Rich Brawn in BMF Marathon

Rich Brawn was one of three Bournemouth AC members taking the plunge in the Bournemouth Marathon Festival Full Marathon, along with Richard Cannings and Mark Hillier

Conditions couldn’t have been much better on the Sunday morning when 2,148 hopefuls gathered at Kings Park ready for the showpiece event of the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, which was of course, the Full Marathon.

There was still a slight chill in the air but the sun had come out, making for a cool but bright feel to the day. This was a stark contrast to the day before, where persistent rainfall threatened to dampen spirits for the 10k race in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the rain had stopped by time the 10k race got underway, but it was still a wet and grey day and there was a bit of a breeze to contend with along the seafront.

Crucially, there wasn’t a strong wind at play on the day of the Marathon and that was a massive bonus for those looking for a fast time or even paced splits.

Three Bournemouth AC blokes braved the 2018 Full Marathon, with Rich Brawn, Richard Cannings and Mark Hillier taking on the familiar, seafront based route through Southbourne, Boscombe and Bournemouth.

It was Richard Cannings’ first stab at the marathon distance and he’d trained really hard to get himself in the best possible shape to tackle the rigours of a long endurance race. His aim was to finish somewhere between 3 hours 17 minutes and 3 hours 30 minutes, which would mean he’d be running at 7:30 to 8 minutes per mile.

Also quite new to the marathon game, it was only Rich Brawn’s second ever marathon, after his first one, which was North Dorset Village, had been hampered by a severe bout of cramp over the last 10k.

This time he’d done a 13 weeks or so of training for it and was determined to make a better fist of it. He’d been running really well in the build up to the marathon, securing numerous including half marathon, 10k and 5 mile bests. He’d also managed to get his parkrun PB down to 17:54 which he was really pleased about.

The marathon is a very different beast though and in his long runs he still found he was often running out of energy and struggling after around the 18 mile point. That was the only aspect of it that was worrying him, but he was hoping that after tapering and feeling a bit fresher, and in a race environment, he’d be able to remain strong over the last 8 miles or so.

As for Mark, a marathon distance race is a mere drop in the ocean for him. He’s used to going much further in races. In May he completed the Marathon des Sables, a 254km trek across the desert over 6 days.

Then a couple of months later he did Race to the King, a 53.5 mile ultra, securing a top 20 position, completing the race in 9 hours 27 minutes.

For the BMF Marathon though, it was a little different, as he was going for time. Now looking to focus, not just on completing the distance in races, he is also keen to improve on his speed. Thus his target for the BMF was sub 3:30.

Richard Cannings decided he would set off slightly faster than his target pace, knowing that he would lose time on the BIC hill at mile 18 and also the hill in Boscombe Gardens which came into play on mile 13.

He also knew that after the BIC hill it was going to be a tough run-in from that point onwards so it would then just be a case of trying to stick as close to 7:30 pace as he could. Therefore, it would be useful to have some time in the bank before then.

Richard Cannings in Bournemouth Marathon

Richard Cannings ran slightly quicker than 7:30 m/m pace in a bid to bank some time for slower miles that would inevitably come after the BIC hill at mile 18

Judging by the sort of times he’d been posting in training, Rich Brawn had a feeling he might be able to get somewhere close to three hours. With that in mind, he decided to set up at a pace that would see him reach the half way point in 1 hour 30 minutes and then see how it goes from there.

Again, he knew the chances are he’d be going a lot slower after the BIC hill so he knew it wouldn’t be a sub-three but he would have been pleased with a 3:05 or something around that.

Making a late decision to set off at the back of the white pen, with the good standard club runners, as opposed to the red pen that he was meant to be in, Rich felt ready for action as the hooter sounded and off he went.

Going from Kings Park towards the shops in Southbourne, Rich moved into 6:50 pace and found it to be a pace he thought he’d be comfortable running at for quite some time.

He had bumped into Gary Woolnough just before the race started and was pleased to see several of his Bournemouth AC teammates out on course, popping up in various different places, including Rich Nelson, Steve Parsons and Mike White.

Rich’s dad Trevor, who is a running coach for Chiltern Harriers, had come all the way down from Chesham in Buckinghamshire, to watch his son in action and offer his support wherever possible. That was a great encouragement for Rich and was very much appreciated as he progressed through the race.

Until he got to Boscombe Gardens, which had ran along very comfortably at almost bang on 6:50 pace for every mile, even managing to maintain it whilst going up Southbourne Coast Road which is a bit of an incline.

Rich Brawn pulls vest in BMF Marathon

For the first 12 miles Rich Brawn coasted along at 6:50 m/m pace

He had decided beforehand though, that when he did come across a tough hill, he wasn’t going to exasperate himself afterwards to try and keep to the pace for that particular mile. He would let that one go and then try to reestablish the pace for the mile that followed.

Of course, mile 13 contained the hill in Boscombe Gardens and then a slight incline along the Overcliff Road afterwards. He knew it was going to be a slower mile so didn’t work too hard to try to speed up. That hill meant he went through the half way stage at 1:30:45, which he felt was nigh on perfect pace. He’d run it exactly as he’d planned.

Rich Cannings on promenade in BMF Marathon

Richard Cannings makes his way along the promenade from Southbourne to Boscombe

Richard Cannings and Mark Hillier went through the half stage in virtually identical times to each other, with Richard going over in 1:36:17 and Mark in 1:36:22. So far so good then for all three BAC members. But that was the easy part. The hard graft was yet to come.

Rich Brawn goes through Boscombe in BMF Marathon

Rich Brawn on the approach up towards Boscombe Pier

After mile 13, Rich Brawn managed to get back on pace and made his way down onto the promenade. As he edged closer to Boscombe Pier, he was thinking, he had never felt as strong as he did then at the 15 mile stage. That gave him a lot of confidence.

Rich Brawn at Boscombe in BMF Marathon

The crowds had gathered in their droves around Boscombe Pier to cheer the marathon runners on

It was when he was approaching Bournemouth Pier on the 17th mile that he started to slip off the pace slightly. It was only by about 15 seconds though so he didn’t mind too much.

Rich Brawn strides out in BMF Marathon

At the 15 mile point, Rich was feeling the best he’d ever felt at the stage but unfortunately it wasn’t going to last

On the 18th mile though, he had to contend with the BIC hill so he knew that one was going to be considerably slower. At the top of the hill Simon Hearn met him with a bottle of Lucozade and he guzzled it down as he went on his way through the Chines.

Just as he got to the top of the next hill and saw Rich Nelson waiting just up the path, he felt his first pang. It was exactly the same thing that happened to him in the North Dorset Village Marathon, so he knew then that was only a matter of time before the dreaded cramp set in.

Rich Nelson then ran with him which helped take his find off the impending cramp a little bit. It was then a bit of back and forth around Branksome Chines, where he tried to vary his stride a little bit, running in all kinds of weird ways in a bid to keep the cramp at bay.

Rich Brawn with Rich Nelson in BMF Marathon

BAC team captain Rich Nelson stepped in to accompany Rich Brawn over the last 8 miles or so

It was on the 21st mile that the pangs became more persistent and he knew that it was only a matter of time before he’d be in terrible pain. He’d already started run/walking by this point and was in real trouble.

When they got down onto the promenade, Rich Nelson ran into a café and got him a glass of orange squash with salt and sugar in it. Rich was taking everything in by this point in a bid to stave off the cramp. Energy gels, jelly babies, sweets and practically anything that was offered to him.

It was on way towards Sandbanks along the seafront on the 22nd mile that the cramp hit him hard in both hamstrings and his legs seized up. He stopped and stood there in excruciating pain.

He was in a bad way and considered abandoning the race at that point but then decided, since he’d got that far, he might as well just walk the rest if he had to.

Rich Brawn looking upright in BMF Marathon

Once the cramp started to take hold it made for a very painful last 10k for Rich Brawn

The cramp went away for the time being and he got back running. But that point he’d lost a large chunk of time though whilst he’d been stood there in agony so his chances of getting the time he wanted had gone out the window. It was damage limitation from then on.

As for Richard Cannings, mile 20 proved to be his pain point. He began to struggle running towards Sandbanks but was hoping when he got to the turning point and started heading back towards Bournemouth Pier, the psychology of running back towards the finish would help. It didn’t though and the pier seemed a distant target.

At least he was still moving though and that was the important thing. He’d almost caught Rich Brawn up by that point and they passed each other on opposing sides as Richard Cannings neared the turning point.

Richard Cannings giving it his all in BMF Marathon

Richard Cannings was finding it tough in the latter stages of the race but showed great tenacity to keep going

It was frustrating for Rich Brawn as he felt he still had a lot of energy left and could have run fast but he just couldn’t risk it as the cramp kept threatening to come back. He was glad to have Rich Nelson and Paolo de Luca running with him the whole way though and helping in any way they could.

When he finally got close the pier, the cramp very nearly came back and he stopped completely. His dad was there at that point, as well as Tamzin Petersen who rushed in to help him as he hobbled on towards the finish.

After walking for a bit, he managed to get going again, actually just about managing to run the last half a mile before he got onto the finishing straight. He could tell the cramp was literally seconds from coming back but he darted towards the line and just managed to make it over before taking the next hit.

It didn’t matter then though because he’d finished and that was a huge relief. He was also pleased to see that he’d finished 3 hours and 15 minutes, even though it seemed like the last 10k had taken for ever.

Richard Cannings was also suffering, just from general exhaustion and he found the last mile really difficult, being forced to stop around three times for quick recovery breaks.

He lost about 40 seconds on that mile but he couldn’t be too disappointed. There had been times during the race when he thought he wasn’t going to finish at all so he had to be pleased with the outcome.

Crossing the line in an extremely impressive time of 3:15:36, Richard had actually beaten the very best time he thought he could possibly do, so that was a fantastic result.

He finished in 113th place, which wasn’t bad at all out of over 2,000 people. He’d very nearly caught Rich Brawn up as well, with Rich taking 108th place with his time of 3:15:11.

Rich Brawn with medal after BMF Marathon

Although the latter part of his race had once again been ravaged by cramp, Rich Brawn was still pleased with how he ran

Meanwhile, Mark had faded a little more than he expected he would over the the last 10 miles. He can’t quite put his finger on why that was though.

At one stage it was looking like he’d be on for 3:20 but it didn’t quite happen in the end. It was still a very good PB for Mark though as he crossed the line in 3:28:20, which put him in 215th place in the overall standings.

Mark Hillier looking relieved after BMF Marathon

Mark Hillier looks relieved after a hard fought race that earned him a fantastic new marathon PB

He’s quite glad now that he can forget the clock and go back to killing himself over some longer distances instead! In April 2019, Mark has entered the Oner, an 82 mile off-road ultra running from Portland to Studland. The route is along an extremely challenging section of the Jurassic Coast Path and will incorporate over 10,000ft of elevation.

Despite being taken the wrong way at one point by the lead bike, it was Iain Trickett who continued his fabulous winning streak to make it to the finish line first, arriving in an incredible time of 2:25:46. He’d had to work really hard as well to catch Richard McDowell who had a huge advantage over him at one stage.

Mark Hillier after finishing BMF Marathon

Although he enjoyed the challenge of racing against the clock, Mark is much more at home in longer, more endurance based ultramarathon races

One thing all three Bournemouth AC members will probably agree on after that race though is that marathon are not easy. They’re a different animal than other shorter distance races and there are so many dependencies and things that can go wrong whilst you’re out there.

Next up for Rich Brawn and Richard Cannings is the Great South Run, so they’ll be hoping, within the space of the two week period they’ve had, they will have recovered fully from their marathon exploits, or at least enough to get round a fast, flat 10 miler in a decent time.

Rich Brawn after finishing BMF Marathon

After allowing themselves a little time to bask in the glory, it was back to training for Rich Brawn and Richard Cannings in preparation for the Great South Run