For the second year running, Stu Nicholas got the call to pull on the fabled green Ron Hill vest and represent Dorset at the South West Inter Counties Team Half Marathon Championships. And it wasn’t a surprise he got called up again after his fabulous sub 74 minute effort last time round. He proved that day that he was worthy of competing with the very best over that distance.
As it was the previous year, the race was amalgamated into the Chippenham Half Marathon, so those representing Cornwall, Devon, Wiltshire and Dorset were battling for supremacy but there were also other runners in it who were not part of that competition.
It was two weeks on from Stu’s appearance at The Beast which is renowned for being one of the toughest races on the Dorset circuit. Finishing 6th in that encounter, it was the third race of five in the Purbeck Trail Series, with Stu having already secured a win in the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon in race one.
He aggravated an injury in that race which caused him some problems afterwards but he still managed to compete in the last three Hampshire Road Race League fixtures, helping Bournemouth AC to a third division title win and promotion to the next tier up. He then went on to finish 2nd in the brutal Giants Head Marathon.
Once again, it was Sarah Swift and Rich Nelson who put together the Dorset squad for the South West Inter Counties Team Half Marathon Championships. They’d managed to assemble a strong looking side who were sure to put up a very good fight, just as they did at South West Inter Counties Team 10k Championships which was held on the ‘Lightening Bolt’ course at Langley Burrell. Lewis Clarke, Thomas Corbin and Charlie Williams were part of the Inter Counties team for the 10k Championships and they were each recruited again for the Chippenham Half.
Corey Stone of Egdon Heath Harriers completed the men’s team of five. He was in Under 20 bracket but had managed a 1 hour 24 minute half marathon at the Puddletown Plod which has a fairly undulating course. He also ran a 62:30 time at the Portland 10 over an extremely hilly course.
The Dorset ladies were without Vicki Ingham and Caitlin Peers for this one and they were far away their fastest runners at the Langley Burrell 10k. They had Jenny Lee Marshall of Purbeck Runners, Hannah Martyn of Egdon Heath Harriers, Jenny Walker-Leach of Lytchett Manor Striders, Vicky Rutter of Westbourne and Maria Everett of Littledown Harriers.
The course for the Chippenham Half Marathon is all on country roads so it’s fairly quiet most of the time with not a lot of crowds. It is predominantly flat though which makes it a very quick course. They’re often tree-lined roads as well which makes it sheltered from the wind.
There’s a small downhill slope in the first mile which can see the pace rocket a touch and then it’s a slight incline for some of the second mile and then back down in the third mile. Stu managed an opening split of 5:32, before following it up with a 5:38 and a 5:33. It was a quick start but not necessarily too fast for him to be able to maintain over a half marathon distance.
He then clocked a 5:47 for his fourth mile before settling into a rhythm of roughly 5:40 pace for the next four flat miles. The next two miles were slightly uphill which knocked Stu’s pace down to 5:47 and then 6:08. After another small climb incline it was downhill for the last kilometre or so. With a final mile split of 5:33, Stu raced into the finish to clock a time of 1:14:57 which put him in 14th place overall.
Although he was a minute slower than he was the previous year, Stu felt like he still ran it well and did more overtaking than getting overtaken so that was the sign of a strong run. In the South West Inter Counties team race he finished 11th which was a good result and he was the fourth of a consecutive quartet of Dorset runners to get over the line.
The first of them was Lewis Clarke who came in in 11th position, clocking a time of 1:14:11. That put him 8th in the Inter Counties team race.
Charlie Williams then arrived within the next 30 seconds to claim 12th place in 1:14:40. That was 9th in the Inter Counties team race. Then five seconds later, Thomas Corbin crossed the line to record a 1:14:45 which put him 13th and 10th in the Inter Counties team race.
It was an impressive display from the Dorset contingent. Completing the scoring team for the greens with no stripe, Corey Stone arrived in 48th place with a time of 1:23:09, making him 1st Under 20. That made him 26th scorer for the South West Inter Counties team competition.
That was enough to put the Dorset men 3rd in the Inter Counties team race, behind Devon and Cornwall. It was a solid result for the Dorset men and they certainly weren’t far away from being the number one county in the South West.
For the Dorset ladies team, Jenny Lee Marshall was 19th placed female crossing the line in 1:28:55. That put her in 82nd place overall and out of the Inter Counties team competitors, she was 37th and 16th female.
Hannah Martyn completed the course in 1:31:58 which put her in 97th place overall and made her 22nd female. In the Inter Counties team competition she was 38th and 17th female.
Next to arrive in the plain green Dorset vest was Jenny Walker-Leach who clocked a time of 1:34:26, putting her 119th overall and 26th lady. On the Inter Counties list, she was 39th and 18th female.
Getting over the line in 1:37:34, Vicky Rutter took 143rd place overall and was 31st female. For the Inter Counties team matchup she was 41st and 20th female.
That left Maria Everett to round off the proceedings for the Dorset women. Registering a time of 1:40:50, she was 184th overall and 39th lady. For the Inter Counties team competition, she came 43th and was 22nd female.
For the women, it was Devon who won the South West Inter Counties team competition. They had three runners in the first four and six in the top ten, making it a convincing with from them. Cornwall just edged it ahead of Wiltshire to take 2nd place, meaning the Dorset ladies had to settle for 4th on this occasion.
The overall race was won by Shaun Antell of Devon in a mightily impressive time of 1:08:25. Simon Nott of Wiltshire was 2nd in 1:10:31, with Matthew Lock of Witney Road Runners finishing 3rd in 1:11:12. He wasn’t part of the Inter Counties team race though so it was Josh Benford of Cornwall who took 3rd in 1:11:59.
Jim Cole of Devon finished 5th overall in 1:12:11 and Ed Knudsen of Wiltshire was 6th in 1:12:31. Jonny Suttle of Bristol and West was 7th man over the line in 1:13:15, although he wasn’t part of the Inter Counties team competition.
For the ladies, it was Rachel Felton of Stroud & District who was first in in a time of 1:20:27. That put her 29th overall. She wasn’t part of the Inter Counties team competition though. Sammy Antell of Devon topped that list, getting round in 1:21:19 which put her in 34th place overall.
Stephanie Hutton of Cornwall was 3rd female and 35th overall in a time of 1:21:19. Then it was Nikki Kelly of Devon who took 4th female spot and 36th overall in 1:21:34.
Fortunately Stu had timed his run well and managed to finish just before the apocalyptic rain came down. He had two races booked in for the following weekend, being part of the Southern Road Relays squad on the Saturday in Aldershot before tackling the Black Hill 10k in the Purbeck Trail Series on the Sunday. Then the weekend after that, it was the Solent Half Marathon for the Hampshire Road Race League. That was a race that he was victorious in last year.