BAC runners had a very enjoyable and successful weekend in Guernsey with Jon Sharkey, making his debut in the event, putting in a series of good consistent performances which deservedly earned him 1st place in the overall standings. This is possibly the first time a BAC athlete has achieved this, certainly the first time for many years at the very least.
Over 60’s vet Ian Graham competed for the sixth time and his consistent marathon training over the last few months was rewarded with first place overall in his age category and two first places and two second places in the four events.
Another of our over 60’s vets, Chairman Dave Parsons, competed for the fourteenth successive year and despite being somewhat undertrained, was part of a composite team including Ian which received the third place award for composite teams in the Cross Country Relay event (more of this later!)
The weather in Guernsey, as on many islands, is always unpredictable and is usually windy. This year proved no exception and although the worst of the heavy rain showers held off for most of the races, very strong winds did play a part in keeping some of the times down.
Good Friday 10k – The race was held on the current flat, out and back course on the North of the Island. With the first half of the race being run into the teeth of the strong winds, it was all a bit cagy at the front of the field for the first couple of miles. Things then hotted up getting towards the half way point and it was during this part of the race, that one of the top local runners, Steve Dawes, took hold of the race and went into a lead which he was to hold to the finish in a time of 33.42. Jon Sharkey established himself in second place by halfway and places at the front very much stayed the same on the return run to the finish with Jon coming home in a very creditable second place in 34.17. Meanwhile, Ian Graham was setting down a marker in what was to prove a very competitive over 60 age category. He finished in an excellent time of 41.01 in 32nd place overall and was well over a minute ahead of the second runner in his age group. Further down the field, Dave Parsons had his own private battle with Guernsey’s over 60 veteran, Brian Holden, eventually getting the better of him to finish 76th in 45.59 (6th Over 60)
Saturday ‘Full Course’ Cross Country – this race was held on the traditional course on L’Ancresse Common and the field was boosted by the arrival of a contingent of five runners from Aldershot/St Mary’s including Olympian Steph Twell who is continuing her recovery from her serious ankle injury. These five fairly quickly established themselves at the front of the field and Rowan Axe went on to win by over a minute. Steph was making a determined effort to break the 21 year old course record of 25.57 held by New Zealand international Lesley Morton. Despite the windy conditions, Steph came into the finishing straight in 5th place overall and with the spectators cheering her on she crossed the line with the time showing 25.56, however, before she had time to catch her breath, it was announced that the official time was 25.57 and the record had been equalled.
Jon Sharkey made the decision to concentrate on holding off his rivals for the overall competition and ran a strong and sensible race to come home in 6th place in 26.37. With Steve Dawes in heavy marathon training and opting not to run in the remainder of the races, Jon had now moved into the overall lead, a position which he was not to relinquish over the weekend. Likewise, Ian Graham, cemented his position in his category with a very strong race. Despite taking a terrible tumble about a third of the way into the race which left him with blood pouring down his face and lots of cuts and bruises, he battled on to finish in a very good time of 32.52 for 35th place and, more importantly some 22 seconds ahead of the second placed O60. Dave Parsons ran a steady race and enjoyed the tail wind over the last mile to finish in 36.36 in 73rd place (8th O60).
Easter Sunday ‘Stonecrusher’ Relay – This race for teams of four was held on this course which became established a few years ago. Each leg is two miles long and consists of a narrow, twisty and hilly course which challenges even the strongest of runners. For the last couple of years, Ian and Dave have teamed up with fellow over 60’s Geoff Scott (Poole Runners) and Mick Woods (AFD). This year Mick did not make the trip but suggested that Steph Twell would be happy to take his place. Dave and Ian gave Steph the option to opt for another team but she insisted that she was ‘well up for it’. In true gentlemanly fashion, Dave Ian and Geoff insisted that it should be ladies first and suggested that she run first leg. In the meantime, Jon, teaming up with friends and runners from Egdon Heath for another ‘composite’ mixed team, also ran first leg. When the race began, Rowan Axe from the AFD team shot into the lead and was to go on to run the fastest leg of the day. Steph quickly established herself in second place with Jon closely following her every move. This continued for most of the leg with Steph constantly pushing up the hills and Jon shadowing her. Then with about 200 metres left, Jon kicked and went past and the two of them swept into the finish with Jon just edging it in 10.37 and Steph just 2 seconds behind. Ian then took over from Steph in 3rd place with everything to lose and very little if nothing to gain. It then occurred to both Geoff and Dave that having Steph in the team was adding extra pressure especially as they would be the first to admit that 2 miles over the country was not their speciality! Ian ran a strong leg and stormed into the finish in what we comfortably expected would be the fastest O60 time of the day – 13.34, leaving the team still 4th overall. Geoff then gave it all he could and ran a very solid and respectable leg of 14.40, only being overtaken by very young and fast athletes, to leave them in 8th place. It was a little unclear what position in the composite/mixed team race they were. Suffice it to say, Geoff’s instructions/advice to Dave as he took over was, we might be winning!!!!! Dave set off hoping that he could avoid being swamped by a whole set of younger and fitter runners. In the event, he ran 15.35, just one second slower than the previous year and lost just two places. This meant that they finished 10th out of 38 teams and perhaps more importantly, a place on the podium as 3rd composite team. The only slight disappointment was that Ian was pipped for the over 60 fastest leg by an astonishing run by Martin Miller of Chichester who was classified as having run 13.20. Nevertheless, both Jon and Ian were now well clear of their rivals for the overall categories and, barring accidents, were on course for deserved wins.
Easter Monday Half Marathon – The day of this race on the long established flat out and back course, dawned with the threat of very heavy rain but, more importantly, a very strong headwind over the last 4-5 miles back into St Peter Port. Jon knew exactly what the task was. He was to ignore the AFD runners and just make sure he ran a solid and sensible race to ensure overall victory. This is exactly what he did, finishing in 5th place in the race in 1.14.22 to score a total of 17 points and some 13 points clear of second. The Half Marathon attracts a few runners who don’t participate in the other races and Ian now had to contend with Shetland’s retired postman Bill Adams who has made this race his own in the O60 category for many years. Bill set out in his customary fashion, but Ian tracked him to over half way and gave him a lot to think about before Bill pulled away in the last few miles. Ian was to finish in a highly creditable 35th place in 1.30.56and a total of 156 points, a massive 35 points ahead of the second O60. Dave, in his more comfortable longer distance race, was running really strongly for 8 miles and was on for a sub 1.40 clocking before he hit the headwind and suffered in the closing stages. Nevertheless, he finished in 86th place in 1.44.26, 5th O60 in the race and 40th overall (6th O60).
Overall – a fantastic weekend of racing and great camaraderie amongst fellow athletes. Long may this fabulous weekend continue.
Postscript – This report cannot be considered to be complete without mentioning that Ian Graham was not awarded the prize for first O60. He was, in fact, awarded the prize for first O50 as both he and the second O60 beat all the 50-59 year olds. So, many congratulations to Ian and we all send our best wishes to him for the forthcoming North Dorset Marathon which will be his first race in his new O65 category.