As the Dorset Road Race League season enters its final furlong, the 10th fixture out of 12 was the one they’d all been dreading, the famously brutal and beautifully curvaceous Gold Hill 10k.
As if the race wasn’t already difficult enough, the lashing rain on the morning of race brought an even bigger challenge, as not only did the runners have to contend with the hugely steep inclines, they also had to take the utmost of care on the cobbled streets when on the sharp descents. The wet weather had made for a slippery surface that could easily prove disastrous with any slight lapse in concentration.
It was an unfortunate fixture clash for Bournemouth AC, falling on the same weekend as the Hampshire League Cross Country fixture on the day before. That meant a lot of the top BAC athletes had already raced on the Saturday afternoon so were unlikely to be prepared to get back out there for a hill-ridden 10k the following morning.
It was also Bournemouth AC’s home fixture held at Kings Park, meaning most members were out all day, either helping out with the organising and marshalling, or racing, or in some cases, both.
Nevertheless, team captain Rich Nelson did just about manage to scrape a team of five men together for race, with Jud Kirk, Phil Cherrett, Steve Parsons and Ian Graham all lined up to tackle the testing inclines.
Andy Gillespie was also down to run but he decided off the back of his three marathons in three days at the Atlantic Coast Challenge, it might be a bit too much to put himself out there again the following weekend. Adrian Townsend stepped in take his entry.
The BAC ladies had no such trouble fielding a team this time round, with a five-strong squad of Julia Austin, Tamzin Petersen, Louise Price, Estelle Slatford and Helen Ambrosen all signed up. Of course, they only needed three scorers for the Dorset Road Race League.
The men’s team suffered an early blow though when Adrian Townsend suffered a calf strain in the warm up. That rendered him hardly able to walk, let alone run.
Adrian has been extremely unlucky in races over recent times, being forced to pull out of the Sturminster Newton Half Marathon in August suffering from stomach issues. They were the same stomach issues that had forced him to abandon the London Marathon earlier in the year.
The loss of Adrian sadly meant the Bournemouth AC men’s team only had four members for Gold Hill meaning they wouldn’t actually score in team competition for the league.
Being the team player that he is though, Adrian stayed around to support his teammates, despite the treacherous conditions, cheering them on and taking photos of them as they approached the finish.
With the BAC men out of the picture, that gave Poole AC a late glimmer of hope that they could still snatch the league title away from BAC as the season conclusion drew ever closer. To do so though, they’d have to get at least two wins and a 2nd place from their remaining three fixtures, which included this one at Gold Hill.
The race started off from Shaftesbury School on Hawkesdene Lane in Shaftesbury, consisting of a single loop course, mostly along scenic country lanes.
Quite soon after the start, the route leads onto one of the most iconic ascents in Dorset, Gold Hill, which was made famous by the Hovis television advert.
The second half of the race is virtually all uphill so from around about 5.5k onwards, it’s a long hard slog to the finish, requiring a deep resolve from every competitor looking to wear the medal round their neck at the end.
The first Bournemouth AC member to get their hands on that very medal was BAC’s resident hill expert Jud Kirk, proving he’d still got the knack of managing a tricky ascent or two.
Registering a time of 45 minutes exactly, Jud crossed the line in 40th place. Whilst he did do well on the hills, Jud felt that he dropped a few too many places on the descents.
Finishing so high up the field though will have done his prospects in the Dorset Road Race League the world of good though. Jud is going for the win in the men’s 60-64 category and it also transpired that none of his main competitors for that title were even competing in the race so that was another bonus.
The result at Gold Hill gives Jud a 24-point advantage over Nigel Haywood at the top the league table for that category. Barring any major slip-ups in the last two races, that should be enough a cushion to see Jud home and dry.
It was a reversal of what happened in the previous Dorset Road Race League fixture this time as Jud had finished ahead of Phil Cherrett on this occasion, whereas at the Hoburne 5 it was Phil who came out on top.
Crossing the line in a time of 46:53, Phil took 46th place in the standings. Phil blames – or rather – credits Steve Parsons with forcing him run the race so he could truly understand how tough it is.
Having looked at the past results, Phil knew it was never going to be a PB course and times ranged from 5 to 10 minutes slower than PB. He could also tell that the second half would be much slower than the first judging by the elevation graph.
He’d decided to run hard for the first half of the race since it was mostly downhill. Due to the rain and the steep gradients, for the first time ever, he actually felt scared running downhill.
It was certainly exciting, if at times, a little death defying, but he spent the first half of the race trying to slow himself down. Going through the first 5k in 22 minutes. He knew though that the real work was yet to come.
The climb on the 7th kilometre was difficult but once he’d negotiated it, he settled into a rhythm and started to pick people off who were ahead of him.
He’d been warned about the final climb at 9.5k but Phil was amazed that with only a few hundred metres left, one chap ahead of him had slowed to a walk. Reaching the top of the hill and hitting the grass finishing straight was a brilliant feeling for Phil. He sprinted across the line, through the funnel and past the marshals who were handing out water and medals.
Phil was pleased to have managed to run the whole way and was chuffed with his end result. After the race Phil proclaimed that it was the hardest run he’d ever done and thanked Steve Parsons for making him do it. He feels that he’ll take a lot from the race going forward.
The next member of the BAC clan to make it to the finish was in fact Steve Parsons. Steve had done the race last year and had a pretty horrendous day, vowing never to return again. However, falling the wrong side of 50 minutes did not sit well with him and once the memory of how hard it was had faded a little, there was a yearning inside him to go back and conquer the race in a sub-50 time.
Sure enough, he was back and this time he was determined to take care of unfinished business and address those demons. Even though the weather didn’t play ball, Steve faired a little better this time round. In fact, you could almost say he enjoyed it.
There had been a break in the rain when the race started and it was at least fairly dry going up the cobbles of Gold Hill, which may have been a bit tricky otherwise. A second downpour followed soon after the start, making it very dicey negotiating the steep slopes.
Knowing he was in much better shape than he was at this time last year, Steve was confident he could go quicker and just really had to trust in his training. Also, having done the race before, he knew what was coming, which certainly did help.
The last hill at 9.5k is an absolute killer but at least Steve knew what to expect this time so he could mentally prepare himself. Last year, when he turned the corner and saw the monstrosity he had to go up, it would be fair to say he lost his sense of humour.
It’s a hard race to gage as the first half is mostly downhill, except a couple of really steep hills so it should be a quick first 5k. But knowing how hard the second half of the race is going to be, you need to ensure you’ve kept something in the tank for that, so you can’t afford to go out too hard.
In the second half of the race you climb a lot in the 5th and 6th kilometre and you then drop down again at 7k, which is a little demoralising as you then have to climb back up again.
Steve felt okay going up Gold Hill towards the start of the race as, although it’s very steep, it isn’t very long. Some of the later hills took much more out of him. This time he did manage to get in in under 50 minutes. In fact, he was quite comfortably under, crossing the line in a time of 48:29, which put him in 58th place.
Originally, his intention was to do the race one more time to get that sub-50 and then never put himself through it again. This time he found that he didn’t hate it quite so much though so he may very well find himself lining up again next year.
Finishing as 9th placed lady, Julia Austin was the first scorer for the women’s team, taking 68th place overall with a time of 50:22. In a funny sort of way, Julia actually quite enjoyed the race, focusing on keeping it steady and ensuring that, above all else, she was able to make it to the finish.
Again, Julia found the steep downhills quite tricky on the wet ground and the uphills were of course testing at times as well. It was her second race of the weekend after running in the Hampshire League Cross Country the day before so Julia did remarkably well considering.
Coming in just five places after Julia was Tamzin Petersen who finished as 2nd scorer for the ladies’ team. Tamzin was 11th placed female with her time 51:02 and was 73rd overall.
That was an impressive performance from Tamzin who is now coming back into some good form – and despite getting drenched in the process, she actually quite enjoyed it.
The third scorer for the Bournemouth AC ladies team in the Dorset Road Race League was Louise Price, who was 26th placed female and 109th overall, crossing the line in a time of 55:48. It was the first time she’d ever ran Gold Hill and Lou had been putting in extra hill training over the summer after hearing about how hard it was.
On the day, Louise’s main goal was to get round without walking. She was nervous at the start but as the race progressed, she began to feel strong and ended up really enjoying it. Her achilles are only just recovering from the downhill sections but it was worth it.
Following in soon after Louise was Estelle Slatford, who was 30th woman crossing the line in 57:07. That put her in 117th place in the overall standings.
It turned out to be Estelle’s slowest ever 10k, but in a way that was to be expected. She hadn’t done a lot of training over recent times and considering how hilly it was, she was expecting it would be tough going.
Weirdly though, she quite enjoyed it, going in with no expectation since she’s only just started building up a decent weekly mileage again after a long time of not doing much for various reasons.
The first half of the race was pleasant enough for Estelle, containing a good balance of ups and downs. The last few kilometres she found pretty tough though. That said, she would like to come back again next year and see how much better she could do with a good block of training behind her.
Finishing as 2nd over 70, Ian Graham completed the course in a time of 58:12, putting him 131st overall. Ian has ran the Gold Hill 10k many times before but not for a good few years now so he’d forgotten how tough it is.
He went along with the mindset that it was going to be 10k of continuous hard work, with the ascent up Gold Hill being the least of the problems. The end result though was that it didn’t seem too bad.
It was an enjoyable day, all things considered, as Ian travelled to the race with Jud, Phil and Steve. The rain had been pouring down all morning and they were expecting it to continue all day and therefore were pleasantly surprised when it stopped just before the race got underway. Of course, it did start raining again after that but by that point they’d got going anyway.
Having raced the day before in the Hampshire League Cross Country fixture, Helen Ambrosen was treating Gold Hill as a recovery run. Of course, with all those hills it didn’t present much of an opportunity to recover. She also found the downhills as tricky as the uphills in some respects.
Finishing in 168th place, Helen completed the course in 1:02:44. She said she’d like to give it another go when her legs are fresher. She very much enjoyed being with the other ladies though.
Continuing his seemingly unstoppable winning streak, Iain Trickett of Dorset Doddlers was once again victorious, finishing in a time of 36:44. Chris Alborough of Poole AC took 2nd place in a time of 37:10, with Chris Wood of Wimborne AC in 3rd, reaching the line in 37:29.
Lee Dempster of Lytchett Manor Striders was 4th in 37:37, with Brian Underwood of Poole AC in 5th.
In the women’s race, it was another tightly contested affair, with Claire Martin of Purbeck Runners coming out on top in the end, finishing in a time of 47:50. Lynda Faulkner of Dorset Doddlers was 2nd in 47:58 with Gemma Oliver of Poole Runners finishing a second later to take 3rd.
As far as the team positions for the Dorset Road Race League go, the BAC women’s top three of Julia, Tamzin and Louise came in 4th place, behind Poole AC who were 3rd, Egdon Heath Harriers who were 2nd and Poole Runners, this year’s DRRL champions, who once again got the win with their top three of Gemma Oliver, Paula Barker and Isabelle Somers.
In the men’s team results, Dorset Doddlers had a good day, with Iain Trickett getting the win, Duncan Ward taking 6th and Steven Rigby in 7th, Nick Berry in 22nd and Ian Osborne in 30th.
Poole AC kept their hopes of stealing the men’s league title from under Bournemouth AC’s noses alive by taking 2nd place, with Littledown Harriers securing 3rd. Of course, failing to field a team of 5, BAC had to settle for 7th place, meaning the title race is well and truly back on.
Initially it looked like Bournemouth AC had sealed the title despite not scoring on the day and they began to rejoice. However, the celebrations were cut short when the league organisers realised, they’d counted Sean Edwards as a scorer in the Round the Rock race, thus giving BAC a win that they shouldn’t actually have had. Thus, Egdon Heather Harriers were awarded the win and BAC relegated to 2nd.
That oversight changed everything and meant the title is still up for grabs and it looks like it could go down to the wire, with only the Wimborne 10 and the Boscombe 10k races remaining. Even if Poole AC were to win both races though, they wouldn’t be guaranteed champions. They’d still have to hope that Bournemouth AC didn’t finish 2nd in both fixtures. Otherwise it wouldn’t be enough.
So in short, if BAC can get at least 2nd place in both races, they will be confirmed as 2018 Dorset Road Race League champions. Of course, that’s not the way they’ll want to win it though. Team captain Rich Nelson will be looking to pull out all the stops to ensure they get the victory in both fixtures. That’s the Bournemouth AC way. They won’t settle for anything less than the best.