Whilst it was great to see the return of many of the old favourite Dorset road races in 2021 and to see mass starts back on the agenda and the thrill of competition return, it still felt like there was something missing. With individual honours up for grabs and local pride at stake, there was still plenty of high quality racing to be enjoyed but it just wasn’t quite the same. And what was missing, was of course the competitive nature inspired by a league format.
It’s all very well running for yourself and wanting to finish as high up as you can, but when you’re doing it for a club, in a meaningful league scenario, it adds a different dimension to it. Knowing that every point matters and every place gained can make a difference gives the runners that extra bit of motivation. A reason to push that little bit harder.
It had been effectively two years since a full Dorset Road Race League season had been played out. It was Bournemouth AC’s men’s team who last won the league title, back in 2019, with Poole Runners crowned ladies’ champions. Ever since then the Covid-19 pandemic had disrupted and destroyed any chance of having mass participation events take place in any kind of regular, organised format.
As is always the case with the Dorset Road Race League, the first fixture of the season is the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon which is held on New Year’s Day. Although it had been two years since a league season was completed, it hadn’t been two years since the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon had taken place.
The league did in fact start as normal in 2020 and the opening two fixtures were fulfilled, with the other one being the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon. The next fixture was the Lytchett 10 and that got cancelled due to a storm. Then Covid happened and all racing came to an abrupt halt. For what it’s worth, Bournemouth AC scored the most points in both the men’s and the ladies’ first division at the Broadstone Quarter in 2020 and then men’s team also finished top of the standings at Blackmore Vale as well.
That of course, came to nothing in the end though when the season got canned. Two years on and the running landscape has changed somewhat. New talents have emerged on the horizon and whist other more experienced names have began to take a bit more of a back seat. That said, there was still plenty of strength in depth in the Bournemouth AC ranks and team captain Rich Nelson had every reason to feel optimistic going into the new season.
They were without the man who won the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon in both 2018 and 2019 and was a very close second in 2020 and that was Jacek Cieluszecki. Because the course contains a couple of tough, long inclines, it suits JC well and he is usually able to show his supremacy.
With him out of the equation of 2022 though, it was going to provide someone else with an opportunity to shine. Unfortunately Bournemouth AC weren’t really able to get any of their big guns out for it so it looked unlikely they would be contesting for the top placings as far as the men went at least. For the ladies team though, it was a different story.
Bolstered by the useful addition of Caitlin Peers, who was first female in the Boscombe 10k in November, they had a real fighting chance of coming out on top. Helen O’Neile had also been roped into a formidable line up that also included Emma Caplan and Tamzin Petersen.
In the men’s first division, Egdon Heath Harriers look likely to be Bournemouth AC’s main rivals. They’d managed to assemble a pretty good squad for the Broadstone Quarter, including Matt Papa, Martyn Bell and Bruce Campbell. Of course Twemlow Track Club also have a lot of talent in their ranks but they still haven’t had the opportunity to get out of the second division since it’s been so long since a league campaign has been completed.
It was actually Poole Runners second claimer James Share who picked up the race win. He looked a Christlike figure as he floated effortlessly round the course at a faster pace than anyone has for years. In fact, his time of 34:54 eclipsed the 35:01 that JC recorded in 2018. The course has changed slightly since then though.
Unfortunately for Poole Runners though, James’s first claim club is Guildford & Godalming so he couldn’t actually score any league points for them. The next man to arrive at the finish line was Egdon Heath speedster Matt Papa and he recorded a time of 36:06 to seal the runner up spot. Then it was Lewis Clarke of Lonely Goat who took third in 36:14.
It didn’t matter to Egdon Heath Harriers though that James finished ahead of Matt because since James wasn’t competing in the league as such, Matt still secured minimum points.
Steven Yates of Twemlow Track Club finished in 4th place, getting round in 36:43, just ahead of Dave Seddon of Candy Racing who crossed the line a second later to seal 5th place. That meant Steven took first place in the Male 40-49 category.
Four seconds after that, Egdon Heath Harriers had their second man over the line and that was Jamie Barrington who is in the Junior Male 16-20 category. With two men in the top six it was looking very promising from an EHH perspective.
Thomas Corbin took 7th place in a time of 37:04 before former BAC man Jez Bragg came over the line to take 8th place in a superb time of 37:16. He was the second Twemlow man to get to the finish.
Andy Leggott of Lonely Goat was next to reach the line, registering a time of 37:28, with Luke Terry of Poole AC sneaking into the top ten just after with a time of 37:28.
Having been out injured for a long time, Lee Dempster hasn’t quite recaptured the form that saw him crowned the men’s league champion back in 2019 and he had to settle for 11th place on this occasion finishing in 38:11. He was Twemlow Track Club’s third man in.
Christopher Wright of Dorset Doddlers took 12th place in 38:27, before Poole Runners got their first official points on the board with Dion Garner taking 13th place in 39:03.
Neil Catchlove of Lordshill Road Runners took 14th place ahead of Robert Doubleday who was Poole AC’s second scorer, coming in in 39:14.
Rich Brawn had been first BAC man for the majority of the race until Steve Ross came floating past him at the bottom of the hill on the second lap. Then Sam Jackson caught Rich up as well and they made their way to the top of the together.
Steve was running well though and finishing really strongly and he managed to overtake several other runners on his way to a superb 16th place finish. His time was 39:17.
Steve tends to start races quite conservatively and then gradually crank up the pace as the race progresses. One reason for that is that he doesn’t even own a Garmin or any form of running watch. He never really has any idea of what pace he’s going at and just tends to run on feel. It may be an unconventional method but it’s clearly working for him and he appears to be progressing a lot.
Egdon Heath Harriers had their third man in when Martyn Bell crossed the line in 18th place ahead of Joe Godden of Poole Runners who was 19th in 39:36.
Rich Brawn had been just behind Scott Parfitt of Lytchett Manor Striders the whole entire race and that was how it stayed, with Scott taking 20th place in the standings in a time of 39:39.
Sam went past Rich on the final corner before they turned and headed towards the finish. Rich had just enough in the tank though to get back ahead of Sam, just before they crossed the line – not that it mattered much in terms of the league.
Rich finished in 21st place with a time of 39:41 and Sam was 22nd in 39:42. That meant BAC now had three athletes having finished.
They’d overtaken Bruce Campbell when heading up the final hill and he followed in to take 23rd place in 39:43. That was enough to give him first prize in the Male 50-59 category and he was Egdon Heath Harriers’ fourth scorer.
Then Poole AC got their third man in when Julyan Praasma crossed the line in 24th place, recording a time of 39:58.
Completing the five man scoring team for Egdon Heath Harriers, Matt Faramus crossed the line in 31st place in a time of 40:46 and that was enough to seal top spot in the men’s first division for them.
Alex Goulding had been suffering from a cold and had had a terrible night’s sleep on New Year’s Eve. That resulted in a very below par performance from him getting round in a time of 40:46 to take 32nd place.
In 2020 he ran it in 39:09 and his fastest time in the race was 38:19 so he was considerably down on that. He was still fourth scorer for Bournemouth AC though so it was still worthwhile him taking part from a club perspective.
Despite not doing a lot of running lately, Helen O’Neile had been battling it out for the first female spot with Joanna Wright and in the end it was Joanna who had come out on top, finishing in a time of 40:48. That put her in 33rd place overall.
Helen reached the finish in a time of 41:10 which put her in 37th place overall. Joanna wasn’t running for a club in the Dorset Road Race League though so that meant Helen had sealed minimum points for BAC, so that was an excellent result for her. She’d kind of regretted the booze she’d drank the night before though in the her New Year’s Eve celebrations.
It wasn’t long before Emma Caplan arrived to finish as third female. She crossed the line in 42nd place which also put her top of tree in the Female 35-49 category. As far as the Dorset Road Race League was concerned though, she was effectively second, so for the purposes of that it was a BAC one-two.
At one point Emma almost pulled out of the race due to an injury concern but she decided to go for it in the end and it certainly paid off. Abigail Jones of Poole AC was the next female to come in and she crossed the line in 42:32, putting her in 50th place overall.
Bournemouth AC’s scoring team was complete when Caitlin Peers arrived at the finish in a time of 43:10. Caitlin works as a nurse and had been on a nightshift so she’d had no sleep at all before heading to the race! It was a truly monumental effort from her and she’d finished 8th fastest female on the day and 5th in terms of the Dorset Road Race League. That gave BAC an emphatic win in the ladies’ first division for the fixture.
It had been a number of years since the BAC ladies team had been in serious contention for the league title so it was great to see them taking position at the top of the pile again and they will be hoping that they’ll have enough to stay there throughout the course of the season.
Matt Du Cros was 5th man in for the BAC men’s team, getting to the line in a time of 42:48 which put him in 56th place. Considering they were without any of their real top stars, it hadn’t actually turned out too badly for BAC and they’d finished 2nd to Egdon Heath Harriers in the men’s first division for the race.
The other half of the Jackson brothers, Luke, was the next man in for BAC and he clocked a time of 43:07 to take 63rd place in the standings, finishing just a few seconds ahead of Caitlin.
Going over the line as the third fastest in the Male 60-69 category, Jud Kirk finished in 113th position overall, recording a time of 48:05. Paul Wilding of Lytchett Manor Striders took first place in the category with a very impressive time of 42:35.
The fourth BAC lady to grace the finish line was Tamzin Petersen and she registered a time of 48:12. That put her third in the 30-34 category in the Dorset Road Race League and 17th in the overall women’s placings. In the standings for the race as a whole she came 118th.
Tamzin does do a fair bit of hill training so she coped with the arduous inclines quite well. It was a double race weekender for her as she was off to Somerset the following day to take part in the South West Inter County Cross Country Championships. That would be the first time she’d dipped her toe into the realm of cross country running so it would be interesting to see how she fared.
Of course, it was another category win for Heather Khoshnevis who bossed the Female 60-69 division, finishing in a time of 49:09. That put her in 137th overall and 21st lady in the Dorset Road Race League.
Then, coming in just three seconds later, it was her BAC teammate Debbie Lennon who crossed the line in 139th place. That meant in a Female 50-59 category she’d taken third place but more importantly, she was in the lead in the 55-59 category for the Dorset Road Race League.
Although she found the hills tough to contend with, it was still a good run from Debbie and she was 22nd in the overall women’s league standings after that first fixture.
After transferring from Lytchett Manor Striders to Bournemouth AC, Lea Lokh has been really enjoying her running and she arrived at the finish in 53:01 which put her in 185th place overall. That was second only to Heather in the Female 60-69 category and put her 30th in the ladies’ league standings. It was a fine debut from Lea and no doubt they’ll be some good things to come from her in a BAC vest – when she finally gets one!
Husband and wife Ian and Sam White ran together for the vast majority of the race before Ian decided to push on a bit towards the end. His finishing time was 55:01 which put him in 210th place overall. He was 13th in the 50-54 category for the league and 94th male in the league standings.
Reaching the line in 231st position, Sam White had recorded a new PB of 56:20. She’d been pulling a lot of good runs out of the bag lately resulting in a spate of PBs and once again, she’d delivered the goods. Taking 12th place in the Female 55-59 category, Sam was 37th lady in the road race league listings and 4th in the 50-54 bracket for the league.
Picking up the win in the Male 70+ category, Ian Graham completed the course in 55:47, which put him in 223rd place overall. He was 98th in the road race league standings for the men and was of course now leading the 75-79 category in the league.
Finishing 4th in the Female 60-69 category, Helen Ambrosen got round in a time of 57:15 which put her 248th overall. In Dorset Road Race League terms though she was first in the 65-69 category and 42nd lady on the league listings.
Rounding things off from the BAC perspective, it was Wayne Walford-Jelks who weighed in with a time 58:04, putting him in 260th place overall. It was only really the final hill where Wayne really began to struggle he ended up shipping quite a bit of time on that. The Broadstone Quarter Marathon course can be quite unforgiving if you haven’t got your pacing quite right, as Wayne found to his peril.
Nevertheless, he soldiered on and got to the line, even though he was cooked by the end. Taking 20th place in the league standings in the 40-44 category, Wayne was 111th man in the overall league listings.
So, once all the results were totted up it was Egdon Heath Harriers who led the way in the Men’s First Division, followed by Bournemouth AC in second, Poole Runners and third and Poole AC in fourth. In the Second Division it was Twemlow Track Club in top spot, with the other new club, Dorchester RIOT, in second.
In the Ladies’ First Division, it was a great start for Bournemouth AC who were top of the pile ahead of Lytchett Manor Striders and Egdon Heath Harriers. Last year’s champions Poole Runners were down in 6th but they did have most their members helping out rather than competing. In the Ladies’s Second Division it was Bournemouth Joggers who led the way with Westbourne in second and Dorchester RIOT in third.
The next fixture on the road race league calendar is the Blackmore Vale Half Marathon on February 6th and that will be followed by the Lytchett 10 the week after. After getting a first taste of the action, the clubs will no doubt be keen to get some good squads together and continue their charges for Dorset Road Race League glory.
After losing out to Egdon Heath Harriers at Broadstone, it will be imperative for a BAC men to bounce back with a winning performance. As for the ladies, they will look for more of the same as they aim to consolidate their position at the top of the standings. One thing is certain and that is that with 11 fixtures still to be contested, there will be some exciting grudge matches ahead over the course of the season.