As it traditionally does, the Christchurch Christmas 10k attracted the attention of numerous Bournemouth AC members on the lookout for a bit of festive cheer. That could perhaps come in the form of a promising performance or perhaps even a PB if they were in peak condition.
This year an eight-strong contingent of the yellow and blue army lined up at the start of the race hoping to end the season on a high. At the very least, they knew they’d end up with a nice Christmas pudding and a hot cup of soup and that was enough of an incentive for most of them.
Of course, on the country lanes of the rural side of Christchurch, a lot depends on what the weather is like on the day. The course is predominantly flat all the way round and lends itself to a fast time, should the conditions allow.
Last year though, the runners came face-to-face with an extremely strong wind and a night of heavy rain had left the roads waterlogged in places which would prove tricky to negotiate.
At first it looked like this year’s race would be destined for much the same, with extremely high winds and substantial rainfall evident the day before. The weather forecast for the race day was much the same.
Fortunately though, as the runners made their way to the race HQ at East Christchurch Sports and Social Club on the morning of the event, it turned out that the wind wasn’t quite as strong as it had been the previous day.
It also wasn’t raining either. In fact, it was actually quite a bright and sunny morning. The temperature was on the chilly side but all things considered, the conditions were actually near enough ideal. That put the possibility of a fast time back on the agenda.
Jacek Cieluszecki was originally down on the list to run but after a very tough ultra at the CTS Dorset event the previous weekend, which he duly won, he’d decided to sit this one out and give his legs a rest of the rigours of racing. That threw the race wide open and meant for a number of other contenders, a victory could well be within their grasp.
The main threats from a BAC perspective were carried by Jon Sharkey and Stu Nicholas. If either of them had a good run, they could certainly be up there vying for the top spot.
A strong supporting cast of Ross Smith, Rich Brawn, Paul Consani and Adrian Townsend were also raring to go, along with the BAC ladies, represented by Kirsty Drewett and Helen Ambrosen.
The race actually started and finished in Ambury Lane, which is just around the back of the Christchurch Bypass (A35). It was a fair distance from the race HQ so the athletes were escorted over the start area in groups.
Many of the runners were getting into the festival spirit, dressing up in Santa outfits, or as elves, reindeers and even a few Christmas puddings. The atmosphere had a nice friendly sort of feel to it. But that didn’t mean that once the claxon sounded that some serious racing wouldn’t ensue.
Once proceedings got underway a lead group was quickly established containing both Jon Sharkey and Stu Nicholas. Tom Stevens of Southampton was also up there, along with Bill Day of Poole Runners.
Since it was a relatively flat route, it’s the kind of race where you can afford to be pushing quite hard right from the outset. Ross Smith was out for another 10k PB, having managed to seal a narrow one at the Boscombe 10k two weeks earlier.
The Boscombe 10k is a much more difficult route though, containing quite a few ups and downs and twists and turns. It also includes Queens Park South Drive which is quite a tough hill and can be a bit of a pace killer. On a good day, you’d expect to get a faster time at the Christmas 10k.
Having finished roughly a minute behind Ross in a couple of the recent Hampshire League Cross Country fixtures, Rich Brawn had employed the tactic of just trying to keep as close to Ross as he could, or at least to try and keep Ross within eyeshot.
At the Christmas 10k, he’d decided to try that same tactic, hoping it would drag him round to a fast time. Since Ross had gone off so quickly though it soon became evident to Rich that he wasn’t going to be able to keep up. After about two miles, Ross was completely out of sight, forcing Rich to have to deploy the age-old method of just running as fast as he could.
Meanwhile, back at the front of the race it was a familiar face in the form of the St Albans Strider, Robert Spencer, who was taking it on. Robert is beginning to make a bit of a name for himself down on the south-coast, having finished in 3rd place at the Boscombe 10k behind Iain Trickett and BAC’s Rob McTaggart.
The previous weekend he was first finisher at Poole parkrun and now he was in the hunt for a proper race win to go with it. He was tracked by James Gilfillan, who doesn’t run for a club but is often the first man home at Moors Valley parkrun.
As it turned out, it was to be Robert Spencer’s day though and he claimed the race win, getting over the line in a time of 33:27. James Gilfillan took 2nd in 33:53, with Tom Stevens of Southampton getting 3rd in 34:09.
The first BAC member home was Jon Sharkey, who sealed a very good 4th place, crossing the line in 34:35. It’s only been a few months really since Sharkey came back to the racing circuit after taking some time out following the birth of his son Ruben.
He’s done remarkably well since his return to competitive action though, taking 11th place at the Hoburne 5, 7th at the Wimborne 10 and now 4th at the Christmas 10k. It will be interesting to see what he can do next season if he he’s able to find the time to keep getting out there and putting in the miles.
Coming in 9 seconds after his BAC teammate, Stu Nicholas was next over the line, taking a superb 5th place with a terrific new PB of 34:44.
In truth, Stu is much more of a long distance man and 10k’s are not really his forte. Consequently, he struggles a bit with the pacing. He’s a regular at parkrun, often coming in as finisher at Bournemouth, so he knows how quick he can afford to go in a 5k. But 10k is always a touch more difficult to judge.
At the Boscombe 10k, he felt like he set off too quickly which made it difficult for the remainder of the race. This time he had a much stronger run though and he got his reward. The 10k PB was a fantastic way to end what has been a marvellous season for Stu, all things considered.
Ross Smith had a storming run and managed to maintain the ferocious pace he’d set off at to come in with a magnificent new PB of 35:44, putting him in 8th position. That beat his time at the Boscombe 10k by 20 seconds.
It was again, a superb way to end the season for Ross, who has had some excellent runs over the past few months including some excellent performances in the Hampshire League Cross Country.
Ross is of course, primarily a duathlete, so he juggles his running training with cycling as well. In fact, he recently competed for Great Britain in the European Cross Duathlon Championships in Ibiza, where a puncture on the bike leg hampered his hopes reaching his potential.
The race to be the next Bournemouth AC man over the line came down to a sprint finish between Rich Brawn and Paul Consani. Rich had been ahead of Paul the entire race and actually had no idea that Paul was right behind him.
With a mile left to go, Rich knew he was on course to beat the time he did at the Boscombe 10k two weeks prior, so he was aware that a PB was on the cards. He was feeling quite strong at that point though so tried to crank up the pace a bit.
The race was going well and he was edging ever closer to the finish line. As he got onto the finishing straight though, he could hear someone coming up behind him.
He could tell from the sound of the footsteps that whoever it was was going faster than him at the time and was about to fly past him. There was nothing much he could do about it though. He was pushing as hard as he could and had nothing left to fight for the place with.
As the person went fast, he heard a voice mutter “Sorry Rich” as he went by. Sure enough, it was indeed his Bournemouth AC teammate Paul Consani.
Paul swept past and powered over the line to take the coveted 16th spot, clocking a time of 37:31. That meant Rich had to settle for 17th place, registering a time of 37:35.
Ordinarily Rich would have been gutted to lose a place so close to the end but since it was Paul, he didn’t mind so much. He also thought, after he’d narrowly finished ahead of Paul at the Boscombe 10k, it was only fair he let Paul have this one.
Deep down though, Rich was just pleased to be even close to someone of Paul Consani’s calibre and he’d got the PB he was looking for, in pretty much the sort of time he was hoping for, so he was over the moon with that.
Paul had demonstrated sublime determination and tenacity to beat Rich to the line and that was certainly something to be admired. He felt he had redeemed himself after the Boscombe 10k as well, where a little injection of pace from Rich when they got to the top of the hill at Queens Park enabled him to open up the crucial gap that Paul just couldn’t close. No doubt the pair will have many more interesting matchups in store in 2019.
Another BAC member who has finished the season off well is Adrian Townsend, who followed his 39:36 time at the Boscombe 10k with a 39:34 at the Christmas 10k. That put him in 32nd place overall.
It was another solid sub-40 time for Adrian and gives him a good base to build from in 2019, after suffering some troubled times through injury and stomach issues over a large part of this year.
It also meant two back-to-back age category wins for Adrian, after he took home the M55 prize at the Boscombe 10k and again, at the Christmas 10k he was 1st in the V55 category. In fact, no one in the V50 category finished ahead of him either, so technically he won that as well.
Also putting together a good performance, Kirsty Drewett completed the course in a time of 45:58, which put her in 87th place overall. Out of the women in the race, she finished 8th, which was a pretty decent return. She was also 1st in the women’s V40 category.
Kirsty thoroughly enjoyed the race and in contrast to some of her more recent runs, particularly the cross country fixtures she’s done lately, she felt like she had a very controlled run.
Even though she was going at a pretty decent pace, she felt strong the whole way and that is a good indication that she is starting to come back into good form.
After suffering some injury problems over the backend of the year that had halted her progression somewhat, she is now in a much more positive frame of mind and is hoping and she’ll have a chance of conquering her 10k PB of 45:16 at “Round the Lakes” on Boxing Day.
Coming in with a time of 51:36, Helen Ambrosen was the final Bournemouth AC representative to reach the line. She finished in 182nd place overall and was 37th lady.
Helen has been getting progressively quicker as the year has gone on and she bettered her time at the Boscombe 10k by 36 seconds. Much like at the Boscombe 10k, she finished 2nd in the women’s V60 category.
In total there 461 runners who completed the Christmas 10k, marking another successful year for the race, which brings about it’s own unique flavour of Christmas spirit to the proceedings.
There may not have been any team prizes given out but if there had been a men’s team competition, it would have certainly been won by Bournemouth AC, since they had the 4th, 5th, 8th, 16th and 17th placed runners.
All that remained for the BAC members who had taken part was for them to go home, pop that Christmas pudding in the microwave, find some brandy butter to go with it and get stuck in. It is Christmas after all.