The route for the Clarendon Marathon is every bit as picturesque and varied as it is challenging and undulating. Heading along the Clarendon Way from Salisbury to Winchester, 90% of the course is off-road, featuring the very same country tracks and narrow paths that were once travelled upon by the ancient Kings and Queens of England. Admittedly though, they probably weren’t running it!
Although it’s an enjoyable and inclusive sort of race with a very friendly atmosphere, not everyone of course would be able to, or even want to run a full marathon distance.
Fortunately, for those who didn’t, there was still plenty on offer at the event. That included a half marathon race and a mini race consisting of the last five miles of the marathon route.
Another option available was to get a team of four together to run the marathon in the form of a relay. That was exactly what four budding, blossoming Bournemouth AC prospects did when they joined forces to create the BAC 2 BAC All Female team.
The BAC 2 BAC line up consisted of super sister act Neve and Lauren East, along with the effervescent Martha Preece and ever impressive Erin Wells. It was a young team, with Lauren the eldest if the four at 17, Neve at 15, Martha at 14 and Erin the youngest at 13.
Because the route was across the full marathon distance, each team member had to go to wherever the changeover point was for their leg to start and wait for their teammate on the leg before to arrive and hand over the baton.
Kicking things off for BAC 2 BAC it would be Erin Wells taking up the first leg. She would then handover to Martha Preece for the second leg. Then it was Neve East on the third leg and Lauren East on leg four.
With the storm passing over throughout the course of the weekend, there had already been a fair bit of rain, which made the certain sections of the route muddy underfoot. The rain seemed to get worse as the day went on as well which made it ever tougher for the runners on the later legs.
Coming off the back of a couple of good 5k race performances, Erin had every reason to be confident going into the Clarendon Marathon Relay.
Completing the Running Grand Prix 5k at Goodwood in an impressive time of 18:47 and finishing as 1st female and 5th place overall in the New Forest Marathon 5k, she had already shown a lot of promise over recent weeks.
She got BAC 2 BAC off to a good start in the first leg of the relay, clocking a time of 51:05 and going at an average page of 4:58 minutes per kilometre. That put them in 9th place out of the 55 teams taking part and 1st out of the 9 All Female teams.
She then passed the baton onto Martha who was on duty for the second leg. Martha had previously proved that she was a dab hand at off-road running, competing in the Southern Cross Country Championships at the beginning of the year, as well representing Dorset in both the Nation Inter County and South West Inter County Championships.
She also turned out for virtually all the Hampshire League and Wessex League Cross Country fixtures and finished 17th in the Hampshire League final standings and 3rd in the Wessex League.
Following up on Erin’s run with a very similar standard display, Martha completed her leg in 50:54 which gave her an average pace of 4:57 minutes per kilometre.
She was also 9th quickest overall on the second leg and that moved the team up to 7th place in the standings. There had been some jostling of positions and they had dropped down to 2nd in All Female category.
Next it was the turn of Neve to assume posession of the baton. Neve was a standout performer in cross countries last season, taking the Under 15 Girls title with a clean sweep in the Wessex League, winning all four fixtures.
She also won a gold medal in the Dorset County Championships and ran well in the Southern Cross Country Championships and represented Dorset in the National Inter Counties and South West Inter County Championships.
Neve‘s leg of the Clarendon Marathon Relay was the longest one and the toughest in terms of hills and terrain. The worsening conditions made it even more difficult for her but she gave it everything she had, completing her run in 1:03:38. That was an average pace of 5:08 minutes per kilometre.
The standard of competition was higher in that leg as well but Neve did well to go 18th fastest on that particular leg and she was 3rd quickest out of those in all female teams. That put BAC 2 BAC in 11th place overall and they remained 2nd out of the All Female teams.
She then handed over to her sister Lauren who would bring it home for the team. Completing the final leg in a time of 48:48, Lauren managed an average pace of 5:19 minutes per kilometre.
Again, the competition on the last leg was stiffer but like Neve, Lauren was 18th quickest overall on that particular leg and 2nd quickest out of those in an All Female team.
That gave BAC 2 BAC a final collective finishing time of 3 hours 34 minute and 23 seconds. Lauren had also managed to move them up a place in the overall rankings as well which gave them a final position of 10th. There were also confirmed as 2nd in the All Female category which was a fantastic achievement for the girls.
Considering the treacherous conditions, the testing terrain and the undulating nature of the course, the Bournemouth AC girls had done themselves and their club proud.
Competing against athletes of all ages, they had demonstrated a maturity beyond their years and an exemplary attitude and will to succeed. No doubt there will be good things to come in the future from all four of the BAC 2 BAC girls.
Way back when she first discovered she was the lucky recipient of the club ballot place for the London Marathon, Tamzin Petersen did not envisage she’d be doing the 2020 London Marathon in her own backyard, right here in Bournemouth.
A lot has changed though since her name was pulled out of the hat towards the end of 2019. It’s been a strange year and the topsy- turvy nature of living in the midst of a pandemic has provoked much uncertainty.
When the pandemic first struck and lockdown restrictions were announced, the London Marathon organisers duly moved the event to October, assuming it would safely be able to go ahead by then.
As infection rates continued to sore though and the true impact of the virus was beginning to take shape, it looked increasingly unlikely that the race would be able to take place, even on the rescheduled date.
After much delaying and deliberating, it was finally announced that the 40th London Marathon would be an elite only race, with others getting the opportunity to take part in a virtual race, at a location of their choosing.
That meant that instead of pounding the pavements in the streets of London with 44,000 others, runners would end up having to tackle the 26.2 miles on their own, without the thrills and spills that only a real race environment can provide.
Julian Oxborough had been wanting to the London Marathon for a few years now so when the opportunity came round to take part in the virtual one, he couldn’t turn it down.
Even though that meant doing a marathon with virtually no training, Julian was up for the challenge and was keen to earn his London Marathon medal.
Although she was technically running the marathon on her own, it probably actually turned out to be the most social marathon Tamzin has ever done.
She had many friends accompanying her on route, including fellow Bournemouth AC members Louise Price, Estelle Slatford, Mike White and Phil Cherrett.
Unfortunately, living in Somerset, Julian did not have that luxury. He had to undertake the entire run on his own. And as if running a marathon on your own with no training wasn’t going to be tough enough, he also had horrendous weather conditions to contend with.
That was the weekend that Storm Alex passed over the UK, unleashing copious amounts of rainfall and vivacious winds with strong and sporadic gusts. For Julian that meant a very wet run was in store and with a wind speed of 20 miles per hour, it was going to be a tough road ahead.
Julian and Tamzin weren’t the only Bournemouth AC members competing in the Virtual London Marathon that day. Rich Brawn and Sanjai Sharma were also taking part and they had entered the Dorney Lake Marathon which would provide them with the chance to do it in a race environment.
It would be Sanjai’s 27th London Marathon in total and his 19th consecutive one, which was an incredibly impressive tally. Rich had only done one before and that was April 2019, when he recorded his marathon PB of 2:55:23.
He kind of liked the idea of running one marathon but being in two different races so that was why he entered the Virtual London one as well as Dorney Lake.
He hadn’t realised that he would have to record his Virtual London Marathon on an app though so hadn’t anticipated bringing his phone with him when he ran.
Discovering it would be too heavy to take in the gel belt he was intending to use, he had to change the shorts he was going to wear to some that had a zip pocket big enough to put his phone in, as well as his gels and salt capsules.
That was a move that would later prove costly as the shorts got so wet that the salt capsules he’d brought with him seemed to disintegrate, leaving him at a greater risk of suffering cramp issues.
The advantage of doing her own virtual marathon for Tamzin was that, as well as having friends running sections of it with her, she could also select a route of her choosing. Therefore, she could dictate at which points in a run she had a headwind and at which points she’d have the wind assisting her.
With the weather conditions as they were that day, those decisions could well prove crucial to her getting the best possible time she could.
For Tamzin, the aim really was to go sub-four-hours. That was something she’d attempted a couple of times before, once at the Bournemouth Marathon Festival and once at Edinburgh. Although she did produce good times on both occasions, she missed out on the sub-four she craved, so this year’s Virtual London gave her the opportunity to put that right.
Julian wasn’t bothered about time. For him, the challenge would be simply to complete it. He’d already planned to have a short break at some point during the run, essentially dividing it into two to make it more manageable.
Starting off near Winton Rec, Tamzin’s route took her through Meyrick Park and then through Lower Gardens to Bournemouth Pier. Turning right at Bournemouth Pier she then headed off in the direction of Sandbanks.
In fact, the first 5k of her run was the only part of it she did alone. Throughout the rest of it she was joined by friends who would run with her for distances of their choosing.
When she reached the end of the promenade at Sandbanks she headed off towards Whitecliff Park and Baiter Park before looping round Poole Park and heading back towards the seafront.
Once she was back on the seafront and had reached the end at Sandbanks, she turned and was greeted by a tailwind as she headed back towards Bournemouth.
She was now at the half way stage and had been running the vast majority of her miles between 8:30 and 9 minutes per mile. On the 17th mile she began to start cranking the pace up a touch, then when she went past Bournemouth Pier she shifted into another gear.
By mile 21 she was had got it down to 8:13 pace and was still going quicker. Then at mile 22 she reached the end of the promenade and headed up the slope towards Hengistbury Head.
She headed out towards the chalets that look across to Mudeford, increasing her pace yet further until she reached mile 24. She then turned back to complete the last 2.2 miles before finishing her run.
With a finishing time of 3 hours 47 minutes and 19 seconds, Tamzin had well and truly smashed her sub-four target. She’d taken a very large chunk off her previous best and it was a sensational run, all things considered.
It wasn’t just the time that was impressive, it was the way she had done it as well, running so strongly over the last 10 miles or so to end up with a huge negative split.
Even though the weather was atrocious, Tamzin’s friends did not let her down and she was thankful to them for braving the elements and coming out to run with her and support her on her journey. That helped the time pass quicker and meant that it didn’t feel as hard as it otherwise might have.
By the time she stopped her app another minute had gone by, giving her an official time of 3:48:19 in the Virtual London Marathon results. That put her in 4,081st place overall out of 37,337.
She was 845th fastest female out of 18,369 and 345th in the 18-39 age category out of 6,395. It was certainly a result she could be very proud of and a day to remember for Tamzin.
As for Julian, he found it extremely tough and physically draining but he was determined to see it through no matter how long it took him. At the 19 mile point he went home for a break, as he’d planned, and took a bath as he was suffering from a bit of back pain by that point.
After refueling and changing into some dry clothes he headed back out to complete the remainder of his run. When he officially reached the marathon distance, he’d been running for a total of 6 hours and 51 minutes.
Of course the Virtual London Marathon was done on elapsed time though, so that included the break he’d taken, giving Julian a final time of 8 hours 11 minutes and 36 seconds.
That put him in 30,384th place overall and 1,175th in the men’s 55-59 category. Afterwards Julian confessed that it had been his toughest marathon yet but he’d shown tremendous grit and character to complete the run despite his lack of training and the hindrance of the weather conditions.
It didn’t put Julian off though and he’s already entered the ballot for next year’s race, which hopefully will actually take place in London. As of now the plan for Julian will be just to keep his fitness going and look for improvement over shorter distances.
In the Dorney Lake Marathon where Rich and Sanjai were doing their Virtual London, the rain was again relentless and the crosswinds were tough to contend with.
After losing the two salt capsules when his shorts got drenched, Rich did end up getting struck down by cramp on the 23rd mile. That slowed him down quite considerably over the last four miles or so and put pay to his chances of securing a PB.
Then when he got to finish line and took his phone out to conclude the run on his app, he realised it hadn’t actually been recording his run at all. He’d pressed the button which he thought was to start the run but there was another start button which was off the screen and he hadn’t seen that one.
Luckily, he was able to submit the evidence of the run from his Strava activity though and he was added to the results list. Finishing in a time of 2 hours 58 minutes and 32 seconds, he ended up in 549th position in the overall standings and 258th in the men’s 18-39 category out of 6,598.
Although it wasn’t quite the time he’d been hoping for, it was still a fairly decent result for Rich but it was just frustrating as once again, cramp had ruined what would otherwise have been a very good run.
Sanjai performed better than he was expecting to and despite the difficult conditions, he managed to come away with a Good-For-Age qualifying time, finishing in 3 hours 19 minutes and 38 seconds.
That put him in 1,484th place overall and 62nd in the men’s 55-59 category. Considering his training hadn’t gone as well as he would have liked, that was a terrific result for Sanjai and he was pleased with his run.
What this year’s Virtual London Marathon and the efforts of the Bournemouth AC runners to took part has taught us is that if you want something badly enough you have to get out there and make it happen, whatever the weather.
There were many hurdles that they had to overcome, what with the uncertainty of whether the race was actually going to take place at all, the absence of club training for a period of time and the lockdown restrictions they had to contend with.
Then, when they finally realised it was going to be on in virtual form, they faced stormy weather conditions which made an already difficult task that much tougher.
Nevertheless, Tamzin, Julian, Rich and Sanjai all got out there and did themselves and the club proud and, although it wasn’t on as grand a stage as it should have been, they will remember their fantastic achievements all the same.
For Rob McTaggart, Richard Brawn and Sanjai Sharma, this marathon journey began way back in January when they started training for what they thought then was going to be the London Marathon in April.
Little did they know that the world would be a very different place by the time the scheduled date of the London Marathon would come around.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, the London Marathon organisers were forced to postpone the race. Thus it was penciled in for the first weekend of October instead.
That was of course frustrating for those who had already gone through a large part of their training block for the race but it simply wasn’t feasible to hold it at that time and they had to accept it.
As Coronavirus infection levels grew and with with the whole country placed under lockdown restrictions it began to look likely that even the newly planned October date could be under threat.
By the time it reached July they were due to start marathon training again but with social distancing still very much at the forefront and restrictions still in place even the October date was looking in doubt.
Nevertheless, the Bournemouth AC trio tentatively began to ramp up their training in case the race did end up going ahead but they weren’t overly hopeful.
The organisers did everything they could to try to find a way they could still hold the event but in the end had to concede that it simply wasn’t possible to keep it open to the masses.
That left runners with the option to either run a virtual marathon at a place of their choosing, or find an alternative race. That was when Rich began to look at the Dorney Lake Marathon as a possibility.
It was organised by Active Training World and they already had a Covid-19 safe strategy in place for races that would provide a safe and socially distanced environment for all those taking part.
Knowing he’d have a much better chance of getting a good time in an actual race and with the route being flat and fast, it was a no-brainer for Rich and he signed up.
There was also another marathon race being put together though and that was going to be in Wrexham. A plan had been formulated to hold an event strictly for runners capable of completing a marathon in under 2 hours 40 minutes. That would cut down the numbers of entrants and looked a good option for Tag.
Having completed 18 consecutive London Marathons, Sanjai wasn’t about the let that record fall by the wayside and he was looking to get to 20 in-a-row. That meant by hook or crook, even if it wasn’t going to actually be in London, he still needed to make sure he was doing the virtual race.
Again, he knew his best bet would be run it in an actual race environment, so he joined Rich in signing up for Dorney Lake. Now it was just a case of getting in the best training that he could to boost his fitness levels.
As the months went by, the big day was getting ever closer but doubts were emerging about whether the Wrexham Marathon would actually take place. That left Tag contemplating yet another wasted block of training.
He’d managed to get into fantastic shape as well and could tell from his training runs that was beginning to hit his best form. In the end he managed to get an entry for Dorney Lake as well so at least he knew the chances are he’d have something to show for all the grafting he’d done.
The only potential problem with Dorney Lake was that it’s a very open area, meaning on a windy day it could leave them quite exposed to the elements. They just had to hope for calm conditions on the day.
When the news came in that a storm was due to be passing over the UK that weekend, that was exactly what they didn’t want to hear. Strong winds and ongoing rainfall was forecast which was bound to make things a little more tricky for the race.
There was nothing they could about that though. They had to get on with it and give it their best shot and hope that the direction of the wind wouldn’t result in a strong headwind on any of the long straights.
Sure enough, when the morning of the race came, it was very wet and rather cold to boot. Whilst it didn’t seem overly strong, the wind was certainly noticeable and seemed gusty at times.
The runners were started off depending on their estimated finishing time. Tag was fourth on the list which meant he was starting in the red wave with all the top runners.
That included Will Mackay of Bedford and County AC who had finished second in the New Forest Half Marathon that Rich had taken part in two weeks earlier.
Tag had won the 5k and and finished second in the 10k at that same event so that was a useful little race sharpener for him ahead of the Dorney Lake Marathon.
Rich was 157th fastest according to estimated time so he started in the white wave which followed in a couple of pens later. As well as the New Forest Half Marathon, which he’d found tougher than he was expecting, Rich had recorded a 10k PB at St Albans in the build up to the race. He’d also ran a 5k best at the Bournemouth AC time trial in one of the Tuesday night sessions so he knew he was in fairly good form.
In terms of long runs though, he hadn’t had any 20 mile races to run in at marathon pace this time round so that was worrying him somewhat. He had taken part in the Virtual Wimborne 20 miler but that was on a very hilly course and he didn’t have a great run that day.
That left him unsure of whether he’d realistically be able to achieve the time that he wanted but he’d just have to roll the dice and give it a go.
Because his estimated time was over three hours, Sanjai was starting his race at a later time than Rich and Tag. He was due to set off at 11 o’clock so had a bit more time to play with before he would get his run underway.
Tag started with a guy who said that he wanted a sub 2:30 and that was kind of aligned with Tag’s target, given the conditions, so they set off running together.
After a bad experience at last year’s London Marathon where Tag had ended up falling off the pace over the last 10 miles or so, he wasn’t looking for a lonely run so it was a bonus to find someone who would be going at a similar pace.
They caught up a group and then merged in to form a bigger pack that would stay together for what turned out to be the vast majority of the race.
Having fully tapered in the week leading up to the race and going through the carb depletion and carb loading process, Rich knew he’d have plenty of energy in store for the marathon. His intention was to go off at a pace that seemed comfortable but he was secretly hoping it would be quite a fast pace.
He went through the first three miles at an even quicker pace than what he was aiming for but after that settled into his intended marathon pace.
Right from the outset though, his muscles felt tight and he knew the chances of him getting round the full marathon without getting cramp were slim to none. That was a real worry.
There was a difficult crosswind on certain sections of the course and that was always likely to wear him down as the race progressed and make it more difficult to maintain the pace.
On the 10th mile his pace dropped and he began to produce similar sort of split times to what he had at London the previous year when he recorded his current PB.
That was okay though. He didn’t mind that and knew he’s still be on for a good time if he could stick at that sort of pace for the remainder of the race. It wasn’t going to be easy though by any means.
Tag had been going at between 5:40 and 5:45 pace for the first 12 miles. On the 13th mile he decided it was time to crank it up a notch which forced those in the group he was running with to follow suit.
For the next couple of miles he was going at 5:39 pace before steadily increasing his speed even further over the next four miles. It was a great show of strength that must have put other members of the group into difficulty.
When he got to water station at just over 12 miles, Rich decided he was going to take one of his salt capsules. He put his hand in his pocket to get one out only to find that there was only one there.
His shorts had got so wet that the other two must have just disintegrated. Now he was in real trouble and the threat of cramp had increased further.
He was beginning to find it tough going and was thinking he might end up getting progressively slower over the second half of the race. Just at that point though, he got overtaken by two runners who were going side by side and looked like they were running together.
Remembering what his Dad had told him, Rich decided to up his pace slightly and tuck in behind the two runners. Rich’s Dad is a running coach for Chiltern Harriers and was there supporting him, alongside other members of his club who were taking part.
Soon beginning to feel the benefits of being sheltered from the wind, Rich decided to stay right where he was for the entirety of the third lap. It made a huge difference and by the time he got to mile 20 he was starting to feel good again.
By the time he reached the mile 20 point, Tag‘s arms had gone numb from the persistent crosswinds and he started to get very cold. He wasn’t about to let it slip now though and continued to push on well.
In fact, he proceeded to churn out decent split times all the way to the end and with 26.36 miles on the clock, he made it to the line in a tremendous time of 2:29:04.
That was only 11 seconds off his best ever marathon time which he’d recorded at London in 2017. To be able to produce that sort of time in conditions like that was a real testament to the superb form he was in.
With an astonishing average pace of 5:39, it was the fifth quickest time out of anyone on the day. That was a great achievement for Tag given that there plenty of runners there of a very high standard.
Unfortunately for Rich, his race didn’t end so well. On the 22nd mile, he could feel his muscles starting to seize up and he began to get the dreaded pangs which told him cramp was on the way.
After the second lot of pangs, he took out his shot of CrampFix and tried to drink it. It didn’t go down too well though and the liquid just seemed to nestle in his chest. He actually couldn’t breathe and it felt like he was drowning so he had to stop and try to cough it up.
As he’d stopped, the cramp then kicked in in his left hamstring and that all too familiar excruciating pain was back. He lay on the floor, flat on his back and two of the slower runners who were passing by on a different lap came to help.
Rich had seen that when footballers get cramp they usually get other players to bend their toes back, so he got the other two runners to do that.
Very quickly the pain seemed to subside and he got up gingerly and headed off on his way, thanking the runners who had helped him. Even though he’d got back going though, he was very worried it was going to happen again.
He managed to get into a slow jogging sort of pace which he then stuck at for the remainder of that mile and the next mile as well. Then as he got to mile 25 he started to feel the muscles release.
The CrampFix must have worked all of a sudden. He now felt like there was a good chance he could make it to the line without a relapse and was wondering whether to crank the pace back up for the last couple of miles or just carry on taking it steady.
In the end he decided it wasn’t worth the risk so continued coasting until he reached the end of the 26th mile. The finishing line was now in sight and he was virtually home and dry, or wet, rather, as the case may be. At that point he began to up the pace and pushed through to end which came at 26.45 miles.
As he crossed the line, Rich stopped his watch at just under 2 hours 58 minutes. During the cramp incident though, his watch had paused for a bit though so he now wasn’t sure if he’d actually even got a sub 3. He faced an agonising wait for for the chip time results to come through before he could find out for certain.
As for Sanjai, his training hadn’t gone so well for a number of reasons so he was thinking he’d probably do well to get in under 3 hours 30 minutes.
He managed to settle into a steady pace at the beginning though which he knew would be good enough to get him a Good-For-Age qualification if he was able to maintain it throughout.
Despite the treacherous conditions, Sanjai stayed strong and stuck to the task at hand. Crossing the line in a time of 3:19:32, Sanjai finished in 258th place overall and 27th in the M50 category.
It was a remarkable run from Sanjai under the circumstances and a much better result than he’d been expecting. Crucially as well, it should be enough to see him get into next year’s London Marathon on a Good-For-Age basis which will mean he can do his 20th consecutive one.
There was relief for Rich when his official time came through at 2:58:29 which put him in 148th place. Since he’d been worrying about the amount of time that his watch had auto-paused for, he was actually quite pleased with that result, even though it wasn’t the time he was hoping for.
Running the entire race out front on his own, Will Mackay picked up the victory, finishing in an incredible time of 2:26:14. He was followed by Jack Blaiklock of Thames Hare & Hounds who came in fresh out the pub to finish just over a minute later with a time of 2:27:17.
Chris Richardson of Metro Aberdeen took third place in 2:27:41 with Samuel Barnes of Serpentine taking fourth in 2:28:38. In total 522 runners successfully completed the race with the last one coming in at 6 hours 31 minutes. A further 29 runners who started the race didn’t make it through to the end.
There were some other impressive performances from Dorset based athletes, in particular Brian Underwood who secured a spectacular new PB of 2:35:16. That was good enough to put him 12th in the overall standings and 1st in the M40 category.
Poole Runners man Tim Jones also recorded a terrific new PB of 2:49:35 which put him in 76th place overall and 20th in the M40 category. His running has sky rocketed over the lockdown period and that was huge improvement on his previous best.
Also weighing in with an emphatic PB, Damian Huntingford of Wimborne AC took 35 minutes off his previous best to finish in 95th place with a time of 2:52:11. That put him 32nd in the M40.
Damian had done many similar sort of training runs to Rich in the build up to the race, including the Virtual Wimborne 10 and the Virtual Wimborne 20. Rich could tell that Damian was in excellent form going into the marathon at Dorney and his time was a just reward for his terrific efforts in training.
The best thing about the Dorney Lake Marathon really though was that it gave all the runners who had been training hard during lockdown and over the summer months an opportunity to have something tangible to show for it.
With marathon races being cancelled left, right and centre, those who had worked tirelessly to get into peak shape needed something definitive to aim for that was not going to end up getting canned like all the rest of them.
Active Training World stepped up to plate and provided that at Dorney Lake and that was something all the participants were hugely thankful for, whatever the weather.
It was a perfect day. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and a gentle autumnal breeze enthused an air of calmness and tranquility… That was how Heather Khoshnevis might have envisaged it when she signed up for the 64th edition of the Isle of Wight Marathon on the first weekend of October.
Sadly though, Storm Alex had other ideas as it swept over the southern reaches of the country bringing with it a ferocious wind, persistent rain and a biting chill in the air.
It was certainly less than idyllic conditions for Heather and the other 170 or so runners looking to get through the 26.2 mile route from Cowes over to Freshwater and back on the north-western side of the island.
As she sat in the car waiting to be called to the start line she could feel the whole vehicle rocking in the blustery wind and when she made her trip to the portaloo it felt as if she was in Doctor Who’s Tardis about to take off!!
At that point there was certainly a temptation to just sack it off and head home but Heather convinced herself and the others she was with that the weather would improve and she’d regret giving in to it.
Plus there were so many other runners there who had stayed and seemed determined to get out there and do what they came to do. If there’s one thing Covid-19 has taught runners it is that races are not be taken for granted. If you get the opportunity to take part in a real race, with real people, you have to seize it and make the most of it.
So, when she got the call, Heather gingerly proceeded to the start line to get her race underway. It was her 136th marathon and in all those previous races, she can’t have done many in worse conditions than this.
Once she got going though, there was only ever going to be one outcome. As she made her way along the undulating, rural roads, in the teeming rain, with the gusty wind penning her back, she was probably wondering why on earth she was putting herself through it.
Anyone who is capable of completing 135 marathons though clearly has plenty of character and determination and that day Heather demonstrated it in abundance.
Crossing the line in a time of 3 hours 51 minutes and 34 seconds, Heather came in in 54th position overall and was 7th quickest lady. That was enough to net her the F60 category win as well, which made the ordeal she’d had to go through that much more worthwhile.
All things considered it was an excellent performance from Heather and one that she could be immensely proud of. She’d gone almost 15 minutes quicker than she’d run in the New Forest Marathon two weeks prior as well so that was a pleasing improvement for Heather, although being on the road for the entire duration would have helped somewhat.
At the time she was doing it, Heather almost felt like giving up running, but once she got home, showered and dried with a huge plate of food in front of her she felt very differently.
That was the point at which she smiled to herself and realised she was either a hero, or an absolute nutter!! Or perhaps even a quintessential blend of both. Either way, it was a good feeling.
There can be few better places to race than Goodwood Motor Circuit if you have a need for speed and the Running Grand Prix organised by RunThrough presented athletes with a great opportunity to do just that.
And with the course being on a race track it meant a smoot, tarmac surface was guaranteed and since it didn’t clash with any motor races, it would also a traffic free environment on this occasion.
Interestingly, Goodwood Motor Circuit is the only classic track in the world to remain entirely in its original form and that dates back to September 1948, when it was first open to the public. It played host to Britain’s first post-war motor race meeting and then became the permanent venue.
Each lap of the course is around 5k which makes it ideal for staging a running event and the RunThrough Running Grand Prix featured five different distance races. A 5k, a 10k, a Half Marathon, a 20 Mile and Marathon.
That was enough to wet the appetite of one of Bournemouth AC‘s brightest young prospects, Erin Wells. She was lining up on the grid for the 5k race where she was hoping to put the pedal to the metal in a big way.
It wasn’t going to be easy though as at just 13 years of age she was up against mostly older and more experienced athletes than her. But she has raw talent and a maturity that allows her to be competitive at a higher level.
Her impressive cross country displays last season demonstrated the huge pedigree she has. That included a 2nd place finish in the Wessex League standings and 6th in the Hampshire League aggregate for the Under 13 Girls.
On top of that she also recorded a 27th place finish in the National Cross Country Championships in Nottingham and 30th in the Southern Championships at Parliament Hill.
The line up for the Half Marathon race included Kirsty O’Callaghan, who has recently been training with the Bournemouth AC group on Tuesday nights.
The previous weekend both Erin and Kirsty had been in action at the New Forest Marathon event, where again, Kirsty took part in the Half Marathon and Erin ran the 5k.
That involved a much tougher off-road course though with its fair share of ups and downs. In comparison to that, the Running Grand Prix, on paper at least, looked like it should be smooth sailing.
There was only one element that could prevent the runners from hitting their top speed at Goodwood and that was the wind. With it being a racing track, it was a very open area which left it exposed if it so happened to be a windy day. And sure enough, it was.
That made it much tougher than it otherwise would have been. In the 5k race, Erin performed extremely well though, despite the adverse conditions, and finished as 4th placed female out of 23 and 20th overall out of 120 runners.
Registering a time of 18 minutes and 47 seconds, she’d gone over a minute quicker than she did at the New Forest Marathon and that was despite the ferocious winds she had to contend with.
Erin thoroughly enjoyed the event though and said she would love to try the race again but without the gale force conditions!
Completing the Half Marathon course in 1 hour 35 minutes and 23 seconds, Kirsty finished as 6th female out of 52 and 48th overall out of 174 runners.
That was almost 20 minutes quicker than she’d run at the New Forest Marathon the previous weekend so it was a pleasing result for Kirsty.
Once again, it was good to see another successful running event taking place though and again proving that, if organised well, there is no reason why races can’t continue to prosper in these unprecedented times we are now living in.
In these uncertain times you certainly cannot take anything for granted and that unfortunately goes for running events as well. With the spread of infection going up and down in different areas of the country, coronavirus has brought about an air of unpredictability in all walks of life.
In running terms that means that you can enter an event and spend months training for it but there are no guarantees that that particular event will actually go ahead. It’s a very tricky situation for athletes to be in.
Take Linn Erixon Sahlström for example. She was due to take on the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia 165km race on Friday 18th September but just five days beforehand, she discovered it had been cancelled.
It was a massive blow for Linn since she’d spent the whole summer training for it. That had meant heading over to the Purbeck for some crazy hill sessions and getting plenty of ups and downs in over Hengistbury Head.
It was also a disappointment as it was also going to be part of a very personal journey for Linn where she would be returning to the scene of the crash. It was on Mount Snowdon where she’d had a nasty fall and injured herself very badly in her last race there.
You can tell a lot about a person’s character from how they handle a disappointment though and Linn wasn’t going to let it get her down. Then, as she was collecting the post later that day though, she found she’d received two race numbers. She’d completely forgotten about the post-pone Race The Tide marathon that was happening that same weekend!!
So, instead of heading off to the mountains, she took her camper van and headed off the Devon coast to hit the trails. In this day and age, it’s simply best to “stay flexible, embrace the uncertainty and find your stride” as Linn puts it.
She’d done a lot of climbing and a lot of long, slow endurance runs over the summer in preparation for the UTS but absolutely no speed work. Now she found herself competing in a marathon, which by her standards, classifies as quite a ‘short’ race. Nevertheless, she was determined to embrace the challenge.
The Race The Tide event was in the Flete Estate at Mothercombe. The marathon included two estuary crossings – one at Burgh Island and the other one racing the tide 19.9 miles in over Erne Estuary before concluding with a picturesque sea view at Mothercombe.
The route incorporated 1800 meters of elevation so that was still more than enough to turn the legs of a very accomplished fell runner to jelly.
The tide was in when they first started out so the first kilometer was more of a wade through the water than a run. It definitely woke Linn up though and set the tone for what was to come.
Because there were different start waves though, it was difficult to know who was in what position. Linn’s goal was to push as hard as possible though so she ended up slogging it out, small trotting up the inclines to get ahead of whoever was in front of her.
Deciding to go off in the first wave, Linn felt it would suit her better. That way she could be first female to begin with, although she knew there would be some speedy women behind her.
Quite early on in the proceedings, a light-weight lady with minimalistic shoes and a flying gait went past Linn and she knew she was never going to be able to race her. From that point on, her focus was to keep whoever else was behind her, behind her.
It was an extremely hilly route which also included sand dunes and some stunning forests. At around 12km from the finish, Linn started to seize up and she was forced to hobble through the last 8km.
Her lack of speed training had taken its toll but Linn was determined to give it everything she’s got. She was desperate to prove to herself that the hill training she’d done was competitive enough for a top three podium place.
She’d only ever done the marathon distance once before, when she did the Bournemouth Marathon and it was definitely on the shorter end of her spectrum. It was by no means a fast race though, given the terrain.
The woman who had overtaken Linn was Lucy Commander and she went on to finish in 5th place overall, completing the course in a time of 4 hours 19 minutes and 23 seconds.
Taking the accolade of being the second quickest female, Linn crossed the finish line in 4:52:12 which put her in 24th place overall and 1st in the FV40 category.
The next lady in was Emma Langstaff who finished just over four minutes behind Linn, clocking a time of 4:56:39. She took 27th position overall.
It was a fantastic result for Linn, especially as ‘short’ races are not really her specialty. She was pleased to have done her first race of the year. Interestingly though, she found that the marathon had hurt almost as much as a 100 miler because you’re at your max all the time.
Covering 26.63 miles over the course of the race, Linn also racked up an elevation gain of over 5,900ft so, although it wasn’t quite to the level of what the Ultra-Trail Snowdonia would have offered, it was certainly still a very good workout.
The overall race was won by Matthew Hart who finished in a time of 3:51:47. He was just ahead of Stuart Walker who came in just 8 seconds later in a time of 3:51:55.
Linn has another so called ‘short’ race in November which is a 50k night run with hills. That will mean she now needs to put some speed training in so she may well be forced to drag herself to the track a few times over the coming month.
The restrictions placed upon all of our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic have made it very difficult for running events of any description to be held, with mass-gatherings generally discouraged and social distancing and safety at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
That has forced event organisers to really think outside the box when formulating plans for how they can successfully stage races and ensure the participants and volunteers can operate in a safe environment and that the risk of virus transmission is kept to a minimum.
The New Forest Marathon and Community Fund Team went above and beyond to ensure that the New Forest Marathon event went ahead and that runners had at least some form of racing they could go out and enjoy that would give them that adrenaline buzz they’ve been craving for so long.
The constant changing of government policies in regard to what people can and can’t do prevented enormous challenges, even forcing a late change of venue for the event which is usually held at Brockenhurst in the New Forest.
For this year’s edition though, they switched to the wide open space of the St Giles Estate in Wimborne, giving the runners and volunteer teams the perfect opportunity to compete or coordinate in safe and secure surroundings.
The event featured a Marathon, a Half Marathon, a 10k and a 5k race and also gave runners the opportunity to compete virtually, on a course of their choosing should they wish to do so. There were Bournemouth AC members taking part in each of the four distances and they couldn’t wait to dust off their trail shoes and get back out there for some real race action.
Only three of them were brave enough to tackle the full Marathon distance though and they were Heather Khoshnevis, Wayne Walford Jelks and Louise Broderick. Richard Brawn, Estelle Slatford, Ken Parradine and Jasper Todd were giving the Half Marathon a go, along with Kirsty O’Callaghan who has just recently joined the BAC training group and her partner Ed Malcolm.
Going for a New Forest Marathon weekend double-header, Rob McTaggart was looking to battle for supremacy in both the 5k on Saturday and the 10k on Sunday. Alex Goulding was also competing in the 10k race and a trio of budding BAC junior stars were in the line up for the 5k on the Saturday morning. They were Oscar Ewen Matthews, Emily Coltman and Erin Wells.
The New Forest Marathon event is sponsored by Garmin, meaning the prizes for winning any of the races included a nice new watch. That was enough of a temptation for Rob McTaggart to throw his hat in the ring. Looking the times from the previous year, he thought he’d be in a with a pretty good chance of a lucrative return on his entry fee.
Just nearing the end of a decent block of marathon training as well, Tag was in top form. He’d been working towards an appearance at the Wrexham Marathon which had been set up for any athlete capable of running a sub 2:40 marathon. It now looks like that race may not be going ahead but he has Dorney Lake as a backup plan so could find himself in action there instead.
For the 5k race at the New Forest though, Tag got round in 17:35 which was enough to see him comfortably pick up the win. Although that wouldn’t be a fast time for him in an ordinary 5k, given the terrain and the hilly nature of the course, that was actually a strong performance.
The next quickest was Ian Howard who’s time was 1-and-a-half minutes down on Tag’s effort. He came in at 19:05.
Oscar Ewen Matthews made it two BAC members in the top three when he recorded a time of 19:22, so that was an excellent result for him. Erin Wells posted another magnificent time to come in as first female and make it three BAC members in the top five.
She completed the course in a time of 19:53 which, considering she’s in the Under 15 age bracket is incredibly impressive. Her cross-country endeavours from last season may well have made her more adept to handle the rigours of a tough off-road course.
Erin competed in the South-West Inter Counties, the Southern and the National Cross Country Championships toward the beginning of the year, as well as all the Hampshire and Wessex League fixtures. And what’s more, she excelled in all of the above.
Also in the Under 15 age bracket, Emily Coltman ran well as well, getting round the course in a time of 22:02. That was enough to give her 12thplace in the overall standings and she was third placed female, just behind New Forest Junior Annabel White.
That was a terrific result for Emily in a race where she was facing predominantly adults of all age groups in amongst the 69 participants who successfully completed the 5k route.
Marathons often seem to conjure up a heroic tale or an inspiring story amongst the competitors with many raising money for good causes or looking to challenge themselves to achieve a certain goal.
Having set herself the challenge to train for and run a marathon over the lockdown period, Louise Broderick was all set to give it her best shot in the New Forest Marathon.
She was also raising money for Mind, the mental health charity, which was a cause she found to be very close to heart. In fact, it was the getting out and exercising aspect that she found most helps her with her own emotional, physical and mental wellbeing and she always looks to encourage and inspire others to do the same.
After seeing the huge response she’d had in terms of sponsorship and well-wishers, Louise was determined to do them all proud – and that’s exactly what she did.
Despite the constant ups and downs and testing terrain underfoot, Louise absolutely smashed it, getting round the grueling two lap course in a mightily impressive time of 3 hours 55 minutes and 26 seconds.
That saw her finish up as the 9th fastest woman out of 119 and put her in 74th position overall in a field of 409. She was also 6th out of 33 in the F40 category. It was a result that even she herself was amazed by.
Then, after completing the race, when she found out she’d raised over £1,000 for Mind, she was overwhelmed. She’d never imagined she’d attract anything close to that amount and it made the pain that she went through and the loss of a few toenails all the more worthwhile.
She’s now contemplating doing a road marathon once everything is back to normal and supporters are allowed out to watch, just for the experience. Judging by her effort on the St Giles Estate course, she’ll do pretty well in that if she does get the opportunity.
As a bit more of a seasoned marathon connoisseur, it seemed a long time to Heather Khoshnevis since she’d run her last marathon, six months ago, so she was glad to be back out racing and putting her endurance to the test again.
Seeing herself as more of a road runner though, despite enjoying some lovely trail runs of the summer, Heather wasn’t really ready for 26.3 miles of rough!!
The course at the original venue was 50/50 between road and trail, so that would have suited her better since she fines the rugged paths tough to contend with.
Feeling that she’d perhaps been a little over complacent about her endurance and not having put in enough longer training runs, she began to get into difficulty at around 18 miles.
She had been going very well up till that point at a pace of 3:40 per kilometer. Then it all fell apart somewhat from there. It is difficult though returning to something you previously took for granted.
That said, Heather soldiered on well and managed to grind out the remaining miles to finish in a time of 4:06:29. That was enough to see her pick up the F60 category win and place 13th woman. She was 113th in the overall standings.
That was still a decent result for Heather even though she may have felt it wasn’t the vintage display she’s become accustomed to. Nevertheless, it was good to put some mileage and marathon muscle memory back into the legs before she takes on the Isle of Wight Marathon in just over a week’s time.
People take part in marathons for all kinds of different reasons though. For Wayne Walford Jelks, his main goal at the moment is just to shift some timber and he knew this was a race that could certainly help him in that respect.
Driving buses and coaches for a living and the unhealthy eating habits that come with it have caused Wayne to put on a few extra pounds but running could well be the catalyst to help him get back in shape again, as it has been for so many.
Managing to stay in his fat burning zone throughout the entire run, Wayne completed the tough two lap route in a time of 5:53:54. That put him in 383rd place overall.
Ty Farrer of Huntingdonshire AC picked up the win in the Marathon race, getting round a tremendous time of 2:46:38. Only four men finished in under three hours which goes to show how hard it actually was.
Sunday’s proceedings began with the 10k race which saw Tag return to the St Giles Estate, already with one victory in the bag. Could he repeat those heroics a second day running though?
Opting for a tactical start, Tag let many of the other runners in the wave go before him, knowing he’d then have the incentive of having other athletes to chase as he worked his way round the course.
He did actually end up overtaking all the runners except one. The one he wasn’t able to catch was the man who emerged with the fastest time of all. That was Nick Harris-Fry of Orion Harriers. He got round in a phenomenal time of 35 minutes 40 seconds.
That meant Tag had to settle for second place on this occasion, finishing in a still impressive time of 36:35. It may not quite have been what he was hoping for but still, a win and a second place wasn’t a bad return for the weekend.
The other Bournemouth AC member in the race was Alex Goulding and he finished in third place, getting round in a time of 38:38.
Alex had been hoping for a bit more tarmac but there was none of that. The whole route was trail but there was quite a lot of variation in the terrain which kept things interesting at least.
Having looked at the course map beforehand, Alex was expecting the route to be quite flat but of course, looking at a 2D map you don’t really get much of a sense of the elevation you’ll be facing. Thus, it turned out to be very undulating which made it difficult to keep the tempo high.
Much like Tag, Alex wasn’t really a fan of the new format of racing. Usually he relies on other competitors around him to help him work out what sort of pace he should be going at. In this case though, he didn’t have that.
Many of the runners who had started before him were much slower than he was so he couldn’t get a gage on how fast he should be running in comparison to them. He just had to look at his watch and try to find the right pace that he’d be able to sustain for the duration and with so many hills on the route, that wasn’t easy. In fact, quite often he found he was going too slowly and needed to speed up.
It was also difficult to find which was the best path to run on. There were often three tracks where you could choose between the indented left-hand side, the right-hand side which had loose stones, or the raised bank in the middle.
Overall, Alex felt he did okay, although it would have been nice to have gone a bit faster. The terrain was just too tough though. When he reached the line, he was pleased to have got to the end.
Later on that day it was the turn of the Half Marathon runners to shine. That gave Rich Brawn and Estelle Slatford the chance to take centre stage. The star of the show though, was undoubtedly the rawest talent of them all in Jasper Todd.
Even though he’s in the Under 17 age bracket, Jasper is fast proving that he can mix it with the best of them and this half marathon would be a great opportunity for him to showcase what he can do on the big stage.
Once the race start was announced, Rich made his way over to the start area with Kirsty O’Callaghan and Ed Malcolm. Each runner was set off on their own using a traffic light system where once it turned from red to green, they were good to go.
Looking to use the Half Marathon as a training run for his impending Dorney Lake Marathon, Rich was hoping to string a good sequence of miles together at marathon pace.
Having not been running at full capacity over the lockdown period, Kirsty knew she wouldn’t be anywhere near her top form but she was excited to get that racing buzz again and also to gage where her fitness was at.
As for Ed, he made an impromptu entry on the day so hadn’t even known he was going to be running it. Since he was there with Kirsty anyway though, he thought why not give it a go.
The course started on a long, slight uphill curve and it soon became evident to Rich that he wouldn’t easily be running every mile at marathon pace. He just about managed it for the first couple of miles but then hit a very steep incline on the third mile.
On the way up the hill, Jasper had pulled up alongside Rich and Rich asked him what sort of time he was looking to do. Jasper said around 1 hour 23 minutes, which would have been extremely impressive on a course like that.
Jasper went on looking very strong and Rich hung back, conscious that it was more of a training run that a race for him and ensuring he wasn’t expending too much energy as he progressed.
On the sixth mile, Rich was caught up by his mate Neil Sexton who represents Poole Runners and Vegan Runners. The pair had often ran together in previous road race league fixtures and they decided to adopt that same strategy in this race.
They chatted as they went along throughout the remainder of the race but were still keeping to a decent pace given the ups and downs and energy sapping gravelly paths they were often running on.
Eventually they reached the long, grassy straight where they could see the inflatable finish line in the distance. It was still quite a long way away though.
They had a Fareham Crusader just in front of them and did consider putting in a sprint finish to try to catch him up. Since they’d all been set off at different times though, it probably would have been pointless as they still may not have finished ahead of him in the final standings.
Crossing the line together, Rich finished in a time that he’d recorded as just under 1 hour 27 minutes but it was given as 1:27:11 on chip time. That put him in 11th place overall and second to Sam Davis in the M30 category.
Since he’d run much faster than Rich over the first five miles, Neil had completed the course in a time of 1:25:13 which put him in 8th place in the standings.
Before they’d arrived at the finish though, Jasper had continued on his way in a very strong and solid fashion. Despite the tough and varied terrain, he’d managed to power through with extraordinary aplomb.
His earlier prediction of 1 hour 23 minutes turned out to be bang on and he concluded his race in a chip time of 1:23:01. That was enough to see him take third place in the overall standings. It really was a magnificent run from Jasper and outlined the huge potential he has for future road races.
Having been in the lead for virtually the whole race, Charlie Palmer of Bedford & County AC thought he was cruising towards victory. But he hadn’t realised that behind him, Andrew Siggers of Kenilworth Runners was actually going quicker.
In the end Andrew managed to catch up and sweep straight past Charlie so he knew at the point he’d been relegated to second place. It did kind of highlight the possibility though that in this format of racing, you could actually be the first finisher and think that you’ve won the race but yet still not be winner if someone that started much later had got round in a quicker time.
Andrew’s winning time was 1:19:12, with Charlie having to settle for the runner up spot with his time of 1:20:02.
Kirsty posted time of 1:55:09 which was way down on what she’d be capable of producing at her best. Having not raced for such a long time though and on such a difficult course, it was a decent effort from her.
She was 18th placed woman out of 219 and 5th in the F20 category. Overall she was 127th quickest out of the 551 who participated.
As for Ed, he wasn’t too far behind, coming in with a time of 2:08:48 which put him in 258th place overall and 3rd in the Senior Men’s category which was for anyone in between 20 and 30. Considering it was a spur of the moment decision for him to enter, that was a pretty satisfying result.
Finding the course very challenging, Estelle finished up with a time of 2:08:34, which was her slowest ever half marathon time. She didn’t care though really. She was just pleased to be back out there and to have a proper organised race to take part in. That was the most important milestone of all on the day.
She was 54th placed woman in the race and was 17th out of 72 in the F40 category. In the overall standings she finished up in 255th position.
Despite the grueling nature of the course, Ken Parradine wasn’t going to be stopped in his tracks and he made it round successfully, posting a time of 2:23:58. That saw him take 5th place in the M65 category and 373rd position overall.
Once again it was nice to see a running event going ahead with no hitches and with everyone doing what they could to make it as safe an environment as it conceivably could be.
The organisation from the New Forest Marathon team was impeccable and they can certainly hold their heads up high after this weekend, knowing it was a job well done.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic first began to gather pace in the UK the running scene has become something of an enigma, shrouded in uncertainty and disillusionment at every juncture.
With races being cancelled left, right and centre, athletes have been put in an untenable position, not knowing whether or not the races they are training for are actually going to be on.
Over recent weeks though we have seen the return of some competitive action, albeit sparingly and cautiously as event organizers look for new ways to preserve the safety of participants when bringing them together for a race.
Amidst all the uncertainty and trepidation though, one thing we can be sure of is – if it’s a long, hilly race on tough, off-road terrain, and if he’s in starting line up – Jacek Cieluszecki is going to be the man to beat.
Notching numerous race wins prior to the Covid-19 pandemic at a varied range of distances and terrain, Jacek has put together a magnificent back catalogue of successes over past seven or so years.
That includes a win at the Maverick inov-8 X Series Exmoor as well as a marvelous victory in the CTS Dorset Ultra, where he shattered the course record by over 30 minutes.
With his repertories in events of this type, there was every reason for JC to be optimistic going into his first race since the pandemic took hold which was the Endurancelife CTS Exmoor Ultra Marathon.
The distance was billed at 32.4 miles, incorporating 11,463ft of ascent. It was certainly going to be a stern test for all of those brave enough to take it on, but for JC, he was in his element.
With so much of his training being carried out on the unscrupulous slopes of the Purbeck, which is like a second home to him, Jacek knew his prospects of performing well were extremely high.
He couldn’t of course account for who would turn up on the day to challenge him, but it would take a very special runner to put JC to the sword in this type of domain.
It was the first time Jacek had laced up his racing trainers since the Bath Half Marathon towards the end of March so it was exciting to see him back out there doing what he does best.
The CTS Exmoor is staged in the western area of Exmoor National Park where a trail runner’s mecca lay in wait. The course took the participants to dizzying heights with hugely steep climbs and long descents dominating the proceedings throughout.
The route also features open moorland, thick wooded valleys, historical ruins, sharp cliffs and rivers and the race organizers are confident there is no course in Britain that offers so much variation in terrain in such a compact area.
In the interests of maintaining social distancing for the competitors, they were set off individually, with one heading out onto the course every 15 seconds.
The route started on a sharp downhill curve which went on for majority of the first mile, giving Jacek the opportunity to get off to a fast start.
The real climbing started at the 2.3 mile point and that was where the sheer brutality of the cliffs around Exmoor started to become evident.
To begin with it was a guy who was doing the Marathon distance, Dan Murdoch, who was leading the way, with Jacek just behind him in second place. Then it was Eddie Rolls who was also doing the Marathon distance.
JC’s closest rival in the Ultra distance stakes was David Atkinson and he wasn’t far behind, managing to run at a very similar pace in the early going.
That remained the situation until around about the 11th mile when David caught Jacek. Now the race was really hotting up.
The pair ran together up until the top of the climb on the 13th mile. Then David began to pull ahead on the descent. This was the point in the race where Jacek began to struggle.
Feeling a drop in energy levels and suffering a slight lapse in motivation, he needed to dig deep and find the grit to keep battling on.
Fortunately he had the strength of character to do so and after reaching the 20th mile he was feeling back to his old self again and was ready to give it his all for the remainder of the race.
Over the next few miles, both David and Jacek caught and overtook Dan Murdoch before he reached the end of his marathon.
David was still going well and managed to maintain his advantage over JC until they reached the bottom of the climb when they were just coming up to the 24 mile point.
It wasn’t one of the steepest climbs but it was long, and it was at a point in the race where the fatigue was really starting to set in. It was on this climb that Jacek made the decisive move.
About two thirds of the way up the ascent, he assumed pole position – and from that point on, it was all academic. Jacek began to pull away and the distance between the two of them began to grow substantially as they hit the descent on the 26th mile.
The last steep climb of the race came at the 28 mile point and Jacek was well clear and home and dry by that point. Even though he knew he had the win in the bag though, there was still the course record to go for and that was enough of a carrot to keep him driving on.
The time he had to beat was 4 hours 52 minutes and 46 seconds. It did look like he was going to comfortably do that until he missed the last turning toward the finish line.
Luckily he soon realized he’d gone wrong and was able to get back on track. Although the incident did cost him a few minutes, it didn’t matter too much in the end as he made it to finish line in an incredible time of 4 hours 44 minutes and 7 seconds.
Despite that little mishap at the end he’d managed to better the previous course record by well over 8 minutes which was a remarkable achievement.
Clocking a total of 33.3 miles in the end, Jacek managed an average pace of 8:31 minutes per mile on a route that featured over 6,600ft of elevation.
It was a fantastic return to racing for JC and showed that, pandemic or no pandemic, he is still top dog when it comes to testing endurance courses with big and brutal ascents.
There was yet more drama at the end as well when David, who had been contesting the race win with Jacek up until the last 8 miles or so, took a wrong turn adding an extra 4 kilometers onto his activity.
That resulted in him losing second place as well and the person who took advantage of his woes was actually his wife Freya. She came across line in exactly 5 hours 26 minutes, with David arriving seven seconds later.
That meant Jacek’s winning margin stood at almost 42 minutes in the end, so it was a pretty comprehensive victory, even though he’d had to work very hard for it.
In the Marathon race, Eddie Rolls caught Dan Murdoch in the end on the same climb that Jacek overtook David on, so with only about a mile left to go. The winning time for Eddie was 3:50:52, with Dan having to settle for the runner up spot with his time of 3:54:23.
Jacek’s wife Ela was also taking on the Marathon distance but she wound up following the Half Marathon route and after covering 33km, she realized she was lost and was forced to abandon.
The Exmoor course is regarded as the toughest in CTS series, which is quite a statement in itself. It’s definitely a true test of endurance for even the hardiest of trail and fell runners, as Jacek can now vouch for. It was a test that he passed with flying colours though.
Next up for JC, he’ll be returning to the region for the Exmoor Coast 55km Ultra on 3rd October, which will be another grueling one to get his teeth into.
What better way to announce the return of the running race scene than with a testing, turbulent trail marathon in the throws of deepest darkest Dorset, complete with hills aplenty, masses of mud and wonderous woodland tracks that never seem to end.
The was the offering from Badger Trail Events when they bravely stepped up to host the Dorset Ooser MarathonandHalf Marathon and in the current climate of Covid-19 related restrictions, that was no mean feat.
The event had originally been scheduled for March but was postponed after the pandemic forced all forms of mass gatherings off the agenda.
Of course, the pandemic has since brought about a fundamental change the way we live our lives which has in turn led to the vast majority of event organisers being compelled to cancel their rescheduled race dates as well.
Where there’s a will there’s a way though and Kevin and Denise Day who run the Badger Trail Events company were determined the Dorset Ooser races should go ahead and worked tirelessly to make it happen.
That meant introducing staggered start times and ensuring social distancing rules were observed wherever possible. Runners were sent off in groups of six and had to wear face masks right up the moment they went on their way.
It was certainly a little different to the crowded, claustrophobic, scrambling starts we’re used to seeing in races but ensuring sporting events operate in as safe an environment as they possibly can is paramount at the present time.
Last year’s Dorset Ooser Marathon was won by Bournemouth AC‘s very own Jacek Cieluszecki. He stormed to an emphatic victory, being the only man to complete the course in under three hours. In fact, no one else got anywhere near three hours.
In this year’s edition it was Pete Thompson who threw his hat into the ring. Well, actually he kept his hat on, but that’s another story! Pete had originally expected to do the race back in March but of course, that didn’t happen. He was destined to get his chance in the end though.
Back in March Pete was already hitting some very good form which saw him finish 5th in the Wimborne 20 and take the trophy for 1st MV35. Little did he know then that that would turn out to be his last race for such a long time.
Over the lockdown period he’d faced the same challenges as everyone else, trying to stay motivated and maintain that high level of fitness without any clear and obvious goal to aim for.
He’d managed it well though and had been registering some very impressive long runs over the past few months and was looking in good shape. The Dorset Ooser Marathon would certainly put that to the test though.
Famed for his amazing fund raising challenges, which, in some cases, captured the attention of the national media, Pete has collected vast sums of money for the mental health charity Mind.
There was of course, the 44 marathons in 44 days, where he travelled around Europe completing a marathon in each different country. Then following on from that there was the one where he ran the ran the entire route of the Tour de France in 68 days, averaging 30 miles a day.
On the day that he would have been running the London Marathon had it not been called off, Pete again demonstrated his fund raising idea creativity by attempting to run 2.6 miles backwards in under 26 minutes. Like with his other challenges, he was indeed successful, but it was a very close call and he really had to dig deep.
At the Dorset Ooser Marathon, he now had the chance to see what he had in his locker in a very tough, off-road environment. It was certainly going to different to the fast, flat roads he’d been used to from his previous racing days.
Also being a high acclaimed running coach, Pete is usually a master when it comes to race plan and strategy. He tends to start off at a steady, comfortable pace and then gradually pick it up as the race progresses. That’s exactly what he did at the Wimborne 20, gradually working his way towards the front of the field.
Having not raced for so many months though, even Pete found himself getting a touch over exuberant at the start of the race, but that was almost unavoidable under the circumstances.
The hills start immediately on the Dorset Ooser course and they do not relent until the end so it’s definitely one where a supplement of energy needs to be conserved.
Pete was going for it though and taking no prisoners. By the time the third mile had elapsed he was in lead and continued to press on from there.
Despite the hills, Pete had completed most of the miles up to mile seven at around 6:20 to 6:30 pace. Had he burnt himself out too early though, that was the question?
Some tough hills over the next forced him to slow the pace a bit but a couple of nice downhill stretches on the 11th and 12th miles saw him get back up to speed.
At the half way stage it was so far so good for Pete and his lead at the front of the field was growing progressively. He didn’t relent though and continued to attack the hills with vigour and gusto.
Not prepared to just settle for the race win, Pete wanted to continue giving it all he’s got and see how quickly he could go. Managing to stay remarkably strong over the second half of the race, it was only at mile 24 where he really started to find it tough.
The hill on that mile took a lot out of him but he was hoping he’d be able to cruise home after that. That was not so though and he was cursing his luck as he turned the corner to be greeted with one more big hill before the finish.
Being forced to swap running for walking over the last bit of the climb, he made it up nonetheless, crossing the finish line in a remarkable time of 2:59:40.
It was a quite magnificent victory for Pete, and a fairly comprehensive one at that. Almost eight minutes went by before the runner up emerged on the horizon.
That was Robert Eaton of South Derbyshire Road Runners. He got over the line in a time of 3:07:37. Then it was Philip Macgregor who took third place in a time of 3:11:37.
Kieron Mumford of Lonely Goat was the only other man to come in in under three-and-a-half hours. He posted a time of 3:27:08, giving him the Male 45-49 crown.
Over the course of the race, Pete wracked up 2,454ft of elevation which gives some indication of just how tough the Dorset Ooser Marathon is. With its 13 testing climbs to overcome, seven stiles to clamber over and two fords to cross, it isn’t one for the faint hearted.
Meanwhile, in the Half Marathon race it was Robert Doubleday of Poole AC who showed he hasn’t lost any form over the lockdown period, picking up the win in 1:24:16. Sam Davis took second place in a still very good time of 1:26:29.
For Pete though, it was not all about the winning. He classes the enjoyment of running as the most important thing, along with the massive mental health benefits that it brings.
After the race he was full of gratitude towards Kevin and Denise and all the team at Badger Trail Events for overcoming so many hurdles and putting on such a hugely successful race under very difficult circumstances.
It had been around four-and-a-half months since lockdown restrictions came into play, forcing all forms of competitive racing off the agenda.
Over the course of that time event organisers and race planners had been searching for ways and means to get races back up and running in a safe and socially distanced environment.
It had proved a very difficult proposition and the inevitable cancellation of many high profile events ensued, including all big city marathons, some of which had initially been rescheduled for October.
It came as a welcome relief to many athletes when the go-ahead was finally given for racing to return in some shape or form. In the Dorset area it turned out to be Maverick who were the first to get an event scheduled in with an appropriate strategy in place and a Covid-19 considered plan approved.
Maverick events tend to consist of three different distances for runners to choose from, namely a Short, Middle and Long race. The challenge was of course to come up with an innovative way in which they could reduce interaction between participants wherever possible and ensure gatherings were kept to a minimum.
They did this by introducing a starting system where runners could set off in waves, dictated by their chosen timeslot. They could then start their races any time during the allocated duration for that particular wave.
The lockdown period had certainly brought about its own set of challenges to runners, with the initial restrictions forcing most to train on their own.
With the absence of group club sessions and hands-on coaching guidance, runners had to find their own motivations to keep training and maintain fitness levels.
Even when coached club sessions returned, there was then still the lack of any target races to aim for to provide the incentive to train hard and commit to the cause.
Despite all those challenges, Rob McTaggart and Rich Brawn had both managed to remain focused and stay motivated in training. As a consequence, they were quite pleased with where their fitness levels were at. The only frustration for them had been that they had no races in which to showcase that form.
Hence when they discovered that the Maverick Adidas Terrex Dorset Original event was actually taking place, they jumped at the chance to compete again.
With the race being staged along the rugged Jurassic coastline from Swanage, Tag knew it wouldn’t be a course the played to his strengths. He usually excels more in a fast, flat, road race environment. But beggars can’t be choosers and it was a competitive race, nonetheless, so it was worth a go.
Having already signed up to a 10k race the following weekend, Rich felt it would be a good way to get back into race mode and given the tough terrain, it would provide some good strength benefits for following race he had penciled in.
The location of the race village was Wilkswood Farm in Swanage. The three different distances participants could choose from were 8km, 16km and 24km. Both Tag and Rich had opted for the Middle distance, which was 16km.
Arriving with some of his mates from Twemlow Track Club, Tag started off in the second wave. Rich was scheduled to go in the third wave of the four.
The starting procedure was very straight forward indeed. The runners simply just had to go to the start area at some point during the time span of their wave, pick up their number, pin it on and then head to the start line where they could set off individually or in pairs.
It wasn’t long before the climbing began, with the presence of a testing hill in the first mile that gave the athletes an early taste of what was to come.
The next couple of miles were fairly smooth sailing, or at least they should have been. There were a few undulations but nothing too excessive. The third mile contained a downhill stretch and that was where a harrowing moment for Rich occurred.
He was enjoying picking his way through the field and going past others who had started ahead of him and back-markers from previous waves.
Getting a bit over exuberant, he was tearing down the field on full throttle. The decline in the field seemed to gradually get more steep though and Rich soon found himself picking up velocity as his momentum carried him forward.
Suddenly realising he was travelling too fast he thought he’d better try and slow down. But he had no breaks!! Rather worryingly, he was completely out of control at this point and was hurtling towards the end of the field and knew if he kept going he’d have no way of stopping.
As the ground began to get blurry with the speed he was going at, the only way Rich could think of to stop was to throw himself to the ground, so that’s what he did.
Crashing to the deck on his left leg, it was a painful landing but he was grateful to have stopped without serious injury. He immediately bounced back and carried on, relieved to find that the only damage he had done was surface wounds.
On the fifth mile there were some very steep steps leading down to a valley. Remembering his fall from earlier, Rich decided to take these very cautiously, just gently walking down. Any attempt to go faster could have easily resulted in calamity and he wasn’t prepared to risk that.
Then there was a very steep climb up the other side which most people were walking up. After losing so much time going down the stairs, Rich wasn’t prepared to be delayed any further and worked hard to get up as quickly as he could.
It was the first off-road race he’d ever done on the Purbeck though and after beginning to struggle a bit, he wondered if perhaps he hadn’t quite given it the respect it deserves and would pay for setting off so quick.
Then, on the sixth mile he came to another extremely steep downhill section with steps. Again, the only viable option was to walk down gingerly which took a fair while as it was a very long hill. Once he eventually reached the bottom, there was another massive hill with steps back up the other side.
Clambering up the steps as fast as he could, he could tell that the mile split for that one would be very slow. After that though, he managed to find some rhythm and thankfully, once he was on route back to the start/finish area, the remainder of the race wasn’t too taxing.
Some nice downhill stretches over the last couple of miles allowed him to claw some time back and after one final short climb through a wooded area, he saw the inflatable finish arch.
Going over the line in a time of 1:14:40, even though it was perhaps Rich‘s slowest time ever over a 10-mile distance, he was pleased with the performance given the toughness of the terrain.
Over the course of the race he’d wracked up almost 1,200ft of elevation and if you add all the lengthy descents with steps as well, it’s easy to see why it wasn’t one for a fast time.
As for Tag, given he had started in a previous wave, he had completed his ordeal quite some time ago. Suffice to say, it wasn’t a race he will look back on overly fondly.
He didn’t even have any trail shoes so that meant he was also restricted to walking down each set of steep steps and it turned out to be more a steady run than an all-out blast from him.
Crossing the line in a time of 1:11:23, Tag still ran it over three minutes faster than Rich and it would be enough to see him finish fairly high up the leaderboard. He didn’t enjoy his foray into trail running though and probably won’t overly keen to enter another race like that any time soon.
It was the Twemlow Track Club guys who dominated the race over the Middle distance though, with Brian Underwood posting the fastest time of anyone on the day, somehow getting round in 1:06:18. That was a mightily impressive feat, producing a time like that over such a difficult course.
Jack Galloway took the runners up spot, completing the route in a time of 1:07:23. Harry Lauste took third place, finishing in 1:08:15, with Steven Rigby getting fourth in 1:10:25. Tag was fifth in the overall standings and Rich was sixth.
The quickest lady over the Middle distance was Jenny Marshall, who finished 7th overall with a magnificent time of 1:14:53. A total of 146 people successfully completed the 16km race.
In the other distances, Daniel Eyre won the Short race in a time of 32:50, followed by Georgie Lambert who was second in 34:49 and Louise Fox was came third in a time of 35:21.
Over the Long distance, it was Toby Lambert who came out on top, putting in a brilliant performance to complete the 24km route in 1:42:51.
James Phillips took second place in a still very impressive time of 1:45:57, with Dasos Gonnella registering a time of just two seconds slower to take third place in 1:45:59.
Although it won’t be one that Rich and Tag will remember for their spectacular performances, the race will be remembered by all those who took part as one of huge significance.
That significance is of course, that real racing is finally back. And, after such a lengthy hiatus without it, that will be a godsend for most competitive club runners.