Just three weeks on from a memorable day out at the May 5 where Bournemouth AC had 28 troops out and won the league fixture in the men’s first division, they were back in DRRL action once again. This time it was for the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon where a slightly smaller squad made the journey out west to the small, sleepy village near Dorchester.

It was in Egdon Heath Harriers jurisdiction and they organised the event, hoping to ensure that proceedings went smoothly whilst also continuing their charge for the men’s first division title in the Dorset Road Race League.

After winning the first five fixtures of the season they were in a good position but Bournemouth AC’s win at the May 5 had thrown a slight spanner in the works. They were confident of getting back to winning ways and had assembled a very strong team that looked well capable of coming out on top.

The BAC men didn’t want to go down without a fight though and they had brought a pretty decent team to the table, with Ant Clark, Jon Sharkey, Stu Nicholas, Rich Brawn and Sam Jackson in the mix.

They also had wily veterans Sanjai Sharma Adrian Townsend in the line up to bolster the squad, along with the other half of the Jackson brothers, Luke.

From a female perspective, it wasn’t the strongest side out for BAC but they did at least have a team of three out which would be enough to score points for the fixture. In fact, there were five ladies taking part and they were Debbie Lennon, Helen Ambrosen, Tamzin Petersen, Louise Price and Lea Lokh.

BAC Ladies Team - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

The BAC ladies team for the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

The Puddletown Plod course is quite a testing one, with a fair few undulations throughout. It only starts to get really tough in the last few miles though when the steep climbs come into play. The first nine or ten miles are reasonably quick and include some fast downhill stretches.

A few concerns were raised when it was announced that it was to be a cupless race as well. That meant that any athlete who wanted water at any of the water stations would need to bring their own reusable cup. Or alternatively carry a hydration pack. Neither of those seemed very practical solutions though for the faster runners who were looking to record a good time. Plus, it was a league race, making the competition between the runners that much more intense, so from that perspective, they were less likely to stop and try to unfold a reusable cup.

That certainly added to the challenge of the race, especially as it was quite a hot day and the runners knew it would be a struggle to get round without adequate hydration.

The race starts and finishes with a lap around the field at St Mary’s Middle School and as soon as the runners were out of the school grounds and onto the road, it was straight onto an incline and the race began to unravel.

Last year’s race winner Ben Foyle was back in action again and he was looking to secure back-to-back wins. He took the race by the scruff of the neck and began to escape away from the rest of the field with Twemlow man Lee Dempster the only one who could go with him.

The group in behind contained Ant Clark, Stu Nicholas, Rich Brawn and Sam Jackson but there were also several other Egdon Heath Harriers men up there. It was clear they had come armed with a very strong side.

Ant had won the race before back in 2014 when he was representing Poole Runners. Back then it was a 20k race though, rather than a half marathon. This time it was a slightly different approach from him though in the sense that he was running according to heart rate. That is the main thesis of his Comrades Marathon training and for the Puddletown Plod he was looking to keep within a 150 to 155 zone.

Ant Clark - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Ant Clark

Stu Nicholas had been running superbly of late and he came off the back of a brilliant PB of 2:37:31 at Brighton and then a glorious victory in the North Dorset Village Marathon, where he negotiated the undulating route in 2:40:30. He’d also been recording parkrun first places on a very consistent basis over the course of the year, recording 11 of them in 2022 thus far.

Also coming off the back of a marvellous marathon PB of 2:45:52 at Wrexham, Rich Brawn had had an excellent run at the May 5 the previous weekend, finishing in 28:16. That had meant that Bournemouth AC had five finishers in the top ten for that race, winning the Dorset Road Race League fixture in a resounding way.

He’d been struggling with a knee injury though in the week leading up to the race and was thinking that he may not even be able to take part. It had improved a bit by the weekend though so he decided to give it a go.

Stu Nicholas & Rich Brawn - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Stu Nicholas and Rich Brawn

Sam Jackson - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Sam Jackson

Luke Jackson - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Luke Jackson

Another man struggling with injury problems was Sanjai Sharma. He’d pulled his hamstring the previous weekend and was unsure whether he’d be able to make it round. Again, he decided he may as well turn up and give it a go.

Unfortunately for Sanjai though, it didn’t go well and his hamstring failed to hold out. Sensibly, he pulled over to the side of the road and walked, or perhaps limped back to the race venue.

Sanjai Sharma - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Sanjai Sharma

Adrian Townsend - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Adrian Townsend

Debbie Lennon - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon- Start

Debbie Lennon

Lea Lokh - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Lea Lokh

Tamzin, Louise & Helen - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon - Start

Tamzin Petesen, Louise Price and Helen Ambrosen

Around half way into the third mile, they arrived at a fairly steep climb. It was on that hill that Ben Foyle began to accelerate away from Lee Dempster. From that point on, it was all academic and the young Egdon Heath Harriers man romped home to claim victory.

Crossing the line in 1:14:02, it was another impressive performance from him and saw him secure a winning margin of almost one and a half minutes over his nearest rival. And sure enough, that was Bournemouth AC man and X-Miles extraordinaire Ant Clark.

Ant Clark - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Ant Clark

He’d managed to catch and overtake Lee Dempster in the end, arriving at the finish in 1:15:27, which put him two seconds ahead of Lee who had to settle for 3rd. It was a really strong run from Ant and showed that running to heart rate can really work if you get the training schedule right. His average pace for the run was 5:47, on a course which had 600ft of elevation.

Going through the first 10k in 35 minutes, Stu Nicholas was having an excellent run. Then he got a stitch which hampered him for a bit. He kept it going well though and despite the tough climb on the 12th mile, he stayed strong to finish in a terrific time of 1:15:42. That meant Bournemouth AC had had two men in the top four.

Stu Nicholas - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Stu Nicholas

The rest of the top ten was monopolised by Egdon Heath Harriers though and they had four more runners to come in under 1:20. Charlie Williams was the first of them, finishing 5th in 1:16:56. Then it was Christopher Peck in 6th with 1:17:17.

Daniel Thomas of Bridport Runners arrived in 7th place in 1:18:43 before Martyn Bell hit the line in 8th, clocking a 1:19:08. Jonathon Churchill finished 9th in 1:19:27 before Daniel Hull became fifth scorer for Egdon Heath Harriers, sealing a league victory for them with his time of 1:19:52.

Clive Kennedy-Burn was next over the line in 1:20:09 to take 11th place before Luke Terry of Poole AC arrived in 12th, registering a 1:20:24.

Rich Brawn had been just behind Luke for much of the race but had been unable to make any real inroads into catching him. Rich was having a pretty bad run and his mile splits were well down on what he produced in last year’s race when he finished in 1:18:49.

He’d had an amazing run that day though and it was one of his best ever performances. It was also the first ever time he’d raced in Next Percenters and that gave him the impetus to push on fearlessly. It was a very different experience this time round though and he didn’t feel anywhere near as strong.

With around five miles left to go, Rich got caught by Joe Godden of Poole Runners. It was that that kickstarted his race and he began to put a little more effort in to fight for the place. Even if he didn’t manage to fend Joe off, he knew it would mean he’d finish quicker than he would if he just gave up the place.

Heading up the big climb on the 12th mile, the pair went past Egdon Heath Harriers man Adam Davies. He had stopped at the water station and then appeared to be walking after that.

In the end Joe was the stronger of the two and he took 13th place in 1:21:14, with Rich following in to take 14th in 1:21:31. He knew he was having a bad run but had thought he might at least come in in under 1 hour 20 minutes, so he was horrified when he looked his watch when entering the field to see it ticking over 1:21.

Rich Brawn - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Rich Brawn

Adam did manage to get back running again in the last mile and he finished 15th in a time of 1:22:11. The next man over the line was Bournemouth AC’s fourth scorer, in the shape of Sam Jackson.

Completing the course in 1:22:36, it was a really good run from Sam and marked a significant improvement on his time of 1:23:47 from the previous year. It was at that very race last year that he and Rich Brawn had met and had discussed him coming over to train with BAC. Ever since then, Sam has really kicked on and progressed, with the hard work he’s been putting in on the Tuesday night’s paying dividends.

Sam Jackson - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Sam Jackson

As he often is, Bruce Campbell was first M50, getting round in 1:22:36 which put him 14th in overall standings, just ahead of his Egdon Heath Harriers teammate Matt Faramus who arrived 8 seconds later. Steve Cook of Twemlow was 2nd M50, crossing the line in exactly 1 hour 23 minutes.

Molly Rasch of Dorset Doddlers was first female, crossing the line in an excellent time of 1:23:42 which put her in 22nd place overall. That was before Jon Sharkey arrived to complete the scoring team for Bournemouth AC.

Sharkey had also had a previous Puddletown Plod victories to his name and he’d been involved in some memorable races there in the past. In 2014 he finished neck and neck with Ian Hapgood for the race win, with Simon Munro arriving shortly after to make it a BAC one, two, three.

Then in 2016 he went across the line with Steve Way for the race win, with Paul Dixon-Box and Pete Thompson giving Bournemouth AC the top four places. Then Sanjai made it five BAC in the top six that day.

Although he wasn’t quite in the form that he showed back then, Sharkey still gave a good account of himself, completing the course in 1:24:22 to take 25th place. That sealed a 2nd place finish in the men’s first division for BAC.

Jon Sharkey - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Jon Sharkey

It wasn’t quite the result that they needed but they’d done the best they could with the team they had out and that was all they could do really. They had to doth their caps and say well done to Egdon Heath Harriers on a day when they were worthy winners.

That leaves Egdon needing just one more win from the remaining five fixtures to make certain of winning the league title. BAC would effectively have to win all six races and have some drastic slip ups from Egdon to wrestle it away from them and that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Vicki Ingham of Poole Runners was 2nd female, crossing the line in 1:25:19 which put her 27th overall. Then it was Natalie Lawrence of Egdon Heath Harriers who completed the course in 1:26:15 to come in 31st in the overall standings.

The next man over the line for Bournemouth AC was Luke Jackson and he came in in 67th place, recording a time of 1:35:52. Luke has been struggling with back injuries so to make it through a tough half marathon like that was an achievement in itself really.

Luke Jackson - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Luke Jackson

Finishing in exactly 1 hour 40 minutes, Adrian Townsend was the next member of the yellow and blue army to grace the finish area. He’d also been suffering from injuries of late and hadn’t done as much running as he would’ve liked so that was a fairly decent result for him. That put him in 81st place.

It was great to see Adrian back in league action and he’ll be returning for the next one as well which is Round the Lakes.

Adrian Townsend - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Adrian Townsend

The first BAC lady in was Debbie Lennon and she got round in an excellent time of 1:43:21 which was in fact a PB for her. She was delighted with that after feeling under the weather most of the week in the build up to the race. That made her 23rd female and 93rd overall.

Debbie Lennon - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Debbie Lennon

Next in for BAC and first in the F60 category, it was Lea Lokh. She had negotiated her way round the course in 1:57:28 which put her in 135th place overall and she was 36th female.

Lea Lokh - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Lea Lokh

Tamzin Petersen and Louise Price ran the race together and went all the way to the line side by side, finishing in 2:01:21. That put them in 140th and 141st places overall and the were 38th and 39th quickest women.

Tamzin Petersen & Louise Price - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Tamzin Petersen and Louise Price

Arriving shortly after, Helen Ambrosen was the final BAC member to reach the finish. She clocked a time of 2:02:05 which put her 2nd in the F60 after teammate Lea and she was 42nd fastest female and 144th overall.

It had been a good return to racing for Helen who had also taken part in the May 5 the previous weekend. At the beginning of May was when she secured her England vest for the age group marathon championships in Chester later in the year.

Helen Ambrosen - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

Helen Ambrosen

The Bournemouth AC ladies scoring team finished fourth in the first division for that fixture, with Egdon Heath Harriers picking up the win. They had three women in the top six with Natalie Lawrence coming in 3rd, Georgina Povall in 4th and Hannah Martyn in 6th.

Poole Runners were 2nd and Purbeck Runners finished 3rd. No other clubs in the first division managed to get three ladies out.

BAC Squad - Puddletown Plod Half Marathon

The full Bournemouth AC squad for the Puddletown Plod

In terms of individual categories for the Dorset Road Race League, Stu Nicholas is currently sitting 2nd in the men’s 30-34 category behind Martyn Bell. Rich Brawn is 3rd in the 40-44 category behind Christopher Peck and Scott Parfitt.

That 13th place finish out of the DRRL runners put Sam Jackson back at the top of the 45-49 category ahead of Paul Hilton and Simon Arthur. Tamzin Petersen is 3rd in the ladies 30-34 category.

Debbie Lennon leads the ladies 55-59 category and despite not doing Puddletown as it clashed with the Dartmoor Discovery, Heather Khoshnevis still tops the 60-64 chart. Helen Ambrosen leads the way in the 65-69 category and proving that the more senior women at the club are stars of the show from a BAC perspective.

The next race is the one-off summer special Round the Lakes 10k over in Poole Park and in that one, a really strong squad has been assembled including a men’s side that will be looking to divert the league title away from Egdon Heath Harriers grasp, at least for one more race.