Chris O'Brien in action at the the Fleet Half Marathon

Chris O’Brien was one of the Bournemouth AC contingent in action at the Fleet Half Marathon

All four Bournemouth AC members taking part in the Fleet Half Marathon were going into it off the back of a good performance in their previous race. The Jackson brothers, Luke and Sam, both smashed their 10 mile PBs at the Bramley 20 event in February.

It was Sam’s first time under the hour, getting round in 59:28. Luke had made some very notable improvements since he last came to training as well and was looking very trim and in top condition. He got round in 1:02:51 which was a massive improvement in his previous best.

Putting in a strong display at the Chichester 10k, David Pinney registered a time of 39:12. He then went on to record an 18:49 in the Boscombe Winter 5k Series.

Feeling the best he had in a race for the past 18 months, Chris O’Brien did really well to complete the Romsey 5 in 32:12. That was a quicker time than in any of his previous attempts.

Still trying to shake off the effects of Long Covid, Chris has been struggling to hit his top speed as every time he starts to work at a high intensity his chest hurts.

The Fleet Half Marathon had brought success to Bournemouth AC runners before. In 2019, both Ant Clark and Tamzin Petersen recorded comprehensive PB’s and Tamzin’s time of 1:41:32 still stands. Ant’s time was 1:12:31 and that stood until March last year when he narrowly bettered it at the Surrey Half.

Could any of the four taking on the Fleet Half Marathon this year emulate those PB pulverising performances? Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and it was raining for most the race but that was of course something that none of the runners could control.

Lead group in the Fleet Half Marathon

The most talented runners congregate in the lead group

The first couple of miles contained were slightly downhill and Sam took advantage of that getting a couple of quick miles on the board at 5:48 and 5:51. There was a small incline on third mile before heading back downhill on the fourth mile. Sam completed those at 5:57 and 5:55 and had made a really strong start.

His best half marathon time up till that point was 1:20:28 which he did at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival in 2019. Sam does suffer with gastritis, which gives him a bad stomach from time to time so he was hoping that wouldn’t scupper his chances of reaching his full potential.

Sam Jackson in the Fleet Half Marathon

Sam Jackson was ready to put in a quick performance

His next couple of miles were done at 6:03 and then next two after that were 6 exactly. He was now on his ninth mile, so had just over five left. Recording a 6:08 for the ninth mile, he then went to register a 6:15 for the 10th mile. All he had to do now was try to keep it going as best he could for the last 5k.

A 6:09 for the 11th mile was then followed by a 6:27 for the 12th mile. The last couple of miles were slightly uphill so it was always going to be tough at the end if you’re maxed out. Sam stayed strong though and got through the 13th mile in 6:03. He then just need one final push to get to the line.

Sam Jackson going for it in the Fleet Half Marathon

Sam’s splits were strong throughout the race

Reaching the finish in a time of 1:19:44, Sam had done it! He’d finally nailed that sub 80 minute time and it felt good. That put him in 107th place out of 1,757 participants. He was also 9th out of 158 in the M45 category.

His average pace for the distance was 6:05 and he now had a sub 60 minute 10 miler and a sub 80 half marathon on his resume which was seriously good going.

Sam Jackson after the Fleet Half Marathon

Sam was pleased after a brilliant sub-80 minute time

You had to go back to 2014 to find Luke’s best half marathon time which was 1:26:45. The form he showed at the Bramley 10 certainly suggested he was in good enough shape to beat that at Fleet and sure enough, he did. Getting over the line in 1:24:31, Luke had beaten his previous best by over two minutes and that was a terrific result.

Luke Jackson going for it in the Fleet Half Marathon

Luke Jackson’s running had improved a lot over recent months

Putting him in 172nd place overall and 25th out of 191 in the M40 category, it was an impressive display from Luke. His average pace for the distance was 6:27 minutes per mile. It’s been great to see that Luke has really turned a corner with his running and seems to be getting over the injury problems that had plagued him for quite some time.

Luke Jackson running well in the Fleet Half Marathon

Luke had a superb run to nail down his fastest half marathon time yet

Managing a 1:28:03 at the Gosport Half Marathon in November, that was the target to beat for David Pinney. He started off at roughly 6:30 pace for the first couple of miles. He stayed under 6:40 pace for each of the first five mile splits before posting a 6:44 for his sixth mile.

He was then back down to 6:36 for the seventh mile before following it up with a 6:30 and then back to 6:36 for the ninth mile. There was of course a few more inclines over the last four miles but David stayed strong, going at around 6:40 pace or just over for each of those splits.

A finishing time of 1:26:28 marked a magnificent display from David and he came in 214th place overall. His average pace for the run was 6:37 and it was a very solid and well measured effort.

David Pinney in the Fleet Half Marathon

David Pinney put in a strong performance to record his fastest half marathon to date

Chris O’Brien’s best half marathon time was 1:24:49 but he was unlikely to be getting near that. He was just really looking to see some signs of progression from where had been.

He started off at around 6:30 pace and his miles varied between around 6:30 and 6:45. The ninth mile and the tenth mile were slightly slower as they contained hills and it got a bit tougher over those last five miles.

Chris O'Brien in the Fleet Half Marathon

Chris O’Brien had been battling a Long Covid affliction for a year and a half

There were actually a few more inclines on the route than Chris had been expecting and that’s the one area he still struggles on, especially since one of them was directly after a turnaround.

Digging in as best he could though, he managed to see that race through and get to the finish line to register a time of 1:28:44. That put him in 271st place and 16th out of 196 in the M50 category.

It was a decent effort from Chris and there were a lot of positives to take from it. His average pace for the run was 6:46 and it was certainly another step in the right direction as he continues his quest to recapture his best form. It was a few seconds quicker than his latest half marathon race effort which was a Run Bournemouth in 2021.

Chris O'Brien finishing the Fleet Half Marathon

The pain is etched on Chris’s face as he lifts the intensity

The second year running, Kurt Taylor of Bristol & West AC picked up the victory, improving on his time from last year. He had too as well to edge out Maximilian Nicholls of Kent AC, with their times being 1:06:03 and 1:06:05. Max Walker of ATR finished 3rd in 1:06:46.

Stephen Blake of Aldershot Farnham & District was 4th in 1:07:02. Eight men finished under 1 hour 10 minutes, underlining what a high standard and exhilarating race it was at the front of the field.

Brian Underwood of Twemlow Track Club recorded a tremendous new PB of 1:11:56 which put him in 24th place. He was 1st in the M45 category. His teammate Chris Wood also registered a brilliant new PB of 1:12:39 which put him in 29th place and 2nd in the M40 category. He came in just ahead of Poole Runners star Lewis Clarke who clocked a time of 1:12:42 which was also a new PB.

Steven Rigby continued the Twemlow PB trend, recording a time of 1:13:47 to take 34th place. Steve Cook then joined in the fun with a new PB of 1:16:06 which put him in 59th place and 2nd in the M50 category.

Lee Dempster was there as well and he got round in 1:17:31 which put him in 75th place. Poole Runners man Haydan Clarke finished 77th in 1:17:39.

Vicki Ingham of Poole Runners joined in on the PB party, clocking an excellent time of 1:18:38 which made her 3rd female and 95th overall. Claire Jacobs of Hadleigh Hares was 1st female in 1:17:10. That put her in 71st place overall, just ahead of Katie Olding of LIFC who was 73rd in 1:17:16.

It was certainly a race that saw numerous PBs being recorded but that was mostly down to the hard work of the runners rather than the speed of the course. The location can provide the platform but the performance has to come from the training that is being put in.

This is the time of year that a lot of runners are reaching their peak as well after a heavy block of marathon training comes to an end. With the big spring races just around the corner, there will certainly be some exciting times to come over the next few weeks.

For the Bournemouth AC quartet who took part and achieved fantastic results, it was now time to focus on the next challenge ahead and seek further improvements as they continue their journeys.