It hadn’t been long since those final few fledgling fireworks were sent up to the sky, the last verse of Auld Lang Syne was heard echoing around the bar and the clocks had chimed to mark the dawning of a new year. Thoughts of celebrations and resolutions quickly turned to competitive action on the running circuit as the 2019 season of the Dorset Road Race League got underway.
It is always a tough ask for Rich Nelson to assemble a team together on New Years Day capable of challenging for the top positions at the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon. This year though, Bournemouth AC were boosted by inclusion of last year’s race winner Jacek Cieluszecki and Comrades Marathon hero Steve Way amongst their ranks.
That would at least give them a fighting chance against a strong looking Poole AC line up that boasted last year’s Dorset Road Race League runner up Chris Alborough, along Gareth Alan-Williams and Richard Swindlehurst.
For the BAC ladies’ team, Nikki Sandell was back in road race action, alongside Emma Caplan and Helen Ambrosen as they launched their bid to reclaim the crown off last year’s winners Poole Runners.
It had all the makings of a fiercely fought race that would no doubt set the tone for the season ahead.
The course is a testing two lap route starting and finishing on The Broadway at Broadstone. It incorporates the infamous Gravel Hill, which is a tough incline for even the most accomplished of runners.
Just as he did on the first day of 2018, Jacek Cieluszecki bossed the proceedings, controlling the race well and cruising in for the victory in a time of 35:16.
Having been ill for a week in December, Jacek wasn’t really sure how it was going to go so it was pleasing to get the win, even though he did find Gravel Hill a bit tougher than he did last year. His time was only 15 seconds off what he did in 2018 though, so not a huge difference really.
Picking up from where he left off in 2018, Chris Alborough crossed the line in 2nd place, 36 seconds after JC, registering an impressive time of 35:52. Lee Dempster of Lytchett Manor Striders continued his magnificent recent form to take 3rd place in 35:39.
Philip Bridge of Wells City Harriers was 4th in a time of 36:12, then it was Steve Way completing the top five, reaching the line in a time of 36:35.
Steve said he only entered Broadstone to ensure he didn’t over indulge too much over Christmas and New Year… and it almost worked.
In truth though, he has been putting in some good mileage throughout December and that should help get him ahead of curve in comparison to last year when he was out of action over Christmas with the flu.
Following his incredible podium finish at the Comrades last year, Steve will be back again this time round hoping for another spectacular display. All he needs is five months of perfect, uninterrupted training and he’ll be ready to roll.
Gareth Alan-Williams took 6th place in 37:03, with Jonathan Cooper of Egdon Heath Harriers in 7th with a time of 37:44. Stu Nicholas was the next Bournemouth AC man over the line, taking 8th place with his time of 37:51.
Stu managed a terrific PB at the Christmas 10k a few weeks ago but was unable to replicate those same levels at Broadstone. Although the majority of the course is flat, and should in theory be fast, the long, slight incline of Gravel Hill certainly mixes it up a bit.
Next in for BAC and fourth scorer for the team was Tom Paskins who finished in a time of 40:33 to take 25th place.
Entering the race at least prevented Tom from going out on New Year’s Eve and getting on the beers and his time was over a minute quicker than what he did at Broadstone last year. Therefore, he was glad he made the sacrifice. Plus the weather was a bit better this year as well as it rained throughout the whole race in the 2018 edition.
Coming in a close 2nd place in the ladies‘ race, Emma Caplan crossed the line in a time of 40:51 putting her 28th overall. She was only 31 seconds behind the female race winner Emily Freeman.
For the first couple of miles, Emma ran with Serena O’Connor of Poole Runners but she then edged away from Serena and finished comfortably ahead in the end, with Serena coming in as 3rd placed lady in 42:32.
Completing the scoring men’s scoring team for Bournemouth AC, Matt Du Cros registered a time of 42:19 to take 46th place. Matt hadn’t trained much over the previous two weeks so he was pretty pleased with the result.
Next up it was another hard fought battle for supremacy between Phil Cherrett and Jud Kirk. Going into the race, Phil had quite relaxed expectations since it wasn’t long after the Christmas excesses.
In the first kilometre he was running alongside Emma and Tom, which was great fun but it was something he’d ultimately pay for later on in the race.
Half way up Gravel Hill on the first lap, he doubted that he’d even be able to finish the race but thankfully he kept running and maintained focus whilst he was being overtaken by others.
Managing to recover and return to his own pace, Phil steadied his ship and got back into rhythm before hitting Gravel Hill for the second time. It was still a struggle but only two people went past him this time, so it was less demoralising.
As he rounded the final corner with only a few hundred metres left, Phil felt great. He was proud of himself for how he’d battled on through the difficult moments.
Finding the resolve for a good sprint finish, Phil went past four competitors to finish in 90th place with a time of 45:47. Overall, he was pleased with his run but he is not keen to run up Gravel Hill again any time soon.
Finishing shortly after Phil, in 94th place, was Jud, the defending Dorset Road Race League champion for the 60-64 category. Jud had previously been suffering from a hamstring injury that had put him on the side-lines for most of December.
He seems to have recovered from that now, for the most part, and is looking forward to the challenge of retaining his title in 2019. His main rival for the category win last season was Nigel Haywood of Purbeck Runners and on this occasion, Nigel pipped Jud to the post, taking 2nd place in the 60-69 category. That put Jud in 3rd with his time of 46:02.
Nigel finished 91st in the final standings, with Jud three places behind. The injury was in the back of Jud’s mind though and it may have prevented him from going in full flight mode like he would have done otherwise.
The main goal for Jud though was to get around without aggravating the hamstring and he managed to do that so that was the most important thing.
The second Bournemouth AC lady to complete the course was Nikki Sandell, who finished in 101st place with a time of 46:44. That made her 8th placed female on the day.
She was 46 seconds off the time that she did at Broadstone last year but she got round and that was her main goal. She did enjoy the fact that it wasn’t raining this time.
For the vast majority of last season Nikki was focusing on the pole vault so that brought about quite change from her regular running routine of 2017 when she finished up Dorset Road Race League women’s champion.
Finishing in 130th place in a time of 48:47 it was Steve Parsons. After only running a handful of times in December, including the Round the Lakes 10k on Boxing Day, and succumbing to the temptation of over indulge of the Christmas period, he didn’t think he’d be in great shape going into the race.
Nevertheless, he decided to go off hard and just see what happens. Unfortunately, what he had feared might happen did happen and he blew up on the first ascent up Gravel Hill and never really recovered after that.
He found the rest of the race pretty hard going, with others overtaking him as he made his way round. That is something that never helps the enjoyment.
He’s still pleased to have completed the race though and it at least gives him an indication of where his form lies going into the Imperial Series of three 10-mile road races starting in February.
Recording a cracking time of 50:17, Ian Graham was the first in the 70 plus category to get over the line. His time was an improvement of over six minutes on what he did at Broadstone last year and three minutes quicker than what he did two years ago, so he certainly doesn’t appear to be slowing down with age.
Finishing in 149th place overall, he felt strong all the way round, even on the second ascent up Gravel Hill, which is a really good sign for where his fitness is right now.
The category win earned him a very fine trophy and a bottle of wine and he also received a towel and a certificate for finishing as MV70-74 champion in the Dorset Road Race League for 2018, so it was a very good day for Ian.
Crossing the line in 180th place with a time of 52:44 was the next Bournemouth AC member, Mike White. Despite having a back niggle, Mike enjoyed the race and found it to be a good course for giving honest feedback on the festive excesses.
Last year Mike was over two minutes quicker at Broadstone so he knows he needs to work on his fitness over the coming month. He’s looking forward to getting some club sessions under his belt before taking on the Lytchett 10 in early February.
The third lady over the line for Bournemouth AC and completing the scoring team for the Dorset Road Race League was Helen Ambrosen. She was thrilled to be 1st female over 60 and it was another category win to add to her impressive recent haul.
Her time of 53:35 was over five minutes quicker than what she did at Broadstone last year so all the racing she has been doing recently seems to be paying off. She was 35th female on the day and 193rd overall.
After running well at the Round the Lakes 10k on Boxing Day, club membership secretary Dave Parsons was hoping to follow that up with another solid performance at Broadstone.
Similarly to what happened at Round the Lakes, Dave became embroiled in a battle with a rival of his from the 60-69 age category in Barry Telling of Littledown Harriers.
Much like at Round the Lakes, Dave was strong on the 2nd lap and was able to open up a decent gap over Barry over the last couple of miles.
Finishing in a time of 56:27, Dave finished in 227th place, with Barry Telling coming in in 236th place in a time of 57:10. Dave is enjoying being back out there racing and it’s clear to see that, although not as fast as he used to be, he still has that competitive spirit in him.
Overall there were 434 runners who took part, making it a very successful start to the 2019 running calendar.
As far as the team positions went for the first fixture of the 2019 Dorset Road Race League season, Poole AC came on top in the Men’s First Division, with their best five of Chris Alborough (2nd), Gareth Alan-Williams (6th), Richard Swindlehurst (12th), Steve Cook (17th) and Gary Tissington (20th).
The team of JC (1st), Steve Way (4th), Stu Nicholas (7th), Tom Paskins (22nd) and Matt Du Cros (40th) put Bournemouth AC in 2nd place.
In the Ladies’ First Division, it was reigning champions Poole Runners who got off to a good start, with their top three of Serena O’Connor (2nd), Fern Kimber (3rd) and Isabelle Somers (27th) securing them the win.
Egdon Heath Harriers got 2nd with their trio of Alexandra Door (4th), Hannah Martin (13th) and Stella Campbell (16th). The team of Emma Caplan (1st), Nikki Sandell (6th) and Helen Ambrosen (29th) took 3rd position for Bournemouth AC but it was very tight between all three clubs with only four points separating them.
The next fixture in the Dorset Road Race League is the Lytchett 10 on February 10th, where it is looking like BAC might struggle again after the race filled up before most people had had the chance to even contemplate entering.
It’s then onto the Bournemouth 10 on 24th February, which is of course organised by Bournemouth AC, with Ian White heading up the arrangement committee. That will hopefully provide BAC with an opportunity to bite back at Poole AC in the Men’s First Division as they may already have two wins to their name by then.