The start of the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

Making his seventh appearance at the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon, Stu Nicholas was looking to come out on top for a third successive year

Winning the last two editions of the race, Stu Nicholas was lining up for the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon looking to make it three in a row. In last year’s race he didn’t even realise he had won as there was a runner ahead of him but that runner ended up collapsing and needing medical treatment. The year before that, Stu decided to share the spoils with City of Portsmouth man Robert Fryer with the pair going over the line together in a superb sub 2:40.

In the 2019 race, Stu finished second, with the race ending just as he’s got to within 30 seconds of reeling in the race leader Pete Concannon. In the 2017 he had been vying for top spot with Neil Kevern of Bracknell Forest but went on to win it, passing Neil at the 20 mile point.

In the 2015 race, Stu came 2nd to Bournemouth AC teammate and legend Steve Way. There have been so many adventures he’s been on with this race and so many memories. In this year’s race, he was up against a couple of very high calibre athletes in James Baker of Chichester Runners and Phil Mant of Aldershot Farnham & District.

Quite a well known runner in the south east, James Baker is a serial race winner and has finished first in just about every single parkrun he’s done for the past three years. And they’re always different parkruns as well. Unless he just doesn’t hand his bar code in if he gets beaten. Collectively, he won over 1,100 races and parkruns which is an incredible feat.

Phil Mant ran the London Marathon last Spring in 2:46:37, so he had good pedigree as well and could also be a danger man. Stu would have his work cut out if he was going to prevail this time round.

Stu Nicholas starting the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

And their off!… The 2023 Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon gets underway

Opening with a 5:49 for his first mile split, Stu made a very fast start. He then followed that up with a 5:58 for his second mile and then a 6:07 for his third. He then produced a 5:57 for his fourth mile and a 6:04 for his fifth mile before registering another 5:57 for his sixth mile.

At the first checkpoint, 10.5k in, Stu was in the lead, just a few seconds ahead of James Baker. But there was a long way to go yet of course and anything could happen. Stu continued with a 6 minute mile for his 7th and then a 6:05 for his eighth before posting a 6:13 for his 9th mile which contained a couple of slight inclines. Then he was back to 5:56 for his 10th mile.

At that point though, James Baker made his move and began to pull away from Stu. Getting through the next few miles at 6:05 pace or just over, Stu reached the half way point in 1:19:53. James had stolen a march on him though and was 24 seconds ahead at the turning point.

Stu Nicholas in the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

Stu had some tough competitors to overcome this time round

The course for the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon is basically an out and back, heading round to Hayling Island and then back to Southsea the exact same way.

Going through his 14th mile in 6:13, Stu then put in a 6:04 for his 15th mile and a 6:09 for his 16th mile. He’d been really strong up till that point but that was when he started to find it tough going. His pace dropped a touch, with a 6:22 for his 17th mile, followed by a 6:25 for his 18th mile.

He now had to dig deep into his reserves to keep pushing on. Registering a 6:42 for his 19th mile, he then took a wrong turn on his 20th mile, adding a bit of extra distance to the route. This may have been where the course had gone of previous years that Stu had done it, hence the confusion.

He managed to get back on track though, making it to the 31.5k checkpoint in 2 hours 2 minutes and 12 seconds. He was now four minutes behind James Baker though who had managed to keep his pace going incredibly well.

Battling on valiantly though, Stu continued to press on towards the finish line but he was unable to recapture his earlier pace. He then got overtaken by Phil Mant, knocking him down to third place and that was where he finished, getting over the line in 2 hours 48 minutes and 40 seconds.

It was still a decent time from Stu though and he was pleased with that, given he hadn’t done been doing anywhere near as many marathons as he usually does. Hence, his endurance wasn’t probably quite at the level it usually is.

It was James Baker’s sixth consecutive marathon win so there was certainly no shame in losing out to him. He clocked a time of 2:40:51 with an average pace of 6:04, since the distance came up at 26.55 miles. For Stu it was slightly longer though since he took a wrong turn, putting his at 26.77 miles.

That might just have cost Stu second place in the end as Phil Mant made it to the line in 2:47:51, so 49 seconds ahead. They were the only three athletes to finish under three hours so they were way ahead of the rest of the field.

Stu and Anna with their medals from the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

Stu and Anna with their well earned medals

There was also a 50k Ultra Marathon and a Half Marathon race on that day and Stu’s wife Anna competed in the Half Marathon race. She finished in 1:59:39 which made her 30th female and 177th overall. That race was won by Richard Lovejoy of Aldershot Farnham & District in 1:17:37, with Jack Penfold taking second in 1:18:44 and Joe Wade of Ryde Harriers coming third in 1:18:48.

The 50k Ultra was won by Thomas Adams in 3:35:59, with Phil Avery of Liss taking second in 3:38:16 and Michael Kwoka of Chichester taking third in 3:38:49. Alice Robinson of Worthing & District Harriers was first female and fifth overall in 3:48:04.

Anna, Stu and friends at the Portsmouth Coastal Waterside Marathon

Anna and Stu met up with friends after the race and enjoyed a pint

Ultimately it had been a really good season for Stu though with plenty of standout moments to look back on with pride. He’d finished 4th in the men’s individual table for the Hampshire Road Race League which was a mightily impressive result, given the standard of the competition he was up against. Plus he’d massively helped drive the team on to promotion in their first season in the league.

He’d also had his fair share of individual successes, winning the Dark Valley Half Marathon, the Larmer Half Marathon and the Dorset Ooser Half Marathon. He also came very close to winning the Purbeck Trail Series, just being eclipsed by Stuart Holloway of City of Salisbury in the end.

Stu enjoying a beer after the race

The refuelling process is always a crucial part of any marathon exploit

He also netted two 10k PBs, one at the Netley 10k which he did in 34:43 and then another one six weeks later at Lordshill, taking a further six seconds off. Perhaps his best performance of the year though was his incredible Great South Run effort, where he finished in 54:46. That was over two minutes quicker than his previous best time for the distance and he even surprised himself that day by how well he ran.

Stu and Anna enjoying some post race refreshments

Stu and Anna were happy after replenishing those lost calories

On top of all that Stu has continued to finish first at Bournemouth parkrun on just about every single weekend, demonstrating remarkable consistency. In fact, he’s topped the standings at Bournemouth parkrun over 100 times now which is quite incredible.

Thrusting himself straight back into racing action in the new year, Stu would be competing for the club in both the Junction Broadstone Quarter Marathon on New Years Day and the Stubbington 10k the weekend after. He’s always been a real team player as well which has been great for Bournemouth AC and he’s often been willing to put the needs of the team above or alongside his personal goals. That has been a huge help to the club in their quest to fight for league success on all fronts.