The Bournemouth AC squad for the 12 Stage SEAA Road Relays in Milton Keynes

Managing to pull together a team for the 12 Stage SEAA Road Relays, Bournemouth AC were set to rub shoulders with the best in the business

The objective was simple and that was to qualify for the National 12 Stage Road Relays. The task at hand was perhaps more difficult than it sounds though since they were up against the best clubs in the south and the standard of the competition they were up against was liable to be extremely high.

They were ready and willing to give it a go in the SEAA Road Relays and headed up to Stantonbury Athletic Track in Milton Keynes optimistic that they could get the job done. They had managed to qualify for the Nationals in 2022 at this very same venue and with perhaps a similar sort off standard of team.

Because they have a low number of real top quality men to call on in their ranks, getting a team of 12 together is always a real challenge for Bournemouth AC. Team captain Rich Nelson did his best to pull all the stops out though and in the end they had a squad that looked competitive on paper.

They hired a minibus to transport the team members up to Milton Keynes and Rich Nelson drove it there himself, stopping off at the services to grab a Costa on the way. Rob McTaggart, Ollie James, Rich Brawn, Szymon Chojnacki, Matt Brown and Hugo Richardson had all been recruited and they were all capable of producing a decent time, even though the standards were very high.

The Bournemouth AC flag and tent at the SEAA Road Relays

The Bournemouth AC team pitched up their flag and luxury super-tent

They were dealt a blow when Ryan Pegoraro hurt his foot at parkrun the day before and had to pull out late on. Luckily they managed to draft in a last minute replacement and the team were on their way.

The legs alternated between a two lap and a one lap, so it was either an 8.6km leg or a 5km leg. Once they’d arrived they didn’t have long to wait before Ollie James had to take to start line for the first leg.

Owing to his recent 30:48 time at the Trafford 10k and some phenomenal cross country performances, Ollie James had propelled himself to take the spot as Bournemouth AC’s premier runner. He’d finished 7th in the South of England Cross Country Championships, 31st in the British Universities Championships and 2nd in the Welsh National Championships.

Ollie James gets the team off to a flyer in the SEAA Road Relays

Ollie James was taking up the reigns in the first leg for Bournemouth AC

It was only natural that he should step forward and take up the reigns for Leg 1, which was where many clubs fielded their strongest runner. In these types of events, it’s vital to get off to a good start and in the first leg, everyone starts at the same time, making it feel more like you’re in a race.

Registering a 5 minute mile for his first split even though it was mostly on an incline, Ollie then followed it up with a 4:55 and a 5:05 to give him a 15:33 for his first 5k. He wasn’t quite able to keep that pace up over the next couple of miles but he was still going quick, putting in a 5:15 and then a 5:12 split.

Ollie James on the first leg of the SEAA Road Relays

Ollie ran a blinder in the first leg to finish in 27:06 for the 8.6km

That led to a time of 27:06 for the 5.3 miles which put him in 16th place. That was a terrific result for Ollie since he was facing 45 of the very best runners out there. His average pace for the run was an incredible 5:05.

He then handed over to Matt Brown who would take up the reigns for the short leg. Matt had been out injured for a while following the Malaga Marathon in December so he wasn’t fully fit.

Matt Brown heads out on the second leg

Matt Brown was running the second leg for the yellow and blues

He still managed to put a decent shift in for the 5k leg though, starting with a 5:54 split before going on to register a 5:40 and a 5:44. That put his time at 17:18 which was 36th fastest on his leg. The team were now situated in 24th place before Rob McTaggart set off for the third leg.

Matt Brown in action at the SEAA Road Relays

Matt ran well to clock a time of 17:18

Rob McTaggart sets off on his leg at the SEAA Road Relays

Rob McTaggart was a safe pair of hands for the third leg

Coming off the back of a strong run at the Bath Half Marathon which saw him finish in 1:09, Tag was very much back in form. He was marathon training though and that meant his mileage was high and he’d ran 24 miles at under six minutes per mile on the Friday before the relays. That meant he wasn’t fully fresh for it.

Recording a time of 28:33, Tag was 23rd fastest on his leg and he gained a place back, putting Bournemouth AC into 23rd position. To qualify they needed to be one off the top 25 clubs. That wasn’t counting any B teams that finished in the top 25, although they would also be invited to the National Road Relays.

Dan Trickett checks his watch as he heads down the path

Dan Trickett was running the fourth leg

Dan Trickett was next to go and he ran well to complete the fourth leg in 17:25. That was 29th fastest on his leg and he lost one place, putting the team back into 24th.

Ryan’s replacement was up next and he ran a very fast leg, completing the 8.6k in 28:26. That was 17th fastest on the fifth leg and he gained two places, putting the team into 22nd.

Entering the fray for the sixth leg, it was James Hulbert‘s turn to run the gauntlet. Completing the short leg in 18:42, he was 34th fastest on his leg but had lost a couple of places, putting the team back down to 24th. They were still in the qualifying positions though.

Rich Brawn doing his warm up routine before his leg

Rich Brawn goes through his warm up routine before running the 7th leg

Rich Brawn picked up the baton next. He’d been training hard for the London Marathon but had done very few parkruns or short distance races so he felt his top speed might be lacking.

Rich Brawn arrives back on the track to complete his leg

Rich arrives back on the track to complete his leg

In spite of the inclines, the first couple of miles didn’t go too badly for Rich but on the third mile there was another incline which really took the wind out his sails. From that point on he started to struggle and got over taken by the guy who had been close behind. Then another runner overtook him as well. It was now a case of damage limitation.

To make matters worse, a guy from St Albans Striders then zoomed past him and he knew it hadn’t gone well for him. The St Albans Strider then went and overtook the other two runners up ahead as well.

Finishing in 31:07, Rich was 30th fastest on his leg and the team were now out of the top 25 for the first time. There were some B teams ahead of them though so all was not lost. They were still one of the top 25 clubs.

Stu Glenister sets off in the SEAA Road Relays

Stu Glenister sets off on the eighth leg

Stu Glenister was on the eighth leg and he was expected to take the longest amount of time out of all the short leg runners. As it panned out though, he actually had a pretty good run and managed to get round in exactly 20 minutes. That was a fair bit faster than he thought he’d go.

Stu heads out onto the course for his leg

Stu knows the way he needs to go

Always willing to step in when needed, Stu is a very useful runner to have on the roster. He’s also willing to step down if a faster runner is recruited and it turns out he’s not required. To have members like that for the relays is a godsend. Stu was 38th fastest on his leg but crucially, he hadn’t lost any places.

Taking over for the 9th leg was Hugo Richardson. Hugo was a serial first placer at Moors Valley parkrun and more recently, at Poole parkrun as well. The relays was definitely taking things up a notch in terms of the level of competition he was facing.

Hugo starts his leg in the SEAA Road Relays

Hugo Richardson heads out on the ninth leg

Going really well for the first two miles, Hugo clocked a 5:25, followed by a 5:23. The third mile was the one that was a bit tougher though and he got through that in 5:56. On the fourth mile though he started to get a bad stomach and began to really struggle. He even had to stop and walk at one point.

Hugo Richardson in the SEAA Road Relays

Hugo returns full of energy after having stomach issues during his run

Relays can be difficult to fuel for as you don’t know for sure when you’ll actually be running and with the minibus journey taking so long, it is difficult. That was where Hugo came a cropper.

Taking over 7 minutes to get through his fourth mile, he then managed to get back on track for the fifth mile, clocking a 5:39 before finishing strongly in the final third of a mile.

Amazingly, Hugo still managed to clock a time of 31:23 which made him 34th fastest and consequently, he’d only lost one place which wasn’t a disaster. Next in the line for BAC it was the tall rangy figure of Chester Clarke.

Chester Clarke heads off the track and out onto the course

Chester Clarke was on the tenth leg

Completing the first two miles at 6 minute mile pace, Chester then managed the third mule in 6:13 which led to a time of 18:28 for the short leg. That was a decent run from Chester and he hadn’t lost any places which was good news. He was 28th fastest in his leg.

Chester Clarke in the SEAA Road Relays

Chester looked to preserve the club’s position as he headed out

On duty for the final long leg, Szymon Chojnacki was the next man out. He’d recorded a very good time of 58:50 at the Salisbury 10 and was seemingly back in form. He clocked a 5:48 or his first mile and a 5:30 for his second before undertaking the most difficult mile of the race and getting through it in 5:55.

A 5:46 and a 5:41 saw him finish the run off strongly and that gave him a finishing time of 30:32 which was 26th fastest out of the leg 11 athletes. Again, he maintained position for Bournemouth AC, seeing that they maintained 28th position.

Szymon Chojnacki in the SEAA Road Relays

Szymon Chojnacki heads out on the 11th leg

It was now all down to Adrian James to ensure the race ended on a high. Completing his leg in 17:50, Adrian was 29th fastest out of all the final leg runners. Crucially, he’d managed to hold on to 28th position.

Adrian James in the SEAA Road Relays

Adrian James was taking up the anchor leg

Bournemouth AC‘s total cumulative time from the time the first runners started to the time the last runners crossed the finishing line was 4 hours 46 minutes and 57 seconds.

It transpired that five of the teams who finished ahead of the BAC men were actually B teams which meant they had qualified as one of the top 25 clubs. They’d done quite well to finish ahead of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers who are renowned for producing top athletes.

Highgate Harriers were the winning team in a total cumulative time of 4 hours 9 minutes and 55 seconds. They had Jacob Allen who was fastest on his leg in 25:41 and Alexandre Lepretre who was fastest on his leg in 25:47. They also had Joseph Young and Monte Watson who both ran the short leg in 15:05.

Their slowest runner on the long leg was just over 27 minutes and their slowest on the short leg was 15:35 which gives a good indication of the sort of levels they’re operating at.

It was a very close call between Cambridge & Coleridge and Hercules Wimbledon for 2nd place and Cambridge & Coleridge just shaded it in the end by 18 seconds. They both completed the 12 legs in just over 4 hours 12 minutes. Hercules Wimbledon had Fred Slemeck who was fastest on his leg in 15:12 and Charlie Wyllie who blasted round the short leg in 14:50.

The BAC Men's team for the SEAA 12 Stage Road Relays

The BAC men came and gave it their all and achieved qualification for the Nationals

Bedford & County were leading after the first leg with Jack Goodwin putting in a 25:40 but they ended up finishing 4th in a total combined time of 4:13:30. Tonbridge AC are usually in contention at the road relays but they had to settle for 5th place on this occasion. They had James Kingston who managed an incredible 14:17 which made him fastest on the 2nd leg. Ben Cole was also fastest on his leg in 25:56.

The focus quickly then turned to the National Road Relays in Sutton Coldfield which would take place two weeks later. The Bournemouth AC men now had to piece together another team of 12 that could compete on the grandest stage of them all, with the very best from all over the country. It was a daunting prospect but equally an exciting one as they wanted to be involved in events like that to give their best athletes the platform to test themselves at the highest level.