The mission for the Bournemouth AC men’s team at the May 5 was simple… Win or bust. With Egdon Heath Harriers having won all of opening five fixtures of the Dorset Road Race League campaign, they were looking odds on favourites to take the title and a reaction from the yellow and blue army was crucial.

Fortunately they had managed to assemble a very competitive team, spearheaded by newfound super speed merchant Elliott Robertson and also including Ant Clark, Craig Palmer, Adam Corbin and Rich Brawn. Plus plenty of squad depth provided by the likes of Sam Jackson, Dan Trickett, George Biggs and Matt du Cros amongst others.

It looked set to be a sensational showdown and it was always going to tough for the Egdon Heath Harriers men to contend with a star studded line up like that. They had done extremely well in the previous five races though and had demonstrated they had plenty of talent in the ranks to call upon when required.

It was actually one of the biggest squads Bournemouth AC had had out for a long time, with no less than 28 members getting involved. It was great to see such enthusiasm generated for this fixture as it had been significantly lacking in some of the previous races so far this season.

Ladies’ team captain Caitlin Peers was there and was hoping to contend for the top female placings. She was joined by a host of other women including Tamzin Petersen, Heather Khoshnevis, Debbie Lennon and Julia Austin.

Bournemouth AC ladies team for the May 5

The BAC ladies were out in force at the May 5

Starting and finishing with a lap around the Ashdown Athletics Track, it was then out onto the road and round the Canford Heath area on a route full of intricate twists and turns and mile undulations. With the lack of long, straight roads it was quite difficult to get into a rhythm and establish a constant pace.

One of the best things about the May 5 from a Bournemouth AC perspective was that it marked the return to road racing of Mr Craig Palmer himself. Craig stopped running completely during lockdown and lost a lot of fitness. He also gained some extra pounds in the process and at first he was finding it quite difficult to get back into running.

In the end he did though and began his journey back to fitness. He announced his return by running a 16:41 in the 5000 metres at an NAL fixture in Chelmsford two weeks prior to the May 5.

Start of the May 5

Start of the May 5

When the race started, it was actually Craig who was first to hit the front. It was almost as if he’d turned the clock back to the days when he would dominate the Road Race League fixtures. In fact, he did win the race back in 2019 which was the last time it properly took place, recording a time of 27:11.

Unfortunately his reign in the lead was short-lived this time and the real front runners had taken over before they left the track and headed out onto the road.

Lead Group - May 5

Lead group

Ant Clark - May 5

Ant Clark

Poole AC man Dom Willmore was in there at the front and he was undoubtedly one of the favourites for the race win. Egdon Heath Harriers man Christopher Peck was there was well and he was another lead contender, along with Twemlow man Lee Dempster who had returned to form well after a lengthy spell out inured.

Elliott Robertson was right up there with them and the way he’d been running lately, he was more than capable of pulling a shock out of the bag. He’d competed in the same 5000 metre race as Craig at the NAL and finished in an excellent time of 16:03 to demonstrate the ferocious pace he had in his locker.

Also putting in a couple of strong performances in the Southern Road Relays and then the National one after, Elliott had showed he wasn’t out of place when competing against real top level competition. He’d also won the Bournemouth Bay Run 10k in what was effectively his first ever race, recording a sensational time of 33:54.

Being so new to running, it was quite incredible that he’s managed to reach the level that he has so quickly.

Nathan Mearns starting May 5

Nathan Mearns

Lucy Ralph starting May 5

Lucy Ralph

Nkki Whittaker - May 5

Nkki Whittaker

Ian Graham - May 5

Ian Graham

There were plenty of Bournemouth AC runners not too far off the front, including Craig, Ant Clark, Adam Corbin, Rich Brawn and Dan Trickett. It was shaping up to be an intriguing contest.

Right at the forefront though, it was Elliott, battling it out with potentially the most rapid runner in the local area, Dom Willmore. They went at it, hammer and tong but it was Dom who exerted his superiority in the end, whipping round the course in a lightening quick time of 26:12. That was an impressive average pace of 5:14 on a course that isn’t especially fast.

Elliott Robertson & Dom Willmore - May 5

Elliott Robertson and Dom Willmore leading the race

Craig Palmer - May 5

Craig Palmer

It was still a fantastic run from Elliott though and he sealed 2nd place in a time of 26:44. His average pace for the 5 mile distance was 5:21 which was phenomenal given the course he was on.

That was great news for BAC that Elliott had done so well and boosted their chances of winning the fixture for the league.

Elliott Robertson - May 5

Elliott Robertson

Chris Peck was next man over the line, clocking a time of 26:52 and Lee Dempster had to settle for 4th on this occasion, getting round in 27:25.

5th place went to David Henson of Hedge End Running and he recorded a time of 27:46. His club weren’t part of the Dorset Road Race League though so the 5th scorer was in fact BAC’s very own Adam Corbin.

Adam put in an excellent display to finish in 27:54 in a race where anything below 28 minutes was a stellar effort.

Adam Corbin - May 5

Adam Corbin

10 seconds later there were a couple more Bournemouth AC members in and that was Craig Palmer and Ant Clark. Craig had done it as part of a longer training run and for him it represented one more step along the road to recapturing the magnificent from he was in at this time three years ago. He had a good strong though and was even toying with Ant as the two of them approached the finish line.

Ant has started his training now for the Comrades Marathon at the end of August so everything he does from now until then will be strictly planned out and pencilled in with that in mind.

To that end, he wasn’t really treating the May 5 as an all-out race. He was looking to run within a specified heart rate zone. That was still quick enough to see him record a time of 28:04 which was the same time as Craig and they were Bournemouth AC’s third and fourth and scorers, coming in 7th and 8th.

Craig Palmer & Ant Clark - May 5

Craig Palmer and Ant Clark

It wasn’t long before the next Bournemouth AC man arrived and that was Rich Brawn. Rich really enjoyed the May 5 in 2019 as it was his first race back after the London Marathon and it was in that race that he famously managed to finish ahead of teammate Alex Goulding. And he’s never let Alex live it down ever since.

Again, he was feeling really fresh, this time coming off the back on a new marathon PB of 2:45:52 at Wrexham and he was really looking forward to getting stuck in.

On the second mile he started to feel really good and began to accelerate. He even went past Ant and Craig at one stage, recording a 5:31 split for that mile. It didn’t last long though and Ant and Craig overtook him back when they were heading up the hill in the third mile.

The fourth mile was always the slowest in the race and that’s the one when you really have to dig in and show some grit on the inclines. For the last mile though, Rich managed to pick the pace up and went past Martyn Bell of Egdon Heath Harriers who usually beats him in league races.

Towards the end he was chasing down Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders and once they hit the track, Scott had nothing left so couldn’t contest for the place. Poole Runners man Dion Garner did still have something left in the tank though and he accelerated away to claim 9th place in the standings in a time of 28:15.

Rich followed in a second later to claim a brilliant new 5 mile PB of 28:16, putting him in 10th place. He was also the fifth scorer for BAC, meaning they’d already had their five scorers through within the top ten.

Rich Brawn - May 5

Rich Brawn

It was a tremendous show of domination from the Bournemouth AC men and showed that they were back to their very best and back where they belong, for that particular fixture at least.

Arriving at the finish in 28:22, Scott Parfitt took 11th place and he was followed by Martyn Bell who was 12th in 28:35. Wimborne AC man Damien Huntingford was first in the 45-49 category and 13th overall in 28:40. The next man to reach the line was Luke Terry of Poole AC who registered a time of 28:43.

Dan Trickett was the next BAC man arrive at the finish and he had a really good run to get round in 28:53. That was an average pace of 5:47 and put him in 15th place in the standings.

Dan competed in both the Southern Road Relays and the National Road Relays, running a 5k leg in each of them. Since he’d only really raced in 5ks on the road thus far though, he was raising the stakes slightly by going up to five miles but he seemed to adapt to it pretty well.

Dan Trickett - May 5

Dan Trickett

Wimborne AC man Jay Dunn was the next man in and first under 20 with his time of 29:03. Egdon Heath Harriers then had three of the next four runners, with Simon Arthur finishing in 17th place in 29:10, Matt Underhill taking 19th in 29:22 and Matt Faramus in 20th with a time of 29:28. That was enough to see them take 2nd place in the league for the fixture.

Next to finish in a BAC vest was Sam Jackson and he arrived in 24th position clocking a time of 29:41. Considering he’d had covid not too long ago and was still feeling the after effects of it, that was a pretty decent result for Sam and he was pleased with it.

Sam Jackson - May 5

Sam Jackson

After Barry Miller and James Eden finished, it was wasn’t long before Poole AC had their 5th man in when Benji Williams arrived to take 27th place. That made them 3rd placed men’s team for the fixture.

Richard Swindlehurst was the second Twemlow man to arrive and the first over 50 to complete the course, registering a time of 29:44 which put him in 26th.

Paddy McCallister was due to originally meant to be running but he was unwell so new member Adrian James stepped in last minute to take his place. Adrian had only taken up running fairly recently and after meeting Alex at parkrun, he had started coming along to the Tuesday training sessions.

It was clear to see that Adrian had a good turn of pace but he just didn’t yet have the speed endurance to go with it. He’d been working on it though it and gradually chipping down his parkrun times since starting to train with BAC.

The day before the May 5 he recorded a new parkrun PB of 17:32 at Poole and it was after that he decided to throw his hat into the ring. It turned out to be a good decision as well and he had a good run to finish in 29:49, putting him in 28th place.

Adrian James - May 5

Adrian James

Poole AC man Rob Doubleday was next over the line in 29.49 before Steve Cook arrived in 29:54 and he was 2nd over 50.

Bruce Campbell of Egdon Heath Harriers was the first man to finish outside of the 30 minute barrier and he crossed the line in 30:09. That put him first in the 55-59 category, despite not feeling well at all on the day.

Another new man to the BAC ranks, George Biggs finished in 41st place, clocking a time of 30:45. Matt du Cros was next in, taking 49th place in a time of 31:07.

Matt du Cros - May 5

Matt du Cros

The first BAC lady to get to the line was Caitlin Peers and she completed the course in 31:32 to finish as 4th female and 54th overall. It was a great battle between Poole AC’s Emily Hilliar and Georgina Povall of Egdon Heath Harriers for the first female spot and Emily just came out on top, crossing the line in 30:48 which put her in 43rd place overall.

Caitlin Peers - May 5

Caitlin Peers

That was just two seconds ahead of Georgina who had to settle for the runner up spot on this occasion. Lauren Baker-Little of Poole Runners was 3rd female, getting round in 30:56 which put her in 46th place overall.

Simon Hearn was the next BAC man over the line and he finished in 32:09 to take 64th place. Considering he’d ran a hard half marathon in Chester the weekend before, that was a decent follow up run from Simon and he really enjoyed the event.

Simon Hearn - May 5

Simon Hearn

Still suffering from the frustrating effects of long covid, Chris O’Brien was the next in for the yellow and blue army. He clocked a time of 33:12, putting him 74th overall. He still struggles with his breathing whenever he attempts to run at speed which is really hampering his performance at a time when he’s feeling really good in all other respects. It’s a very difficult conundrum for him.

Chris O'Brien - May 5

Chris O’Brien

Two places later, Luke Jackson arrived at the finish to register a time of 33:17. He was followed by Nathan Mearns who has just recently made the step up to senior level. He was 4th under 20 male over the line, completing the course in a decent time of 33:38.

Luke Jackson - May 5

Luke Jackson

He set off a bit too quickly, recording a very fast first mile and paid for it a bit later on in the race. That’s something he can improve on though going forward as he gains more experience. When you first start doing longer races as a junior migrating to senior level, it’s very difficult to get the pacing right.

Nathan Mearns - May 5

Nathan Mearns

Another new member to step in at the last minute was Jola Dewerenda after Niamh Scullion opted not to run and she performed very well to complete the course in 35:29. That meant she was the 2nd BAC lady home and 15th female. She was also 104th in the overall standings.

Jola had recently died her hair flame red and it suited her since she was firing on all cylinders at the May 5.

Jola Dewerenda - May 5

Jola Dewerenda

Finishing first in the Female 55 category, Debbie Lennon found it hard work but ran well to cross the line in exactly 36 minutes. That made her 17th woman and 110th overall. That completed the scoring team for the BAC ladies and put them in 5th place for the fixture.

Debbie Lennon - May 5

Debbie Lennon

Even though Alex Door pulled out of the race, Egdon Heath Harriers still won the fixture, edging out Poole Runners who had to settle for 2nd place. Littledown Harriers took 3rd and Poole AC claimed 4th for the fixture.

With three wins out of the first six races, Egdon Heath Harriers top the charts in the Ladies’ First Division with Poole Runners currently in 2nd and Littledown in 3rd, which is exactly the order they came in in the May 5 fixture.

Simon Hunt produced a decent performance to finish 7th in the Male 60 category, getting round in 37:08. That put him 123rd overall.

Simon Hunt - May 5

Simon Hunt

The next BAC member to arrive at the finish was Julia Austin and she was 3rd in the Female 55 category, clocking a time of 37:21. That made her 25th fastest female and 126th overall.

Julia Austin - May 5

Julia Austin

7 seconds later, Tamzin Petersen arrived to take 128th position overall and 26th female. She paced her race really well to come out with fairly even looking splits and registered a time of 37:28.

Tamzin Petersen - May 5

Tamzin Petersen

With three weeks to go until her epic date at the Dartmoor Discovery, the May 5 was a good little speed sharpener for Heather Khoshnevis. Not that she’ll be utilising too much speed whilst tackling the slopes of Dartmoor though. Nevertheless, she ran well to finish as 4th fastest in the female 55 category and 28th woman recording a time of 37:44. That put her in 130th place overall. She was first in the 60-64 category for the Dorset Road Race League as well.

Heather Khoshnevis - May 5

Heather Khoshnevis

Finishing in 137th place overall and 9th in the Male 60 category, it was Jud Kirk. He clocked a time of 38:24.

Jud Kirk - May 5

Jud Kirk

After recently resigning for the club, Lucy Ralph, formerly Lucy du Cros, finishing in 40 minutes exactly, putting her in 158th place overall and making her 37th fastest female.

Lucy Ralph - May 5

Lucy Ralph

Repeating the same trick when the clock struck 41 minutes, Lea Lokh hit the line to take 169th place and 45th fastest woman. She was 8th in the female 55 category for the race and 2nd in 60-64 category for Dorset Road Race League.

Lea Lokh - May 5

Lea Lokh

Off the back of her England qualification for the age group championships in Chester, Helen Ambrosen, was next in for BAC and she was 10th in the female 55 category with her time of 42:38. That made her 52nd female and 184th overall. She was 1st in the 65-69 category in league as well.

Helen Ambrosen - May 5

Helen Ambrosen

It was quite a hot day and given that she doesn’t usually run well in those conditions, Nikki Whittaker was pretty pleased with her run. She finished neck and neck with teammate Louise Price with both registering a time of 42:56.

That made them 54th and 55th fastest females and 187th and 188th in the overall the standings. Louise also found the heat tough to contend with on the day.

Nikki Whittaker & Louise Price - May 5

Nikki Whittaker and Louise Price

Rounding the proceedings off from a BAC perspective, it was Ian Graham and he completed the course in a time of 47:58, putting him 8th in the male over 70 category. He was 220th in the overall standings.

Recently moving up to the 75-79 category, Ian was 2nd quickest in that one for the Dorset Road Race League, with Poole Runners man Lars Jansson winning that with his time of 46:24.

The next league race is the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon and the Bournemouth AC men’s team will be looking for another win in that one to put some pressure on Egdon Heath Harriers who are still sitting pretty at the top of the table and will be quite some time yet with their five wins thus far.

If they can get another win at the Puddletown Plod though, it will start to make things interesting at least, with a very good BAC squad lined up for the Round the Lakes fixture the following weekend.