Rich Brawn featuring in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Rich Brawn was one four men in action for Bournemouth AC at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

A sensational start to the Dorset Road Race League season had seen both the Bournemouth AC men’s and women’s teams top the standings at the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon on New Year’s Day. The yellow and blues were looking to follow that up with further success at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon. It wasn’t going to be plain and simple though.

It’s a race that has seen the club struggle to get teams together for over previous years. The thought of an arduous, hilly route with a brutal, energy sapping incline at the end isn’t one that always immediately appeals to the masses. But in years where it’s a league race, they are compelled to try to compile competitive teams that can challenge the other clubs in the county.

For this year’s race they did manage to get a squad together with five men and three ladies signing up. Ryan Pegoraro, Barry Dolman and Patrick Kingston were in for the men’s team but they suffered a blow when new members Luke Bentley and Alex Bonnet pulled out. Siting it as a potential marathon training run, Rich Brawn had also decided to sign up in the end meaning they could still fulfil the required Division Two quota of four men.

Emma Caplan, Debbie Lennon and Katie Gunn had put their names down for the race which meant they also had a ladies team. Unfortunately Katie was struck down by an illness the day before race day though and it was too late to draft in a replacement. That meant with only two women available, they wouldn’t have a scoring team.

That left Emma thinking perhaps it wasn’t worth her running. But she turned up anyway and decided to give it a go. For Debbie though, there was never any question of her not running. She always tries to vie for top spot in her category for the season, although now she’s moved up to the 60-64 age group it’s become much harder since she has Heather Khoshnevis to contend with.

Two weeks before the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon, Ryan Pegoraro had been in action in the Farnborough Winter Half Marathon which he completed in 1:17:39. Before that he competed in the Malaga Half Marathon, finishing in 1:17:51. He also ran in the Wimborne 10 as well as the first two Hampshire League cross country fixtures at Wellesley Woods and Popham Airfield.

After a less than ideal build up for the Valencia Marathon, owing to some injury problems he was having, Barry Dolman did well to salvage a 2:57:28 time. It was a few minutes off his best time set at Boston last Spring but given the circumstances, it was a huge success. Now he’s training for London this coming Spring and with a renewed focus.

Barry really enjoys marathon training as he likes the structure it gives him and the motivation it gives him to work hard to put the long runs in. On the day of the race, Barry had already been out for a seven mile run that morning before heading over to Bishops Caundle where the race started. He wasn’t actually racing it though. His goal was to pace his friend Stacey Dickinson, who runs for Wimborne AC, round for his first ever sub 1:30 half marathon.

Patrick Kingston had the CXM Sierra Blanca Destroyer on the following weekend, which is in Marbella. That was a mountain marathon with 2,800 metres of elevation. At least the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon would give him some hill practice, although of course it wasn’t quite the same as what he’d be facing at the CXM Sierra Blanca. He’d done some good long runs over the Purbeck to prepare for it though so he wasn’t going into it off the cuff.

Kicking the year off with a 10k PB of 35:26, Rich Brawn had started his marathon training for London and had put a couple of good long runs in ahead of Blackmore Vale. His plan was to use the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon as a part of a marathon training run and he was hoping it would give him 13 miles or so averaging out at marathon pace, although it wouldn’t be possible to do that pace all the way through as the route was so hilly.

Rich Brawn in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Rich Brawn was doing it as part of a longer marathon training run

He’d looked at his activity from the previous time he ran it back in 2022 and it looked doable to average out at marathon pace and he was hoping to do 3.5 miles before and 3.5 miles after to make it up to 20 miles for the whole run.

After failing to win at the Broadstone Quarter, the Egdon Heath Harriers men were determined not to let that happen again. They brought the cavalry out and it transpired that Bruce Campbell had told all their top men that they’d be needed for the scoring team of five which resulted in a squad with plenty of strength in depth.

Last year’s men’s individual champion Christopher Peck was on the start line, as was Charlie Williams and they were likely to be contending for top honours. Twemlow Track Club also had a strong side out, with Chris Wood, Jez Bragg and Richard Swindlehurst in the mix. Brian Underwood and Dave Hicks were also there from Poole AC and were likely to up near the front.

After topping the First Division standings at the Broadstone Quarter, Poole Runners brought a very strong outfit to the table, with Vicki Ingham, Molly Rasch and Gemma Bragg all in the mix.

Ryan Pegoraro in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Ryan Pegoraro was the quickest out of the Bournemouth AC runners

Very quick out of the blocks, Ryan Pegoraro registered a 5:36 for his mile, although there was quite a lot of downhill in that. It was the very same hill he would end up having to climb up at the end, making it a nice start but a challenging finish.

The hills came into play early on but they didn’t hold Ryan back too much as he got through his second mile in 5:54 and his third in 5:51. There was quite a tough climb to tackle at 3.6 miles which put him down to 6:14 for his next mile split. Soon after it was the biggest climb of the race, with the incline lasting from 4.4 miles to 5.7 miles.

After a 6:05 for his fifth mile, Ryan then recorded a 6:24 for his next one which was basically all uphill. There was a nice downhill stretch after that allowing Ryan to get back to a good pace. Going through his seventh mile in 5:47, he then registered a 5:57 for his eighth mile and a 5:48 for his ninth.

Ryan Pegoraro taking on the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Ryan finished 9th in 1:19:47

The last four miles all had hills in them, with the thirteenth mile being by far the most brutal. Ryan managed a 6:10 for his tenth mile and a 6:18 for his eleventh before taking advantage of the descent to post a 6:06 for his 12th mile.

Then it was up the steep, energy sapping ascent on the final mile. Ryan got though that in 6:26 before heading in towards the finish. With a very impressive finishing time of 1:19:47, Ryan had done extremely well to finish in 9th position.

Rich Brawn giving his all in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Rich Brawn was having difficulty hitting his marathon pace due to the hills

Finding it a tad more difficult to hit his marathon pace than he’d hoped he would, Rich Brawn had a tough task on his hands. The hills were just relentless and a mile rarely went by without one. He actually did manage to string together four miles at around 6:15 sort of pace or just under from the third mile to the sixth mile. He struggled up the hill in the next couple of miles though before a downhill stretch allowed him to establish a good pace for three consecutive miles. Then it was onto the last four hilly miles.

Rich Brawn going round the corner in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Rich started feeling strong towards the end and gained quite a few places

Luckily his endurance allowed him to overtake quite a few other runners in the later stages of the race and he was feeling quite strong as he worked his way up the ascents. In the end he got up to 21st place, clocking a time of 1:22:48, although he’d left his watching running after the miles he did beforehand so he had no real idea what time he’d done. It wasn’t a great half marathon time for Rich but it was quite a good pace for the 20 mile session in total.

Tom Hole of Ealing, Southall & Middlesex dug deep to get round in an amazing time of 1:11:14. That was enough to give him the race win ahead of Johnny Suttle Bristol & West who finished 2nd in 1:13:02. Since neither of them were running for Dorset League clubs, it was the places behind them that were all important.

Charlie Williams had a brilliant run to finish ahead of his Egdon Heath Harriers teammate Christopher Peck and they were 3rd and 4th, taking minimum points for the league. Charlie’s time was 1:14:53 and Christopher arrived shortly after in 1:15:06 which made him first vet.

It was Brian Underwood’s first race of the year so he was planning to take it steady at first and ease himself into it. He’d been training well for London though and was already in good shape. Coming in to secure 5th place, he registered a time of 1:15:16.

The next man over the line was Chris Wood who arrived in 1:16:41. The Blackmore Vale Half Marathon was also designated as the County Championship race for the distance. That decision was made after the entry form had been posted online though so there was no box to tick for athlete’s to specify whether they were eligible and wanted to be included in it.

The race organisers then had to email everyone who had entered to ask that question but many in the race either didn’t see the email or didn’t receive it. Or their response wasn’t processed. That worked in Chris Wood’s favour as he was the highest placed of those who had entered the County Championship.

Dave Hicks finished 7th and was first over 50, clocking a time of 1:18:24. Jez Bragg wasn’t feel great on the day so he found it a bit of a grind but he still got round in 1:19:17 which put him in 8th place.

Richard Swindlehurst took 10th position in 1:20:28 and he was Twemlow Track Club’s third man in. Corey Stone had a good run to finish in 1:20:34 which out him in 11th position and he was third man in for Egdon Heath Harriers.

Jonny Cooper finished 13th in 1:21:09 meaning Egdon Heath Harriers only needed one more man to complete their scoring team of five. Poole Runners had a strong group that were running together and they were Joe Godden, Mark Peddle and David Penwarden. They finished 15th, 16th and 17th and that put them up to four runners in after Dave Tindall had finished 12th in 1:20:44.

Wimborne AC look likely to be Bournemouth AC’s main challengers in the Second Division and Mark Savage was their top scorer, finishing 18th in 1:22:40. Charlie Lawson sealed the First Division win for Egdon Heath Harriers though, taking 22nd place in a time of 1:22:57.

Emma Caplan in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

It was Emma Caplan’s third league race of the season

Vicki Ingham finished as first female, clocking a time of 1:23:05, putting her in 23th place overall. Molly Rasch wasn’t far behind, completing the course in 1:23:47 which put her in 28th place. In his trademark Norwich City shorts, Steve Claxton had a great run to round off the scoring team for Poole Runners and give them a superb 2nd place in the First Division.

Mark Carhart-Harris was Wimborne AC’s second man over the line, finishing in 27th place and recording a time of 1:23:37. Then Louis Verdi arrived in 1:24:27 to give Wimborne their third scorer. He finished 32nd overall.

Emma Caplan in action at the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Emma finished as 3rd female in 1:26:23

The year had started well for Emma Caplan after she finished 3rd lady at Broadstone and 9th female at the Stubbington 10k. She’d had another bike accident after that though were she’d come off and hurt her shoulder again. Luckily this time it hadn’t stopped her being able to run though so she was good to go for Blackmore Vale.

Putting in a strong display on the day, Emma was 3rd lady over the line and 39th overall in a time of 1:26:23. That netted her another prize as well as she was 1st female over 45.

Patrick Kingston in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Patrick Kingston got round in 1:28:14

Completing the course in a time of 1:28:14, Patrick Kingston was 3rd scorer for the Bournemouth AC men and that put him 47th overall and 38th in terms of league placings.

Getting his pacing duties just right, Barry Dolman crossed the line with Stacey Dickinson in a time of 1:29:35 which put them 56th and 57th. It’s quite a tricky course to pace right as there are so many hills but Barry somehow managed it to perfection.

What he didn’t know at the time though was that he was effectively handing Wimborne AC first place in the second division. They were both fourth scorers for their respective clubs and it was very tight between the two of them, the Wimborne actually two points ahead from the first three scorers.

Barry Dolman in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Barry Dolman was pacing a runner from a rival club

Even though Barry was put ahead of Stacey in the results, it was only by one place so that meant Wimborne AC won the fixture by just one placing. Had Barry not paced Stacey round, it’s highly likely he wouldn’t have finished in the time and position he did.

That put Bournemouth AC and Wimborne AC on level pegging for the season so far with one first and one second place each.

Debbie Lennon in the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

It was a difficult day out for Debbie Lennon but she gave it all she’s got

Finding it really tough going out there, Debbie Lennon felt like giving up at one stage. But to her credit, she kept going and dug deep to make it to the finish in 1:45:19. That put her 154th overall and she was 2nd over 60 female behind Heather Khoshnevis who finished in 1:39:22 which put her 127th. In terms of league placings, Debbie came 17th.

Debbie Lennon tackling the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon

Debbie was 2nd over 60 female

It was another blow for Debbie in the battle for top spot in the 60 to 64 category for the league, losing out to Heather for a second time, as she did at the Broadstone Quarter. But it’s still early in the season and there is plenty of time for Debbie to turn it around if she can work her way back to top form.

The Lytchett 10 was on the following weekend so that would present Debbie with a quick opportunity to pull one back, although again, it was a very hilly course so a tough one for Debbie to perform well in.

Gemma Bragg was fourth female, crossing the line in 1:31:49 which put her 67th overall. That meant Poole Runners only needed one more woman in to wrap up their second win of the season. They got it when Sarah Swift arrived in 1:41:05 putting her in 135th place overall. She was 13th in terms of league placings.

Dorchester RIOT were took 2nd place at Blackmore Vale, with Littledown Harriers finishing 3rd. Lytchett Manor Striders took advantage of Bournemouth AC’s failure to field three runners, picking up the Second Division win very comfortably. Dorset Doddlers were 2nd and Purbeck Runners took 3rd.

In the men’s Third Division it was Dorset Doddlers who picked up the win at Blackmore Vale, with Dorchester RIOT 2nd and Royal Manor of Portland 3rd. In the ladies’ Third Division, Gillingham Trotters were the only club to field a team of three so they took first place.

Dorset Doddlers and Dorchester RIOT are now tied for top spot in the men’s Third Division with one 1st and one 2nd place each, with Royal Manor of Portland 3rd. Gillingham Trotters are firmly in command in the ladies’ Third Division with two wins out of two.

There wasn’t much of a breather before the clubs were all thrust back into action at the Lytchett 10 the weekend after. It was the same weekend as the final Hampshire Cross Country League fixture at Kings Park though which meant the yellow and blues had to pool their resources accordingly.

They did have a strong looking line up for Lytchett though, with Rob Spencer, Josh Cole and Stu Nicholas all set to feature. Rob McTaggart was doing the double, taking part in both the cross county race and the Lytchett 10, as well as adding on some more miles at the start of the race. It certainly promised to be another exciting Dorset Road Race League encounter and was a great opportunity for BAC to pick up another win in the division.