With its early August date, the Stur Half is renowned for always being conducted in hot conditions and this year’s edition was no exception. The scorching summer sunshine made its presence felt once again as runners from the Dorset region slugged it out for County Championship medals. And for fun of course, as well!
The line up included two Bournemouth AC members, with Adrian Townsend having his entry carried over from the cancelled 2021 event. He was joined in the race by the ever enthusiastic Lea Lohk who often contends for top placings in the over 55 division.
In fact it had been three years since the last Stur Half went ahead. Bournemouth AC megastar Jacek Cieluszecki won it that day, recording a super-quick time of 1:14:42. Bournemouth AC have an illustrious history in the Stur Half, with Pete Thompson winning it in 2014 when the club occupied the top four places.
Between 2009 and 2012, a BAC member won the race every year, with Steve Way being victorious twice and Stu Fox and Rob McTaggart also taking top position. Mark Hargreaves won it a couple of times as well, in 2007 and 2003.
If you go back even further, there was a Bournemouth AC winner for five consecutive years from 1995 to 1999, with Duncan Hurdwell taking the title three times, Larry Austin once and Billy Nixon once. Jeff Martin won the second ever Stu Half back in 1991 with an incredible time of 1:08:05.
It wasn’t looking likely they were going to continue that trend this time round and since it wasn’t a Dorset Road Race League fixture there was a lot less interest around the camp, despite the fact that there were County Championship medals up for grabs.
Portland 10 winner Chris Weeks was on the start line though and judging by his performance that day, he had to be considered as a major contender. Egdon Heath Harriers man Christopher Peck, who had finished runner up to Chris that day was also in the mix along with Poole AC star Brian Underwood.
Currently leading the standings in women’s individual for the Dorset Road Race League, Molly Rasch of Dorset Doddlers had to be favourite for Country Championship gold. Lauren Baker-Little of Poole Runners and Nat Lawrence of Egdon Heath Harriers were also present though and could prove a threat.
The Stur Half is one of those races that gets tougher towards the end, with quite a testing climb coming on the 11th mile, leading up to 12-and-a-half miles. Hence it’s always wise to try and save a bit of energy for the latter stages.
Turning out for races a bit more frequently over recent months, Adrian has been testing himself to see how the body holds up. He’s been plagued by back and hip issues which have seen him visit the physio about 20 times over the past couple of years. It’s slow progress but he feels like he’s getting there and he’s enjoying his running at the moment.
Completing the course in a time of 1:38:54, Adrian finished in 60th place and was 9th in the M50 category. That was a decent result for Adrian and another step forward on the road back to full fitness.
Like Adrian, Lea Lohk had been doing her fair share of racing recently and she had also competed in the Portland 10, the Round the Lakes 10k and the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon, as well as the May 5 before that.
Getting round in a time of 1:52:30, Lea finished in 110th place in the overall standings and she was 24th fastest female. That was good enough to put her 3rd in the F55+ category behind Helen Bolt of Datchet Dashers and Penny Jarvis of Poole Runners.
At the front of the race, it was Chris Weeks who bossed proceedings once again and he notched another race win, crossing the line in a very impressive time of 1:14:04. That put him 20 seconds ahead of Christopher Peck, who became County Champion, since Chris Weeks wasn’t competing for that honour.
Brian Underwood has been training like a trojan over recent months and is in scintillating form and he took 3rd place, getting to the line in 1:15:54. That meant a couple of County Championship silver medals for him, since he qualified for the Masters category as well.
Philip Daniels of Calne Running Club took 4th place, registering a time of 1:19:55, with Nick Reynolds of Dorset Doddlers claiming the final County Championship medals with his 5th place finish in 1:20:57. Again, like Chris Peck and Brian Underwood, he also qualified for a Masters medal as well.
Next to arrive at the finish but unfortunately just missing out on a County Championship medal was Jonathan Churchill of Egdon Heath Harriers. He got round in 1:21:42 and was followed in by Joe Godden of Poole Runners who concluded his race in 1:22:10.
Another barnstorming run from Molly Rasch of Dorset Doddlers saw her crowned as female County Champion, getting over the line in 1:23:05. She chased down Steven Rigby of Twemlow Track Club in the end and they finished together in 8th and 9th overall.
Attacking the race from the front early on, Roanna Vickers of City of Portsmouth ended up coming in as 2nd female, clocking a time of 1:26:01. She was 15th in the overall standings but since she wasn’t a Dorset runner though, she wasn’t part of the County Championship contest.
The 3rd female spot went to Nat Lawrence of Egdon Heath Harriers who finished in exactly 1 hour 27 minutes and was 18th overall. She hadn’t entered the County Championship though so the next medal went to Zoe Sheffield of Bitton Road Runners. She got round in 1:27:24 which put her in 21st place overall.
The final County Championship medal went to Lauren Baker-Little of Poole Runners. Completing the course in 1:28:38, she came in 27th overall. A total of 263 runners took part in the race.
By virtue of being over 35, Zoe Sheffield won the female Masters County Championship. Jenny Walker-Leach of Lytchett Manor Striders took the 2nd Masters medal, getting round in 1:35:23 which put her in 46th overall and 7th female.
The final Masters County Championship medal went to Louise Fox of Dorchester RIOT and she registered a time of 1:37:37 which put her 55th overall and 8th female.
No doubt Adrian and Lea will be back for more races over the final third of the year as the end of summer appears on the horizon and the transition to autumn fast approaches.