In these uncertain times you certainly cannot take anything for granted and that unfortunately goes for running events as well. With the spread of infection going up and down in different areas of the country, coronavirus has brought about an air of unpredictability in all walks of life.
In running terms that means that you can enter an event and spend months training for it but there are no guarantees that that particular event will actually go ahead. It’s a very tricky situation for athletes to be in.
Take Linn Erixon Sahlström for example. She was due to take on the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 165km race on Friday 18th September but just five days beforehand, she discovered it had been cancelled.
It was a massive blow for Linn since she’d spent the whole summer training for it. That had meant heading over to the Purbeck for some crazy hill sessions and getting plenty of ups and downs in over Hengistbury Head.
It was also a disappointment as it was also going to be part of a very personal journey for Linn where she would be returning to the scene of the crash. It was on Mount Snowdon where she’d had a nasty fall and injured herself very badly in her last race there.
You can tell a lot about a person’s character from how they handle a disappointment though and Linn wasn’t going to let it get her down. Then, as she was collecting the post later that day though, she found she’d received two race numbers. She’d completely forgotten about the post-pone Race The Tide marathon that was happening that same weekend!!
So, instead of heading off to the mountains, she took her camper van and headed off the Devon coast to hit the trails. In this day and age, it’s simply best to “stay flexible, embrace the uncertainty and find your stride” as Linn puts it.
She’d done a lot of climbing and a lot of long, slow endurance runs over the summer in preparation for the UTS but absolutely no speed work. Now she found herself competing in a marathon, which by her standards, classifies as quite a ‘short’ race. Nevertheless, she was determined to embrace the challenge.
The Race The Tide event was in the Flete Estate at Mothercombe. The marathon included two estuary crossings – one at Burgh Island and the other one racing the tide 19.9 miles in over Erne Estuary before concluding with a picturesque sea view at Mothercombe.
The route incorporated 1800 meters of elevation so that was still more than enough to turn the legs of a very accomplished fell runner to jelly.
The tide was in when they first started out so the first kilometer was more of a wade through the water than a run. It definitely woke Linn up though and set the tone for what was to come.
Because there were different start waves though, it was difficult to know who was in what position. Linn’s goal was to push as hard as possible though so she ended up slogging it out, small trotting up the inclines to get ahead of whoever was in front of her.
Deciding to go off in the first wave, Linn felt it would suit her better. That way she could be first female to begin with, although she knew there would be some speedy women behind her.
Quite early on in the proceedings, a light-weight lady with minimalistic shoes and a flying gait went past Linn and she knew she was never going to be able to race her. From that point on, her focus was to keep whoever else was behind her, behind her.
It was an extremely hilly route which also included sand dunes and some stunning forests. At around 12km from the finish, Linn started to seize up and she was forced to hobble through the last 8km.
Her lack of speed training had taken its toll but Linn was determined to give it everything she’s got. She was desperate to prove to herself that the hill training she’d done was competitive enough for a top three podium place.
She’d only ever done the marathon distance once before, when she did the Bournemouth Marathon and it was definitely on the shorter end of her spectrum. It was by no means a fast race though, given the terrain.
The woman who had overtaken Linn was Lucy Commander and she went on to finish in 5th place overall, completing the course in a time of 4 hours 19 minutes and 23 seconds.
Taking the accolade of being the second quickest female, Linn crossed the finish line in 4:52:12 which put her in 24th place overall and 1st in the FV40 category.
The next lady in was Emma Langstaff who finished just over four minutes behind Linn, clocking a time of 4:56:39. She took 27th position overall.
It was a fantastic result for Linn, especially as ‘short’ races are not really her specialty. She was pleased to have done her first race of the year. Interestingly though, she found that the marathon had hurt almost as much as a 100 miler because you’re at your max all the time.
Covering 26.63 miles over the course of the race, Linn also racked up an elevation gain of over 5,900ft so, although it wasn’t quite to the level of what the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia would have offered, it was certainly still a very good workout.
The overall race was won by Matthew Hart who finished in a time of 3:51:47. He was just ahead of Stuart Walker who came in just 8 seconds later in a time of 3:51:55.
Linn has another so called ‘short’ race in November which is a 50k night run with hills. That will mean she now needs to put some speed training in so she may well be forced to drag herself to the track a few times over the coming month.
The restrictions placed upon all of our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic have made it very difficult for running events of any description to be held, with mass-gatherings generally discouraged and social distancing and safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
That has forced event organisers to really think outside the box when formulating plans for how they can successfully stage races and ensure the participants and volunteers can operate in a safe environment and that the risk of virus transmission is kept to a minimum.
The New Forest Marathon and Community Fund Team went above and beyond to ensure that the New Forest Marathon event went ahead and that runners had at least some form of racing they could go out and enjoy that would give them that adrenaline buzz they’ve been craving for so long.
The constant changing of government policies in regard to what people can and can’t do prevented enormous challenges, even forcing a late change of venue for the event which is usually held at Brockenhurst in the New Forest.
For this year’s edition though, they switched to the wide open space of the St Giles Estate in Wimborne, giving the runners and volunteer teams the perfect opportunity to compete or coordinate in safe and secure surroundings.
The event featured a Marathon, a Half Marathon, a 10k and a 5k race and also gave runners the opportunity to compete virtually, on a course of their choosing should they wish to do so. There were Bournemouth AC members taking part in each of the four distances and they couldn’t wait to dust off their trail shoes and get back out there for some real race action.
Only three of them were brave enough to tackle the full Marathon distance though and they were Heather Khoshnevis, Wayne Walford Jelks and Louise Broderick. Richard Brawn, Estelle Slatford, Ken Parradine and Jasper Todd were giving the Half Marathon a go, along with Kirsty O’Callaghan who has just recently joined the BAC training group and her partner Ed Malcolm.
Going for a New Forest Marathon weekend double-header, Rob McTaggart was looking to battle for supremacy in both the 5k on Saturday and the 10k on Sunday. Alex Goulding was also competing in the 10k race and a trio of budding BAC junior stars were in the line up for the 5k on the Saturday morning. They were Oscar Ewen Matthews, Emily Coltman and Erin Wells.
The New Forest Marathon event is sponsored by Garmin, meaning the prizes for winning any of the races included a nice new watch. That was enough of a temptation for Rob McTaggart to throw his hat in the ring. Looking the times from the previous year, he thought he’d be in a with a pretty good chance of a lucrative return on his entry fee.
Just nearing the end of a decent block of marathon training as well, Tag was in top form. He’d been working towards an appearance at the Wrexham Marathon which had been set up for any athlete capable of running a sub 2:40 marathon. It now looks like that race may not be going ahead but he has Dorney Lake as a backup plan so could find himself in action there instead.
For the 5k race at the New Forest though, Tag got round in 17:35 which was enough to see him comfortably pick up the win. Although that wouldn’t be a fast time for him in an ordinary 5k, given the terrain and the hilly nature of the course, that was actually a strong performance.
The next quickest was Ian Howard who’s time was 1-and-a-half minutes down on Tag’s effort. He came in at 19:05.
Oscar Ewen Matthews made it two BAC members in the top three when he recorded a time of 19:22, so that was an excellent result for him. Erin Wells posted another magnificent time to come in as first female and make it three BAC members in the top five.
She completed the course in a time of 19:53 which, considering she’s in the Under 15 age bracket is incredibly impressive. Her cross-country endeavours from last season may well have made her more adept to handle the rigours of a tough off-road course.
Erin competed in the South-West Inter Counties, the Southern and the National Cross Country Championships toward the beginning of the year, as well as all the Hampshire and Wessex League fixtures. And what’s more, she excelled in all of the above.
Also in the Under 15 age bracket, Emily Coltman ran well as well, getting round the course in a time of 22:02. That was enough to give her 12thplace in the overall standings and she was third placed female, just behind New Forest Junior Annabel White.
That was a terrific result for Emily in a race where she was facing predominantly adults of all age groups in amongst the 69 participants who successfully completed the 5k route.
Marathons often seem to conjure up a heroic tale or an inspiring story amongst the competitors with many raising money for good causes or looking to challenge themselves to achieve a certain goal.
Having set herself the challenge to train for and run a marathon over the lockdown period, Louise Broderick was all set to give it her best shot in the New Forest Marathon.
She was also raising money for Mind, the mental health charity, which was a cause she found to be very close to heart. In fact, it was the getting out and exercising aspect that she found most helps her with her own emotional, physical and mental wellbeing and she always looks to encourage and inspire others to do the same.
After seeing the huge response she’d had in terms of sponsorship and well-wishers, Louise was determined to do them all proud – and that’s exactly what she did.
Despite the constant ups and downs and testing terrain underfoot, Louise absolutely smashed it, getting round the grueling two lap course in a mightily impressive time of 3 hours 55 minutes and 26 seconds.
That saw her finish up as the 9th fastest woman out of 119 and put her in 74th position overall in a field of 409. She was also 6th out of 33 in the F40 category. It was a result that even she herself was amazed by.
Then, after completing the race, when she found out she’d raised over £1,000 for Mind, she was overwhelmed. She’d never imagined she’d attract anything close to that amount and it made the pain that she went through and the loss of a few toenails all the more worthwhile.
She’s now contemplating doing a road marathon once everything is back to normal and supporters are allowed out to watch, just for the experience. Judging by her effort on the St Giles Estate course, she’ll do pretty well in that if she does get the opportunity.
As a bit more of a seasoned marathon connoisseur, it seemed a long time to Heather Khoshnevis since she’d run her last marathon, six months ago, so she was glad to be back out racing and putting her endurance to the test again.
Seeing herself as more of a road runner though, despite enjoying some lovely trail runs of the summer, Heather wasn’t really ready for 26.3 miles of rough!!
The course at the original venue was 50/50 between road and trail, so that would have suited her better since she fines the rugged paths tough to contend with.
Feeling that she’d perhaps been a little over complacent about her endurance and not having put in enough longer training runs, she began to get into difficulty at around 18 miles.
She had been going very well up till that point at a pace of 3:40 per kilometer. Then it all fell apart somewhat from there. It is difficult though returning to something you previously took for granted.
That said, Heather soldiered on well and managed to grind out the remaining miles to finish in a time of 4:06:29. That was enough to see her pick up the F60 category win and place 13th woman. She was 113th in the overall standings.
That was still a decent result for Heather even though she may have felt it wasn’t the vintage display she’s become accustomed to. Nevertheless, it was good to put some mileage and marathon muscle memory back into the legs before she takes on the Isle of Wight Marathon in just over a week’s time.
People take part in marathons for all kinds of different reasons though. For Wayne Walford Jelks, his main goal at the moment is just to shift some timber and he knew this was a race that could certainly help him in that respect.
Driving buses and coaches for a living and the unhealthy eating habits that come with it have caused Wayne to put on a few extra pounds but running could well be the catalyst to help him get back in shape again, as it has been for so many.
Managing to stay in his fat burning zone throughout the entire run, Wayne completed the tough two lap route in a time of 5:53:54. That put him in 383rd place overall.
Ty Farrer of Huntingdonshire AC picked up the win in the Marathon race, getting round a tremendous time of 2:46:38. Only four men finished in under three hours which goes to show how hard it actually was.
Sunday’s proceedings began with the 10k race which saw Tag return to the St Giles Estate, already with one victory in the bag. Could he repeat those heroics a second day running though?
Opting for a tactical start, Tag let many of the other runners in the wave go before him, knowing he’d then have the incentive of having other athletes to chase as he worked his way round the course.
He did actually end up overtaking all the runners except one. The one he wasn’t able to catch was the man who emerged with the fastest time of all. That was Nick Harris-Fry of Orion Harriers. He got round in a phenomenal time of 35 minutes 40 seconds.
That meant Tag had to settle for second place on this occasion, finishing in a still impressive time of 36:35. It may not quite have been what he was hoping for but still, a win and a second place wasn’t a bad return for the weekend.
The other Bournemouth AC member in the race was Alex Goulding and he finished in third place, getting round in a time of 38:38.
Alex had been hoping for a bit more tarmac but there was none of that. The whole route was trail but there was quite a lot of variation in the terrain which kept things interesting at least.
Having looked at the course map beforehand, Alex was expecting the route to be quite flat but of course, looking at a 2D map you don’t really get much of a sense of the elevation you’ll be facing. Thus, it turned out to be very undulating which made it difficult to keep the tempo high.
Much like Tag, Alex wasn’t really a fan of the new format of racing. Usually he relies on other competitors around him to help him work out what sort of pace he should be going at. In this case though, he didn’t have that.
Many of the runners who had started before him were much slower than he was so he couldn’t get a gage on how fast he should be running in comparison to them. He just had to look at his watch and try to find the right pace that he’d be able to sustain for the duration and with so many hills on the route, that wasn’t easy. In fact, quite often he found he was going too slowly and needed to speed up.
It was also difficult to find which was the best path to run on. There were often three tracks where you could choose between the indented left-hand side, the right-hand side which had loose stones, or the raised bank in the middle.
Overall, Alex felt he did okay, although it would have been nice to have gone a bit faster. The terrain was just too tough though. When he reached the line, he was pleased to have got to the end.
Later on that day it was the turn of the Half Marathon runners to shine. That gave Rich Brawn and Estelle Slatford the chance to take centre stage. The star of the show though, was undoubtedly the rawest talent of them all in Jasper Todd.
Even though he’s in the Under 17 age bracket, Jasper is fast proving that he can mix it with the best of them and this half marathon would be a great opportunity for him to showcase what he can do on the big stage.
Once the race start was announced, Rich made his way over to the start area with Kirsty O’Callaghan and Ed Malcolm. Each runner was set off on their own using a traffic light system where once it turned from red to green, they were good to go.
Looking to use the Half Marathon as a training run for his impending Dorney Lake Marathon, Rich was hoping to string a good sequence of miles together at marathon pace.
Having not been running at full capacity over the lockdown period, Kirsty knew she wouldn’t be anywhere near her top form but she was excited to get that racing buzz again and also to gage where her fitness was at.
As for Ed, he made an impromptu entry on the day so hadn’t even known he was going to be running it. Since he was there with Kirsty anyway though, he thought why not give it a go.
The course started on a long, slight uphill curve and it soon became evident to Rich that he wouldn’t easily be running every mile at marathon pace. He just about managed it for the first couple of miles but then hit a very steep incline on the third mile.
On the way up the hill, Jasper had pulled up alongside Rich and Rich asked him what sort of time he was looking to do. Jasper said around 1 hour 23 minutes, which would have been extremely impressive on a course like that.
Jasper went on looking very strong and Rich hung back, conscious that it was more of a training run that a race for him and ensuring he wasn’t expending too much energy as he progressed.
On the sixth mile, Rich was caught up by his mate Neil Sexton who represents Poole Runners and Vegan Runners. The pair had often ran together in previous road race league fixtures and they decided to adopt that same strategy in this race.
They chatted as they went along throughout the remainder of the race but were still keeping to a decent pace given the ups and downs and energy sapping gravelly paths they were often running on.
Eventually they reached the long, grassy straight where they could see the inflatable finish line in the distance. It was still quite a long way away though.
They had a Fareham Crusader just in front of them and did consider putting in a sprint finish to try to catch him up. Since they’d all been set off at different times though, it probably would have been pointless as they still may not have finished ahead of him in the final standings.
Crossing the line together, Rich finished in a time that he’d recorded as just under 1 hour 27 minutes but it was given as 1:27:11 on chip time. That put him in 11th place overall and second to Sam Davis in the M30 category.
Since he’d run much faster than Rich over the first five miles, Neil had completed the course in a time of 1:25:13 which put him in 8th place in the standings.
Before they’d arrived at the finish though, Jasper had continued on his way in a very strong and solid fashion. Despite the tough and varied terrain, he’d managed to power through with extraordinary aplomb.
His earlier prediction of 1 hour 23 minutes turned out to be bang on and he concluded his race in a chip time of 1:23:01. That was enough to see him take third place in the overall standings. It really was a magnificent run from Jasper and outlined the huge potential he has for future road races.
Having been in the lead for virtually the whole race, Charlie Palmer of Bedford & County AC thought he was cruising towards victory. But he hadn’t realised that behind him, Andrew Siggers of Kenilworth Runners was actually going quicker.
In the end Andrew managed to catch up and sweep straight past Charlie so he knew at the point he’d been relegated to second place. It did kind of highlight the possibility though that in this format of racing, you could actually be the first finisher and think that you’ve won the race but yet still not be winner if someone that started much later had got round in a quicker time.
Andrew’s winning time was 1:19:12, with Charlie having to settle for the runner up spot with his time of 1:20:02.
Kirsty posted time of 1:55:09 which was way down on what she’d be capable of producing at her best. Having not raced for such a long time though and on such a difficult course, it was a decent effort from her.
She was 18th placed woman out of 219 and 5th in the F20 category. Overall she was 127th quickest out of the 551 who participated.
As for Ed, he wasn’t too far behind, coming in with a time of 2:08:48 which put him in 258th place overall and 3rd in the Senior Men’s category which was for anyone in between 20 and 30. Considering it was a spur of the moment decision for him to enter, that was a pretty satisfying result.
Finding the course very challenging, Estelle finished up with a time of 2:08:34, which was her slowest ever half marathon time. She didn’t care though really. She was just pleased to be back out there and to have a proper organised race to take part in. That was the most important milestone of all on the day.
She was 54th placed woman in the race and was 17th out of 72 in the F40 category. In the overall standings she finished up in 255th position.
Despite the grueling nature of the course, Ken Parradine wasn’t going to be stopped in his tracks and he made it round successfully, posting a time of 2:23:58. That saw him take 5th place in the M65 category and 373rd position overall.
Once again it was nice to see a running event going ahead with no hitches and with everyone doing what they could to make it as safe an environment as it conceivably could be.
The organisation from the New Forest Marathon team was impeccable and they can certainly hold their heads up high after this weekend, knowing it was a job well done.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic first began to gather pace in the UK the running scene has become something of an enigma, shrouded in uncertainty and disillusionment at every juncture.
With races being cancelled left, right and centre, athletes have been put in an untenable position, not knowing whether or not the races they are training for are actually going to be on.
Over recent weeks though we have seen the return of some competitive action, albeit sparingly and cautiously as event organizers look for new ways to preserve the safety of participants when bringing them together for a race.
Amidst all the uncertainty and trepidation though, one thing we can be sure of is – if it’s a long, hilly race on tough, off-road terrain, and if he’s in starting line up – Jacek Cieluszecki is going to be the man to beat.
Notching numerous race wins prior to the Covid-19 pandemic at a varied range of distances and terrain, Jacek has put together a magnificent back catalogue of successes over past seven or so years.
That includes a win at the Maverick inov-8 X Series Exmoor as well as a marvelous victory in the CTS Dorset Ultra, where he shattered the course record by over 30 minutes.
With his repertories in events of this type, there was every reason for JC to be optimistic going into his first race since the pandemic took hold which was the Endurancelife CTS Exmoor Ultra Marathon.
The distance was billed at 32.4 miles, incorporating 11,463ft of ascent. It was certainly going to be a stern test for all of those brave enough to take it on, but for JC, he was in his element.
With so much of his training being carried out on the unscrupulous slopes of the Purbeck, which is like a second home to him, Jacek knew his prospects of performing well were extremely high.
He couldn’t of course account for who would turn up on the day to challenge him, but it would take a very special runner to put JC to the sword in this type of domain.
It was the first time Jacek had laced up his racing trainers since the Bath Half Marathon towards the end of March so it was exciting to see him back out there doing what he does best.
The CTS Exmoor is staged in the western area of Exmoor National Park where a trail runner’s mecca lay in wait. The course took the participants to dizzying heights with hugely steep climbs and long descents dominating the proceedings throughout.
The route also features open moorland, thick wooded valleys, historical ruins, sharp cliffs and rivers and the race organizers are confident there is no course in Britain that offers so much variation in terrain in such a compact area.
In the interests of maintaining social distancing for the competitors, they were set off individually, with one heading out onto the course every 15 seconds.
The route started on a sharp downhill curve which went on for majority of the first mile, giving Jacek the opportunity to get off to a fast start.
The real climbing started at the 2.3 mile point and that was where the sheer brutality of the cliffs around Exmoor started to become evident.
To begin with it was a guy who was doing the Marathon distance, Dan Murdoch, who was leading the way, with Jacek just behind him in second place. Then it was Eddie Rolls who was also doing the Marathon distance.
JC’s closest rival in the Ultra distance stakes was David Atkinson and he wasn’t far behind, managing to run at a very similar pace in the early going.
That remained the situation until around about the 11th mile when David caught Jacek. Now the race was really hotting up.
The pair ran together up until the top of the climb on the 13th mile. Then David began to pull ahead on the descent. This was the point in the race where Jacek began to struggle.
Feeling a drop in energy levels and suffering a slight lapse in motivation, he needed to dig deep and find the grit to keep battling on.
Fortunately he had the strength of character to do so and after reaching the 20th mile he was feeling back to his old self again and was ready to give it his all for the remainder of the race.
Over the next few miles, both David and Jacek caught and overtook Dan Murdoch before he reached the end of his marathon.
David was still going well and managed to maintain his advantage over JC until they reached the bottom of the climb when they were just coming up to the 24 mile point.
It wasn’t one of the steepest climbs but it was long, and it was at a point in the race where the fatigue was really starting to set in. It was on this climb that Jacek made the decisive move.
About two thirds of the way up the ascent, he assumed pole position – and from that point on, it was all academic. Jacek began to pull away and the distance between the two of them began to grow substantially as they hit the descent on the 26th mile.
The last steep climb of the race came at the 28 mile point and Jacek was well clear and home and dry by that point. Even though he knew he had the win in the bag though, there was still the course record to go for and that was enough of a carrot to keep him driving on.
The time he had to beat was 4 hours 52 minutes and 46 seconds. It did look like he was going to comfortably do that until he missed the last turning toward the finish line.
Luckily he soon realized he’d gone wrong and was able to get back on track. Although the incident did cost him a few minutes, it didn’t matter too much in the end as he made it to finish line in an incredible time of 4 hours 44 minutes and 7 seconds.
Despite that little mishap at the end he’d managed to better the previous course record by well over 8 minutes which was a remarkable achievement.
Clocking a total of 33.3 miles in the end, Jacek managed an average pace of 8:31 minutes per mile on a route that featured over 6,600ft of elevation.
It was a fantastic return to racing for JC and showed that, pandemic or no pandemic, he is still top dog when it comes to testing endurance courses with big and brutal ascents.
There was yet more drama at the end as well when David, who had been contesting the race win with Jacek up until the last 8 miles or so, took a wrong turn adding an extra 4 kilometers onto his activity.
That resulted in him losing second place as well and the person who took advantage of his woes was actually his wife Freya. She came across line in exactly 5 hours 26 minutes, with David arriving seven seconds later.
That meant Jacek’s winning margin stood at almost 42 minutes in the end, so it was a pretty comprehensive victory, even though he’d had to work very hard for it.
In the Marathon race, Eddie Rolls caught Dan Murdoch in the end on the same climb that Jacek overtook David on, so with only about a mile left to go. The winning time for Eddie was 3:50:52, with Dan having to settle for the runner up spot with his time of 3:54:23.
Jacek’s wife Ela was also taking on the Marathon distance but she wound up following the Half Marathon route and after covering 33km, she realized she was lost and was forced to abandon.
The Exmoor course is regarded as the toughest in CTS series, which is quite a statement in itself. It’s definitely a true test of endurance for even the hardiest of trail and fell runners, as Jacek can now vouch for. It was a test that he passed with flying colours though.
Next up for JC, he’ll be returning to the region for the Exmoor Coast 55km Ultra on 3rd October, which will be another grueling one to get his teeth into.
What better way to announce the return of the running race scene than with a testing, turbulent trail marathon in the throws of deepest darkest Dorset, complete with hills aplenty, masses of mud and wonderous woodland tracks that never seem to end.
The was the offering from Badger Trail Events when they bravely stepped up to host the Dorset Ooser MarathonandHalf Marathon and in the current climate of Covid-19 related restrictions, that was no mean feat.
The event had originally been scheduled for March but was postponed after the pandemic forced all forms of mass gatherings off the agenda.
Of course, the pandemic has since brought about a fundamental change the way we live our lives which has in turn led to the vast majority of event organisers being compelled to cancel their rescheduled race dates as well.
Where there’s a will there’s a way though and Kevin and Denise Day who run the Badger Trail Events company were determined the Dorset Ooser races should go ahead and worked tirelessly to make it happen.
That meant introducing staggered start times and ensuring social distancing rules were observed wherever possible. Runners were sent off in groups of six and had to wear face masks right up the moment they went on their way.
It was certainly a little different to the crowded, claustrophobic, scrambling starts we’re used to seeing in races but ensuring sporting events operate in as safe an environment as they possibly can is paramount at the present time.
Last year’s Dorset Ooser Marathon was won by Bournemouth AC‘s very own Jacek Cieluszecki. He stormed to an emphatic victory, being the only man to complete the course in under three hours. In fact, no one else got anywhere near three hours.
In this year’s edition it was Pete Thompson who threw his hat into the ring. Well, actually he kept his hat on, but that’s another story! Pete had originally expected to do the race back in March but of course, that didn’t happen. He was destined to get his chance in the end though.
Back in March Pete was already hitting some very good form which saw him finish 5th in the Wimborne 20 and take the trophy for 1st MV35. Little did he know then that that would turn out to be his last race for such a long time.
Over the lockdown period he’d faced the same challenges as everyone else, trying to stay motivated and maintain that high level of fitness without any clear and obvious goal to aim for.
He’d managed it well though and had been registering some very impressive long runs over the past few months and was looking in good shape. The Dorset Ooser Marathon would certainly put that to the test though.
Famed for his amazing fund raising challenges, which, in some cases, captured the attention of the national media, Pete has collected vast sums of money for the mental health charity Mind.
There was of course, the 44 marathons in 44 days, where he travelled around Europe completing a marathon in each different country. Then following on from that there was the one where he ran the ran the entire route of the Tour de France in 68 days, averaging 30 miles a day.
On the day that he would have been running the London Marathon had it not been called off, Pete again demonstrated his fund raising idea creativity by attempting to run 2.6 miles backwards in under 26 minutes. Like with his other challenges, he was indeed successful, but it was a very close call and he really had to dig deep.
At the Dorset Ooser Marathon, he now had the chance to see what he had in his locker in a very tough, off-road environment. It was certainly going to different to the fast, flat roads he’d been used to from his previous racing days.
Also being a high acclaimed running coach, Pete is usually a master when it comes to race plan and strategy. He tends to start off at a steady, comfortable pace and then gradually pick it up as the race progresses. That’s exactly what he did at the Wimborne 20, gradually working his way towards the front of the field.
Having not raced for so many months though, even Pete found himself getting a touch over exuberant at the start of the race, but that was almost unavoidable under the circumstances.
The hills start immediately on the Dorset Ooser course and they do not relent until the end so it’s definitely one where a supplement of energy needs to be conserved.
Pete was going for it though and taking no prisoners. By the time the third mile had elapsed he was in lead and continued to press on from there.
Despite the hills, Pete had completed most of the miles up to mile seven at around 6:20 to 6:30 pace. Had he burnt himself out too early though, that was the question?
Some tough hills over the next forced him to slow the pace a bit but a couple of nice downhill stretches on the 11th and 12th miles saw him get back up to speed.
At the half way stage it was so far so good for Pete and his lead at the front of the field was growing progressively. He didn’t relent though and continued to attack the hills with vigour and gusto.
Not prepared to just settle for the race win, Pete wanted to continue giving it all he’s got and see how quickly he could go. Managing to stay remarkably strong over the second half of the race, it was only at mile 24 where he really started to find it tough.
The hill on that mile took a lot out of him but he was hoping he’d be able to cruise home after that. That was not so though and he was cursing his luck as he turned the corner to be greeted with one more big hill before the finish.
Being forced to swap running for walking over the last bit of the climb, he made it up nonetheless, crossing the finish line in a remarkable time of 2:59:40.
It was a quite magnificent victory for Pete, and a fairly comprehensive one at that. Almost eight minutes went by before the runner up emerged on the horizon.
That was Robert Eaton of South Derbyshire Road Runners. He got over the line in a time of 3:07:37. Then it was Philip Macgregor who took third place in a time of 3:11:37.
Kieron Mumford of Lonely Goat was the only other man to come in in under three-and-a-half hours. He posted a time of 3:27:08, giving him the Male 45-49 crown.
Over the course of the race, Pete wracked up 2,454ft of elevation which gives some indication of just how tough the Dorset Ooser Marathon is. With its 13 testing climbs to overcome, seven stiles to clamber over and two fords to cross, it isn’t one for the faint hearted.
Meanwhile, in the Half Marathon race it was Robert Doubleday of Poole AC who showed he hasn’t lost any form over the lockdown period, picking up the win in 1:24:16. Sam Davis took second place in a still very good time of 1:26:29.
For Pete though, it was not all about the winning. He classes the enjoyment of running as the most important thing, along with the massive mental health benefits that it brings.
After the race he was full of gratitude towards Kevin and Denise and all the team at Badger Trail Events for overcoming so many hurdles and putting on such a hugely successful race under very difficult circumstances.
It had been around four-and-a-half months since lockdown restrictions came into play, forcing all forms of competitive racing off the agenda.
Over the course of that time event organisers and race planners had been searching for ways and means to get races back up and running in a safe and socially distanced environment.
It had proved a very difficult proposition and the inevitable cancellation of many high profile events ensued, including all big city marathons, some of which had initially been rescheduled for October.
It came as a welcome relief to many athletes when the go-ahead was finally given for racing to return in some shape or form. In the Dorset area it turned out to be Maverick who were the first to get an event scheduled in with an appropriate strategy in place and a Covid-19 considered plan approved.
Maverick events tend to consist of three different distances for runners to choose from, namely a Short, Middle and Long race. The challenge was of course to come up with an innovative way in which they could reduce interaction between participants wherever possible and ensure gatherings were kept to a minimum.
They did this by introducing a starting system where runners could set off in waves, dictated by their chosen timeslot. They could then start their races any time during the allocated duration for that particular wave.
The lockdown period had certainly brought about its own set of challenges to runners, with the initial restrictions forcing most to train on their own.
With the absence of group club sessions and hands-on coaching guidance, runners had to find their own motivations to keep training and maintain fitness levels.
Even when coached club sessions returned, there was then still the lack of any target races to aim for to provide the incentive to train hard and commit to the cause.
Despite all those challenges, Rob McTaggart and Rich Brawn had both managed to remain focused and stay motivated in training. As a consequence, they were quite pleased with where their fitness levels were at. The only frustration for them had been that they had no races in which to showcase that form.
Hence when they discovered that the Maverick Adidas Terrex Dorset Original event was actually taking place, they jumped at the chance to compete again.
With the race being staged along the rugged Jurassic coastline from Swanage, Tag knew it wouldn’t be a course the played to his strengths. He usually excels more in a fast, flat, road race environment. But beggars can’t be choosers and it was a competitive race, nonetheless, so it was worth a go.
Having already signed up to a 10k race the following weekend, Rich felt it would be a good way to get back into race mode and given the tough terrain, it would provide some good strength benefits for following race he had penciled in.
The location of the race village was Wilkswood Farm in Swanage. The three different distances participants could choose from were 8km, 16km and 24km. Both Tag and Rich had opted for the Middle distance, which was 16km.
Arriving with some of his mates from Twemlow Track Club, Tag started off in the second wave. Rich was scheduled to go in the third wave of the four.
The starting procedure was very straight forward indeed. The runners simply just had to go to the start area at some point during the time span of their wave, pick up their number, pin it on and then head to the start line where they could set off individually or in pairs.
It wasn’t long before the climbing began, with the presence of a testing hill in the first mile that gave the athletes an early taste of what was to come.
The next couple of miles were fairly smooth sailing, or at least they should have been. There were a few undulations but nothing too excessive. The third mile contained a downhill stretch and that was where a harrowing moment for Rich occurred.
He was enjoying picking his way through the field and going past others who had started ahead of him and back-markers from previous waves.
Getting a bit over exuberant, he was tearing down the field on full throttle. The decline in the field seemed to gradually get more steep though and Rich soon found himself picking up velocity as his momentum carried him forward.
Suddenly realising he was travelling too fast he thought he’d better try and slow down. But he had no breaks!! Rather worryingly, he was completely out of control at this point and was hurtling towards the end of the field and knew if he kept going he’d have no way of stopping.
As the ground began to get blurry with the speed he was going at, the only way Rich could think of to stop was to throw himself to the ground, so that’s what he did.
Crashing to the deck on his left leg, it was a painful landing but he was grateful to have stopped without serious injury. He immediately bounced back and carried on, relieved to find that the only damage he had done was surface wounds.
On the fifth mile there were some very steep steps leading down to a valley. Remembering his fall from earlier, Rich decided to take these very cautiously, just gently walking down. Any attempt to go faster could have easily resulted in calamity and he wasn’t prepared to risk that.
Then there was a very steep climb up the other side which most people were walking up. After losing so much time going down the stairs, Rich wasn’t prepared to be delayed any further and worked hard to get up as quickly as he could.
It was the first off-road race he’d ever done on the Purbeck though and after beginning to struggle a bit, he wondered if perhaps he hadn’t quite given it the respect it deserves and would pay for setting off so quick.
Then, on the sixth mile he came to another extremely steep downhill section with steps. Again, the only viable option was to walk down gingerly which took a fair while as it was a very long hill. Once he eventually reached the bottom, there was another massive hill with steps back up the other side.
Clambering up the steps as fast as he could, he could tell that the mile split for that one would be very slow. After that though, he managed to find some rhythm and thankfully, once he was on route back to the start/finish area, the remainder of the race wasn’t too taxing.
Some nice downhill stretches over the last couple of miles allowed him to claw some time back and after one final short climb through a wooded area, he saw the inflatable finish arch.
Going over the line in a time of 1:14:40, even though it was perhaps Rich‘s slowest time ever over a 10-mile distance, he was pleased with the performance given the toughness of the terrain.
Over the course of the race he’d wracked up almost 1,200ft of elevation and if you add all the lengthy descents with steps as well, it’s easy to see why it wasn’t one for a fast time.
As for Tag, given he had started in a previous wave, he had completed his ordeal quite some time ago. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a race he will look back on overly fondly.
He didn’t even have any trail shoes so that meant he was also restricted to walking down each set of steep steps and it turned out to be more a steady run than an all-out blast from him.
Crossing the line in a time of 1:11:23, Tag still ran it over three minutes faster than Rich and it would be enough to see him finish fairly high up the leaderboard. He didn’t enjoy his foray into trail running though and probably won’t overly keen to enter another race like that any time soon.
It was the Twemlow Track Club guys who dominated the race over the Middle distance though, with Brian Underwood posting the fastest time of anyone on the day, somehow getting round in 1:06:18. That was a mightily impressive feat, producing a time like that over such a difficult course.
Jack Galloway took the runners up spot, completing the route in a time of 1:07:23. Harry Lauste took third place, finishing in 1:08:15, with Steven Rigby getting fourth in 1:10:25. Tag was fifth in the overall standings and Rich was sixth.
The quickest lady over the Middle distance was Jenny Marshall, who finished 7th overall with a magnificent time of 1:14:53. A total of 146 people successfully completed the 16km race.
In the other distances, Daniel Eyre won the Short race in a time of 32:50, followed by Georgie Lambert who was second in 34:49 and Louise Fox was came third in a time of 35:21.
Over the Long distance, it was Toby Lambert who came out on top, putting in a brilliant performance to complete the 24km route in 1:42:51.
James Phillips took second place in a still very impressive time of 1:45:57, with Dasos Gonnella registering a time of just two seconds slower to take third place in 1:45:59.
Although it won’t be one that Rich and Tag will remember for their spectacular performances, the race will be remembered by all those who took part as one of huge significance.
That significance is of course, that real racing is finally back. And, after such a lengthy hiatus without it, that will be a godsend for most competitive club runners.
It’s a sign of the times when a relay race has to be run solo. In fact, to be fair, it’s probably never happened before. But unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures and alternatives to the conventional customs applied to all aspects of life are needing to be found.
Usually of course, a relay race is synonymous with team ethic, principally the passing of the baton from one team member to another. In this particular event though, there was none of that. In fact, most team members never actually even saw each other.
The National Road Relays were originally scheduled to take place on the weekend of 4th April at Sutton Park in Birmingham. Due to the current lockdown situation, that was obviously not going to happen.
Instead of just cancelling the event or postponing it though, the race organisers decided to look for another way and thus, they set up the Virtual National Road Relay Championships.
The premise behind it was that running clubs set up a team and then each club member who signs up for the race is then eligible to represent the team.
Because of the new restrictions of social gatherings and social distancing rules, each team member would simply have to run their 5k leg, on their own, and record the activity as evidence.
The activity would then need to be uploaded to Strava and then submitted via the Open Track website, where it could then be officially verified and added to the results.
Over the past few seasons Bournemouth AC have been quite lapse in getting teams together for the National Road Relay Championships and other similar events that attract some of the highest calibre athletes.
This was one that they really could get their teeth into though and it didn’t really require any organisation, transport or funding. All each team member had to do was go out and run a 5k as fast as they possible could in their own back yard.
The idea seemed to appeal to a lot of the BAC members, including many of the club’s faster, more established runners. With a little rallying cry from Craig Palmer on the What’s App group, the troops began to assemble and the team was soon shaping up nicely.
Some of those who had left it late to register for the event had some difficulties as the server appeared to get overloaded but everyone managed to get their entries submitted in the end and the race was on. They now had five days within which to complete their 5k and upload the activity on Open Track.
The process seemed to create quite a buzz on the What’s App group as the banter began and everyone started to get curious about who was going to run when and where. And as the event played out and results began to filter through, the more the excitement built.
The first Bournemouth AC man to get out and record his activity was Stu Nicholas. Although he’d probably say his forte is more marathon running, Stu is a very good all-rounder and regularly comes in as first finisher at Bournemouth parkrun.
Therefore, it was no surprise to see him setting the pace with an excellent benchmark of 17:04. That was an average of 5:31 for the 5k. For most of the BAC runners, it was simply a case of do the run, sync it to Strava and submit it on the website. It wasn’t quite so easy for Stu though.
He had never used Strava before and didn’t even have an account, so he had to create one first and then learn how to sync it with his Garmin and then go through the process of submitting it on the Open Track site.
The technological tasks may have proved more difficult for Stu than the actual run itself but he managed to get it sorted in the end and the Bournemouth AC Road Runners group on Strava had a new member so everyone was a winner.
A glitch with the website in the last few hours before the entry deadline had caused Rich Brawn, Jacek Cieluszecki and Helen O’Neile to think that they might have missed out on the opportunity to take part in the event.
When the entry list was updated later on though, they all found that they were in and that was a great relief as it would have been a shame for them to miss out when so many of their teammates were getting involved.
As one of Bournemouth AC’s very best runners, the expectations for Jacek were extremely high. Again, he specialises more in longer distance races, often ultramarathons as opposed to shorter, faster ones, but he’s certainly capable of banging out a quick 5k. In fact, he usually gets round Poole parkrun in well under 16 minutes.
Opting for the promenade stretch from Bournemouth to Sandbanks as the location for his Road Relay attempt, Jacek set off fairly early in the morning to avoid the crowds and took advantage of a favourable tailwind to clock a time of 16 minutes on the nose. That put his average pace for the run at 5:08 minuters per mile.
Other big names were soon dusting off their racing trainers and getting out to do their bit for the team. Craig Palmer had played an important role in galvanising the squad together for the event and despite not firing on all cylinders, he still gave it everything he’s got.
Going through the first mile in 5:06, he left himself a hell of a challenge to try and maintain it he was hurting for the remainder of the run. Knowing it was for the Road Relays was enough to give him the inspiration to dig in and see it out though and he completed his 5k in 16:03. That was an average pace of 5:11.
The first BAC lady to get in on the act was Nikki Sandell. It would probably be fair to say that she’s some way off where she would like her form to be at this point in time but she actually surprised herself in her 5k.
Completing the activity in a time of 20:09, with an average pace of 6:29, that was actually a lot better than Nikki had anticipated she would do. She then went on to win a family jigsaw challenge later that day, so it all came together nicely for her in the end.
Despite not considering himself as one of Bournemouth AC’s real speed merchants, Andy Gillespie loves the team events and enjoys getting involved in the banter and camaraderie that comes with it.
Managing to produce a time of 22:32, he was fairly pleased with his effort. It was around the sort of time he would usually post at parkrun and that was without anyone to chase so it was a decent result for Andy.
Also getting his run in on the Saturday, Rich Brawn surmised that it would probably be his best chance of a fast time. He usually has a recovery day on Friday and wanted to do a long run Sunday so it made sense to get it done then.
Since the lockdown started, Rich had found that he was in fact able to manage a reasonable interval session on his own, which is something he had struggled to do before. Also, judging by the pace he’d been going at in that interval session and in some of his tempo runs along the promenade as well, he knew if the conditions were right he could be in for a quick time.
Starting his 5k on the promenade, just down from Hengistbury Head, he made his way along the seafront towards Boscombe. With the wind on his side, Rich quickly settled into a rhythm, going at around 5:30 sort of pace.
Able to maintain a good pace for that first mile, he went through in a time of 5:33. If he could keep that up, he knew he would be setting himself a personal record.
For the second mile he managed to continue on in that vain and as he went through the second mile, his watch again showed 5:33, which he was well pleased with. Now that battle was on but he knew he’d be able to dig deep and hold on in that last mile if he needed to.
During the third mile he started to feel a bit sick as his body wasn’t quite used to going full throttle at that pace for such a prolonged period of time. His legs were still feeling good though and he was confident he’d have enough in the tank to see it through.
Completing the last mile in an even faster time of 5:28, he just had to keep going until he hit the 0.1 marker. Stopping his watch once he could be certain that the 5k was done, he was over the moon when he glanced down at his watch to see the time of 17:10.
That made it Rich’s fastest every 5k time, 22 seconds quicker than his parkrun PB. And was a great result for Rich and he continued his run along the promenade in the midday sunshine knowing he’d produced the best performance he could.
Then some news began to filter through that sent shockwaves through the Bournemouth AC camp. A new fastest time had been set and it had been done right here in Bournemouth. Grant Sheldon had posted a staggering time of 13:38!!
Even the top BAC runners were stunned at that time and began to consider if it might be worth using that same Cowell Drive loop that Grant used which is right next to the Littledown Centre grounds.
Grant is an international triathlete who has competed for both Scotland and Great Britain. With an average pace of 4:22 for the 5k, there certainly wouldn’t be too many people out there who could match him on the running section, even on the world stage.
No Bournemouth AC member could realistically hope to challenge that time. Not even the great Steve Way, although he has been insisting on his retirement from competitive race action for quite some time now.
Nevertheless, Steve is always willing to do his bit to help the team out and he did just that, completing his 5k in a time of 16:44. He went through the first mile in 5:16 and then followed that up with a 5:18 second mile. It was only on the last mile where his pace dropped a bit to 5:29, but it was still a decent effort from Steve, giving him an average pace of 5:21.
Not long after she’d transferred to Bournemouth AC as first claim, Nikki Whittaker was making her debut for the club, albeit a very different sort of debut than she perhaps would have envisaged under normal circumstances.
She ran her fastest 5k for quite some time, knocking 50 seconds off her last stab at the distance. Registering a time of 26:32, it was a pleasing first outing for her representing BAC.
After keeping a close eye on what sort of times his closest teammates had been producing, it was time for Ant Clark to get his one done.
It would be fair to say that his preparation for the run hadn’t been ideal as his Sunday run, with the 5k incorporated in, would bring him to the end of a 100 mile week. Not only that, but he’d also drank a bottle of wine the night before so may also have been feeling a little worse for wear from that.
Like a true pro though, he went out and delivered an excellent performance, registering a time of 16:32, which was only 9 seconds off his official parkrun PB. That put his average pace for the run at a cracking 5:19.
Choosing the same stretch of promenade as Rich Brawn, Graeme Miller was the next man to post his activity and after Rich had posted his fastest ever 5k time, Graeme was hoping to do something similar.
In fact, he went even quicker, hammering home a superb time of 17:04, which was actually 14 seconds faster than his parkrun PB of 17:18. It was a fantastic run from Graeme and gave him an average pace of 5:29 for the run.
Graeme was probably one of the most disappointed people out there when the Coronavirus pandemic struck and the London Marathon was cancelled as he was in scintillating form, running better than he has for a number of years.
On that very same seafront course, Ian White and Sam White set off just after Graeme to complete their 5k runs. Starting off with a very quick first mile of 6:31, Ian rolled back the years.
However, over the course of the remaining two thirds of the race the years caught up with him and he paid for his enthusiastic opener. He refused to relent though and kept battling away.
Although he’d slowed down quite significantly by the end, he stopped his watch at 21:11, which was still a pretty decent time. He may have blown every gasket he had but it was quicker than any of his parkruns for the year so far and gave him an average pace of 6:48.
The unofficial PBs on that stretch of the promenade hadn’t finished yet though. A very special performance was also on the cards for Sam as well.
She started off with a 7:52 minute mile and held it together, staying under 8 minutes per mile for the remainder of run which gave her a finishing time of 24:39.
The fastest parkrun that she’d ever done was 24:50, which she clocked the weekend before she did the London Marathon last year. She certainly wouldn’t have expected to better that in a 5k run on her own though. But she did and she was rightfully thrilled about it.
Also heading for the promenade for her effort, Tamzin Petersen continued the trend of impressive displays with an extremely well paced run where she got progressively faster as she went along.
Started off at 7:09 pace, she then upped it to 7 exactly before following it up with a 6:59 before closing it very well to finish with a time of 21:53. It was a time that rivalled some of her fastest ever parkrun performances so she had to pleased with that outcome.
There was still time for two more of the BAC ladies team to take to the promenade for their sessions that morning as well. It was actually supposed to be the day that Estelle Slatford would be running the Paris Marathon.
Of course, that didn’t happen but at she had the Virtual National Road Relays to compete in instead and she threw herself into that instead.
Pacing her run very well, she went through the first mile in 7:30. She then followed that up with a 7:25 for her second mile and then a 7:29 for her third mile.
That saw her reach the 5k distance in a time of 23:12, which was an excellent time for her. With an average pace of 7:27 for the run, she was well pleased with that effort.
Also in action that morning and once again using the same stretch of promenade for her run, Louise Price completed her 5k in a time of 24:11. Again, it was quite a well paced effort from Lou, going through the first mile in 7:43, the second mile in 7:49 and the third mile in 7:50.
The Virtual National Road Relay was already going well from a Bournemouth AC perspective but it was about to take another massive upturn.
Perhaps turning in the performance of the entire championships for BAC, Stu Fox surprised everyone when he nailed the first sub-16-minute effort .
Heading over the cycle track over at Winton Recreation Ground where he does a lot of his speedwork, Stu recorded a phenonmenal time of 15:48!! And not only that, his splits were remarkably consistent as well, clocking a 5:08, a 5:07 and a 5:04 for his three miles, followed by a very strong sprint finish.
Because Stu doesn’t race a lot, it’s easy to forget how good he actually is, but after this run it was clear to see that he is still very much at the top of game.
Later on that day, the prospects of the team were given a further boost when Rob Spencer chipped in with a time of 15:49. Rob had opted for the same Hawthorn Road route as Craig Palmer for his effort.
A very lively start to his run saw Rob go through the first mile in 4:56. Considering he hadn’t been training on a very consistent basis over much of the year, he hung on very well, recording a 5:08 for the second mile and 5:13 for the third mile.
With an average pace of 5:05 for the run, it was a mightily impressive display from Rob and turned out to be his second fastest ever 5k. The only time he’d ever gone quicker was at Poole parkrun in July last year when he registered a 15:41.
The next morning it was Joy Wright‘s turn to get out an do her bit for the ladies’ team. The wind was blowing in the other direction that day though so Joy started off from Bournemouth Pier and headed towards Southbourne.
Although she’s been suffering a bit recently due to sciatica, Joy has been keeping her training fairly consistent over the lockdown period and including some 400m focused interval sessions in her schedule.
Completing her 5k in 20:55, it was a decent run from Joy, making her the second fastest lady thus far. Her average minutes per mile pace for the run was 6:42.
Next to get his run in for the men’s team, it was Mitch Griffiths. He did his run along the promenade from Sandbacks to Bournemouth Pier, starting off at 5:28 pace for the first mile.
Clocking in the with a 5:32 for the second mile, he kept it remarkably consistent over the duration of the run, also completing the third mile in 5:32.
That was enough to see him complete the 5k in a superb time of 17:07, which was his second fastest ever attempt at the distance after registering exactly 17 minutes at Poole parkrun in September last year.
The next BAC member to give it a shot was Alison Humphrey. She ran an out-and-back style route along Castleman Way. Again, she kept a very good consistent pace for the run, putting in a 6:40 for the first mile, a 6:45 for the second mile and then a 6:40 again for the third mile.
That meant, like Mitch, she’d run her fastest 5k time since September last year, coming with a finishing time of 20:43. She was now the second fasted woman on the team behind Nikki Sandell.
Some good news in that evening as well when it emerged that the Bournemouth AC Vet Men’s team were currently occupying top stop in the standings.
The Vets teams were made up of six people and the BAC contigent of Stu Fox, JC, Ant Clark, Steve Way, Graeme Miller and Ian White were sitting pretty in first place. Of course, there was still a long way to go, but it was a hell of an achievement to be up there in some a fiercely competitive race.
In the overall standings for the 12 Stage Men’s race, BAC were fairing pretty well as well and they still had Mitch’s result to be added in. Plus Jon Sharkey, Rob McTaggart and Dave Long were still get to submit their activities.
A 16-minute run from each of them would see the team move up the second place in the standings based on the current state of play. That put a bit of pressure on those still with runs remaining to ensure they delivered the goods.
Due a lack of fitness though, Jon Sharkey wasn’t sure whether he would be able to do enough to make the final 12. He’d already one attempt, finishing in 17:37, but he hadn’t submitted it yet so was prepared to give it another go on the last day and see if he could muster up anything better.
There were high hopes for Tag and Disco though and the pressure was certainly on them to see they could put in performances that would be quick enough to elevate the club’s position significantly.
The following afternoon it was time for the talking to be over the action to take place and that was where Tag came into his own. He chose a 2km loop around the Talbot Woods area as the location for his attempt.
Starting out a ferociously quick mile at 4:46 pace, it was clear that he was going out all guns blazing. He then followed that up with a 4:50 for the second mile, leaving himself with just over a mile left before he recorded something very special.
Going through the last mile in 4:54, he then raced through the remainder of the 5k to clock an incredible time of 15 minutes exactly. It was a phenomenal performance that was just what the team needed to elevate them in the 12-stage standings.
Even though it was a terrific run which he could be really satisfied with, it was kind of bittersweet for Tag as he’d come so close to the sub-15. Nevertheless, he certainly could not be unhappy with that result and it was easily the fastest 5k he’d ever produced on the road.
Unfortunately Tag’s run wasn’t the only lightening quick 5k to be submitted that day. There were several others as well, with many going under the 15 minute marker.
That completely changed the rankings on the leader-board, pushing Bournemouth AC down the list quite considerably and making it all the more imperative that Dave recorded a fast time.
Throughout the competition, Ian White had been studying the results intently and he’d worked out that if Disco ran it in 16 minutes, that would put BAC in 13th place. 15 minutes would put them in 11th and in order to get in the team into the top ten, he’d need to clock around 14:15.
That was based on everyone who’s results had been submitted so far tough. There was no way of knowing who else was still to run from any of the clubs and how fast they would go. All that was clear was that there was a lot of pressure of Dave to pull it out the bag.
If they could record a 13th place finish or higher it would have been an amazing result for BAC. Their best performance over recent times was a 10th place in the Southern Relays so this had the potential to be ground breaking for the club.
The Bournemouth AC Vet Women were in 6th place at the time so that was a terrific achievement from them thus far. The six counting for their team were Nikki Sandell, Alison Humphrey, Joy Wright, Estelle Slatford, Louise Price and Sam White.
The next day was the final day for runners to submit their activities and everyone was glued to the scoreboard to see where they would end up in the final standings for each of the various categories.
Leeds had previously been top of the standings in the Men’s 12-Stage rankings and they’d had four men in in under 14:30. As more results came flooding in though, they’d been overtaken by Tonbridge who had 11 runners in with times of 15:10 or faster. That demonstrated how high the standard was at top of the table.
It was looking like BAC could still be on course for a top 20 finish but it was tightly bunched, so Disco knew that when he went out for his run, every second would count.
The Vet Men were in 2nd place at the point in the proceedings and the Vet Women were in 7th so it was all looking very good from a BAC perspective.
Before lockdown started, Tom Craggs had been providing coaching sessions to Bournemouth AC members on the track at Kings Park. This had gone down very well with the Tuesday training nights attracting some big numbers.
On top of that he coaches a number of athletes individually as well. Putting so much time into his coaching though leaves Tom with very little time to work on his own running. He still had a go at the 5k though and managed to produce a time of 18:50, which was 6:04 average pace.
It was still a decent time by normal standards but it wasn’t quite what Tom was hoping for. Since he isn’t a first claim BAC member, he didn’t submit the run in the end anyway, but it was useful for Tom to get an idea of where he’s at with his running and what he needs to do going forward.
That left just Disco, Sharkey and Helen O’Neile still to post their activities. Dave decided to use the same loop that Grant Sheldon had used for his run, which saw him still at the top of the table in the overall rankings.
Hoping that his GPS might be as generous with the distance as Grant’s had been, Dave set off on his way. Hitting the first mile in 14:42, it looked very promising at that stage.
Unfortunately he wasn’t quite able to maintain that pace though and went through the second mile in exactly 5 minutes and the third mile in 5:09. Once he’d completed the run and stopped his watch the time was 15:28, although he did go through the 5k point in 15:22.
It was still a great time from Dave though and gave him an average pace of 4:57 for the run which was an excellent result. That made him second fastest for the BAC team behind Tag. Unfortunately his GPS did him no favours and he’d ended up going the full distance.
That time from Disco took BAC up to 13th place in the table, which was a great position to be in. If Sharkey could deliver a decent showing as well they could even move further up.
Starting off at a pace that would have improved the team’s position in the standings, Sharkey went through the first mile in 5:25. With his current level of fitness though, it proved too difficult to maintain and he registered a 5:32 for the second mile and a 5:36 for the third mile.
Whilst it was still enough to put him level with Rich Brawn on a time of 17:10, it wasn’t quite enough to improve the team’s placings as Rich had previously been the 12th quickest.
With Disco’s result added in, that would have taken the BAC Men to 24th place in the 12-Stage relay. The Vet Men were impressively still in 2nd place and the Vet Women were lying in 10th.
After bailing out in her first attempt due to a stitch, Helen O’Neile did manage to get her 5k done in the end, but not quite at the pace she would have wanted.
Her time of 19:56 would have still made her fastest BAC lady though so that would have still been something to be proud of. With an average pace for the run of 6:25 though, she knew she was capable of a lot faster.
Since the lockdown had been put in place though, Helen had really struggled to find the motivation with her running. She much prefers training in groups and has found it difficult doing sessions by herself.
Unfortunately her time never actually got included in the results though, even though she did email it through the race organiser. It may have been something to the naming of her activity in Strava that meant it couldn’t be counted but either way, it was a disappointing outcome for Helen after she’d worked hard to get the run completed.
The battle for supremacy at the top of the table for the Men’s 12-Stage relay was proving increasingly exciting as clock ticked toward the submission deadline time.
News had broken that morning that Cambridge and Coleridge had overtaken Leeds at the top after Marc Scott had posted the third best time of all, completing his 5k in 13:43.
It was only Adam Hickey’s time of 13:40 and Grant Sheldon’s 13:38 that could top that. As the late submissions came pouring in though, there was still time for the team standings to change.
When the results were all in and they had all been counted and verified, it was in fact Leeds who picked up the win in the Men’s 12-Stagerelay. Their cumulative time of 2:57:08 was 36 seconds quicker than Cambridge and Coleridge. For it to be that close after 12 men had raced was quite incredible.
Unbelievably, Leeds had eight runners who got in in under 15 minutes, which was a mightily impressive club performance. All 12 men finished in under 16 minutes. Phil Sesemann and Graham Rush were their top two athletes, both finishing 7th in the overall standings with times of 14:02 apiece.
Cambridge and Coleridge of course had Marc Scott who did finish up in third place overall but they only had five men in in under 15 minutes. Their 12th member came in at 15:22 though so it was a fantastic team result for them.
Having to settle for third place in the end, Tonbridge also finished up with eight men in in under 15 minutes and their 12th runner finished in 15:09 so they were unlikely to find themselves in third place really with a display like that.
Once Dave Long’s result had finally been added, Bournemouth AC were confirmed as having finished in 31st place with a cumulative time of 3:15:49. The 12 scorers were Tag (15:00), Disco (15:28), Stu Fox (15:48), Rob Spencer (15:49), JC (16:00), Craig (16:03), Ant (16:32), Steve (16:44), Graeme (17:04), Stu Nicholas (17:04), Mitch (17:07) and either Rich or Sharkey, as they both finished in 17:10.
That was actually a very good result for BAC when up against such high quality opposition. The road relays really do give a true insight into just how many top clubs there are out there and the remarkable strength in depth that they have. To be finishing above clubs like Sale Harriers and Herne Hill was a magnificent achievement and the BAC Men could be proud of that.
Herne Hill won both the women’s 12-Stage and 6-Stage relays finishing with a cumulative time of 3:37:09 for the 12-Stage and 1:43:20 for the 6-Stage.
They had both Chloe Tighe (16:44) and Steph McCall (16:58) along with three other women who came in under 17:11. Their top 12 all finished in under 20 minutes. They edged out Thames Valley Harriers (3:47:14) and Tonbridge (3:48:06) in the 12-Stage race and Leeds (1:44:27) and City of Norwich (1:44:43) in the 6-Stage.
The fastest woman overall was Lucy Reid of Tonbridge who ran her leg in 16:19, putting her 3 seconds ahead of Jennifer Walsh of Leeds and British 1500m champion Holly Archer who both posted a time of 16:22.
The Bournemouth AC team finished 75th in the Women’s 6-Stage relay with a combined time of 2:11:03. Their team of six was Nikki Sandell (20:09), Ali (20:43), Joy (20:55), Tamzin (21:53), Estelle (23:12) and Lou (24:11).
If Helen’s time of 19:56 had been added into the mix though that would have put their time at 2:06:48 which would have put them in 60th place.
The BACVet Men‘s team did tremendously well to finish in 6th place overall with the team of Stu Fox (15:48), JC (16:00), Ant (16:32), Steve (16:44), Graeme (17:04) and Ian White (21:11). That gave them a combined time of 1:43:19.
The Vet Women‘s team did well as well to take 21st place in the rankings with a cumulative time of 2:13:49. Their team was made up of Nikki Sandell (20:09), Ali (20:43), Joy (20:55), Estelle (23:12), Lou (24:11) and Sam (24:39).
There was also a Mixed Age Graded category as well which saw Bournemouth AC finish in 24th place with an Age Grading of 83:60%. The team for that consisted of: Stu Fox (88.64%), Tag (87.97%), JC (86.91%), Graeme (85.14%), Steve (84.93%), Ant (84.10%), Disco (83.94%), Craig (82.22%), Rob Spencer (82.19%), Ali (79.76%), Rich (79.29%) and Sharkey (78.20%).
The best thing about the event though wasn’t even anything to do with the results or any individual performances. It was that it brought everyone together as club and as a team.
And in the current climate, the lockdown restrictions that are in place are leaving a lot of people feeling isolated and finding it difficult being unable to socialise with friends, family and team members.
Taking part in the Virtual National Road Relay brought a great buzz around the squad and it also gave the runners a sense of purpose, providing something tangible to aim for as oppose to just training without any short term goals to target.
There is also some hope that, off the back of this event, the team spirit it has generated will transcend to other future road relay competitions later on the year and Bournemouth AC will get back to competing on the big stage, which is exactly where they should be.
The final positionings of each Bournemouth AC member in the overall standings were as follows:
104. Rob McTaggart 15:00
232. Dave Long 15:28
335. Stu Fox 15:48
341. Rob Spencer 15:49
413. Jacek Cieluszecki 16:00
429. Craig Palmer 16:03
616: Ant Clark 16:32
712. Steve Way 16:44
865. Graeme Miller 17:04
865. Stu Nicholas 17:04
886. Mitch Griffiths 17:07
925. Rich Brawn 17:10
925. Jon Sharkey 17:10
2177. Helen O’Neile 19:56
2253. Nikki Sandell 20:09
2454. Ali Humphrey 20:43
2529. Joy Wright 20:55
2617. Ian White 21:11
2819. Tamzin Petersen 21:53
2992. Andy Gillespie 22:32
3129. Estelle Slatford 23:12
3273. Louise Price 24:11
3340. Sam White 24:39
3528. Nikki Whittaker 26:32
Long stretches of thick, gloopy, shoe swallowing mud and an extraordinarily high standard of competition was the order of the day for the Team Dorset runners when they ventured up to Loughborough for the UK Inter Counties Cross Country Championships.
Several Bournemouth AC runners had been selected to represent the county in the event including Richard Brawn and Rob McTaggart for the Senior Men and Harriet Slade and Nikki Sandell for the Senior Women.
There were also some BAC juniors who had made the journey up to Leicestershire, with Oliver James and Jasper Todd going in the Under 17 Men’s race, Neve East and Martha Preece in the Under 15 Girls race, Oscar Ewen Matthews and Stanley Peters in the Under 13 Boys category and Erin Wells featuring in the Under 13 Girls race.
It was set to be an interesting afternoon for the BAC athletes, with many highs and lows to be experienced amongst them. Up against the cream of the crop from counties all over the UK, it was always going to be a true test for them going up against the very best.
The Senior and Under 20 teams were looked after by Jan Westhenry and in the build up to the event, she worked hard to find the best athletes she could who were available to make the trip.
Some of places for the Dorset squad were determined by performances in the Dorset County Championships, so she already had some names down on the list for each age group off the back of those results.
Bournemouth AC junior development coach Simon Hearn was on hand to take on the role of team manager for the juniors, so he had to find the best runners he could from each different age category who were able to make the journey.
It was a task that Simon had no hesitation in stepping up to. He manages the junior teams for BAC in both the Hampshire and Wessex League cross countries so he was the perfect man to fulfil that position for the county.
Simon is a very accomplished coach and has a great relationship with the kids he looks after at BAC. He also has a good knack of getting the best out of them, both in training and in races.
The first Bournemouth AC member to run for Dorset on the day was Erin Wells who competed in the Under 13 Girls race. After finishing 27th in the National Cross Country Championships and 9th in the South West Inter County Championships, Erin is fast becoming one of BAC’s top rising stars. This was a great opportunity for her to showcase her ability on the UK county stage.
She certainly didn’t disappoint in the respect and crossed the line as Dorset’s highest finisher in a team of eight runners. Her time for the 3k distance of 15:40 put her in 77th position overall out of 306 runners.
Considering she was facing some of the best young girls in the UK, that was a fantastic result for Erin. She spearheaded to Dorset team to a 34th place finish out of the 40 counties who scored.
After that it was the turn of the Senior Women, who knew that for this particular event, they had to run the same distance as the Senior Men, which is rare in cross country fixtures.
That meant seven miles of one on the most brutal cross country routes out there, with some sections so muddy that wellies would have probably been a more appropriate choice of footwear.
Unfortunately for the Senior Women, only four of them had turned up and six were required for a team, so they knew they wouldn’t be scoring in the team competition.
For those who were there, it was just a case of trying to do the best they could and finish as high up as they could in a fiercely competitive field that was absolutely brimming with talent.
As Dorset County Champion, Harriet Slade was first out of the traps as they lined up in single file alongside all the other counties. Behind her it was Alex Door, who was second in the County Championship and had also finished as Dorset Road Race League champion for the 2019 season.
They were backed up by Nikki Sandell who had received a late call up to the squad and Sarah Swift who had qualified by virtue of her performance in the County Championships.
None of the Dorset ladies came out of it feeling like they’d had a great run and they all suffered a fair bit on such difficult ground. It wasn’t the kind of race many people come out of thinking “Yeah, I’ve smashed that” though. It was more one where you get your head down and grind it out as best you can.
For much of the initial part of the race, Alex and Harriet were quite close to each other but towards the end of the first lap Alex began to pull away.
Completing the course in a time of 55:17, Alex took the accolade of being first Dorset runner home. She came in in 190th position out of 257 which, given the high standard of competitors she was up against, was a pretty good result.
Crossing the line just 23 seconds after Alex, Harriet took 196th place with her time of 55:40. Even though she found it really tough out there, she’d come out of it in a creditable position considering the level of opposition.
Although she was by no means at her fittest and at her strongest following a very lengthy lay-off through injury, Nikki dug in and gave it all she’s got, finishing in 238th place with a time of 59:16.
Sarah was probably one of the few women who actually looked like she was enjoying herself out there, or almost enjoying it at least! She always seems to go round with a smile on her face, regardless of how tough the conditions are. Arriving at the finish in a time of 1:00:56, Sarah came in in 244th position.
In the Under 17 Men‘s race, Oliver James turned in a magnificent performance to get over the line in 82nd place overall in a time of 23:13 for the 6k course. He was the top Dorset team member out of the seven in the race.
Jasper Todd didn’t look out of place either despite the high quality of opposition. Finishing as the sixth placed Dorset runner out of seven, Jasper registered a time of 27:16 for the 6k course. That put him in 251st place out of the 265 finishers in the category.
Oliver and Jasper’s contributions to the Dorset cause helped them finish in 35th place out of 39 scoring counties in the Under 17 Men’s team competition.
Next to go it was the Under 13 Boys and in that race, Bournemouth AC star Oscar Ewen Matthews was the standout performer for Dorset. He did incredibly well to finish in 42nd place, clocking a time of 14:16 for the 3k distance. And that was out of 293 of the UK’s finest at that age.
Stanley Peters ran well as well to finish as fourth scorer for Dorset, crossing the line in a time of 15:28, which put him in 196th place. The Bournemouth AC pair helped Dorset to a 29th place finish out of the 40 counties that scored.
For the Under 15 Girls, it was Neve East who stole the show from a Dorset perspective. She was a highest finisher for the county, getting over the line in a time of 18:40, which is pretty impressive for a 4k route over such tough terrain.
That put Neve in 69th position in the overall standings in a field of 295 finishers. It was a truly magnificent performance from a BAC girl who is beginning to show some great potential.
Her BAC teammate and now county compatriot as well, Martha Preece, also put in a decent display to cross the line in a time of 21:24. That put her in 252nd position overall and made her fourth scorer out of the seven Dorset runners.
In the Under 15 Girls team competition, with the help of Neve and Martha, Dorset finished 33rd out of the 40 counties that fielded a scoring team.
Last to go, but by no means least, it was the Senior Men. After his impressive performance in the Vitality Big Half the previous weekend, Tag decided to opt out of UK Inter Counties in the end so Rich Brawn was only Bournemouth AC man in the squad.
Fortunately, the men still had six Dorset representatives so provided they all finished, they would at least get a place on the team scoreboard.
The Dorset squad was bolstered by the inclusion of Tom Austin who runs for Poole AC. Tom had finished second in the recent Hampshire League Cross Country fixture at Prospect Park and had gone on to register 18th place in the Southern Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill. He, therefore, came with great pedigree.
Having won the County Championships, Jamie Grose, also of Poole AC, had rightfully earned his place in the line up. He was joined by Fergus Johnson who had run the Vitality Big Half in 1:14:40 the previous weekend and was looking in great form.
Just as Rich had, Graham Sherwin and Bruce Campbell, who both run for Egdon Heath Harriers, had also qualified for the team off the back of their performances in the County Championships.
Whilst he’d been cheering on the Dorset ladies in the Senior Women’s race, Rich had also spotted Sian Thomas, who runs for City of Salisbury and was representing Wiltshire. She had mentioned to him during the race that she’d had to stop as her shoe had come off.
After the race Sian came over the Dorset tent and they were chatting and having a bit of a laugh about it. Rich had no idea then what was about to befall him in his race.
Because they’d heard a lot of people had been having trouble with their shoes coming off, most the Dorset guys set about putting tape around their spikes to ensure that didn’t happen to them.
Just before they got in the traps ready to start the race, Rich noticed that the tape on one of his shoes was already coming loose. That was a bit of a worry since he hadn’t even set off yet!
As the race started, the competitors surged down the opening straight and as they got to the first corner, it was quite a sharp bend creating a bottleneck. Rich got caught up in that and had to slow right down.
By that point a large proportion of the field had already got away and that was the beginning of a sequence of disastrous occurences for Rich.
Once they got to the deep, thick mud section, Rich could feel himself sinking in with every step he took. As he tried to lift his foot out, he could feel it getting stuck into the slop.
It wasn’t long before his shoe completely came off and he had to stop and try to put it back on again. It was gutting for Rich as he lost a fair bit of time trying to get the shoe back on. He was already fairly near the back of the field by that point though, such was the high standard of competitors he was up against.
He got back going again though and set about chasing Bruce who had gone past him whilst he was putting his shoe back on. He managed to get back in front of Bruce but then again, his shoe came off and he had to once again stop to put it back on.
It was a devastating blow for Rich and he began to realise that this was probably going to continually happen throughout the race. The thought of that filled him with dread, but there was nothing else he could really do but pick himself up and go again.
Once again, he set about trying to catch Bruce and low and behold, as soon as they hit another section of the sticky mud, his shoe came loose for a third time.
He took it to the side of the course and thought about whether to try tying the laces up again but his hands were so muddy and there was so much mud on his shoe, he couldn’t really do it. He just about managed to get the shoe back on and was off on his way for a third time.
Fortunately they were now passed the muddiest sections on the lap, but Rich was aware it was a two-lap course so he knew he’d have to face those same difficulties all over again. This time he said to himself, if it happens again, he’s just going to take the shoe off and run in his sock.
Of course, once he got round to the really muddy section, it wasn’t long before his shoe was off again. This time he did just take it off, put it on his hand and carry on running, with just one shoe on. After that it became a lot easier as he didn’t have to worry about his shoe coming off all the time and he was able to pick up the pace a bit.
For the remaining three miles of the race, Rich continued with only one shoe. He actually ran a lot better after and found it fairly smooth sailing. The only bit that contravened that was a short section through a woodland path that had some stones and flints on the ground.
That bit was a tad painful with no shoe on. But he persevered and made it to the finish, even managing to claw back a few places over those last few miles.
Meanwhile, much closer to the front of the field, it was Tom Austin who proved to be the star man for Dorset. He finished in 31st place with a time of 40:37, which was a magnificent result in such a high class field. To run 7 miles that quickly on that sort of terrain was an incredibly impressive effort.
The next man in for the green army was Jamie Grose who came in in 186th place, clocking a time of 45:17. An athlete of his standard finishing so far down the field says a lot about the level of competition out there.
Weighing in with an excellent performance, Graham Sherwin was the third Dorset man home, crossing the line in 46:36 which put him in 224th place. Then it was Fergus Johnson arriving at the finish next. He took 271st place with a time of 48:40.
For Rich and Bruce, it was a very sobering experience as they found themselves near the back of the field. That was something they were not really used to.
Completing the course in a time of 49:19, Rich was languishing down in 281st place, with Bruce reaching the line shortly after to register 284th place in a time of 49:42. There were 294 men who finished the race in total.
Bruce didn’t let the race effect his confidence though and hammered out a huge PB of 1:17:28 the following weekend at the Bath Half Marathon. Again, the fact that a runner of his calibre could finish up where did in UK Inter Counties underlines the quality of the field.
Since all six of the Dorset representatives finished, they did feature on the team scoreboard, taking 30th place out the 31 counties who scored.
It was an event that certainly brought about mixed fortunes for the Dorset possie. Some will look back on it with fond memories and others will probably still be having nightmares about for years to come. But one thing they’ll all have in common is that they’ll all be able say, it was a character building experience!
Following all the storms that had battered the UK from pillar to post and the persistent rainfall that followed for weeks on end, when the day of the National Cross Country Championships came round it was inevitable the participants would have some testing conditions to deal with.
The venue for this year’s event was Wollaton Park in Nottingham and unsurprisingly it turned out to be one of the muddiest Nationals on record. As if that wasn’t hard enough, the high winds on the day made it even challenging for those who took part. It was certainly a stark contrast to the idyllic weather they had in Leeds last year.
Of course, being in Nottingham, it wasn’t the easiest place to get to for those living in Bournemouth so only a few Bournemouth AC members made the trip up. They were Annette Lewis, who was competing in the Senior Women‘s race and Erin Wells and Mariah Marshall who were both in action in the Under 13 Girls race.
With it being the National Cross Country Championships, as one would expect, the level of competition was extremely high and the event still remains a popular attraction for the nation’s elite cross country runners of all age groups.
That meant that the BAC representatives would surely have to be on top of the their game to avoid finding themselves battling towards the back end of the field.
Erin Wells had absolutely no intention of letting that happen though and she certainly possessed the talent to be fighting for positions much further up the standings.
It’s been a tremendous season for Erin on the cross country circuit. She finished sixth in the Under 13 Girls Individual Aggregrates in the Hampshire Cross Country League which, considering the standard of opposition, was a terrific result.
At the conclusion of the Wessex League Cross Country season Erin finished in second place in the aggregate standings for the Under 13 Girls which was again, a very impressive performance.
It’s certainly clear that she enjoys her cross country running and Erin competed in all the major events this season. She finished 30th in the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill and ninth in the South West Inter Counties in Yeovil. She also finished second in the Dorset County Schools’ Championship and sixth in the South West Schools’ Championships.
This was the Nationals though and there would be an inevitable step up in class in comparison to those other events that she’d had so much success in.
As for Mariah Marshall, she’d had a pretty good season as well on the cross country circuit. She finished in 18th place on aggregate in the Wessex League and was 71st at the South West Inter County Championships.
She also registered 40th place in the Hampshire County Championships and 72nd in the Dorset County Schools’ Championships.
Again though, competing at the Nationals would be a higher level of competition for her though so it was going to be interesting to see how she coped in that situation.
The course Erin and Mariah had to face was 3.7 kilometres in length and including some almost swamp like muddy water sections that they had to splash through, as well as plenty of extremely difficult sections of mud.
As she has done throughout all her cross country races this season though, Erin ran well and put in a performance to be proud of. Completing the course in a time of 16:28, she was 27th fastest on the day, which was a fantastic result, out of 358 finishers.
Coming in in 314th place, Mariah crossed the line in a time of 20:58. That was a decent run from Mariah and considering the standard of opposition she was up against, it was a very good effort.
Of course, flying the flag for Bournemouth AC in the Senior Women’s race it was Annette Lewis. Annette loves her cross countries and barely misses any of the big races. She came 77th overall in the aggregate standings in the Hampshire League after completing four out of the five fixtures for the season.
She came 84th in the South West Inter Counties Championships at Yeovil and was 18th in the age category. She was also the Southern Cross Country Champs as well where she finished 650th in an extremly high standard field.
The course for the Senior Women‘s race at the Nationals was 9 kilometres long and again, Annette had to tackle the waterlogged, swampy sections as well as the deep, thick muddy stretches. There were even some huge logs from fallen trees strewn across the pathway that she had to negotiate.
Annette loves all that though. It’s all part of the fun and she never shirks a challenging course or high quality opposition. She just goes out there and gives her all.
Needless to say, Annette did of course manage to successfully negotiate the course, despite all the hurdles put in front of her and crossed the line in a time of 1:08:09. That put her in 880th place in the standings.
As well as the usual difficulties that all runners are faced with on tough cross country courses like this, Annette also suffers from asthma, which makes it even harder for her.
Whenever she finishes a race, the first thing she does is reach for her inhaler and only then does she have the chance to catch her breath again and recuperate.
For her, it is not just a race against her fellow competitors, it is also very much a personal battle against asthma, which she endeavours to win every time.
In what would turn out to be the last major race in the southern region before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shutdown of all races and mass gatherings, the Bath Half Marathon went ahead in controversial circumstances.
Less than 7,000 of the 15,000 entrants actually turned out for the race in the end amidst fears of the virus spreading amongst large groups of people, given the close contact. There was a virtual race though for those who had signed up but felt they didn’t want to take the risk of attending on the day.
The race organisers were waiting on the outcome of an emergency Cobra meeting from the government before making their decision and off the back of that meeting, the government concluded that it wasn’t the right time to ban large scale events.
That presented many runners with one last opportunity to put all their hard work over marathon season training thus far into practice. Amongst those looking to do that were Bournemouth AC stars Jacek Cieluszecki and Sanjai Sharma.
After taking a break from hard training over the early part of the year, Jacek had struggled to find his best form thus far in 2020. Since the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon in early February though, he’d managed to ramp his training back up to what it usually would be and he was beginning to feel like he could soon be returning to his usual formidable form.
As for Sanjai, an ongoing glute issue had played havoc with his training and he was some way off where he would usually expect to be at this stage of the year.
After a significantly below par performance at the Wokingham Half Marathon three weeks prior, Sanjai was hoping he might improve on that at Bath. It had already been announced that the London Marathon was to be postponed, so he knew this training block would be null and void anyway.
The course is predominantly flat and fast and features two identical loops, making it ideal for the many thousands who usually turn out to watch. Given the current climate though, that number would have been significantly lower then usual. The route starts and finishes on Pulteney Street – a beautiful Georgian boulevard in the heart of Bath.
The weather conditions on the day were bleak, with persistent rainfall going from before the race started right the way through to the end. The temperature was also quite low and it reminded Jacek of his Boston Marathon experience when the freezing cold and lashing rain almost forced him to abandon.
Deciding to go out hard from the outset, Jacek went through the first mile at 5:10 pace which signified that he was not messing around in this one.
He was hoping to run it in around 73 minutes, which would have been roughly the same time he did when he won the Weymouth Half Marathon at the equivalent weekend last year. And a similar time to what he recorded when he won the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon in June.
For the next four miles of the race, Jacek ran at around 5:20 pace before cranking it up slightly over the next couple of miles. Going through the 10k point in 33:56, it was so far so good for JC.
Over the second half of the race he did well to maintain a similar sort of pace to what he had done up to that point. From miles 8 to 11 he going at roughly 5:25 pace before putting in a quicker one on mile 12 at 5:18 pace.
That left him with just 1.3 miles left to go. In the majority of half marathons it would have been 1.1 miles but the Bath Half Marathon does come up slightly long.
Registering a 5:26 for the last mile, Jacek finished very strongly in the remaining third of a mile to go over the line in 1:11:17 which put him in 38th place overall.
In such a high standard field, that was an impressive result for JC and his time was much faster than he’d anticipated it would be so that was an extremely pleasing result for him. That put him 4th in the VM40 category out of 412.
Jacek’s average pace for the run was a scintillating 5:22 minutes per mile. That’s a very impressive stat for a half marathon. He’s sad that the season is currently suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak but is hopeful that it won’t go on for too long.
As for Sanjai, he did as well as he could on the day but he was again, some way off his best form. He had actually run the Bath Half Marathon a few times before but his last time was back in 2015, so quite some time ago now. His best time was 1:23:07 which he managed back in 2013.
This time round he found the wet conditions a real challenge and his ongoing glute issues wouldn’t have helped either. He found it very difficult walking after he’d finished the race.
It was in fact, Sanjai‘s slowest half marathon time since 2010 as he went over the line in a time of 1:29:01. That put him in 453rd place overall and 11th out of 247 in the VM55 category.
With the London Marathon now rescheduled to take place in October, that will give Sanjai time to perhaps get a proper training block behind him, so in that sense, it could be blessing for him.
If he can shake off his injury problems by then and get back on track with his training, there’s every chance he could return to form by the time the race does actually take place.
A total of 6,831 people successfully completed the race on the day with the last runner coming in at 4 hours 5 minutes and 24 seconds. Of course, many more runners would have completed the virtual race instead.
The winner of 2020 Bath Half Marathon was Paul Pollock of Kent AC, who clocked a tremendous time of 1:04:14. Jamie Crowe of Central AC took second place in 1:04:38, with Jonathan Cornish of Hercules Wimbledon getting third in 1:05:16.
Youngster Becky Briggs of City of Hull AC was the first woman over the line, finishing in 1:14:34. That put her in 84th place overall. Phillipa Williams of Sheffield Running Club was second lady in 1:15:01 which put her in 91st overall. Then it was Rachel Felton of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers who was third female in 1:15:07. That put her in 94th place overall.
It was a shame for Jacek and Sanjai and all the other runners who took part that the road had to end there. Of course, it hasn’t yet been determined when races will begin to be held again and that will all depend on how well the virus has been contained how the NHS is handling the mass influx of patients.
With many of the Spring marathons being postponed until October, that will certainly be a time to potentially aim for, but this is unchartered waters for society and no one really knows at this point what the future may bring.
Held in what might perhaps have to go down as one of Britain’s poshest venues, the Rushmore Estate, the Larmer Tree Races are always a highlight in the running calendar for keen off-roadies.
The event features a 10 Mile race, which forms part of the Imperial Series treble, along with a Half Marathon on the Saturday. Then it’s the Marathon and the 20 Mile races on the Sunday.
The Larmer Tree Races are always known to throw up some devilishly testing routes, often with some very trying conditions to match. This year was certainly no different in that respect.
The event usually does feature some Bournemouth AC representation, often in the 10 mile race as there are usually one or two members going for the Imperial Series hattrick. In fact, one of them was Kirsty Drewett, back in 2018.
This year, Kirsty returned again but with much tougher task ahead of her. She was bravely taking on the 20 Mile race on the Sunday. With over 2,350ft of ascent to work her way up and some extremely slippery, muddy surfaces to negotiate, it was set to be a real challenge. That’s all good though, as Kirsty certainly likes a challenge.
She’s conquered some pretty fearsome races in the past, including The Beast, which featured 1,800ft of climbing over a 12.5 mile route. She’s also got the Hellstone Marathon which included 3,120ft of elevation in her back catalogue, along with the Purbeck Marathon, the Purbeck 16 and the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon.
The Larmer Tree 20 was around the time when the UK was being battered by storms on the daily. That culminated in a minute delay at the start while the race organisers frantically worked to sort out the aid stations that had blown away over night and clear trees that had gone down across the route. There were also some flooded fields they needed to get through in order to transport some of the water and supplies.
As per usual though, White Star Running did a magnificent job in the face of adversity and once the race got going you would have never known there had been any issues.
Unfortunately, Kirsty wasn’t feeling too great at first which meant she was unable to take in any fluids or fuel over the first half of the race. She thought she might well pay for that later, and inevitably, she did.
Although her legs were feeling pretty good, it became a real challenge for her emotionally. With the super slippery surfaces, the steep descents became absolutely petrifying.
It also one of those “waterproofs on – waterproofs off” kinds of run where she had biting winds, hailstorms and sleet to contend with. Kirsty has no idea how she didn’t get blown off the hilltops in some places.
Despite everything that was thrown at her, Kirsty made it through, successfully completing the course in 3 hours 49 minutes and 19 seconds. That put her in 61st place out of 239 finishers and she was 17th female and 7th in the F40-49 category.
The race was won by Emlyn Hughes of Fareham Crusaders who finished in a time of 2 hours 31 minutes and 51 seconds. Paul Russhard of Lymington Tri Club was second in 2:33:26 with Andrew Hickman of Southville Running Club taking third in 2:42:16.
The top lady of the board was Anna Wieckowska who completed the course in 3:13:31, putting her 16th overall. She was followed by Lynette Porter of Bitton Road Runners who was second lady and 20th overall in a time of 3:15:12. Then it was Fay Bromilow who was third lady and 21st overall in 3:15:56.
Although she didn’t feel like she performed overly well on the day, it’s still a pretty good achievement from Kirsty, especially since she wasn’t feeling very well initially meaning she couldn’t put her usual fuelling strategy into practice.
The route was amazing though and the views were spectacular when she reached the top of the high points. The camaraderie of the runners and the kindness of the event staff made it a really great event and one that Kirsty would be keen to revisit.
When Kirsty got back to her car, the surfaces in the parking area had deteriorated so much due to the ongoing weather that she found that her car was stuck!
After running 20.8 miles up and down super steep hills in the wind and rain, that was the last thing she needed. Fortunately help was swiftly on hand though to get Kirsty on her way, enabling her to finally thaw out and begin the recovery process.
The previous day’s Half Marathon saw Ross Goldsmith take fourth place overall out of 383 finishers in a time of 1:44:18. Ross trains with Bournemouth AC on the Tuesday night sessions that Tom Craggs organises on the track and is always seen to be running strongly.
The Half Marathon race was won by Mark Stileman of Romsey Road Runners in a time of 1:34:10, which tells it’s own story about how tough the course was.
With over 1,650ft of elevation to encounter, it was never going to be one for a quick time. Trevor McAlister of Ryde Harriers took second place in 1:41:16 with his namesake Gary MacAlister of Avon Valley Runners finished third in 1:42:49.