Stu Nicholas and Jez Bragg after Portsmouth Coastal Marathon

Stu and Jez make top three in Portsmouth Coastal Marathon

Stu Nicholas and Jez Bragg after Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Two of Bournemouth AC’s top long distance pros in Stu Nicholas and Jez Bragg were in action at the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

What better way to prepare for the Christmas festivities than running a marathon three days before the big day? It certainly provides you with a great opportunity to create a big calorie deficit which can then in turn be filled with all the mince pies, turkey and Christmas pudding that you can shovel down. And perhaps even more so when it’s one that is as testing as the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon.

As well as being a few days before St. Nicholas comes down the chimney, it was also the day before Stu Nicholas‘s birthday, so he was certain to have two reasons to celebrate at least. Could he make it one more though this time round by ending the season with a victory?

Two years ago in fact, he did do just that, in this very race, seeing off the challenge from Neil Kevern of Bracknell Forest Runners to seal the win in a time of 2:47:12.

Stu would very much have loved to repeat those heroics in the 2019 edition. This year he was joined in the race by his Bournemouth AC compadre Jez Bragg.

Jez is a well known and highly respected member of the running community, not just in Dorset, but also on a national scale. He’s competed for his country numerous times, including at the Anglo-Celtic Plate 100k, where he won on a couple of occasions. He also took home a gold medal at the Commonwealth 100k Championships.

He also ran across the entire length of New Zealand which was 3,000km, taking 53 days which made him the fastest person to have done that on foot.

More recently he’s completed the Berghaus Dragon’s Back Race, which was 315 kilometres with 15,500 metres of ascent. In what might perhaps even be his biggest achievement to date, Jez completed the Tor des Geants, where he covered a total distance of 394km in 95 hours and 24 minutes.

Despite all those incredible achievements, Jez has been suffering an ongoing battle with Ulcerative Collitis and Crohns, a lifelong inflammatory Bowel Disease. That has seen him go through some very difficult times over years but he’s never thrown the towel in and the fact he has had to battle such a vicious illness makes his successes seem all the more unfathomable.

Having completed the Beachy Head Marathon at the end of October in a race where his BAC teammate Jon Sharkey stopped off to get married half way through, Jez proved there that he had a marathon in him.

The Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon would be Stu’s 12th marathon of the year and despite making it to the 50 marathon landmark and the end of last year, his enthusiasm to go the distance had not been quelled. In fact, he’d even stepped it up a notch when he completed the Roseland August Trail 100k along the coast of Cornwall.

The course for the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon runs from South Parade Pier to the end of the Hayling Billy Line and back, providing a unique blend of multi terrain surfaces for the participants to get to grips with.

To begin with it was Pete Concannon in his first ever marathon who took the race by the scruff of the neck. He set off at a furious pace, leaving everyone else including Jez and Stu for dust.

Stu Nicholas near Southsea Pier
Stu comes past the pier at Southsea
Jez Bragg heads along the prom in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez has great pedigree and was always going to be one to watch

Chris Brebin Sayers was in second place but was quite a way back. Then it was Stu and Jez. The BAC duo were together up till 11 miles. That was until Stu had to stop to tie shoelaces. That was a rookie error that could have proved costly.

Jez Bragg coasting along in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez and Stu first got separated when Stu stopped to tie his shoelace
Stu Nicholas makes his way in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Although his shoelace had come undone, Stu’s challenge in the race remained firmly intact

Fortunately for Stu, he was able to come back and catch Jez up. He then decided to press on and began to pull away as they approached the turning point.

It was then a case of trying to reel in the two guys who were still out front. That wasn’t going to be easy though by any stretch of the imagination. Pete Concannon had blasted through the half way point in a superfast time of 1:20:27.

Pete Concannon leading the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Pete Concannon led the way in his first ever marathon, blitzing the first half in 1 hour 20 minutes

He had an advantage of almost five minutes over Chris Brebin Sayers who was second at that point in 1:25:20. Stu was a further 20 seconds back, arriving in 1:25:40 and Jez was 16 seconds behind his at 1:25:56.

Stu Nicholas in action in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Stu was in third place when he reached the half way point
Jez Bragg in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez was fourth when he went through the half way stage in 1:25:56

Chris Brebin Sayers blew up massively over the second half of the race and it wasn’t long before both Stu and Jez had gone past him. The race was on now for Stu and he’d got into a good rhythm and set about chasing Pete down.

Back of Stu Nicholas in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Stu makes his way down the long, straight promenade
Jez Bragg moves forward in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez was following shortly after Stu

It seemed an almost impossible task to make up five minutes over the second half of a marathon but it was worth a go. Pete began to fade and his pace dropped significantly. Stu stayed strong and was progressively eating up the ground between them.

Stu Nicholas in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Stu was beginning to gain time on the race leader Pete Concannon
Jez Bragg in action in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez was still going smoothly and looking strong over the latter part of the race

The gap between the two had been dramatically reducing to the point that there was now only seconds in it. Unfortunately for Stu though, it was too late and Pete made it to finish line before he could catch him.

Stu Nicholas comes along the promenade
Stu was edging closer toward catching the leader as the race progressed
Back of Jez Bragg in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
The way Jez was going he looked like he’d had a full programme of marathon training behind him

The winning time was 2:50:29. Stu crossed the line 23 seconds later to take second place in 20:50:52. Jez crossed the line in a comfortable third place in the end, clocking a time of 2:53:43. That gave him an average pace of 6:31 minutes per mile, with the course coming up slightly long at 26.67 miles.

Alexander Whearity of Reading Joggers was the only man to come in in under three hours. After such a promising first half of the race, Chris Brebin Sayers slipped to 8th place in the overall standings on this occasion.

Jez Bragg in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Jez had run well to take third place in a time of 2:53:43

Even though they didn’t pick up the race win on this occasion it was great to see the Bournemouth AC pair running so well. Considering he hadn’t really done any specific marathon training and the fact that he has to just get out as and when he can due to having a small child, it was a very good run from Jez’s perspective.

He completed the second half of the race in 1:27:46, which was less than two minutes slower than his first half. As for Stu, he actually ran his second half faster than his first, completing it in 1:25:11. That demonstrates how strong he is at the moment.

Stu Nicholas heads down the prom in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
It was touch and go in the end but there was no cigar for Stu on this occasion and he had to settle for second place

It was Stu’s fifth time of running the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon and his 12th marathon of the year. There could easily have been a temptation to tone it down for Stu after he reached his 50 marathon landmark at the end of last year but he hasn’t really done that. He’s kept on going.

Stu enjoys the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon so much that he’s already signed up for the race again next year and no doubt he will once again be a serious contender to pick up the race win.

Stu Nicholas and Jez Bragg in the Portsmouth Coastal Marathon
Stu and Jaz had made it two BAC members in the top three at this year’s Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon