With the Hampshire Cross Country League match at Kings Park being held the day before the event, there wasn’t much scope for getting a team out for the Victory 5 which was the next fixture in the Hampshire Road Race League. It was a shame as the Bournemouth AC men had won three of the four fixtures out of the teams in the 3rd Division and they were looking good promotion to Division 2. With the cross country being the club’s home fixture though, that meant it was all hands on deck, with members being required to either help out and marshal or run in the races.

There were still three BAC members at the Victory 5 though and after deciding on a daring double, Rob McTaggart was back in action the day after completing the cross country race. Finishing 41st in that one, he’d realised after a lap and a half that his head wasn’t really in and had eased up to conserve energy for what he was hoping would be a better display at the Victory 5.

His partner and Bournemouth AC teammate Nikki Whittaker was there as well and she wasn’t running in the cross country so was feeling fresh for the Victory 5. With it being a very fast, flat course, the chances of recording a 5 mile PB are quite high if you have a good run so that was potentially on the agenda for Nikki.

She had set her best 5 mile time to date at last year’s Victory 5 event and that was 40:25, so she had a clear target to beat this time round.

Joining Tag and Nikki in the race was the one and only, Trev Elkins. Trev is a big fan of the fast, flat Hampshire races like the Victory 5 and the Eastleigh 10k and usually puts together a good performance in them.

In last year’s Victory 5 he equalled his 5 mile race PB of 29:52, so anything quicker than that this time round and he would be happy. He did actually run a faster 5 miles in the Eastleigh 10k race earlier in the year though when he went on to record his 10k PB of 36:44. That was back in March though and a lot had happened since. Most notably, he’d caught covid and had struggled a bit with his breathing in the aftermath of that.

Since the Victory 5 race last year, his Vo2 max had dropped by eight due to a lack of running and the covid issues so because of that he was worried he might not be able to match that time. There was only way to find out though and that was to do it.

On the day of the race, the conditions were absolutely Baltic, so much so that Trev was almost tempted to stay in the car in the warmth. In a way though, it’s quite good racing in really cold temperatures, as there’s little chance of overheating, unless you layer up too much of course.

Tag had had a brilliant run at the Overton 5 in the first Hamphire Road Race League match of the season, recording a new PB of 25:26 which saw him finished 3rd. If he could get anywhere near that again, he’d be right up there challenging for the top positions.

Rob McTaggart in the Victory 5

Rob McTaggart had already set a very fast 5 mile time at Overton in the first league race

Keeping his watch covered up, Tag was just focused on delivering the best performance he could on the day, rather than looking for any specific time or pace. He went through the first mile in a super quick 5:03 before registering a 5:08 for the next one. He then followed that up with a 5:12 for his third mile before recording a 5:09 split for his fourth mile.

He’d been having a good little battle with the Newnham brothers from Ryde Harriers and with just over a mile left, he’d made a strong move. He was hoping he might be able to reel in Ashford AC man Oilver Prior who was in 4th place, just ahead of them, but it didn’t come into fruition.

He had managed to get ahead of the Newnham brothers though so was in 5th place until one of them overtook him in the last 400 metres. That meant it was 6th place for Tag as he went across the line in 25:37, just a second after William Newnham.

Rob McTaggart in action at the Victory 5

Tag was battling out with the Newnham brothers from Ryde Harriers

It was a tremendous battle between Josh Grace of Aldershot Farnham & District and Jonathan Cornish of Hercules Wimbledon for 1st position and it was Josh who took it in the end, edging Jonathan out by a second. Josh’s time was a blistering 23:57 but neither of them were running for clubs in the Hampshire Road Race League. It was actually former Bournemouth AC man Harry Smith who notched maximum league points, or minimum league placings, with his time of 24:23.

It was another top class run from Harry who now represents City of Salisbury and what was Bournemouth AC’s loss was certainly very much their gain. His average pace for the run was a staggering 4:49.

Oliver Prior of Ashford was 4th in 25:30 but since they are not in the Hampshire Road Race League either, the next point scorer in the league was William Newnham who was 5th. That meant Tag was 3rd point scorer, with Thomas Newnham arrived eight seconds later to take 7th place in 25:45.

Always very honest about his performances, both with himself and with his fans on Strava, Tag rated this one at 7.5 out of 10 and felt that he’d made the most of his current ability.

It was a great day for City of Salisbury and they had two more runners in the top ten, with William Ewens finishing 9th in 26:12 and Tristan Cooper taking 10th in 26:19. The were 5th and 6th scorers in the league.

That meant the blues only needed one more man in to seal the win in the Road Race League 1st Division. They got it when William Pannell arrived in 14th place in a time of 26:53. He was 8th point scorer for the league.

One impressive aspect of it was that they’d got all four of their runners in before any Winchester & District athlete had arrived. Winchester had won each of the first four fixtures in the top division so this could have been a significant moment in the title race. Was the tide starting to turn?

Trev Elkins in action at the Victory 5

Trev Elkins (in red) wasn’t looking at his watch and was trusting his legs to pace him

Adopting the same approach as Tag, Trev Elkins just ran to feel rather than looking at his watch to check on his pacing. He put in a 5:41 for his first mile split and a 5:55 for his second. At 3.3km he got overtaken by some runners who usually finish way ahead of him in Hampshire races so he knew he must have been going fast. It was now just a case of hanging on for the remaining few miles.

Completing the last three miles in just over 6 minutes per mile, Trev had held it together well and recorded a fantastic PB of 29:39. That put him in 67th place and 8th in the Vet Male 40 category. His average pace for the run was 5:56 and significantly, what it meant was that he’d probably gotten over the lingering effect of covid that had held him back for a little while.

Trev Elkins in the Victory 5

It was a solid new 5 mile PB of 29:39 for Trev

Usually pretty good with her pacing, Nikki Whittaker is rarely guilty of going off too fast. She set off with an 8:13 for her first mile split before recording an 8:10 for her second mile. After that she cranked it up a notch with an 8:03 for her third mile, followed by an 8:05 for mile four.

It was beginning to look like a really strong run from Nikki if she could just hold it together for the last mile. In fact, she did better than that. She sped up, nailing her last mile split in 7:54, putting her finishing time at 40:18.

That meant it was a PB for her, by 7 seconds, so she was absolutely delighted with that. The positions were allocated on gun time rather than chip time and she was 365th overall and 79th female. That capped a brilliant weekend off for her and she’d thoroughly enjoyed the race.

Nikki Whittaker in the Victory 5

Nikki Whittaker raced to a superb new 5 mile PB of 40:18

Tess McCormick of Vale Royal AC was 1st female, getting round in 27:19, which put her in 22nd place overall. Emily Wicks of Aldershot Farnham & District was 2nd lady and 40th in the overall standings in 28:17. Lesley Locks of Aldershot Farnham & District was 3rd female, getting to line in 28:49, which put her in 47th place overall.

None of those three were scorers for the Hampshire Road Race League though so City of Portsmouth pair Rhiannon Dunlop and Emma Jolley were the first two point scorers, getting round in 29:01 and 29:35 respectively. Then it was Charlie Metcalfe of Ryde Harriers who was 3rd point scorer, crossing the line in 29:47.

Emma Montiel gave City of Portsmouth their third scorer out of the top four for the league when she arrived to take 102nd place overall in 30:45.

Nikki Whittaker in action at the Victory 5

Nikki paced her run well and her splits were fairly progressive throughout

A total of 539 runners successfully completed the course on the day, with 287 men scoring in the league and 147 women.

Despite the excellent individual performances of the Bournemouth AC trio, failing to get a team of four men together for the race saw the club drop down to 2nd place in the 3rd Division.

Portsmouth Joggers did manage to get a team out for race and, although the only finished 4th out of the teams in the division, that was enough to see them rise above BAC into top spot. They’d had a team out in every race except the Overton 5.

It is beginning to get crucial for the club to get a team of at least four men out in the remaining fixtures if they are to seal promotion this season. It could be tricky though as the next race is the Stubbington Green 10k and that sold out really quickly, meaning it’s possible they won’t be scoring in that one either.

City of Salisbury remain 2nd to Winchester after their resounding win at the Victory 5. Ryde Harriers were the next best scoring team for the Victory 5 but they are in the 2nd Division. Then it was Winchester, followed by Southampton AC who currently sit 3rd in Division 1.

Lordshill won the Victory 5 fixture in the Ladies’ First Division, with Totten in 2nd and Winchester in 3rd. Winchester remained top of the table though having won all four of the other fixtures. In the 3rd Division that Bournemouth AC are in, Portsmouth Joggers lead the way after winning at the Victory 5, with City of Portsmouth, both in the race and for the season so far. That was despite having three of the first four scorers.

In the Men’s B Team league, City of Salisbury came out on top in the Victory 5, ahead of Lordshill and Winchester in the First Division. Winchester were still top of the table though.

In the 2nd Division, Bournemouth AC dropped down to 10th with their no show a the Victory 5. Totten won the fixture with Lordshill D team taking 2nd and City of Portsmouth 3rd. Stubbington C team were still top of the standings that division though.

With seven more fixtures remaining in the season it should make for an exciting schedule of races for Bournemouth AC. They will need their men to turn out and bring their A-game with them to help drive the team on to promotion. It’s going to be a challenging but intriguing journey as the club battle on all fronts in 2023.