ready to put in a performance.
They had back up as well, with Stu Nicholas, Mitch Griffiths, Richard Brawn and Matt du Cros also signed up, along with decorated veterans Ian Graham and Andy Gillespie.
There was also a ladies team expected, with Tamzin Petersen, Helen Ambrosen and Lucy du Cros all registered for BAC. On the morning of the race though, Lucy decided to give it a miss after suffering the after effects of an extremely late night the previous evening which meant she’d had minimal sleep.
She still turned out to support her brother Matt though who knew he had to run. Matt is going for the fidelity award this year which you get for taking part in all 12 of the Dorset Road Race League fixtures.
Unfortunately, with Lucy dropping out that meant there would be no scoring team for the ladies which was a bit of a disappointment. Nevertheless, Tamzin and Helen were determined to fulfill their part of the bargain and get out there and give their all.
After getting called over to Dubai on a work trip, Mitch Griffiths was also unable to make it to the race. The assignment would also keep him out of the Round the Rock 10k the following weekend as well so that was a double blow for Mitch, especially as he was to retain his Dorset Road Race League category win that he collected last season.
Realising that he wasn’t required to make up a scoring team and since he wasn’t needed for a lift on this occasion either, Ian decided to not to go in the end. He had been planning to switch his entry to the 5k instead of the half marathon but opted to save his energy for his forthcoming walking holiday across Scotland.
Andy Gillespie suffers from shingles from time-to-time and he was actually hoping someone else might step in to take his place. But there were no takers so he showed up ready to tow the line. It was a week before he was due to join the 100 Marathon Club by completing the 5,4,3,2,1 Salisbury 50k.
One good thing from a BAC perspective was that JC was there and that meant there was a good chance they’d have the race winner in their ranks. Jacek wasn’t a hundred percent confident though.
As a consequence of training for the 120km UTMB, he’d done very little speed work in the run up to the Stur Half. All his training had been geared toward lengthy and high elevation sessions as opposed to fast running on the road.
He had had one run out at Poole parkrun but had been beaten that day by both Rob Spencer and Lee Dempster. Lee was also in the line up at the Stur Half so he was liable to pose a threat.
On the morning of the race it was an overcast day and it seemed like virtually ideal running conditions. That was a stark contrast to the previous year when it was blistering hot sunshine.
Once they got going though, the runners could tell it was actually quite humid. There wasn’t that same coastline breeze that you usually get around the Bournemouth and Poole area as Sturminster Newton is a bit more inland.
The course started from Station Road, just outside Railway Gardens but rather than an out-and-back, it was more a kind of loop but finishing on the High School playing field where the race HQ was situated.
In the early going, it was JC at the front of race, setting the pace alongside Toby Chapman and Lee Dempster. They were also joined by Jamie Hinton, who doesn’t run for any of the Dorset Road Race League clubs but looked pretty useful.
Lee decided his best chance of coming out on top was to take the race on, so he laid down the gauntlet, opening out an advantage over the rest of the field.
Jamie and Jacek were in hot pursuit though and were in no mood to let Lee out of their sights. Jacek in particular was not going to concede defeat that easily and sat in behind waiting for the right moment to pounce.
It was exactly at the six mile point that JC caught Lee up and went past him. There must have been a sigh and a rolling of the eyes from Lee as Jacek assumed the reigns and went hurtling off.
The same thing had happened in the last half marathon race they’d clashed in which was the Puddletown Plod, and Jacek went on to win that day. It now looked very much like it was going to happen again at the Stur Half.
Once he takes the lead in a race, Jacek invariably doesn’t relinquish it from there, so Lee knew his chances of picking up the victory had probably evaporated with that move.
Jacek carried on pushing and managed to extend his lead at the front to around about a minute-and-a-half before making it to the line in a highly impressive time of 1:14:42.
Considering his lack of speedwork, that was an excellent run from JC and he naturally he was overjoyed with the result. Lee had once again had to settle for 2nd place, coming over the line in 1:16:18.
He was followed by Jamie Hinton shortly after, with Jamie taking 3rd place in a time of 1:16:40. Then it was Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat who paced the run well to take 4th place in 1:17:19.
Weighing in with a mightily impressive performance, Stu Nicholas took 5th place and was 2nd scorer for BAC, crossing the line in a time of 1:17:50.
That was an excellent performance from Stu and showed that even though he’d been training hard for his Rat Race 100k along the South West Coast Path, he hadn’t lost any of his speed on the road.
That was a very good sign and a huge confidence booster going into his first ever 100k. It was also an improvement of almost five minutes on his time from last year.
Bournemouth AC’s leading contenders for the Dorset Road Race League title are Egdon Heath Harriers and they had their first man over the line when Paul Bullimore arrived to seal 6th place in a time of 1:18:03.
Chris Wood of Wimborne was 7th in 1:18:41 with Richard Swindlehurst of Poole AC taking 8th in 1:18:48.
Toby Chapman didn’t have one of his best runs coming in at 9th place in a time of 1:19:20. Ordinarily he would have been much quicker and would have been a lot closer to the front but he wasn’t firing on all cylinders that day.
It was still well worth the trip though for Toby as his presence had massively boosted the club’s chances of taking top spot for the fixture in the Dorset Road Race League. Plus, living in Somerset, it isn’t too often Toby gets to travel round this way for a race so it was really good to see him there.
Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders completed the top ten, crossing the line in 1:20:35, with Duncan Ward of Dorset Doddlers arriving in 11th place with a time of 1:21:07. Then it was Bournemouth AC’s fourth man to finish, Pete Thompson, taking 12th place with an excellent time of 1:21:28.
Starting off quite steadily at first, Pete grew into race, gradually picking up the pace and moving through the field as did so. He didn’t even have a watch so he wasn’t concerned about time or pace. He just ran it entirely on how he felt and that proved to be a tactic that worked well for him.
It’s in line with Pete’s general approach to running now, which is basically just to enjoy it instead of getting so caught up with statistics and going to all kinds of lengths to get the best out of himself.
It was that competitive element that really effected Pete mentally in the past and the obsession ended up consuming him. He’s now in a much better place though and is just enjoying his running with putting any pressure on himself to deliver outrageous times.
That left BAC needing just one more member to come in to complete their scoring team of five for the men’s Dorset Road Race League points.
That man was Rich Brawn, who arrived at the finish in 1:24:34 to take 20th place in the overall standings. Rich had been suffering from a heel injury in the weeks leading up to the race and had had his foot taped up by the club physio on the Tuesday before the race, after his training session.
He’d been told not to run on it after that until the day of the race so that’s what a did. Keeping the tape on to alleviate the pressure from his heel throughout the week, Rich was full of energy come race day on the Sunday.
However, his heel soon began to hurt on the day before he’d even started running and he knew he was in for a tough morning. The pain was often manageable but over a half marathon distance he knew it was likely to effect him.
The first three or four miles of the race went okay but he soon began to experience problems. The heel was too painful to put pressure on so he had to put his weight more toward the front of the foot if possible. That made it difficult for him to use his strength to help him go quicker.
It became a bit of a slog for Rich and he knew he wasn’t running well and wasn’t going to be close to the 1:23 PB he set at the Puddletown Plod in June.
Managing to drag himself up the hill that went from mile 11 to most of the way through mile 12, Rich caught and overtook Neil Sexton from Poole Runners, which he thought must have meant he’d had a half decent run. He’d also overtaken Charlie Lawson from Egdon Heath Harriers as well, which he knew could be crucial in the Dorset Road Race League battle.
It was then just a downhill path by the side of the school field before turning in and heading down the finishing straight. As he approached he could see the time was around 1:24:30 which he was really disappointed with.
In fact, it wasn’t much of an improvement on his time of 1:25:16 from last year and he felt he should have been on a different level to what he was then. It was also a minute-and-a-half down on his time at the Puddletown Plod on what should have been, if anything, a slightly easier course, so that was disappointing for Rich.
The silver lining was though that BAC had taken out the team win and that was the most important thing so in that respect, he was pleased.
Next to make his presence felt on the home straight for BAC, it was the great Steve Way. He’d run it with his friend Tim Jones from Poole Runners at roughly the pace he said he was going to, crossing the line in 1:35:49. That put him in 71st place overall.
Since it was his longest run since being sidelined after Comrades though, Steve was pretty happy with that and it was certainly a step in the right direction. No doubt he’ll be back fighting fit looking more like the Steve Way we all know and love some time soon.
Coming in not too far behind Steve, and as the next BAC member over the line, it was Matt du Cros, who finished 77th in a time of 1:37:47.
That was nowhere near as fast a time as he’s capable but with very minimal training behind him, he was relatively pleased with that effort. Plus it was another notch on his way to the fidelity award which was the most important thing from Matt’s perspective.
Next in for the yellow and blue army and first lady for the club, it was Tamzin Petersen. She’d found it pretty tough going in the humid conditions, especially since the course seemed to be mostly uphill. That left her feeling pretty tired by the time she reached the latter stages.
With her energy levels low, the final climb seemed like a real drag and it she found it difficult to haul herself up, but she did it in the end, reaching the finish in a time of 1:52:39.
That put her in 152nd place overall and 22nd lady on the day. She was also 2nd in the Senior Female category. Although it was 10 minutes slower than the half marathon PB time she’d set at the Fleet Pre-London earlier in the year, it was still an improvement of 7 minutes on her time from last year. That might have been partly due to the fact she didn’t stop at the aid station for ages eating sweets and drinking Vimto this time round though.
Next over the line for BAC, it was marathon guru Andy Gillespie, who came in at 1:54:09. That put him in 157th place overall and 9th in the V60 category.
Having been fairly adamant that he wouldn’t be running any sort of a fast time on the day, it was actually a fairly pleasing performance from Andy and he was glad to make it through unscathed.
There have been times when Andy has sacrificed his entries in races for the good of the team, enabling someone else faster to take up the place. He’d sometimes found that to be detrimental to his own performance in future marathons and coastal challenges though so it was good that he’d kept his number for this fixture.
Completing the Stur Half meant that he could now switch his focus to the impending Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 race, where he would finally become a marathon centurion.
After starting off too fast, Helen Ambrosen found herself in troubled waters as the race progressed. Her pace soon began to wane when the hills came into play and the humid conditions did not help her plight.
She was finding it so tough that she even stopped running on a couple of occasions. Luckily she found the character to continue onto the end though, despite the difficulties, and ended up crossing the line in a time of 2:00:42.
Whilst it wasn’t her finest hour, or rather, her finest two hours, she still took 2nd place in the women’s V60 category and was 188th overall and 42nd lady over the line.
As far as the team prizes for the race went, it was a victory for Bournemouth AC, with Jacek, Stu and Toby emerging as the top trio. Lytchett Manor Striders took 2nd with Lee Dempster, Scott Parfitt and Mark Ormonde in their top three. Then it was Egdon Heath Harriers, with Paul Bullimore, Arthur Simon and Charlie Lawson.
For the Dorset Road Race League men’s first division, it was a resounding win for Bournemouth AC, with the team of JC (1st), Stu (5th), Toby (7th), Pete (10th) and Rich (15th) reigning supreme. Egdon Heath Harriers took 2nd with Dorset Doddlers in 3rd.
The first female to cross the line on the day was Kirsteen Welch of Sidmouth RC who completed the course in 1:24:56. That put her in 23rd place overall.
Alexandra Door of Egdon Heath Harriers was 2nd female, stepping over the line in 1:32:39 to put her in 56th place overall. Then it was Gemma Russhard who took 3rd lady in a time of 1:35:20, putting her 66th overall. A total of 309 athletes successfully completed the course.
Egdon Heath Harriers were victorious in the women’s team competition, with their top three of Alexandra Door, Sophie Elford and Hannah Martyn. Poole Runners were 2nd and Poole AC third. The same also went for the Dorset Road Race League ladies first division.
In terms of the league positions, that left Bournemouth AC in a healthy position at the top of the men’s first division with four wins and two 2nd places to their name.
Egdon Heath Harriers were sitting in 2nd place, with two wins and four 2nd places. After failing to get a team out for the last three fixtures, Poole AC were now languishing well behind in 3rd place and it looks every bit a two-horse race for the title. BAC are though, very much in the driver’s seat it has to be said.
In the ladies first division, Poole Runners are top, just ahead of Egdon Heath Harriers but only by one point. Then it’s Littledown Harriers in 3rd and Bournemouth AC in 4th.
Next it was onto the following Dorset Road Race League fixture which was the Round the Rock 10k, where a very depleted and makeshift BAC men’s team would look to give it their best shot and a ladies team of three were hoping to reinvigorate their challenge in the women’s first division.