Szymon Chojnacki and Stu Nicholas at the Solent Half Marathon

Szymon Chojnacki and Stu Nicholas were in the Bournemouth AC side at the Solent Half Marathon

Life in the Second Division of the Hampshire Road Race League had started pretty well for the Bournemouth AC men as they opened their account with a win at the Overton 5, despite having a somewhat depleted line up. The second fixture of the season had them heading over to the eastern edge of the New Forest for the Solent Half Marathon.

It was a race that Stu Nicholas won last year, spearheading the team to a second league win of the season. Could he do the same for the second year running? He was joined in the race by the Polish pulveriser Szymon Chojnacki, king of the hills Patrick Kingston and super 60’s sensation Sanjai Sharma. That was a good solid team of four with potentially enough artillery to see them top the standings in the division again.

Stu went into it off the back of a double race weekender the previous week when he was part of the Southern Road Relays team on the Saturday before finishing runner up at the Black Hill 10k the following day. That was along with his mandatory parkrun of course. The weekend before that he competed for Dorset in the Chippenham Half Marathon, getting round in just under 1 hour 15 minutes.

Szymon Chojnacki at the Solent Half Marathon

Szymon was representing the club for the second consecutive weekend

Also putting in a strong performance at the Southern Road Relays where he ran the anchor leg for the A team, Szymon was looking suitably fit and fast. He also registered a very fast 5k time of 16:26 at the Piątka Praska in Warsaw.

After a huge PB at the Round the Lakes 10k the previous weekend, Patrick Kingston was looking to keep his good form going at the Solent Half. After completing the Nivolet-Rivard 55km mountain ultra in May, these races must have seemed somewhat short to him.

Also competing in the Solent Half Marathon race last year, Patrick registered a time of 1:34:47 that day so that gave him a target to beat.

Sanjai Sharma and Patrick Kingston at the Solent Half Marathon

Sanjai Sharma and Patrick Kingston on the start line

Having run the Richmond Half Marathon a month earlier in what he felt was a disappointing time of 1:37, Sanjai was hoping to go much faster at the Solent Half. The conditions for the Richmond Half were hot and humid and that was Sanjai’s least favourable weather for running. In fact, after he finished that day he found out that some of the slower runners were being made to stop and walk as there had been so many heat casualties.

Unfortunately when the day of the Solent Half Marathon came around, it was and humid again and that wasn’t going to help Sanjai’s quest. The course was on a very slightly uphill trajectory for the first 1.7 miles. Then from mile 2 to mile 7.4, it was on a long, slight downhill trajectory. The rest of the route is on a slight incline, making it a fairly tough last five miles.

After emerging victorious at the Overton 5, Winchester & District man Andrew Greenleaf was back for more at the Solent Half Marathon and he was soon surging out at the front of the field. Shaun Egan of Totten was giving chase but catching Andrew was always going to be a nigh on impossible task.

Stu Nicholas and Szymon Chojnacki in the Solent Half Marathon

Stu and Szymon were up near the front end of the field

Stu was heading up the group after that and Szymon was one of the other four runners in that collective. They stayed together for the first mile, going at just over 5:20 pace which was quick for a half marathon, especially given that it was slightly uphill. Stu then began to extend away in the second mile, posting a 5:31 for that. Szymon managed his second mile in 5:44.

Stu then ran a 5:52 for his third mile before settling into a 5:45 pace for the next four miles as he worked his way down the long, slight decline. He was now on his own, in no man’s land, well behind the second placed runner and clear of the fourth placed man who was George Belfield of Winchester & District.

Still under 6 minutes per mile for his ninth and tenth miles, it was a great show of strength from Stu. It was only the 11th and 12th miles that he went over 6 minutes per mile before getting back on pace for the last mile or so. That resulted in a finishing time of 1:16:10, which was a minute off the time he produced when he won the race last year.

That put him in 3rd place, 14 seconds ahead of George Belfield who was 4th in 1:16:25. Andrew Greenleaf had proved way too quick for everyone else, getting to the line in an astonishing time of 1:10:23. That was over four minutes quicker than Shaun Egan who was 2nd in 1:14:39.

Szymon Chojnacki in the Solent Half Marathon

Szymon was going well for the first half of the race

Going pretty well for the first 10k of the race, Szymon started to slip off the pace a bit over the next couple of miles but was still holding it together well. He started to struggle after that though and realised it wasn’t going to be his day for a fast time. He battled on for the remainder of the race but it was pretty tough going.

Reaching the line in a time of 1:21:42, it was still enough for a top ten placing though, which is a decent result in a Hampshire Road League race. It had been an intensive week of training for Szymon as well as he was putting in the mileage ahead of the Poznań Marathon which he’d be running three weeks after.

Patrick Kingston in the Solent Half Marathon

Patrick is no stranger to a hill or two

Patrick Kingston was pretty consistent with his pacing for the first eight miles, going at between 6:30 and 6:40 pace. The rest of the race was slower of course, since it was slightly uphill. It wasn’t a lot slower though and with all his mountain and hill running, Patrick is quite strong on the slopes. He was around 6:50 to 6:55 pace for the remainder of it.

Ending the race in a time of 1:28:07, Patrick finished 27th overall and was 5th in the Male 45 to 49 category. That was a PB of almost a minute from Patrick and was 6 minutes 40 seconds quicker than he did the previous year, so a massive improvement in the space of a year.

Sanjai Sharma in the Solent Half Marathon

Sanjai was looking to improve on his time from the Richmond Half Marathon

Suffering a bit in the warm conditions, Sanjai found that drinking from the half filled paper cups they were giving out at the water stations didn’t really provide him with sufficient hydration. He’d been expecting it to be a flatter course really as well and he started to struggle at around the 10 mile point whilst on the long incline.

Sanjai Sharma in action at the Solent Half Marathon

It wasn’t Sanjai’s favoured conditions but he gave it his best shot

That led to a finishing time of 1:37:07 which put him in 74th place overall. He was really disappointed with the time as he had been hoping for much quicker than he’d done previously at Richmond. There was one consolation for Sanjai though and that was that he’d won the Male 60 to 64 category and there was a prize for that.

That was enough to see Bournemouth AC top the standings in the Second Division again so it was a tremendous result from the fab four. It was a close call though, with only seven places difference between them and Totten. Farnham Runners look like they could be the main challengers this season and they finished 3rd, with Eastleigh 4th and Hedge End 5th.

There were three teams in the top division who got a better score than Bournemouth AC though. They were Winchester & District, who won it again, Andover who had another exceptional race to finish 2nd and an Lordshill who were 3rd.

Szymon Chojnacki and Patrick Kingston after the Solent Half Marathon

The Bournemouth AC men topped the standings in the Second Division again

It was a dominant display from Winchester & District who had the race winner Andrew Greenleaf, George Belfield who was 4th, Justin Corrie who was 11th just behind Szymon and Peter Sansome who was 12th. Andover had Michael Stone who was 6th in 1:18:15, Al McKinnon who was 9th in 1:21:13, Mark Burniston who was 13th and John Kane who came 20th.

Isle of Wight Road Runners won the fixture in the Third Division and they had Joshua Price who came 5th in 1:17:31 and Louis Foster who finished 17th. James Clarke was Farnham Runners’ top man and he finished 7th in 1:19:09. As well as having Shaun Egan who was 2nd, Totten also had David Ullett who came 18th so it wasn’t a surprise they mounted a serious challenge to BAC.

Kerry Riches of Fareham was 1st female, getting round in 1:30:38 which put her 41st overall. Catherine Seager of Liss was 2nd in 1:30:53 which put her 43rd overall and Katie Slater made it a very good day for Fareham, coming in as 3rd female and 45th overall in 1:31:26.

That was enough to put Fareham 2nd in the Women’s top division, with City of Salisbury taking top spot for the season so far with their win. Portsmouth Joggers won the fixture in the women’s Second Division with Ryde Harriers in 2nd. New Forest Runners got a better score than anyone else in the league though, topping the standings in the women’s Third Division, just as they did at Overton.

In the Men’s B team league, Lordshill beat Winchester & District on this occasion to reverse the result they had at Overton.

Sitting pretty at the top of the Second Division table with two wins out of two, it was looking good for Bournemouth AC for the season so far. There were still a lot of races to come though and they need to ensure they keep getting teams out to maintain their position at the top of the table.

Hoping he’ll be able to improve his times as his fitness improves and the weather cools down, Sanjai will be taking on the New Forest 10 next. That will be the next race in Hampshire Road League and Stu will also be lining up for that one, along with Rich Brawn, Ryan Pegoraro, Dan Trickett and Sean Weaver. It was going to be a bumper month of racing for Stu as he was also in action at the Great South Run two weeks after the Solent Half Marathon.