Stu Nicholas looks a cool customer

Stu Nicholas was one of the top men in the field at the Giants Head Marathon

It is very rare for Stu Nicholas to go into a marathon feeling undertrained. In fact, usually his training is such that he doesn’t even need any special dispensation for a marathon. What he does on a regular basis is enough to put him in a position to do well in a marathon and quite likely win it.

Going into the Giants Head Marathon at Sydling St Nicholas, it was a very different story. It was around the end of March sort of time when he suffered some sort of hamstring strain. He was out of action for a week after that before easing himself back into it. Then he ran the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon which he ended up winning but with a slightly more hurried finish than he would have liked.

He had another couple of weeks off after that before resuming training at the beginning of May. He then returned to race action at the Alton 10 on 14th May. Then the weekend after that he had the Netley 10k, leaving him with just a few weeks to get some long runs in before the Giants Head. It certainly wasn’t the ideal preparation for such a challenging marathon but if anyone could still produce a strong performance under those circumstances, it was Stu.

Stu Nicholas in the Giants Head Marathon

A hamstring injury had prevented Stu from training consistently in the build up

As you would expect with a White Star event, the route was pretty much up and down the whole way, with some extremely steep inclines. The elevation gain was over 3,000ft. The race takes it’s name from its close proximity to the iconic Cerne Abbas Giant. That’s the white chalked silhouette of a man  that can be seen on the hillside.

Interestingly, the Giants Head Marathon was actually the first ever White Star Running event, with the inaugural race being held in 2013. It was very much the beginning of a dynasty, evolving into its own running community with a vast array of trail running events for them to get involved in.

The Giants Head weekend provided the opportunity for runners to camp on site, with the Marathon and the Sydling Hill Race, which is about 11k, taking place on the Saturday. Then they have a barn dance in the Village Hall on the Saturday night before the Bell Race and the Giants Half take place on the Sunday. For the Bell Race, participants have to run up a massive hill before performing a task set by the team at the top, grabbing a cow bell and running back down again.

Stu Nicholas heading down the track in the Giants Head Marathon

Stu heads down the track

Stu’s wife Anna has been doing a lot of the races with him recently and has been really enjoying them. This one was obviously taking things up a notch though and she knew it was going to be a real challenge. It was one she was looking forward to though, but with a certain degree of trepidation.

It wasn’t far into the race before the first big hill came into play. That set the tone for what was to follow in a very lumpy route with relentless climbs throughout. Johnny Suttle of Bristol & West got into an early lead and under normal circumstances, Stu would have probably tried to go with him. Due to his lack of training though, he decided it would be best just to let Jonny go.

Stu makes his way through the field

Stu was in second place the whole way round

Getting to the line in a mightily impressive time of 3:11:38, Jonny finished seven minutes ahead of Stu, who arrived in a time of 3:18:37 to seal the runner up spot. It had been a bit of a battle for Stu and he’d been suffering from early on in the race with his endurance not being quite at its usual level. The conditions were humid as well which didn’t help.

Stu had come in three-and-a-half minutes ahead of Alan Davies who claimed third in 3:22:14. Anna also managed to complete the race, clocking a time of 5:27:41 which put her in 162nd place overall and she was 58th female and 9th in the 35-39 category.

Alex Door with a couple of her Egdon Heath Harriers teammates

Alex Door with Joel Scragg and Matt Faramus

Continuing her good form after her first ever sub three marathon at London in April, Alex Door came in as first female, clocking a time of 4:15:56. That put her in 17th place overall.

That was the weekend after she’d done to loops of the Puddletown Plod Half Marathon as well, finishing 3rd lady in the official race which was her second loop! Her powers of recovery are verging on magical and they needed to be to enable her to produce another strong marathon run so soon after that exertion.

Alex Door in the Giants Head Marathon

Alex came in as first female in 4:15:56

Anna Patrickson of City of Salisbury was 2nd female, reaching the line in 4:21:32, just ahead of Michelle Attridge who was next over the line in 4:21:40. They finished 25th and 26th overall.

A total of 475 runners successfully completed the Giants Head Marathon, with 12 other participants failing to make it to the finish.

Stu gives his all as heads down the track

Stu tackled the hellacious hills and humid conditions very well

There was another Egdon Heath Harriers success in the Sydling Hill Race with Christopher Peck picking up the victory in 47:50. Allister Bristow of Erne Valley Harriers was second in 48:49 and Christian Rodiger of Littledown Harriers just outran Callum Hughes to take third place in 50:21.

Virginie Morris of Dorchester RIOT was first female in 57:14 which put her in 13th place overall.

Stu and Anna enjoying an ice cream after Giants Head Marathon

Stu and Anna making the most of the post race refreshments

In the Giants Head Half, Jack Oates was way ahead of anyone else, clocking an astonishing time of 1:26:49. The next man to arrive was Stuart Ashford and he crossed the line over 13 minutes later in 1:40:11.

Anna and Stu with their medals after the Giants Haead Marathon

Anna was very happy with her medal complete with spinning appendage

Daniel Edmunds of Westbourne was third in 1:41:40 and Emma Shepherd of New Forest Runners was first female, clocking a time of 2:02:18. That put her in 12th place overall.

Given the circumstances, it was an excellent performance from Stu and although he had to settle for second place on this occasion, it was still a good achievement to make it round a course like that in the time he did.

Stu and Anna were both was back in action a couple of weeks later at the Lordshill 10k, with the race representing the final showdown of the Hampshire Road League season. With the Third Division title already sewn up, it was a bit of a procession for the Bournemouth AC men but they still brought a strong squad with big numbers to the table, looking to end the season on a high.