A new challenge has arisen for yellow and blue army of Bournemouth AC in the shape of the Hampshire Road Race League and it’s one that the road running group have been very excited about. With their last hopes of holding onto the Men’s First Division title in the Dorset Road Race League extinguished at the Portland 10, the team needed a new focus to get to grips with.

With the club’s application accepted by the Hampshire Road Race League committee, it was game on for Rich Nelson and his band of merry men – and ladies. They were due to take their place in the league for the new 2022 to 2023 season, starting from September. The first fixture of the new season that Bournemouth AC would be taking part in was the Overton 5.

The way the Hampshire Road Race League works in terms of the points structure is that you have teams of four, but you can have an A string, a B string, a C string etc, depending on how many teams the club has entered into the league. The first four men in each race become a A string for that race and the next four become the B string. And the same for the women.

Bournemouth AC had an A and a B team entered into the league so needed at least eight men and eight women to fill the quota. That meant it was all hands on deck as they tried to build a competitive squad that could make an impact in this first fixture.

Rob McTaggart had been one of the main instigators behind the decision to join to the Hampshire Road Race League. Becoming bored of competing in the same races, year in year out in the Dorset Road Race League, he felt it was time to freshen things up with a new set of races for the team to target.

He was in the line up, along with Stu Nicholas, Rich Brawn, Matt du Cros, Adrian James, Robin Copestick, Stu Glenister and Jud Kirk. Bridging the gap from junior to senior level, Hugo Richardson and Nathan Mearns were also in the squad and Szymon Chojnacki signed up late on to bolster the team further and give the men a very competitive looking outfit.

There were only two Bournemouth AC ladies signing up for the race, with Nikki Whittaker and Lea Lohk throwing their names into the ring. That meant that for this particular race, they wouldn’t have an A team or a B team.

On the day of the race, some traffic issues meant that quite a few of the Bournemouth AC team members arrived very late, leaving some of them with less than half an hour to pick of their numbers and head over to the start. To make matters worse, the race HQ was in a different location to the car park as well and the start was in a different location to the race HQ.

Nevertheless, they all managed to get to the start in good time in the end and had had a decent warm up run to get from the race HQ to the start line. It felt intrinsically different to be surrounded by Hampshire clubs on a start line of a road race as opposed to their regular Dorset club rivals. The likes of Southampton AC, Winchester & District, City or Salisbury and Aldershot Farnham & District were amongst their new opponents.

BAC members on the start line ready to go

The Hampshire Road Race League 2022-23 season begins with the introduction of Bournemouth AC sure to shake things up

The race began with a nice downhill slant, enabling the runners to get into their stride early on and get their engines going. The first climb came into play at 0.8 miles and that continued on an upward trajectory for the next half a mile. The field soon spread out as the runners took their places in the field according to the speed they were travelling at.

To begin with it was City of Salisbury man Jaymee Domoney who broke off the front of the pack. He showed a lot of courage to take the race on despite a field that looked to be brimming with more talent than it had done in previous years. Tag was part of a group behind that included Matthew Revier and Richard Waldron of Southampton and Philip Berntsen of Winchester & District.

Jaymee Domoney leading the Overton 5

Jaymee Domoney of City of Salisbury took the bull by the horns early on

Tag in chase pack at Overton 5

Rob McTaggart was in the chasing pack with a host of other good quality runners

Stu Nicholas was on his own, just behind that pack and just ahead of Andrew Ridley, who is well known amongst the BAC fraternity, and Will Pannell of City of Salisbury. Then it was Szymon Chojnacki and Fareham Runner James Clarke.

Stu Nicholas in the Overton 5

Stu Nicholas

Szymon Chojnacki in the Overton 5

Szymon Chojnacki

There was another fast downhill stretch at 1.7 miles before another mild incline at 2.3 miles. After that there was only one more incline to tackle, at 3.2 miles. Once they’d reached the top of that, it was a fantastic descent that went on for almost a mile, taking them up to the 4.5 mile point. Then there was a short wooded section before the run-in into the finish.

Adrian James and Matt du Cros in the Overton 5

Adrian James (751) and Matt du Cros

Stu Glenister in the Overton 5

Stu Glenister

Nikki Whittaker in the Overton 5

Nikki Whittaker

Impressively, Jaymee Domoney had managed to stay out front on his own and, although he wasn’t massively far ahead, he cruised in for the victory in a time of 25:01. There was a real battle ensuing between Tag and Robert Wood of Basingstoke & Mid Hants and they were very evenly matched until they got into the wooded section.

Rob McTaggart nears the finish of the Overton 5

Tag and Robert Wood battling it out for 2nd place

That was where Robert Wood gained the upper hand, probably knowing all the nooks and crannies of the route through that section. Tag hadn’t been expecting that and wasn’t as well prepared for it.

Tag in battle for second place

Tag with just half a mile left to go

That meant it was the Basingstoke man who got to the line first, registering a time of 25:25, with Tag coming in two seconds later at 25:27 to claim 3rd position.

Tag takes third place

Tag crosses the line in 3rd position

It was actually remarkably tight at the top end of the field, with five men coming in under 26 minutes. Matthew Revier was 4th in 25:37, with William Bryan of North East Project taking 5th in 25:53.

Phillip Berntsen took 6th place in 26:16, with Richard Waldron netting Southampton AC their second scorer on the board when he crossed the line in 7th place in 26:29.

Stu Nicholas nears the finish in the Overton 5

Stu Nicholas nears the finish

Will Pannell secured City of Salisbury their second scorer, getting round in 27:04 which put him in 9th place. Then, recording an unexpected five mile PB, Stu Nicholas arrived in 10th place with a time of 27:16. It was a decent run from Stu with his average pace coming out at 5:27.

Stu Nicholas finishing the Overton 5

Stu seals a top ten spot

Helen Hall from Winchester & District blitzed her way round the course in a phenomenal time of 27:46 which gave her the first female spot by quite some distance.

Just behind her there was a great battle going on between Rich Brawn and Szymon Chojnacki. Initially Rich had caught Szymon up and overtaken him but Szymon had then come back and worked his way back in front.

Rich Brawn and Szymon Chojnacki in the Overton 5

Rich Brawn and Szymon Chojnacki

There was a fair bit of toing and froing between the pair over the third and fourth miles of the race. Rich wasn’t too worried about beating Szymon as he knew it wouldn’t matter but after a decent block of marathon training, he was feeling strong and wanted to keep pushing hard.

Plus he knew there was a long downhill stretch within the last mile so he could afford to expend a fair bit of effort and didn’t need to save much for the latter stages.

As they hit the long downhill section Rich went past Matt Risden of Southampton as well and then shifted through the gears as he headed down.

Rich Brawn and Szymon Chojnacki near the finish

Rich and Szymon were battling it out all the way to the line

Staying strong as he maneuvered through the wooded section, Rich then came out into the open and the finish was in sight. There was still time for one more twist though as Szymon was in hot pursuit and was not prepared to go down without a fight.

The pair crossed the line almost neck and neck in the end but it turned out Szymon had taken 12th place by a whisker, finishing in a time of 28:02. Rich was given a time of 28:03 which out him in 13th place, with Matt Risden taking 14th in the same time.

Szymon and Rich finishing the Overton 5

Szymon and Rich cross the line virtually neck and neck

Andrew Ridley was the next man over line, recording a time of 28:18. The five mile distance seemed quite far for him as he is usually an 800m and 1500m specialist, winning the World Masters Championships in both events earlier in the summer.

Kit Lau was Southampton’s fourth man over the line, clocking in at 28:16 which put him in 15th place on chip time but 16th on gun time. The Hampshire Road Race League tends to be scored on gun time rather than chip time.

Andrew Ridley in the Overton 5

Andrew Ridley was a familiar face to many in the Bournemouth AC camp

It was really close between the two teams but it turned out Bournemouth AC had just edged it over Southampton AC on points, giving the yellow and blues a momentous victory in their first every Hampshire Road Race League fixture.

One good thing about the Hampshire Road Race League is that it isn’t just the top four of five runners who score. Since you have a B string team scoring points as well, that provides more members with a chance to make a meaningful contribution.

Hugo Richardson and Matt du Cros in the Overton 5

Hugo Richardson and Matt du Cros

For the Overton 5, Bournemouth AC had a very strong undercard as well and it wasn’t long after Rich and Szymon went over the line that the next two club members arrived. And it was another very close call between them.

Matt du Cros in the Overton 5

Matt giving it all he’s got

Just managing to edge out Matt du Cros in the closing stages of the race, Hugo Richardson was the next man in for BAC. He’s been progressing really well of late and this was evidence of another big step forward in his running. Taking 17th place in a time of 28:20, he finished three seconds ahead of Matt who was 18th in 20:23.

Hugo and Matt finishing the Overton 5

Hugo crosses the line with Matt following shortly after

Matt has also been improving dramatically recently off the back of some very consistent turnouts in training for many many months now. He’s managed to get his Bournemouth parkrun time down to 17:23 and his time at the Overton 5 was an improvement of almost three minutes on what he produced at the May 5 just over three months ago.

Adrian James in the Overton 5

Adrian James

Another regular attendee to the Bournemouth AC boot-camp over recent months is Adrian James and he has seen his performances sky rocket since joining the club. He’d managed to get his Bournemouth parkrun time down to 17:36 and has been often running a similar sort of speed to Matt in training.

Adrian James nears the end of the Overton 5

Adrian looks for a strong finish

Struggling a bit with the hills at the Overton 5, Adrian still had an impressive run to finish in a time of 29:06, which put him in 26th place overall. That was a 43 second improvement on his time at the May 5 a few months back so again, the signs of progression for him were clear to see.

Adrian James finishing the Overton 5

Adrian races toward the line

That meant Bournemouth AC already had three out of the four runners in that they needed to complete their B team. To have seven runners in the top 26 as well was a terrific return for the club.

Robin Copestick in the Overton 5

Robin Copestick

The next Bournemouth AC man to arrive at the finish was Robin Copestick and he completed the scoring team for the B string, getting to the line in 31:09 taking 56th place. That meant Bournemouth AC had also won the battle of the B teams as well, recording way less points than any of their B string rivals. And of course, the aim of the game is to score the least amount of points, not the most, as the higher the position, the lower the number.

City of Salisbury would have been the closest challengers but they were still some way off what the BAC B team had managed.

Stu Glenister nears the finish in the Overton 5

Stu Glenister

Next over the line for the yellow and blue army was Stu Glenister. Although he doesn’t make it to training as often as he would like, Stu’s always up for linking up with the squad for races and his enthusiasm for all aspects of running is infectious. Completing the course in 34:02, Stu finished in 118th place.

Stu is currently in training for the Old Harry Ultra which is a 55km multi-terrain race around Poole Harbour. The event takes place on the same day as the London Marathon and Stu will be running it with his buddy Paolo De Luca who represents Littledown Harriers.

Nathan Mearns near nears the finish in the Overton 5

Nathan Mearns

Arriving at the finish in a time of 35:11, Nathan Mearns was the next BAC member to complete the course. He went out pretty hard but was unable to sustain his early pace for the duration of the race, seeing a significant drop off in the third and fourth miles. That resulted in him coming in in 151st position.

Having only recently stepped up to senior road running though, it’s still all a learning curve for Nathan and he will grow as he gains more experience in the slightly longer distances and more undulating surfaces.

Jud Kirk racing past in the Overton 5

Jud Kirk

Making it to the line in a time of 37:46, Jud Kirk was the final Bournemouth AC man to collect his finisher scarf. That put him in 212th position in the standings.

Although, he’s perhaps not quite as fast as he used to be and a touch less competitive in his age group, you can always guarantee that Jud will put in 100%. And he’s still one of the most reliable members of the team when it comes to being present at races and training sessions as well, where he usually leads the warm up drills.

Lea Lohk in the Overton 5

Lea Lokh

Lea Lohk was the first of the Bournemouth AC ladies to reach the finish line. She clocked a time of 39:24 which put her in 239th place overall.

Lea Lohk finishing the Overton 5

Lea arrives at the finish

Finding the conditions a tad too hot and humid and the undulations tough to contend with, Nikki Whittaker didn’t really have one of her better races. Although she was suffering though, she didn’t give up and kept going all the way, making it to the line in 48:30. That put her in 372nd place in the overall standings.

Nikki Whittaker nears the end in the Overton 5

Nikki Whittaker nears the end of her race

It had been quite a stressful weekend for her and Tag though as they had also been moving house as well so they did well to find the time for the race. It paid off for Tag as well as they gave out cash prizes at the end for the top three finishers.

If Tag had known it had been cash prizes he might have been able to dig a little deeper to outdo Robert Wood and seal the 2nd place. It was still a good morning’s work for him though, regardless.

That meant it was very much a case of “show me da money” for Jaymee Domoney as he scooped the biggest winnings for claiming top spot.

Since they were new to league, Bournemouth AC had been left out of the scoring on the Hampshire Road Race League website for the first fixture but they will hopefully be able to get that rectified in due course.

As it currently shows, without BAC included, Southampton are top of the table for the men’s A team, followed by City of Salisbury and Winchester. For the men’s B team it’s City of Salisbury who are on top, with the same club’s C team situated in 2nd. That should all change though as once Bournemouth AC are installed, they will top both tables.

The scoring teams for the A and B strings

The Bournemouth A and B team scorers

As for the ladies, it’s Winchester who are on top in the A team league, with Lordshill in 2nd and City of Salisbury 3rd. It’s the same on the B string table, with Winchester leading the way and Lordshill in 2nd, with Winchester’s C team in 3rd.

The next fixture in the Hampshire Road Race League is the Solent Half Marathon, but with the race being staged one week before the London Marathon and on the same date as the Hoburne 5 and the same weekend as the Aldershot Road Relay, it will be tricky to even get a men’s A team together for that fixture.

The league is decided on the best 9 scores from the the 12 fixtures though, so it may not matter if turns out BAC can’t field a team for this particular race. With only three men signed up thus far though, they are desperately seeking a fourth to at least make one scoring team.

Some of the BAC men at the Overton 5

The Bournemouth AC men gather for a post race photo

With the races coming thick and fast and the squad now competing on so many different fronts, it’s going to be all hands on deck over the coming months, with cross country season soon to start as well.

Knowing how difficult it’s going to be to get teams together for all the races, Rich Nelson has been working hard to recruit new members to bolster the squad and give them the numbers they need to compete across the board.

It’s going to be exciting times in store for the club and they are going to need all the resources they can get to propel them to excellence and challenge for honours, which is of course what a club of Bournemouth AC’s stature should be doing.