There are numerous factors that make the Christchurch Christmas 10k a special race. It’s not just that you get a Christmas pudding at the end, although that is one. There’s also the mile walk to get from the race headquarters at East Christchurch Social Club to the start line in a thin country lane in the middle of nowhere. And of course, being that time of year, there’s a fabulous festive feel to it, with many of the runners donning Santa outfits or dressed as reindeers or elves.

There’s also the fact that Bournemouth AC has an illustrious history of successes over the years. It’s been a race that has tended to bring out the best in the yellow and blue army and the club has dominated the event more often that not.

In fact, it was a BAC man, Larry Austin, who won the first Christmas 10k back in 1991. John Phillips took the trophy back to Bournemouth in 1995 before Duncan Hurdwell was victorious for two years in a row in 1996 and 1997. There was a bit of a gap after that before Steve Way claimed the next BAC win in 2009.

Then in 2011 Ian Hapgood picked up the victory with Emma Dews finishing as first female, although she was running for Littledown then. It was back in BAC hands in 2013 when Jacek Cieluszecki claimed the crown. The race didn’t happen it 2014 but when it returned in 2015, it was a BAC one, two, three – with Disco Dave Long edging out Pete Thompson and Rob McTaggart.

The year after that Tag had another go but was beaten to the line by James Phillips. Then in 2017 it was Craig Palmer who reigned supreme, then running for Littledown Harriers. The couple of years, Rob Spencer has stole the show, winning in 2018 when he was still representing St Albans Striders and then in 2019 he won it after having joined BAC.

Of course, in the year that didn’t happen, 2020, there was no race so when the 2021 edition came round it attracted a healthy contingent of BAC members. None of the real big hitters were there though which meant the race win was really up for grabs.

Lewis Clarke was certainly one of the favourites for it after emerging victorious in the Endurance Life Dorset 10k the previous weekend. He’d also been first finisher at Bournemouth parkrun a few times as well so had great pedigree. Daniel Pope has also been turning up at Bournemouth parkrun religiously over recent occasions and running very well so he too would be a danger.

From a Bournemouth AC perspective, Rich Brawn was there, along with Sam Jackson and Steve Ross. They all had the ability to be in and around the top placings on a good day.

Chris O’Brien was there as well, still on the road to recovery from Covid and Alison Humphrey was also in the mix, leading the charge for the ladies’ crew.

In fact, there were 14 Bournemouth AC runners at the race in total, including the White family of Ian, Sam and Katrina. For Ian it represented an opportunity to avenge his defeat to Katrina in the Boscombe 10k two weeks earlier. That was the first time Katrina had beaten Ian and he was keen to redress that balance and re-establish his position as the fastest in the family.

There were also a few BAC members from more senior ranks in action, with Helen Ambrosen, Debbie Lennon and Jud Kirk among those who usually contend for age category honours.

Rich Brawn prepares for the Christmas 10k

Rich Brawn prepares for a PB attempt, hoping the end his racing year on a high

When the runners got over to the start line, they realised that they wouldn’t be allowed to head down the country lane where they would usually warm up. That was because of where the chip matt was positioned. That meant they couldn’t really do any more of a warm up than the jog or walk they had done to get there from the social club.

Luckily it wasn’t really a cold day though and there was very little wind as well which would be a massive help on that course. Some sections of it are very open which can mean a headwind can come into play in a blustery day. Conditions were pretty much perfect though on this particular day and presented a great opportunity for anyone in form to reach their full potential.

Once the race got underway it was Lewis Clarke who immediately went bounding off into the lead, with his unusual lolloping running style. No one else was prepared to even try going at that pace so from that point on it was really a race for second place. There were a group of about four runners next who looked to be the quickest of the rest at that point, including Daniel Pope.

In behind them it was Rich Brawn and Sam Jackson with a couple of other runners who were wearing black. Jessie Lutwyche was going incredibly quickly at the beginning as well and she was right up there.

Soon after that Lytchett Manor Striders man Tom Andrews caught Rich and Sam up and moved slightly ahead of the group. He’d made the bold decision to go it alone.

For the first half of the race Rich Brawn was going at around the sort of pace he was hoping for, which was roughly 5:45 minutes per mile. After a while Sam had dropped back a bit and Rich was left there with the other two runners wearing black. He tucked in behind them which gave him some protection from the wind and that was how it stayed for virtually the rest of the race.

There was a small hill on the fourth mile which slowed the pace slightly and there were also a couple of small fjords to jump across as well. They were enough to disturb the rhythm a touch and for the last couple of miles, Rich was on the verge of getting a stitch so he had to manage his pace accordingly and couldn’t afford to push any harder, although he did want to.

One of the runners who had been in that second group out on the road had blown up and he got overtaken by Rich and his two new found companions. In the last mile, Tom Andrews finally cracked and Rich and the other two runners went past him. It had been a brave effort from Tom to take it on in the way he did but the endurance wasn’t quite there to see him through.

Even though he was still going well, Rich was half expecting Steve Ross to come and overtake him as Steve is usually a very strong finisher and tends to start slowly, then gradually build up speed. That didn’t happen though and when they finally arrived on the finishing straight the three runners were still together.

They soon dispersed though as Timothy Anetts from Hardley Runners had enough left in him for a strong fast finish. The other guy, Patrick Brown had nothing left and was happy to concede default to Rich and Timothy. That left Rich on his own with just the clock to race against. As he approached the line he saw it was just ticking over the 36 minute mark.

He was happy with that though as it represented a terrific new PB for him. His previous best time was 36:42 so that had been comfortably improved upon. Going over the chip matt in 36:07, Rich had taken 6th place in the overall standings.

That meant Rich had recorded a new PB in pretty much every distance this year. 5k, 5 mile, 10 mile, half marathon, 20 mile and marathon. And now 10k as well. It had been a truly wonderful year for him in running terms and he will be continue on that curve in 2022.

Rich Brawn with his Christmas puddings after the Christmas 10k

Rich ran so well that they gave him two Christmas puddings at the end which was a real bonus!!

Steve Ross wasn’t far behind at all and arrived shortly after to clock a time of 36:19 which put him in 8th place. That was actually a very good PB for him as well, eclipsing the 36:37 time he did in the Cosford Spitfire 10k over the August bank holiday. He was also first in the M 35-39 category.

Tom Andrews had to settle for 10th in the end, getting over the line in 36:25, just ahead of Joe Godden of Poole Runners who was 11th in 36:30. Then it was Sam Jackson, securing a superb new PB of 36:35 to take 12th place.

If there had been a male team prize it would have certainly gone to Bournemouth AC with Rich, Steve and Sam all finishing quite high up. Sam’s brother Luke also runs for BAC and he was the next man over the line for the club, taking 39th place in a time of 40:06.

Usually Luke would expect to dip under 40 minutes for a 10k but he still isn’t quite at the peak of his powers yet. If he keeps turning out for the Tuesday night sessions though it probably won’t be long before he’s back to his best again.

The next BAC man over the line was Chris O’Brien and he clocked a time of 41:52 which put him in 51st place. He had been hoping for a quicker time than he’d recorded in the Boscombe 10k two weeks prior which was 41:35 but it wasn’t to be on this occasion. Nevertheless, it was still a decent run from Chris and he’ll be hoping to see further improvements with his running in the year to come.

Rich Brawn and Chris O'Brien in the Christmas 10k

Rich and Chris O’Brien had done the Christmas 10k numerous times before so they knew what to expect

Alison Humphrey did well to finish as 5th female and first in the F 50-54 category with her time of 43:30. That put her in 61st place overall.

Jud Kirk had a fairly decent run to finish in a time of 45:19 which put him in 75th place overall. It was also good enough to see him take second place in the M 60-64 category, so not a bad result for Jud.

Next to arrive at the finish funnel in a BAC vest, it was the one and only Debbie Lennon and, yes, you’ve guessed it, she secured another age category win. The F 55-59 queen got round in 46:04 which made her the 9th quickest female out of 190 and she was 83rd in the overall standings. That was out of a total field of 378.

It was the best 10k time Debbie has produced for a few years and was only 9 seconds shy of the 45:55 she got in the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Supersonic 10k in 2018. She had been suffering from an ongoing cold as well that she just couldn’t seem to shake so all things considered, it was a terrific result for Debbie.

In the battle for White supremacy, it was Ian White who prevailed this time, completing the course in a time of 46:46. That was 17 seconds quicker than his time in the Boscombe 10k and put him in 88th place overall. That was almost exactly a minute ahead of Katrina who crossed the line in 47:45 to take 97th place overall. She was 16th placed female.

It was a shame she couldn’t quite reproduce the performance she put in at Boscombe where she was over a minute quicker but looking at the overall picture, it has been a strong end to the year for Katrina and she will no doubt see further improvements in 2022.

The prize for the most evenly paced run of all, if there was one, would have to go to Helen Ambrosen. Her splits were metronomic, with all of them between 8 minutes per mile and 8:09. That showed she was well in control throughout the run.

Finishing in a time of 50:22, Helen came in in 122nd place overall and was 28th fastest female. It wasn’t quite enough to seal the age category win on this occasion though and she had to settle for second in the F 65-99 as it was put down as. First place in that went to Caroline Woodford of New Forest Runners who finished in a time of 49:07.

Also there representing Bournemouth AC was Dianne Leonard and she crossed the line in just after Helen to take 124th place in a time of 50:26. That made her 29th fastest woman and saw her place second in the F 45-49 category. The winner in that age group was Elise Dixon who finished 109th, recording a time of 48:56.

After her huge PB in the Boscombe 10k which was over three minutes quicker than her previous best, Sam White was hoping for more heroics in the Christmas 10k. And once again, she delivered, this time getting round in 51:05 to knock a further 33 seconds off her PB.

It was another brilliant run from Sam and she did it in fantastically festive attire as well with her Christmas leggings. That ensured that she would definitely end the season merrily on a high. Finishing in 134th place overall, Sam was 33rd quickest female and 5th in the F 50-54 category.

Bournemouth AC ladies at Christmas 10k

It was a great performance all round from those athletes in the yellow and blue of BAC

The final Bournemouth AC member to pick up her cup of hot soup at the end of the race was Jayne Wade and she crossed line in a time of 1:01:47, putting her in 284th place in the overall standings. Out of the women in the race, she was 117th and she was 17th in the F 55-59 category.

It was a minute and 27 seconds slower than the time she ran in the Boscombe 10k so not quite as pleasing in terms of the performance on this occasion for Jayne but still a solid base to work from nonetheless.

It was Lewis Clarke who picked up the win in end and he was head and shoulders above anyone else in the field, posting a tremendous time of 33:28. Andy Blow took 2nd place in 35:05, with Owen Pitcher sealing 3rd spot in 35:19. Daniel Pope got over the line in 4th place, clocking a time of 35:28.

Despite having a really nasty fall on one of the sharp corners, Jessie Lutwyche showed great resolve to get up and continue to take the first female place. She recorded a time of 38:15 which put her in 20th place overall. Emily Hilliar of Poole AC was the next woman over the line, getting round in 39:50 which put her in 35th place overall. Then it was Lauren Baker-Little of Poole Runners who registered a time of 41:11 to come in as 3rd female and 48th overall.

For all the Bournemouth AC runners taking part, that was to be their last race before Christmas and it is always a fun way to end the season, especially as the event has such a friendly vibe. Some of the yellow and blue army may yet get another go at the 10k distance in the Round the Lakes race on Boxing Day in Poole Park so that’s another one to look forward to.

Before that though, it’s time to bring on the turkey, the mince pies – oh and of course the Christmas pudding if they haven’t already eaten it by then!