Bournemouth AC men's team at a real race

BAC team stutter in second round of EA Virtual 5-Mile Relay

Bournemouth AC members at a real race
After making a statement of intent in the first round of the EA Virtual Road Relay, the Bournemouth AC team had to try to follow it up in round two

Off the back of their heroics in the first round of the EA Virtual Road Relay, the Bournemouth AC took their rightful place amongst the top 50 clubs in the country for the second round of the 5-mile competition.

This time round the remaining teams were set to battle it out for the honour of representing England in the international round where they would square off against the top clubs from the other home nations.

With the stakes as high as they were, the yellow and blues knew they would have to pull all the stops out to have any chance of contending for the top position.

In the previous round it was Josh King’s astonishing offering of 24:40 that really ignited the interest amongst the BAC ranks.

Georgia Wood and Emma Caplan then also turned in very solid times to give the team real hope that they could mount a serious challenge.

Rob Spencer followed that up by delivering the second sub-25-minute performance for the round and a very high position in the standings began to look on the cards.

It certainly demonstrated the tremendous strength in depth that the club has, with a number of runners well capable of mixing it with the very best on the club road race circuit.

Bournemouth AC’s very own coach extraordinaire Tom Craggs was again on hand to marshal the proceedings in the second round of the competition.

A slight change in the rules from the previous round meant that this time point to point ones were allowed and there would be no need to go for an out-and-back, ending up in similar place to where you started.

That news came as a welcome bonus to some of the BAC members as it meant that, even if conditions were windy, they would still be able to utilize the promenade without having to worry about encountering a speed-killing headwind in one direction.

Originally all runs had to be performed between Wednesday 10th and Sunday 14th February but due to the forecast of some pretty rough weather over the course of that weekend it was extended by a week to give runners two potential weekends to record their activity.

Getting the ball rolling for the BAC squad  this time round it was Adrian Townsend. He was keen to test his legs by having a crack at the 5-mile distance and use it to assess where his fitness is at.

Adrian Townsend in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Adrian Townsend was looking to gage what kind of form his lockdown training had put him in

He found it pretty tough with the windy conditions on the prom but didn’t blow up and managed to keep a good, steady pace going through to the end.

Completing the run in a time of 33:12, he was fairly pleased with his time, all things considered.

That weekend the weather had taken a real turn for the worse with gale force winds descending upon the promenade which made running conditions extremely tricky.

In fact, the headwind was so fierce that even Josh Cole struggled to blast through it at anything like the sort of pace he would usually expect to be running at in a 5-mile race.

He hadn’t realised that point to point runs were allowed this time round and had gone for an out-and-back route starting out from Sandbanks Beach.

Josh Cole in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Although the stormy conditions were not favourable, Josh Cole wasn’t going to be deterred

Once he hit the half way point and turned though he was able to pick up speed and get back to something closer to the pace he would have envisaged.

His finishing time of 28:46 very much reflected the difficult weather conditions he was faced with but he was still able to take the value of it as a training exercise.

It was a different story for Georgia Wood though. In spite of the conditions, she still managed to produce a superb run to clock a time of 29:18. That was a marked improvement on her first round effort of 30:56, shaving off a 1 minute and 38 seconds.

Georgia Wood in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Georgia Wood turned in a magnificent performance to register a time of 29:18

Using the same lapped circuit near Salisbury Cathedral that he’d used to record his magnificent first round effort, Harry Smith was looking to emulate his previous performance.

That was always going to be a tough ask though after his run of 25:29 had seen him hit the dizzy heights of 35th position overall.

This time he encountered a couple of groups of people on route that forced him to take a few detours. He soon got back on track though and it turned out to be another high quality display from him.

Completing the distance in a time of 25:48, Harry had certainly proved that he can produce on a consistent basis which bodes very well for him and for the club.

Harry Smith in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Harry Smith proved his terrific first round display was not a one-off

Coming off the back a few high mileage weeks which had seen her placing quite high on the BAC Strava leaderboard for distance, Helen Ambrosen was feeling in good shape for her second round effort.

This time she was more used to the route she was using, along the undulating country roads of Wimborne. The weather was better on the day as well, being sunny and warmer than it had been when she did her first round run.

Registering a terrific time of 39:53, Helen had managed to improve her average mile pace from 8:15 in the first round to 7:58 in the second round, so that was a decent uplift.

The thoroughly enjoyed doing the event and found it a welcome motivator during these lagging lockdown months. She appreciated the opportunity to put in a race effort and to represent the club as well.

Helen Ambrosen in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Helen Ambrosen was in good shape and hadn’t had any trouble maintaining her motivation throughout lockdown

Usually much more used to the rigors of a steady paced endurance run or a crazily long ultramarathon race, Linn Erixon Sahlström was very much out of her comfort zone when tackling a fast five miler.

In fact the only form of speedwork she’d done recently had been on a treadmill so this was always going to be an interesting challenge but one that she was very much relishing.

Completing her run a time of 36:21, Linn was pleased with her time, despite not being up there with the lead contenders like she usually is when she does her ultras.

She still finds it baffling how much harder it is to her running a shorter, faster race, where the onus is on speed rather than endurance.

Linn Erixon Sahlström in the EA Virtual Road Relay
The relay competition provided a rare opportunity for Linn Erixon Sahlström to practice some short distance speed

Another BAC member who is far more adept in longer, endurance based race environments, was Andy Gillespie. After missing out on taking part in the previous round due to a hamstring pull, Andy was keen to involved this time round.

Having recently competed in the Newquay Virtual 10k in aid of the Cornwall Air Ambulance, Andy had taken a good confidence boost out of that race, finishing 27th out of 317. That had helped convinced him to go for it in the 5 mile relay.

After a few practice runs, Andy managed to sort out a route that was relatively flat, although he did still have to go out and back a few times and it wasn’t entirely traffic free.

Although he found it difficult to run at his fastest on his own, Andy felt like he did alright. There was only really one moment of contention when a driver decided to perform a three point turn right in front of him, causing him to have to zigzag around the car.

Andy Gillespie in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Andy Gillespie had been running every day whilst being on furlough but was hoping to step the pace up for his relay attempt

Finishing up with a time of 39:12, Andy enjoyed the event and found it nice to feel part of the team. It certainly shook up his training as well and served as a good motivator for him to get out and run, even when the weather wasn’t so nice.

Andy is currently on furlough and as a consequence, has set himself the target of running every day to ensure that he doesn’t get lazy. He was in the line up for the Jurassic Coast Challenge but that has just been cancelled, disappointingly for Andy given that he is currently at his fittest. In his current streak of consecutive days running, Andy has racked up 500 miles.

Not really having the opportunity to run with any consistency due to home schooling and work, Chris O’Brien has just had to fit running in around everything else.

He enjoyed testing himself in the 5 mile relay though and came away with a time of 32:56 which was a fairly pleasing result for him, given the circumstances.

Chris O'Brien in the EA Virtual Road Relay
It’s been a very busy time for Christ O’Brien lately but he still found the time to get out and register his five mile effort

Hoping to eclipse his time from the previous round, Rich Brawn had worked very hard in training over the course of the month in preparation for his second round attempt.

On the first weekend, Rich hadn’t realised that the rules had changed and he been on the promenade on the day when it was gale force winds. As soon as he’d turned round and started running into the wind, his pace dropped dramatically and he’d ended up finishing in a time well over 30 minutes.

The following weekend he decided to head down towards the Hengistbury Head end of the promenade and do a point to point run from there, all out.

After completing his first mile at 5:27 pace, he could tell he was potentially on for a new best time. Although, he wasn’t quite able to maintain that pace, he did manage to complete the next few miles at roughly 5:40 pace which had put him well on target for a new best time.

Unfortunately though, on the last mile, disaster struck. There were so many people on the promenade, it had become difficult to negotiate a clear route through. He was always worried about crashing in to something or someone.

Getting up to about the 4.3 mark, he was still powering along at a very good pace. Then all of a sudden a bit dog stepped right in front of him. It was far too late for Rich to change direction and he was sent flying to the floor.

As he hit the deck he was conscious that he couldn’t afford to lose much time and had to get straight back up and continue. Seeing that his pace had only gone down by 5 seconds for that mile, he decided to continue and go for broke.

Rich Brawn in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Taking to the bustling promenade for his attempt, Rich Brawn found that his hurdling was perhaps not quite up to scratch

Completing the run in a time of 28:18, it was another good improvement for Rich on his time in the previous rounds. In fact, it was 29 seconds quicker, which Rich was super pleased about. The hard work he’d put in appeared to have paid off.

On the final day of the competition Helen O’Neile hit the prom for her attempt. Unfortunately, she didn’t have one of her better days and struggled to match the time that she’d produced in the previous round.

She was going well after the first couple of miles and was still on course for a good time at the end of the third mile. Once she turned into the wind though it became a lot tougher and her pace dropped significantly over the last couple of miles.

Her moving time of 30:49 was actually very similar to what she did last time but her elapsed time was what it had to go down as and that was 31:43.

Helen O'Neile in the EA Virtual Road Relay
After a bright start Helen O’Neile wasn’t quite able to hit the heights she would have hoped for

The final Bournemouth AC member to post his run was Barry Dolman. Barry is relatively new to running and had never done a 5 mile race before. In fact, he’d only ever done one official race before and that was the Weymouth 10k on the last weekend before lockdown in March last year.

He was nervous going into it and was unsure what sort of performance he’d be able to produce. He was expecting to be around the 32 minute mark.

Completing the 10k race he did in 42 minutes, that gave him a rough benchmark. The conditions weren’t great on the day though and the course started off in a hilly park so it wasn’t ideal for a quick time.

Around four months ago he’d participated in the club 5k time trials where he’d been getting round in just over 19 minutes so he knew he was in pretty good shape then.

It turned out his form was still there as well when he hit the road for his 5 mile effort and he managed to get round in a time of 30:16 which got him in as fourth male scorer for the team.

Barry Dolman in the EA Virtual Road Relay
Barry Dolman added a superb time of 30:16 to bolster the overall score for the team

Impressively, with that run he went through 5k in 18:36 which would have been a PB for him. His best official 5k time was 18:38 which he recorded at Crissy Field parkrun in San Fransisco.

Barry has designs on recording a sub 40 minute 10k, a sub 1:30 half marathon and a sub 3 hour marathon and judging by the performance he produced here, he’s on the right track.

After going so close as well, he’d very much like to add a sub 30 minute 5 miler to the list as well and that should certainly be an achievable target in the near future.

Making up the final team of four men and four women, it was; Harry Smith who finished 76th overall with his time of 25:48, Rich Brawn who was 262nd overall with his time of 28:18, Josh Cole who was 311th overall with his time of 28:46, and Barry Dolman who was 433rd overall and 13th in the M50 category with his time of 30:16.

Then, taking 4th place in the W40 category and 368th overall it was Georgia Wood. Placing 4th in the W45 category, Emma Caplan‘s time of 30:45 put her in 466th overall.  Helen O’Neile was 542nd with her time of 31:43. And finally, making her foray into short distance running worthwhile, Linn Erixon Sahlstrom was 4th scorer in and 856th overall with her time of 36:21.

Chris O’Brien was 654th  overall with his time of 32:56 and Adrian Townsend was 676th and 12th in the M55 category with his time of 33:12.

Andy Gillespie was 936th with his time of 39:12 and he was 12th in the M60 category. Helen Ambrosen took 3rd place in the W60 category and 946th overall with her time of 39:53.

With a total combined time for their fastest four men and fastest four women of 4:01:15, Bournemouth AC finished 34th in the final standings for the relay.

With so many of their star names not in action for various reasons, it was a commendable result for the team and those who did take part did give it their best shot.

In terms of the individual honors, Phil Norman of Woodford Green AC was the fastest man, completing his 5-mile effort in an astonishing 23:02.

Jonathan Escalante-Phillips of Cambridge & Coleridge was 2nd, recording a time of 23:40 for his run. Then it was George Dollner of Guildford & Godalming coming in with a time of 23:52.

Kieran Clements of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers and Anthony Johnson of Kent AC were joint 4th, both submitting a time of 23:58 and they were the only other athletes to boast a sub-24-minute time.

As for the club relay, the coveted prize of representing England in the international round went to Wirral AC. Their total time for their fastest four men and fastest four women was a very impressive 3:32:39.

They had TJ Jones who was 25th overall in a time of 24:46, Ethan Brady-Jones who was 31st in 24:51, William Strickley who was 54th in 25:23 and Daniel Hayes who was 113th in 26:28.

A very strong female line up contributed massively to their success, with Sophie Tarver finishing in 27:11, Keira Brady-Jones coming in at 27:43, Emily Kearney completing hers in 27:43 and Ellen Mary Kearney recording a time of 28:34.

That meant City of Norwich AC had to settle for 2nd place with their total combined time of 3:33:00. All four of their men were under 25 minutes, including Logan Smith who was 6th overall in a time of 24:05.

They narrowly edged out Aldershot, Farnham & District who finished with a cumulative time of 3:33:09. Then it was Windsor, Slough, Eton & Hounslow in 4th place with a total combined time of 3:34:25.

BAC team grouped together at an actual race
There have certainly been some positives to take from the virtual competitions and no doubt when the real racing returns, Team BAC will be ready to excel

Whilst it was disappointing for Bournemouth AC not to be up there battling it out for the top positions, they can take heart from a very good display in the first round when they took 6th place overall.

There was also a fantastic display from the squad in the Virtual National Road Relays for 5k where their Men’s 12 Stage team finished 31st overall. The BAC vet men’s team did extremely well to finish 6th in the standings in that one as well.

What these virtual road relay events showed though was that if the Bournemouth AC squad rallies together and focuses on a particular competition, they can be a match for some of the top clubs in the country.

That has got to bode well for when actual races return and events like the EA road relays do take place. The buzz of excitement and team spirit generated in the virtual events will certainly be reason for optimism and there’s every chance that Bournemouth AC could be back on the map in the not too distant future.