Damien Boyle in Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k

Damian Boyle and Andy Gillespie launch into 5,4,3,2,1 Salisbury

Damien Boyle in Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k
For the second year running, Damien Boyle took on the 50k distance at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event along with Bournemouth AC teammate Andy Gillespie

Taking its name from the landmarks you pass on route, the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 is a trail run event of varying distances ranging from a 5k walk to a 50k run, including a half marathon (21k) and a full marathon (42k). There’s also a 20 miler (33k) and numerous other walking distances ensuring the event does indeed provide something for everyone.

The routes take their respective participants across footpaths, bridleways and quiet country roads in and around the Salisbury Wessex area. Several sites of historical and scientific interest are passed on the way and the routes also pass through Country Estates not open to the general public. Each course is carefully carved out to give the runners or walkers a unique flavour of English heritage.

As mentioned above, the name derives from notable landmarks encountered throughout the route. You have five rivers, four hills, three large country estates, two castles and one cathedral.

It was no surprise to see that the two Bournemouth AC members at the event, Andy Gillespie and Damian Boyle had both opted for the longest and toughest of the various distances on offer, the 50k ultra-marathon.

Neither Andy or Damian are strangers to ultra-distance events though. Andy is a veteran of 88 marathons now after his recent escapade at the Devon Coast Challenge where he ran three marathons in three days.

Andy Gillespie took on the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k race
Andy recently completed the Devon Coast Challenge, an event consisting of three marathons in three days

Damian has also done some big challenges in his time, not least in December 2016 when he completed the 100k Ultra Trail Cape Town, which incorporated the infamous Table Mountain, plus a couple of other extremely high peaks. Coming 16th out of the 64 finishers and 3rd vet, it was a cracking result for Damian.

In May of this year he took on the Ultra Trail Snowdonia 50-mile race, which included lots of technical terrain and even a fair few scrambling sections. Finishing in 27th place, Damian amassed over 19,000 ft of elevation throughout the course of the race, completing the race in 16 hours 12 minutes.

Damian Boyle at the Ultra Trail Cape Town 100k
Damian completed the Ultra Trail Cape Town in December 2016, a 100k mountain race

Both Andy and Damian competed in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 last year, with Damian coming in in a very impressive 18th position out of 290 finishers. His time of 4 hours 32 minutes and 52 seconds put him 2nd in the M45 category. Completing the course in 5 hours 41 minutes and 52 seconds, Andy came in 117th place and was 4th in the M55 category.

That was then though. The question was, could they improve on those times this year? For Damian, it was his last long run before he takes on the CCC 101k which is part of the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc annual festival of running.

He started out strongly, determined to do well and put in a performance that would give him a confidence booster before his big target race. As is the aim with most ultras, the idea was not to slow down too much as the race progressed.

Reaching the 22k checkpoint in 1 hour 43 minutes and 23 seconds, Damian was, at that point, sitting in 8th position and looking strong. The next checkpoint came at 31k, with Damian arriving in a time of 2:31:36, putting him in 9th place.

Damien Boyle in amongst the plains of Salisbury
It was Damien’s last long run before taking on the CCC at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc event so he was determined to run well

From there it was all systems go to the finish, which Damian arrived at in a stellar time of 4 hours 16 minutes and 45 seconds. That gave him a very well earned 13th place overall and 2nd in the M45 category, which was a very pleasing result.

Managing not to slow down too much in the latter stages of the race, Damian had an impressive average pace of 8 minutes 15 seconds per mile. Funnily enough, before the race Damian had earmarked an 8:15 average pace for the for the distance so as it turned out, he was bang on.

It was almost 16 minutes quicker than his time from last year as well so a very good result for Damian and bodes well for his chances in the CCC.

Damien Boyle in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event 50k
Damian’s time of 4:16:45 put him in 13th place overall 2nd in the M45 category

As for Andy, he was also hoping to see a vast improvement on his time from last year. In fact, he thought he might even be in with a shout of a sub-5-hour finish.

The day before the race, Andy had, unintentionally, clocked his best time at parkrun since March 2017, finishing in 21:45  at Blandford parkrun, so he knew he was in good form. Obviously, it wouldn’t usually be advisable to do a fast parkrun the day before a 50k race but Andy takes what he can get when he can get it.

The weather on the day was virtually perfect, although with the lack of rain over recent times, the ground was pretty hard for the most part.

Andy Gillespie makes his way through the heathland at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event
Andy showed he was in good form the day before the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event by running his fastest parkrun since March 2017

Andy has suffered a bit with groin pains this year but it hasn’t been hurting too much to prevent him from running. It was a concern though and he’s not sure if, in a subconscious effort to protect it, he may have tightened up a bit. On the other hand, it may just have been that it didn’t stretch enough to loosen up properly.

For a while in the race he did feel it in the hips but it wasn’t enough to severely hamper his time. Andy arrived at the first checkpoint at 22k in around 90th position, with a time of 2 hours 9 minutes and 37 seconds.

At the 31k checkpoint he was in 87th place, arriving in 3 hours 12 minutes and 29 seconds. As it panned out, he didn’t quite hit his target of a sub-5-hour finish, reaching the line in 5 hours 16 minutes and 54 seconds.

Andy Gillespie battle hard at the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 event
A good run saw Andy beat his time from the previous year by 25 minutes, crossing the line in 5:16:54

It was still a good time for Andy though and 25 minutes quicker than his time from last year, so a very solid improvement. Andy came in 6th place in the M55 category.

Both Damian and Andy can be extremely proud of their efforts in such a long and gruelling race. The fact they both made significant improvements on their times from the previous year as well demonstrates good progression.

For Damian, the training continues, although he can now look forward to lightening the load a bit as he begins to taper for the CCC. As for Andy, he might just have time for a bit of rest and recuperation before his next big challenge arrives, whatever that may be.

Andy Gillespie makes his way along the trails in the Salisbury 5,4,3,2,1 50k
Another endurance event was ticked off the list for Andy and no doubt he’ll be looking forward to another one soon enough