It was the most sought after race of the season in the Hampshire Road Race League. Everyone wanted a piece of the Stubbington 10k. So much so that the 2,000 person entry limit sold out on the same day they became available.

Since this was the club’s first season in the Hampshire Road Race League, this sort of took them by surprise and they weren’t able to get enough people signed up to form a team. This was worrying after the failure to field a team at the Victory 5, which was the previous fixture, had seen them drop down to second in the third division table.

They desperately needed four men in the race to get back on track. Rob McTaggart had been on the ball and managed to get a place for it, as had Nikki Whittaker. Patrick Kingston has been doing most of the Hampshire League races since joining and he was in again.

Debbie Lennon was in as well for her first Hampshire Road Race League outing. She’d been in fantastic form throughout the whole of the Dorset Road Race League and was certainly more than ready to step up to a higher standard of competition.

Often using the Stubbington Green kick-start his London Marathon training, Sanjai Sharma was in as well. He ran the race eight times in nine years between 2011 and 2019 and finished in under 40 minutes on every occasion. In fact, he was often doing it in just over 37 minutes.

He knew he wasn’t quite in that kind of form this time round and he had just got back from a three week holiday so wasn’t fully racing fit. Nevertheless, he was going to give a good go though.

Fortunately the Hampshire Road Race League set up a page on Facebook for number swaps which helped ensure that if anyone who had signed up for it could no longer run, their place could be taken by a runner from a league club.

Sure enough some places started to become available. Helen Ambrosen pulled out, giving new member Tom Ralph the chance to get in on the action and make his full debut for the club.

Tom had been training with the club for quite some time, starting before he did the London Marathon in October. His race didn’t go according to plan that day and he got carried away, starting off way to fast and then suffering towards the end. Marathons are always a learning process though and he will use the experience to help get it right next time.

That meant they had a team of four men but of course, more artillery was always welcome. Bill Lennon managed to get a place off the number swap page and another new member – Michael Akers – also managed to secure a spot.

Michael hadn’t raced for over a year due to some health issues so he was please to be pinning on a number again and was making his Bournemouth AC debut. Much like Sanjai, Michael also had quite a history with the Subbington Green 10k. In fact, he competed in it for five consecutive years between 2014 and 2018.

His last race in it was in 2020 when he completed the course in 36:34. For a few years running before that though, he’d been producing times of around 36:20, with his best time being 36:17 in 2017.

Having performed really well in all of his previous Hampshire Road League races, Rob McTaggart had evert reason to be confident going into Stubbington 10k. He came 3rd in the Overton 5 in the first race of the season, then followed it up with another 3rd in the Gosport Half Marathon before taking 6th place in the Victory 5. He’d never done the Stubbington 10k before though but judging by the clamour to get into it, was expecting it to be a fast course.

Opening proceedings with a ferocious five minute mile before recording a 5:09 for his second mile, it was pretty clear from the outset that he was in the mood.

Rob McTaggart in the Stubbington 10k

Rob McTaggart has been the star performer of the Hamphire Road Race League thus far for Bournemouth AC

The course started in the heart of Stubbington Village and it was a new route for 2023, due to the new bypass, but it was still very flat with some gentle inclines. It was basically a large loop around the airfield, with a small loop detour on the fifth mile.

The conditions in Bournemouth on the day were very wet and wild but it wasn’t quite so bad at Stubbington Green, although it was still pretty windy.

To begin with Tag was running with William Boutwood of Winchester & District and Harry Smith, formerly of BAC but now running for City of Salisbury. Just before 4km, William and Harry managed to drop Tag and extend away, making it a two horse race for the win.

Finding himself on his own after that, Tag trundled on, recording a 5:14 for his third mile and a 5:24 for his fourth mile. There were a couple of inclines in that one though. He then got through the fifth mile in 5:22 before moving on to the sixth mile.

Tag in action at the Stubbington 10k

For much of the race Tag was on his own in third place

Even though he was going well, Ant Gritton of Lordshill Road Runners was closing in on Tag and managed to get past him in the final kilometre. That turned out to be a moved that cost Tag £80 in prize money.

It wasn’t as if he’d slowed down though. He’d actually put in a really strong 5:04 for his sixth mile and then ended the last quarter of a mile at 4:36 pace. That gave him a finishing time of 32:20, putting his average pace at 5:11 per mile, or 3:13 per kilometre.

Tag had had a brilliant battle with William and Thomas Newnham at the Victory 5, with William outgunning him in the last 400 metres. He did finish ahead of Thomas that day though. In the Stubbington 10k, he beat both the Newnham’s, although this time it was Thomas and Chris. They finished 6th and 7th in 33:09 and 33:30.

Richard Lovejoy of Aldershot, Farnham & District finished 5th, although he was quite a way behind Tag, getting to the line in 33:04.

Harry Smith and William Boutwood in the Stubbington 10k

Harry Smith (left) was contending for the league with William Boutwood (right) of Winchester & District

It was William Boutwood who picked up the win in the end, getting round in a scintillating time of 31:29. That was enough to see off Harry Smith’s challenge, although he still ran superbly to record a time of 31:58. That was an average pace of 5:06 per mile, or 3:12 per kilometre, which Harry was happy with, given the conditions and Christmas gains.

Lewis Banner of Havant AC took 8th place in 33:40 and that was significant because Havant are in the third division with Bournemouth AC. That meant they could have a chance of winning the fixture if they could better BAC with their three remaining scorers.

It wasn’t long before Havant had their second scorer on the board, with Thomas Beasley getting to the line in 34:49. That really swung the pendulum massively in their favour.

Paul Mitchinson then arrived in 38th place, registering a time of 35:58 which put him in 38th place. That gave Havant their third scorer on the board before Bournemouth AC had even had their second.

Michael Akers in the Stubbington 10k

Michael Akers (black headband) was the second Bournemouth AC runner out on the road

Considering he hadn’t raced in such a long time though, Michael Akers did extremely well to complete the course in 38:34 on chip time and 36:37 on gun time. That put him in 108th position and his average pace for the run was 3:52 per kilometre.

It was a couple of minutes off his PB but with it being such a windy day and taking into account his lack of races, that was the best he could have hoped for really. He was pretty strong over the last mile and a quarter as well which bodes well for future races.

Michael Akers heading down the road in the Stubbington 10k

Michael had some real pedigree having posted some great previous Stubbington 10k times

Hoping the Stubbington 10k will be a springboard to do more races, Michael has already signed up to the Salisbury 10 at the end of March. He’ll be joined by Tag in that one and hopefully a couple of others to form a strong team for a another race that promises to be highly competitive.

Michael Akers pushing hard in the Stubbington 10k

It was a strong Bournemouth AC debut from Michael

Wrapping up the third division win for Havant AC at the Stubbington 10k. Tim Beasley completed the scoring team for them. He managed a time of 39:41 which put him in 147th place. That meant Bournemouth AC could only secure second place at best for this particular race. It was the first time they had been beaten by another third division team when getting a full team out.

Tom Ralph in action at the Stubbington 10k

Tom Ralph is just starting to get his fitness back after a lack of training over the latter stages of the year

Coming in as third scorer for Bournemouth AC, it was Tom Ralph. He managed a chip time of 42:23 and 42:46 on gun time which put him in 272nd place. Tom paced his run really well, completing the first mile and the sixth mile at around 6:40 pace and the rest of the miles at just over 6:50 pace.

It was a good way to start the year as well for Tom, with a shorter distance race. He hadn’t done a 10k for years, probably since the Vitality 10,000 back in 2019 which he completed in 39:55.

Tom Ralph in the Stubbington 10k

Tom did well to get round in 42:23

Arriving at the finish line shortly after Tom, Sanjai Sharma completed the scoring team for Bournemouth AC, clocking a time of chip time of 42:47 and a gun time of 43:01. That put him in 278th and 6th in the Male Vet 60 category.

Tom Ralph and Sanjai Sharma in the Stubbington 10k

Sanjai Sharma (blue cap) had raced the 10k at Stubbington several times before

It was the first time Sanjai had ever been outside of 40 minutes for a 10k but the shorter distance races aren’t really his forte any more. He gave it his all though and knows that he couldn’t have gone any quicker on the day.

Patrick Kingston in the Stubbington 10k

Patrick Kingston has done quite a few of the Hampshire Road Race League fixtures for BAC

Coming in just seconds after Sanjai, Patrick Kingston arrived to conclude his race in a gun time of 43:06. That put him in 284th place in the overall standings. His chip time was 42:53 and his average pace for the run was 6:52 minutes per mile and 4:18 per kilometre.

Patrick Kingston in action at the Stubbington 10k

Patrick completed the course in 42:53

Patrick felt like he was hanging on a bit over the final third of the race. He had done a five hour run the previous day along the South West Coast Path, wracking up 24 miles and 11,000 ft of elevation so that was probably why. Managing to do a 10k race the day after that was pretty impressive in itself.

Patrick Kingston going well in the Stubbington 10k

Patrick had run 24 miles the previous day, tackling 11,000ft of elevation

Finishing third out of 68 in the Female Vet 55 category and also chipping 9 seconds off her previous best 10k time, it was very good Hampshire Road Race League debut for Debbie Lennon. Her chip time was 44:35 and her gun time was 44:40, putting her in 345th place overall and 48th lady out of 481.

Debbie Lennon in the Stubbington 10k

It was Debbie Lennon’s first Hampshire Road League race

It was a cracking result for Debbie and she was well chuffed with that. Her average pace for the run was 7:07 minutes per mile or 4:28 per kilometre. At the end of the race she was presented with a nice glass trophy for her category placing along with a £20 cheque.

Debbie Lennon heads down the road in the Stubbington 10k

Debbie produced an excellent run to record a new 10k PB

Recording a brilliant new PB of 49:44 on chip time, Debbie’s husband Bill was the next Bournemouth AC member over the line. That was an improvement of 1 minute and 15 seconds over his Boscombe 10k time in November.

Bill Lennon in the Stubbington 10k

Bill Lennon had a target to aim for after the Boscombe 10k in November

It put Bill 12th out of 33 in the Male Vet 65 category and 633rd overall out of 1,764 runners. Bill found it quite tough going as it was such a blustery day and the course was quite exposed around the airfield.

Bill Lennon battling well in the Stubbington 10k

Bill enjoyed having plenty of other runners around him to keep him motivated

He didn’t feel as good as he had the previous week at the Broadstone Quarter but the larger number of runners around him helped him push on. He felt that the race was organised really well and the proximity of the main hall and car parks to the start was excellent.

Bill Lennon turns the corner in the Stubbington 10k

It was a terrific new PB of 49:44 for Bill

Finishing just over a minute outside of her PB, Nikki Whittaker had a strong run to complete the course in 52 minutes exactly on chip time. In terms of gun time, she was in at 52:30 which put her 752nd overall and 173rd female.

As usual, she paced her run pretty well, running 8:24 splits for her first couple of miles and 8:26 for her third mile. In the second half of the race she upped the anti, putting in an 8:19 for her fourth mile, an 8:17 for her fifth mile and an 8:18 for her sixth mile. Then she finished with a 7:23 paced last quarter of a mile. It was a textbook negative split from Nikki.

The big field meant that the miles seemed to fly by as she always had a group around her and that was one of the advantages of the bigger races that you get in the Hampshire Road Race League.

Debbie Lennon giving her all in the Stubbington 10k

Debbie rose to the challenge of slightly higher standard of competition

Cassie Thorp of City of Portsmouth was 1st female, getting round an astonishing time of 34:50 which put her in 24th place overall.

The race for second placed female was fought out between three, with Rebecca Lord of hometown club Stubbington Green taking it in a time of 36:30. That saw her finish just three seconds ahead of Rhiannon Dunlop, who was also from City of Portsmouth. They came 46th and 47th overall.

Lucy Elliott of Winchester & District wasn’t far behind at all, crossing the line in 36:38 which gave her 4th female spot and 51st overall. Her teammate Tamsin Anderson was the next woman in, getting round in 37:34 which put her in 69th overall.

Karla Borland was Winchester’s third scorer, finishing in 39 minutes exactly which made her 8th female. Then Corin Bearpark of City of Portsmouth gave them their third finisher in 40:03, which made her 13th woman.

Debbie Lennon pushing hard in the Stubbington 10k

Debbie finished third in the female vet 55 category

It didn’t really matter who came out on top though, since Winchester & District are in the first division and City of Portsmouth are in the third division but it was still an intriguing battle between the two.

City of Portsmouth took it in the end, with Victoria Edwards finishing in 40:31 which made her 17th fastest female. Winchester’s fourth woman to arrive was Sarah Sheddon who clocked a time of 40:41, making her 20th female. None of the other clubs got scores anywhere near that low but Stubbington Green were the best of the rest.

That meant it was back to winning ways for Winchester in the first division and they have a commanding lead for the season so far, with Lordshill currently sitting second.

Debbie Lennon's 3rd Vet Female 55 trophy

Debbie was awarded a lovely glass trophy for finishing third in her age category

Portsmouth Joggers are the only team to have fielded a team in five out of the six races so far in the third division so they top the chart, with City of Portsmouth currently in second. That is the division that Bournemouth AC are in, although they are yet to field a full team in any fixture.

In the men’s third division it was Havant who got the win but they are quite far down the table so Bournemouth AC’s second place took them back to the top of the standings, ahead of Portsmouth Joggers who finished 5th at the Stubbington 10k. It’s very close between the two though, with only a point separating them in terms of league scoring.

Isle of Wight Road Runners, Hatch Warren and New Forest are all on the same score and occupy third, fourth and fifth positions.

It was back to winning ways for Winchester & District in the first division so they improved their position at the top of the standings. Despite Harry Smith’s superb second place, City of Salisbury could only manage fourth place for the fixture and they are currently leading the chasing pack, with Southampton AC third and Lordshill in fourth.

Andover and Hardley are contesting the top positions in the second division and it’s very close between them in terms of league placings with only one point separating them.

Debbie and Bill Lennon after the Stubbington 10k

It was a super day for both Debbie and Bill after they both secured new PBs

In the Men’s B Team league it was Winchester & District B team who had the best score at the Stubbington 10k, with Winchester’s C team taking second. The meant Winchester & District B team extended their advantage at the top of the first division ahead of the Salisbury B team.

Ryde Harriers were top scorers in the second division with Stubbington Green C team in second place but it was Stubbington C team who topped the table for the season so far. Bournemouth AC’s B team are currently 13th in the second division after only fielding a full team in two of the fixtures so far.

With the final league standings being decided on nine of the twelve fixtures, it is imperative for Bournemouth AC to field a team in all but one of their remaining fixtures if they want to be crowned third division champions and gain promotion to the second tier. They have done remarkably well to be where they are at the moment but the pressure if on to keep that momentum going.

The next race is the Ryde 10 and they have a squad for that race with Stu Nicholas, Michael Akers, Patrick Kingston and Stu Glenister all having signed up. The Salisbury 10 is on towards the end of March and Tag, Michael and Tom are all definitely in for that so hopefully they should have a team in for that one as well. That will leave just four races remaining to stamp their authority down and seal that top spot which would be a fantastic opening season in the Hampshire Road Race League.