It had been extremely wet in the week leading up to the Hayling 10 and the rain was showing little signs of letting up on the day of the event. Having already had a good soaking on a training run a few days earlier, Rich Brawn was a little apprehensive about racing in those conditions but since he’d signed up for it, he felt he may as well go for it. As he made is journey along the M27 though, the rain was teeming down and he began to wonder what he was letting himself in for.

The race also captivated the interest of Helen Ambrosen after Bournemouth AC had signed up to the Hampshire Road Race League for the first time this season. She thought it would be great to have a different set of races to go for, many of which she hadn’t yet sampled before. It was a much higher standard than the Dorset League, with clubs like Winchester out in force, but not to be intimidated, Helen and her partner Mark set off in their luxurious camper van to make a weekend of it.

It was a very wet day in Bognor Regis on the Saturday and then on the Sunday morning Mark dropped her off at the race headquarters where she stepped out into the torrential rain. Helen prefers the rain to the 20 to 30 degree heat we had over the summer though so it didn’t really bother her. She’d been training for the Chester Marathon in the spring and the summer but had lost her way with it all after it became so hot.

Since resuming training again, she hadn’t been able to face doing long miles again so is targeting shorter distances and has modified her training accordingly. She’s been trying to speed up her tempo pace by doing some weight training two or three times a week. She’d also read a blog by Steve Way where he’d suggested doing parkrun as a 3 x 5k session. The last lap was usually quite a challenge as everyone else has gone for their coffee but she still had another one to do.

The Hayling 10 would make a nice change though to the more relaxed Sunday miles and having done a couple of the Wessex Cross Country League fixtures the day after doing her parkrun laps, she felt it was doable. She’s not certain on whether it’s making a difference but is certainly feeling much fresher and stronger than before and above all, she’s enjoying her running again, which is the most important thing.

The race appeared to be starting late, although there didn’t seem to have been any official announcement made. It may have been due to some of the runners not being able to get there in time due to the treacherous conditions on the roads. It gave Rich the chance to do some additional strides though and it was then that he bumped into former Bournemouth AC man Harry Smith who is now running for City of Salisbury.

Harry would often be a contender to win races like this but he’d seen that there was a couple of sub 30 minute 10k runners in the field. He thought that might mean it turns out to be more of a tempo run for him but you never quite know what can happen and he was prepared to give it a good go.

Both Rich and Harry had been competing in the Great South Run a couple weeks earlier and they’d both recorded new PBs, with Harry finishing in 52:16 and Rich getting round in 58:22. Although it was to be contested over the same distance though, the Hayling 10 was an entirely different prospect, as they were about to find out.

Start of the Hayling 10

After a short delay, the Hayling 10 race got going

When the race got going, the rain surprisingly seemed to stop, which was a real bonus, although most of the runners were already quite wet from making their way from the car park to the race HQ. The first couple of miles went by quite smoothly as they were on the road. On the third mile though, the course took a sharp left onto the ‘Billy Trail’. This was the old, disused Hayling Billy railway line which had been described as a gravelled footpath. It was only supposed to be 1.5 miles to do on this section but it seemed a lot longer.

The track was completely flooded, with puddles stretching right the way across with width of the path. There was no way of avoiding them. You had to pretty much plough straight through them. Helen is quite short so some of the puddles were shin deep for her. It was also quite muddy in places as well, which wasn’t ideal when wearing your best ‘fast’ shoes.

Helen Ambrosen in the Hayling 10

Helen Ambrosen was soaked through but she still enjoyed the run

Hoping to being going at around 5:45 to 5:50 pace, Rich had just about managed to stay on track for the third mile but it was getting quite tough. A Winchester runner had come up alongside him and told him it was an out and back section and that they’d be coming back along the Billy line the way they’d come. Rich was hoping that he was joking, but it soon began to dawn on him that he wasn’t.

There was one very hairy moment when Rich slipped on some mud and almost lost his balance. Somehow he managed to stay upright and carry on but he decided at that point to abandon his hopes of getting a fast time. It was now just going to be a battle to stabilise his position and ensure he could at least keep his time respectable. The section along the Billy line had seemed a bit like trying to do a cross country race in Next Percenters.

Helen Ambrosen comes past in the Hayling 10

It had been quite an experience running along the flooded Billy Trail

When he got back on the road, Rich was doing around 6 minutes per mile, or just under, but he knew it wouldn’t be quick enough to challenge his Great South Run time. He had lost motivation a bit though and was losing places as the race progressed. There was quite a tough headwind or crosswind to contend with over the last couple of miles as well and he really began to struggle and slow down significantly.

He was now starting to wonder whether he’d even make it round under the hour so he was quite pleased when he arrived on the approach to finish and saw that he could still make it in for a sub 60. Clocking a time of 59:45, Rich finished in 24th place and 6th in the MV40 category. He was quite disappointed with that but acknowledged that the conditions were far from ideal on the day.

Helen Ambrosen heads toward the finish line in the Hayling 10

Helen heads toward the finish to conclude her Hayling 10 activity

Crossing the line in 1 hour 28 minutes and 30 seconds, Helen finished 378th overall and was 4th in the FV60 category. Out of all the women in the race, she came in 101st. It was certainly competitive in the more mature age categories and and the first over 60 lady, Christina Kluth, of Hedge End Running Club, got round in a very impressive 1:14:52.

Cassie Thorp of City of Portsmouth was 1st female, registering a magnificent time of 58:27. It was a great battle between Lucy Elliott of Winchester & District and Jaqueline Rocklife of Avon Valley Runners for 2nd place woman, with Lucy coming out on top. They were also both vying for the 1st FV50 spot, with Lucy finishing in 1:02:07 and Jacqueline clocking a 1:02:20. Emma Jolley of City of Portsmouth was 4th female in 1:02:40.

Rich Brawn after the Hayling 10

Rich Brawn managed to get in in under an hour despite the treacherous conditions

Right at the front of the race there was an enthralling battle going on between Kurt Taylor of Bristol & West and Andrew Penney of Hercules Wimbledon and Harry was managing to stay with them to form a three man lead group. When they started heading down towards the seafront on the last couple of miles though, there were quite a few out and back sections and roundabouts and the course became a little chaotic.

In the end Harry began to lose a bit of ground to Kurt and Andrew but they then got directed the wrong way, which meant that at one point, Harry was actually in the lead. A marshal then tried to stop him from running as well and he didn’t know what to do. He kept going but Kurt and Andrew managed to reel him back in after that and in the end it was Kurt who came out on top in a lightening quick time of 51:21.

Andrew arrived shortly after to take 2nd place in 51:36, with Harry crossing the line in 3rd place in a sensational time of 51:44. He’d done incredibly well to hang in there with the sub-30 10k guys and that certainly shows how strongly he’s running at the moment. His average pace for the run was a very impressive 5:09.

Those three were way ahead of everyone else and over four minutes went past before two Winchester guys arrived to take 4th and 5th place. They had also had similar problems in being sent the wrong way but had managed to get back on track, with Guy Brayn finishing in 55:53 and Ben Findlay coming in in 55:58.

Helen Ambrosen and Rich Brawn after completing the Hayling 10

Helen and Rich were happy that they’d braved the weather and done the race in the end

In terms of league points, the top two weren’t in the Hampshire Road Race League so Harry was 1st scorer, with the two Winchester athletes 2nd and 3rd. Tristan Cooper of City of Salisbury was next in in 56:08, making it a very interesting battle for the top team position. William Purnell of City of Salisbury was 5th scorer in 57:21, with Joe Driscoll of Winchester 6th in 57:51.

George Bellfield sealed the win for the fixture for Winchester when he arrived as 7th scorer, in 58:04. That strengthened Winchester’s position at the top of the table further, although Salisbury were making a real game of it.

In Division 2, Hardley Road Runners won the fixture and leapfrogged Andover to assume top position for the season so far. Despite not fielding a team, Bournemouth AC remained in 1st place in Division 3 but Hatch Warren made up some ground on them after finishing 3rd in the fixture. It meant Bournemouth AC would likely need to field a team in the Gosport Half Marathon to maintain top spot with a host of clubs hot on their heels. Amazingly, no clubs in that division had fielded a team in all three fixtures thus far.

In the ladies league, Winchester had won all three fixtures thus far and were in a commanding position, with Lordshill in 2nd and Hedge End 3rd. In the 3rd division, which is the one Bournemouth AC were in, most clubs haven’t been getting a team out but Pompey Joggers had in the last couple of races so they were top of the standings.

In the men’s B team standings, Winchester and Alton are currently level at the top of Division 1, with Stubbington top of the 2nd division that Bournemouth AC are in, with Eastleigh in 2nd.

In the men’s A team league, the battle for top spot in the 3rd division was nicely poised going into the next fixture, which was the Gosport Half Marathon. The BAC men knew they needed to get a team out and put in a decent performance in that race to maintain top spot, so the pressure was certainly on and it was all to play for.