After several months of hard, focused, dedicated training, Trev Elkins was just about ready to tackle his first ever ultra marathon. This was back in March by the way. That was when the Run to the Sea Ultra Marathon was originally scheduled to take place. Then Covid happened.
Literally about a week before Trev was due to take his place on the start line, everything began shutting down. Many races were getting cancelled, mass gatherings were denounced and lockdown restrictions came into force. Thus, the Run to the Sea Ultra Marathon was called off.
They didn’t cancel it though, they just rescheduled it to October. Of course that was a bit of a blow for runners like Trev who had spent months following a training plan and conditioning themselves for the big day.
It was what it was though and Trev just had to accept what had happened and move on. Disappointing as it was, there were of course bigger concerns in the world at that time.
After four or five months of no racing at all, events gradually began to return. With event organisers taking extra measures to ensure social distancing could be maintained, racing was at last back on scene.
That then meant that the rescheduled date for Run to the Sea Ultra Marathon was now looking a realistic proposition. This time Trev had had a lot less time to train for it, since he hadn’t known for sure if it was going to be on. He did what he could though in the time he had and he was ready to give it a good go.
One of the newer members to the Bournemouth AC ranks, Harry Smith, was also in the race that day as well. Harry came from Craig Palmer’s former club, Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers who are based near Luton.
He found work in Salisbury though and since moving down has been training a lot with Craig and Dave Long. Thus, it made sense for him to join a local club so he decided to make the transfer to BAC.
Although he was running a 50 kilometre race, Harry doesn’t really see himself as a long distance runner. He specialises more at the 5k distance. In fact, he’s never even run a marathon before. But he had done a few other 50k races, including the 5,4,3,2,1 Salisbury.
What he likes about ultras though is that the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed. You stop and chat to the marshals at the aid stations and generally just take it at your own pace.
Marathons are completely different. In a marathon, it’s more about going at the fastest possible pace you can that you’ll be able to maintain over the duration of the run.
So, you could perhaps say he’s one of those rare breeds or runner who focuses on both 5k and 50k distances. There can’t be too many of those around though to be fair.
Trev hadn’t really done any official marathons either. He had done a virtual marathon though in August, which he completed in 3 hours 23 minutes and had had one day where he ran 20.5 miles and then a further 7.5 miles later on in the day. Compared to the races he’d done previously though, the 50k represented a big step up in distance.
The route started off in Ringwood, following the Castleman Trailway for the first 18 kilometres. Then it went down Oakley Hill and headed through Broadstone and onto Upton Country Park.
For there it went round Holes Bay, and along the coastal path through Baiter Park and Whitecliff Park. Then it was onto Shore Road heading towards the promenade at Sandbanks.
Once on the promenade, it was all the way down to Hengistbury Head where the finish awaited. The good thing about that was, there would be a tailwind for the last 12 kilometres or so.
Trev was aiming for a time of around four hours but he would have been happy with anything under 4 hours 20 minutes. His plan was to set off slowly, at about 4:50 minutes per kilometre and continue that sort of pace until he reached the promenade at Sandbanks. Then he could see what he has left from there.
Since it was his first ultra marathon though and thus unknown territory, the main aim was ultimately just to complete the race. That in itself would be a good achievement.
The runners were able to select their own start times which enabled the race organisers to arrange it so they were segregated into groups of six in order to maintain social distancing as much as possible.
Trev had selected one of the earlier slots at 7am, which meant a very early start for him. He then parked up at Hengistbury Head and jumped on the bus taking the runners over to Ringwood where the race began.
Once he got his race underway, Trev soon found his rhythm, knowing how important it was for him to remain disciplined in order to give himself the best chance of going the distance.
For the majority of the kilometres along the Castleman Trailway, Trev was going at between 4:40 and 4:45 pace per kilometre, which was roughly what he’d planned, although a touch faster.
Because it was all on trail though, it did take a fair bit out of him and he was already feeling the fatigue in his legs as he got out and onto Oakley Hill. He knew there was still a long way to go though so had to keep pressing on as he headed towards Broadstone and then onto Upton.
Reaching Upton at around the 27 kilometre point, Trev was still going strong though and keeping his pace very consistent. He was now over half way into the run and it was so far so good at that stage.
After going through the 30 kilometre point he began to find it a little tougher and his pace began to drop a touch. He knew he just really needed to get onto the promenade though from that point and then he should be fine.
Showing great character to dig deep and keep going, Trev made it to the 39 kilometre point and hit the promenade at Sandbanks. It was now a long straight road ahead, all the way to Hengistbury Head.
As he was heading from Bournemouth Pier towards Boscombe Pier he was greeted by his club-mate Rich Brawn who had come to run the last six kilometres or so with him.
By that point Trev had already run over a marathon distance and Rich was expecting him to be in bits by then, knowing how he’d felt at the end of the few marathons he had done.
He was surprised to see that Trev was running well and still seemed to be going at a pretty good pace. He certainly didn’t look like he’d just run 44k at least.
It was now a case of just keep going for Trev. His left leg was beginning to feel numb and his muscles were starting to feel tight but he was determined to keep going and not to relent on the pace too much.
As they maneuvered along the promenade past Boscombe Pier and on towards Southbourne, every so often Trev would stop to walk for 30 seconds or so, just to keep his muscles from cramping up and ensure he’d have enough in the tank to make it to the end.
Showing tremendous character and determination to push through the pain, Trev was getting ever closer to the finish and he was looking certain to get under his 4:20 target.
Sure enough, he made it the end of the promenade and climbed up the ramp towards Hengistbury Head. The last section of the course was across the sandy pathway through Hengistbury and over towards the Hungry Hiker cafe.
As they approached the finishing straight, Rich peeled off and Trev raced through to the finish to complete his epic journey. He’d actually done just over 51 kilometres by the time he made it to the finish line and had come in in just over 4 hours and 11 minutes.
It was a monumental achievement from Trev. Not only had he completed his first ever ultra marathon, he’d also done it in a very good time as well, which was a real testament to his attitude and commitment.
His partner Gemma was there waiting for him when he got to the finish and she was over the moon that he’d got through it okay and come away with the result he wanted.
After the race they went to cafe so Trev could have some of the soup that they’d laid on for all runners. Shortly after they’d sat down, Harry came into the cafe and joined them.
That was when they discovered that Harry had completed the course in a mightily impressive time of 3 hours 25 minutes and that was certainly going to take some beating.
Of course, not all the runners had finished by that point as there were still many who had started later, so he didn’t know for sure whether it would be the winning time or not. Unsurprisingly though, it turned out that it was.
Harry had gone out very hard, going at a pace of 6:10 minutes per mile for the first four miles. Not sure what that translates to in kilometres – but ‘very fast’ is the simple answer, especially for a 50k ultra.
He was well under 6:30 minute mile pace for the whole of the first 10 miles, so that was virtually a third of the race done already. In fact, his pace was pretty similar over the next 10 mile as well, proving that he hadn’t gone out too hard and was well capable of maintaining that sort of speed for a substantial distance.
Going through the marathon distance in 2 hours 50 minutes, Harry was still going well and with only five miles to go, it looked like he was going to be setting a very high benchmark.
Even over that last bit of the race, he didn’t allow his pace to drop too much and stayed very strong right till the end. It was a fine display indeed from Harry and his average pace at the end of the run was a sensational 6:35 minutes per mile.
When the final results came through, Harry‘s time of 3:25:48 was almost five minutes quicker than that of Peter Lighting of Kent AC who finished second in 3:30:34.
Neil Martin of Overton Harriers took third place in the overall standings with a time of 3:42:06.
Harry looked remarkably fresh afterwards and you would never have guessed he’d just run a 50k race, especially at the speed he had. That performance demonstrated the huge potential Harry has and what a great asset he’ll be to Bournemouth AC going forward.
Natasha Lewis, who had come along to one of the recent Tuesday night training sessions with Tom Craggs, was also there and she had a fantastic run to finish in fifth place overall and first female. Her time was a magnificent 3:49:20.
That was enough to see off Samantha Amend of Belgrave Harriers who clocked a time of 3:54:19 which put her in 8th place overall and second female.
Tracy Cook of Dorset Doddlers was third placed lady, coming in with an impressive time of 3:58:49 which put her in 10th position overall.
With an official time of 4:11:11, Trev had managed to seal a top 20 place on the leaderboard. Considering it was his first ever ultra marathon, that was quite an achievement and one that he could be extremely proud of.
There were 454 runners in total taking part in the race with 446 of them managing to make it through to the end.
Although it got tough towards the end of the run, Trev thoroughly enjoyed his first foray into ultra marathons and is already thinking about the next Run to the Sea race which is in March 2021.
It would certainly be interesting to see how much quicker he could go with a full block of ultra focused training behind him and having had the experience of already running it once already.
That’s some way down the line though and he needs to have a good rest first and allow his legs to recuperate fully before gently easing himself back into training.
It was great to see two Bournemouth AC runners doing so well though in a Bournemouth based ultra marathon and was a good indicator of the strength in depth that the club now possess.
Trev rejoined the club this season after a year of non-affiliation. Harry is one of an exciting crop of recent new Bournemouth AC recruits including Szymon Chojnacki who came over from Poland, Joe Arundel who has just renewed his membership, Matt Dicks, another exciting young talent, and Scottish international triathlete and sub-14-minute 5k man Grant Sheldon.
Add to that the emergence of Jasper Todd and Ollie James from the youth ranks along with all the other top quality athletes already at the club and future looks very rosy for BAC. The only problem is the lack of local road races where we could see them in action.
With the Bournemouth 10 that was scheduled for 1st November being cancelled, we might well have seen the last chance for a decent local road race this year go up in smoke which would be a great shame. In these unprecedented times though, it’s difficult to know what’s around the corner.