Surging clear at Standalone: BAC’s ladies take commanding lead in Three Counties XC league

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s women took a potentially decisive step towards retaining their Three Counties Cross Country league title in Letchworth on Sunday after another dominant performance on the trails. Elaine Livera’s stunning season continued with a fourth-place finish in the ladies’ standings – amazingly her lowest position of the series so far. Her performance was matched on the men’s side as Jamie Hall’s outstanding fourth place overall – matching last month’s result in Dunstable – once again gave the men an important platform to build on, and helped the combined team to consolidate fifth place in the table.

Conditions at Standalone Farm posed a variety of challenges, with two laps round a heavy field at the start immediately sapping energy levels and derailing several race plans. From there, a change of terrain proved problematic for those opting for spikes as a rock-hard trail, interspersed with icy patches, conspired to grind them down to the nub. Yet from there the real tests arrived, as a succession of long, boggy hills, with grip alarmingly difficult to come by for many, made for a steady stream of ever-slowing progress. A stiff wind, in runners’ faces for long spells, only added to the trudgelike nature of progress for many. Downhill hurtles, a staple of cross-country running for many, were fraught with menace given the almost complete absence of meaningful traction on the ground, and a festive bugler stationed by organisers at the base of the most piggish of climbs may have been more appropriately serving up renditions of The Last Post rather than The Holly And The Ivy and Good King Wenceslas. Adding to the torment: the advertised five-mile course was actually nearer six.

Elaine Livera in the finish straight. Photo by Jon Stott
Elaine Livera in the finish straight. Photo by Jon Stott

The first eight men and first four ladies from each club count towards the team totals. With 13 teams competing, team points for each fixture go from 13 for first place down to one point for last, and BAC’s women took their third maximum from four attempts, with second-place at Wootton adding up to a total of 51 points with just one fixture remaining. Elaine’s fourth place was backed up by fellow scorers Juliet Nayler (7th), Isobel Everest (8th) and Natalie Morgan (11th). Aside from Biggleswade, only North Herts Road Runners had more than one finisher in the top 10 – two, compared to BAC’s three.

Natalie Morgan. Photo by Jon Stott
Natalie Morgan digs in on the two-lap field start. Photo by Jon Stott

Bedford Harriers, the ladies’ team’s closest rivals, could only manage fourth place and lie a massive seven points behind with 44, meaning BAC can retain their title with a mid-table finish at the last race of the season.

However, that race, a “home” fixture taking place at Bedford’s Priory Park, is no gimme, made all the harder as team captain Juliet Nayler made her final appearance in BAC’s colours in Letchworth, as she prepares to switch allegiances. A stalwart of the cross-country squad for many years, Juliet will be overseeing events at the race from the sidelines, and Biggleswade will hope that injury niggles will not leave their team further depleted.

Isobel Everest and Paul Davies
Isobel Everest and Paul Davies. Photo by Jon Stott

Hannah Broom, just outside the scoring positions for the ladies, pinpointed the reason behind her own performance: “Thinking it was a good idea to have a go on the Rodeo Rudolph with a sore shoulder at the works Christmas do … it ended as you would expect.” On Juliet, she said: “We will miss you, I hope you enjoyed your final run as a mighty blue and yellow. Thank you for running the team for many years and often leading the girls to victory. I am not looking forward to competing against you next year!”

The men’s team welcomed back some familiar faces, and behind Jamie’s fourth place in the scoring stakes were Steven Baldwin (14th), Nick Haworth (64th), Paul Cooke (78th), Paul Davies (88th), Damien Pitts (93nd), Adam Murphy (102nd) and Giles Hawthorne (104th). Their combined efforts were good enough for a solid seventh place on the day, following up results of sixth, eighth and ninth so far this season. They now lie seventh in the table, with Stopsley Striders hot on their heels one place back.

Jamie Hall. Photo by Jon Stott
Jamie Hall. Photo by Jon Stot

Jamie said of his performance: “I managed to get myself into a decent position by the second loop of field. From then on I just tried to stick with the runner in second with an aim to out sprint him at the end. But as the race dragged on, I gradually slipped further back. Although it was cold, the ground was still soft and I could feel the course draining my energy. The undulating terrain took its toll and eventually I was caught by the runner behind me who came surging past at about mile four and went on to take second place. I wasn’t able to make any ground on the runners ahead of me, but managed to stay ahead of the next runner to finish in fourth for the second time in a row. As always the support from BAC was fantastic and it was another great turnout from so many putting everything into their races. Roll on next time for the final event!”

Before the Christmas break and new year battles for trophies, BAC’s runners will be alarming motorists and passers-by this Saturday as they take part in the club’s annual Fairy Run. A staple of the calendar, outrageous costumes are promised as athletes compete in a timed handicap race, levelling the playing field, and for the coveted title of Best Dressed Fairy.

Standalone Farm XC results

Position | Runner (gender position)
4 Jamie Hall (4)
14 Steven Baldwin (14)
58 Elaine Livera (4)
71 Nick Haworth (64)
88 Juliet Nayler (7)
89 Paul Cooke (78)
99 Paul Davies (88)
100 Isobel Everest (8)
104 Damien Pitts (92)
116 Adam Murphy (102)
118 Giles Hawthorne (104)
124 Natalie Morgan (11)
133 Charlie Arnold (116)
134 Hannah Broom (14)
199 Stuart Goodwin (156)
207 Gary Baldwin (163)
208 Neil Harvey (164)
219 Nigel Bush (169)
223 Sarah Jane Seaman (47)
226 Neil Gregory (173)
251 Kathryn Juty (63)
260 Ian Grimwood (188)
273 Juliet Grimwood (76)
274 Ricky Byrne (194)
286 Colin Harries (197)

Digging in on Dunstable’s hills: BAC’s ladies stretch lead in Three Counties XC

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s women, fighting to retain their title, stretched their lead in the Three Counties Cross Country league after another phenomenal team performance at the third race of the season in Dunstable. Elaine Livera was first scoring female finisher, while Jamie Hall’s outstanding fourth place overall helped the men pull their weight and enabled the combined women’s and men’s team to improve their league position to a very respective sixth.

Jamie Hall - No512 - near the front of the pack. Photo by Nick Spavins
Jamie Hall – No512 – near the front of the pack as the race opened with a climb on ground. Photo by Nick Spavins

On a biting, frosty morning in Dunstable, runners had five miles of treacherous ground to contend with – summed up as “frozen hills of clay” by BAC’s Marcus Davey – and a seemingly endless succession of sapping climbs to contend with. Normal tactics of fighting up hills and picking up pace on the downward sections was made all the more difficult with grip and traction hard to come by, and runners ahead losing their footing in the mud adding further obstacles. Amid some stunning scenery, albeit punctuated by the odd burned out car, eyes nonetheless remained sharply forward as a succession of hazards presented themselves, and runners all around regularly “changing lanes” in their quest for surer footing.

With 13 teams competing, team points for each fixture go from 13 for first place down to one point for last. Having finished runners-up to Bedford in Northampton earlier in November, BAC’s women punched well above their weight once again, their top placing all the more remarkable as the combined squad of 28 were massively outnumbered by their immediate rivals – Bedford Harriers, a surprise fourth on the day, fielded twice as many, with second-placed North Herts Road Runners supplying 41 and third-placed Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers entering 51.

Elaine Livera, No520, closes on the finish. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Elaine Livera, No520, closes on the finish. Photo by Roo Goodwin

With the first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, finishing positions were pivotal to BAC’s fortunes. The club’s ladies once again peppered the high-scoring spots, thanks to first scoring finisher Elaine Livera, Isobel Everest (8th female across the line), Juliet Nayler (9th), and Hannah Broom (12th) and Natalie Morgan (13th) arguing between themselves in the finish regarding who should be the club’s fourth scorer. Hot on their heels was BAC’s Julie Balaam, in 17th.

Testimony to BAC’s strength in depth was highlighted by news that Ampthill’s fourth scorer was 20th, North Herts’ 21st, and Bedford’s in 27th.

Elaine, who repeated her first place finish from race one, and has now been top three in all fixtures so far this season, said: “The course was really quite beautiful, had we been given the chance to enjoy it! However as it turned out, the course was probably subject to a fair few tears as the race went on. I found myself setting off quite quickly and managed to keep the pace for longer than I was expecting.

“We were about halfway up the dragging hill when I started to seriously flag and when we hit the monster of the hill – I even had two steps worth of walking pace. During this time I sneaked a glance behind me and saw a North Herts runner less than 3m away – the same girl who beat me at the Standalone 10k by a minute. A quick panic later, and I was running again. No way was anyone going to overtake me with only 2km to go! If every other Biggleswade runner was putting up with the pain in order to help the team, then I needed to suck it up too and get my bum up that hill! It was a close shave, but I managed to pull together some extra energy to sprint the last 600m to the finish. We all came in quite far behind the girl who came first, however she was a guest runner, which was a nice surprise!”

Jamie Hall. Photo by Nick Spavins
Jamie Hall. Photo by Nick Spavins

On the men’s side, Jamie’s second cross country outing improved his debut fifth place last time out to fourth this time. He said: “The race started at a fairly steady pace, but the speed soon ramped up when we made our way down an incline. I tried to keep with the two front runners, but as the race progressed I gradually slipped back into third. About halfway round another runner came flying past, pushing me into fourth just before a tricky section through trees with roots covered by leaves.

“The second part of the course took us up a long, gradual climb followed by a monster of a hill which sapped the energy out of my legs to the point I was barely running. The way down the other side was treacherous with the clay-like mud clinging to my shoes and ruining their grip. I kept trudging on and managed to keep fourth place all the way to the line. The freezing conditions had made the mud a lot firmer than it could have been which helped through some of the soggier patches and although they were a pain to go up and down, the hills kept it interesting. Overall, I was really pleased with my race and it was brilliant to see another great turnout from the club.”

Rob Morgan, left, 100m from the finish. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Rounding out the men’s scorers were Rob Morgan (26th male), Paul Cooke (79th), Marcus Davey (81st), Paul Davies (92nd), Damien Pitts (109th), Charlie Arnold (126th) and Jon Stott (135th), and their ninth team placing overall followed sixth in race one and eighth last time out.

Damien Pitts, Natalie Morgan and Hannah Broom. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Damien Pitts, Natalie Morgan and Hannah Broom. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Charlie said: “It was the biggest cross country challenge so far this season; over 5 miles of hills and multi surfaces to contend with, including frozen ground in the shaded areas and claggy clay where the sun had warmed the ground. Rutted paths ready to stretch tendons or twist ankles, slippery downhill runs and sharp turns on slippery terrain caused at least two runners, that I witnessed, to pull up clutching damaged muscles. A number of runners admitted walking up the last couple of hills as the course took its toll on mortal limbs, but it was such fun – tiring, yes, but enjoyable to be part of a team.”

All of the club’s runners acquitted themselves exceptionally well on a highly demanding course that derailed the challenges of several seasoned campaigners, and many left Dunstable with their best overall finishing placings of the season so far.

With two fixtures of the season remaining, finishing with a “home” run, organised by BAC, but taking place at Bedford’s Priory Park in January, BAC’s ladies have stretched their lead to four points and next take on the course at Standalone Farm in Letchworth on 17 December.

Dunstable cross country results

Overall position | Name (gender position)
4 Jamie Hall (4)
28 Rob Morgan (26)
67 Elaine Livera (1)
89 Paul Cooke (79)
91 Marcus Davey (81)
103 Paul Davies (92)
104 Isobel Everest (8)
110 Juliet Nayler (9)
124 Damien Pitts (109)
126 Hannah Broom (12)
127 Natalie Morgan (13)
146 Charlie Arnold (126)
155 Jon Stott (135)
160 Julie Balaam (17)
164 Aaron Ball (143)
212 Stuart Goodwin (173)
229 Gary Baldwin (183)
238 Neil Harvey (189)
249 Nigel Bush (196)
258 Kathryn Juty (51)
281 James Rastrick (211)
300 Robin Wynde (216)
301 Ian Grimwood (217)
325 Juliet Grimwood (92)
342 Ricky Byrne (231)
368 Helen Kapur (124)
370 Julie Spavins (126)
371 Penny Ridler (127)

Club spirit … BAC storm it on and off the roads in St Neots

Biggleswade Athletic Club runners racked up fine positions and a string of personal best times, while clubmates won friends around the course thanks to a superlative support effort at the St Neots Half-Marathon last Sunday. The race is BAC’s club championship race over the distance and one of the annual highlights of the local road-running calendar.

On a biting cold morning in St Neots, and faced with a challenging course which features a string of steep uphill climbs, BAC’s Jamie Hall – in only his third race at the distance – took the male club championship honours with an outstanding second place. His time of 1:13:54 bettered his 1:14.06 run last month on the significantly kinder Great Eastern Run course, and inches him ever-closer to Roger Wadeley’s club record 1:11.15 (set back in 1988).

Jamie Hall, right, on his way to second place. Photo by Frankie Byrne
Jamie Hall, right, on his way to second place. Photo by Frankie Byrne

He said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect from the undulating St Neots course. Others had told me plenty of horror stories about it, especially with previous years bringing howling winds and rain. Fortunately, today it was a beautiful crisp winter morning with barely any wind – perfect conditions for running.

“This time the tactics were to run based on feel rather than pace and try to get the best position I could. From the start, the guy who would go on to win (comfortably by over a minute) set off like a rocket and was in a different postcode from the first km onwards.

“I stuck with a group of about five others. The pace felt a little quick, but I stayed with it and by around the fifth km it was just me and a runner from Fairlands Valley Spartans. I had been warned that miles seven to nine were a tough slog and that it would be sensible to try and keep some company. This knowledge was pretty much the only thing that kept me pushing to keep with the Fairlands Valley runner.

“From mile 10 I knew that from this point onwards the course was all downhill so I pushed on to try and put some space between us. I have no idea how far ahead I got, but by mile 11 I could hear him behind me again. I was convinced that I had blown it and he would come storming past. Mercifully the Fairlands Valley runner stayed with me. I tried to go again at 12 miles and this time managed to pull away to come through in second place with a PB. Clearly running with the other guy had really helped!”

Elaine Livera, fifth female finisher and 74th overall, coasted to the women’s club title with a time of 1:26:54, with cross country challenges lying ahead next week. She said: “It was the most enjoyable half marathon I have ever run! Myself, Paul Cooke and coach Paul Davies had decided to run together at Cookie’s marathon pace. I got a proper lesson in how to run a half properly. We were such an enjoyable bunch to run with that we even picked up a few stragglers and ran almost the full distance in a pack of about five or six people.

Paul Cooke, Elaine Livera and Paul Davies. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Paul Cooke, Elaine Livera and Paul Davies. Photo by Roo Goodwin

“Having stayed at a fairly comfortable pace throughout the run, I really wanted to try and catch her before the line. Over the last 2km we slowly made up the distance between us and I found myself in a 600m sprint for the finish which allowed me to come in fifth instead of sixth woman.”

She echoed the sentiments of all BAC athletes out on the course, who were met with outstanding support throughout: “The best parts of the day was seeing Biggleswade supporters on every single street corner. I’m surprised any of them still had voices at the end of the day! It feels great to be part of such a supportive club!” The village of Abbotsley, which runners passed through twice in the race, became akin to a “Biggleswade Boulevard”, with members and their families out in force.

Rob Morgan. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Rob Morgan was 2nd BAC finisher in 1:22:19. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Running alongside, Paul Cooke, who has endured an injury-plagued season, was pleased to return to the roads: “I really enjoyed that and chuffed that I managed it after being injured for so long. The only issue for me was a slight twinge in my calf right at the end. Massive well done to all runners – some great times in perfect conditions. Even bigger thanks to the blue and yellow supporters … they were the best supporters out there.” He emerged with a time of 1:27:07.

A few minutes further up the road, Marcus Davey, had clothing and pacing quandaries to contend with. He said: “It felt cold enough for me to wear my thermal top and gloves. At the start line, coach Paul Davies looked at me and asked: ‘Aren’t you a bit warm in that?’ I wondered if I had made a mistake, and there was no time to change.

Marcus Davey. Photo by Carol Garratt
The many-layered Marcus Davey. Photo by Carol Garratt

“Following on from this year’s Peterborough half marathon when the wheels began to wobble at mile 11, I conceded to myself I should run a smidge slower, particularly on a course with many an undulation.”

All worked out for the best however, with the chill remaining in the air throughout the race. “My finishing time was just 12 seconds outside my Peterborough half marathon PB – I was a little surprised and very pleased with the outcome.” His 1:24:10 was just under two minutes behind BAC’s second finisher Rob Morgan, who crossed the line in 1:22:19.

Martha Ford had endured sleepless nights and pre-race nerves as she feared her hopes of dipping under the two hour barrier would be thwarted on the day. As it happened, despite flagging in the closing stages she stormed in over eight and a half minutes inside target time, with an excellent 1:51:23. Two minutes behind, Stuart Goodwin took six minutes off his PB with 1:53:39, and Amy Stamp – agonisingly close to breaking the two-hour barrier in Peterborough on her debut at the distance – followed up on the tougher course by crashing through it, thanks to a PB run of 1:58:24.

Martha Ford soared well below her hoped-for 2hr time. Photo by Roo Goodwin

The club’s championship race results are based on age-gradings, which level the playing field for all competitors by adjusting times for veteran runners downwards – the older the runner, the more the age-graded time comes down.

Based on the recalibrated marks based, big movers included Clark Skerratt (1:25:13 down from 1:52:43), Ian Grimwood (1:31:12 from 1:58:16), Neil Harvey (1:31:55 from 1:50:32), Stephen Atkins (1:34:38 from 2:00:21), Andy Bruce (1:39:32 from 1:55:54), Ian Clayton (1:39:53 from 1:53:34), Vicky Berry (1:47:28 from 2:06:25), Andrew Hedley (1:56:09 from 2:17:11), Juliet Grimwood (1:56:36 from 2:17:10), Janice Blake (1:59:21 from 2:27:59) and Julia Mackay (2:09:04 from 2:31:50).

St Neots Half-Marathon 2017 results

Overall position | Name | Chip time (Age-graded result)
Note that positions are based on gun time – those running faster times may have crossed the start line further back in the field

2 Jamie Hall 1:13:54 (1:13:54) Male club half-marathon champion
36 Rob Morgan 1:22:19 (1:18:24)
54 Marcus Davey 1:24:10 (1:16:59)
74 Elaine Livera 1:26:54 (1:26:54) Female club half-marathon champion
77 Paul Davies 1:27:05 (1:18:20)
79 Paul Cooke 1:27:07 (1:22:58)
111 Jon Stott 1:28:53 (1:19:57)
238 Damien Pitts 1:36:32 (1:36:09)
242 Giles Hawthorne 1:37:23 (1:31:17)
280 Natalie Morgan 1:37:53 (1:34:08)
301 Aaron Ball 1:39:46 (1:39:46)
482 Sarah Geeson-Orsgood 1:47:23 (1:43:16)
558 Neil Harvey 1:50:32 (1:31:55)
575 Martha Ford 1:51:23 (1:51:07)
598 Clark Skerratt 1:52:43 (1:25:13)
631 Stuart Goodwin 1:53:39 (1:49:57)
634 Lucinda Shenton 1:53:42 (1:42:47)
640 Ian Clayton 1:53:54 (1:39:53)
684 Andrew Bruce 1:55:30 (1:39:32)
742 Ian Grimwood 1:58:16 (1:31:12)
748 Amy Stamp 1:58:24 (1:58:07)
853 James Rastrick 1:58:03 (1:51:32)
797 Stephen Atkins 2:00:21 (01:34:38)
836 Frank Mcloughlin 2:01:53 (1:43:12)
872 Simon Strong 2:04:43 (1:53:08)
897 Vicky Berry 2:06:25 (1:47:28)
906 Sally Jones 2:07:17 (2:01:34)
1030 Andrew Hedley 2:17:11 (1:56:09)
1031 Juliet Grimwood 2:17:10 (1:56:36)
1057 Julian Brunt 2:20:25 (2:10:33)
1118 Janice Blake 2:27:59 (1:59:21)
1136 Julia Mackay 2:31:50 (2:09:04)
1166 Tim Gardiner 2:55:31 (2:41:51)

Digging in at Delapre Abbey … BAC’s ladies retain Three Counties XC top spot

Biggleswade Athletic Club put in another excellent team performance at the second Three Counties Cross Country race of the season, with Jamie Hall finishing an brilliant fifth overall and the women’s squad combining superbly to retain top spot in the league despite stiff challenges from both rival clubs and fiendish conditions.

Jamie Hall. Photo by Mark Garratt
Jamie Hall on his way to fifth place. Photo by Mark Garratt

On a bitterly cold morning in Northampton, athletes contended with a challenging and deceptively awkward course around Delapre Park, consisting of two multi-terrain laps taking in tricky uphills, breakneck downward sections and hundreds of hidden tree roots ready to catch runners unaware. The long finish section, run twice into the wind on a boggy hill thick with grass, proved a viciously cruel and sapping test for the legs that derailed many runners’ challenges in the closing stages.

With the first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, finishing positions were key. So three top 10 placings in the women’s standings, from Elaine Livera (3rd), Juliet Nayler (8th) and Isobel Everest (9th), plus the fourth scoring runner – Hannah Broom – placing 12th enabled BAC to take second on the day, just pipped by Bedford Harriers. Holding on to the stop spot after two events of five is all the more impressive as Biggleswade’s squad of 30 was dwarfed on the day by the likes of Bedford and Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers – who topped the men’s standings – with those clubs able to field 66 and 63 runners respectively.

Elaine, who was first female over the line in race one, reflected on another fine top three finish: “I managed to stick just behind one of the girls for half of the first loop when, out of nowhere, another girl passed us so quickly I hardly saw her. She was able to make the most of the twisty turns in the section through the forest. One bit which was definitely worth mentioning was a downhill muddy section which ended with a sharp right turn. Both times I almost ended up going straight down the hill. I think I definitely lost some time there!”

On the men’s side, Jamie celebrated his 28th birthday with a superb first senior cross-country outing. With coach Paul Davies also joining him among the scoring runners, he expressed surprise at the gameplan: “I was slightly taken aback when the plan involved a sprint off the start line to avoid getting stuck out of place. I gave it everything for the first few seconds to get myself into position for the narrow first uphill section. This paid off as there was no way I could have made up ground if I had ended up too far back.”

He echoed Elaine’s thoughts on the downhill section: “I stuck with the race leaders going up the hill but completely lost them going back down through the woods. I have no idea how anyone can move that quick round such tight corners and between the trees.

“Having struggled across the open field past the start line for the second lap, I was pushed back into sixth half way up the first hill but managed to keep the guy ahead in sight. I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t fall any further back but found the constant change of pace due to the twists and turns hard work. When we finally got to the marker for the last 400m I tried to claw back as much distance as I could. Thanks to the fantastic support from those cheering at the finish line I managed to put in a sprint at the end to just edge my way into a respectable fifth place finish.”

Paul Davies, Isobel Everest and Hannah Broom. Photo by Mark Garratt
Paul Davies, Isobel Everest and Hannah Broom. Photo by Mark Garratt

In Jamie’s wake were Rob Morgan (24th), Marcus Davey (76th), Nick Haworth (79th), Paul Davies (107th), John Stott (121st), club chairman Damien Pitts (129th) and Charlie Arnold (134th). Their points total left them eighth of 13 clubs on the day, and following a sixth place finish at race one, they lie seventh overall for the season.

Marcus was one of several to find themselves running wary of the various hazards: “Running uphill and avoiding tree roots I can deal with – running downhill on slippy mud is another thing. A lot of concentration was required on that twisty muddy downhill section! Second time round on that very section of the course an Ampthill athlete I was running next to fell flat on his face.”

Marcus Davey, right. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Marcus Davey, right, makes his way through the woods. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Charlie also found a neighbouring runner come a cropper, and he found himself running cautiously: “Mud puddles, rabbit holes and tree stumps added to the dangers to be avoided as we twisted and turned round the trees on an undulating path before finally getting respite downhill. Not being a great one for running down, especially with the difficult terrain, I had to give way as others ran by me.

“Clubmates passed, to whom I was happy to concede position, before, finally, I reached the end to my great relief. Not a run to be proud of and not one that I can say I enjoyed, but these things happen and I did score for the team which made it all worthwhile.”

Deb Bryant, 31st female finisher, returned to the course for the first time in over a decade, nervous having left last time around with unhappy memories. “I hadn’t done it since around 2006 -I didn’t complete it that year as I tripped over a tree root and twisted my ankle. It took me out of running for a while. However once I got going past that section the day was all good. It’s a lovely course, the sun was out and it was a great race.”

Action at the start with Emma Bailey (482) and Deb Bryant (490). Photo by Roo Goodwin
Action at the start with Emma Bailey (482) and Deb Bryant (490). Photo by Roo Goodwin

Club secretary Hannah returned after an injury-plagued spell to round off the ladies’ scoring. She said: “I had one strategy – go out hard and try to hold on.That field and hill was a little much and I had to drop off the pace. Two girls passed me and I was furious with myself, I needed to get back in the game. I hunted the first down and overtook her then started to hunt the second. She had a male team-mate running with her, and through the trees there was no room to pass. I tried this way and that but her team-mate blocked my efforts. My legs were done – the finish was metres away but I did not manage it. I’ll get her next time!”

Start of race with Charlie Arnold and Hannah Broom. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Charlie Arnold and Hannah Broom in the stampede at the start. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Throughout the morning all BAC competitors enjoyed fantastic support from a tireless support crew, who braved the biting cold, and many finishers stuck around to cheer their team-mates over the line. One who enjoyed a particularly warm welcome was Carol Garratt, one of the club’s Couch to 5k graduates, and Marcus rejoined the course after finishing to act as a windbreak for her the closing stages, as conditions worsened. She said: “It was my first cross-country run ever! The grass sapped my legs before the killer hill. I loved the woods but did the ‘gentlemanly‘ thing, pulling over to let the front-runners pass, so I lost a bit of time but that was never really going to make a big difference.

At the end of the first lap I really wanted to give up, but I thought ‘No! You have to take one for the team, grit your teeth and dig in.’ It didn’t make that hill any easier but at least I had a clear run back through the woods. To my superhero Marcus, who was the ‘Wind beneath my wings’, as he ran me home, a special thank you! Will I do it again? Well, my number is on the mantelpiece. Did I enjoy it? Actually, I think I did!”

The combined team scores mean Biggleswade now lie a clear fifth in the standings overall. With many runners in the lineup for the St Neots Riverside Half-Marathon this Sunday – BAC’s club championship race over the distance – preparations immediately turn to race three of the season which takes place in Dunstable’s Green Lanes, Tottenhoe Knolls and the Maidenbower on 26 November.

Wootton cross country results

Overall position | Name (gender position)
5 Jamie Hall (5)
24 Rob Morgan (24)
72 Elaine Livera (3)
82 Marcus Davey (76)
85 Nick Haworth (79)
107 Juliet Nayler (8)
116 Isobel Everest (9)
117 Paul Davies (107)
131 Hannah Broom (12)
135 John Stott (121)
143 Damien Pitts (129)
148 Charlie Arnold (134)
155 Natalie Morgan (15)
191 Emma Bailey (25)
211 Deb Bryant (31)
264 Neil Harvey (207)
268 Kathryn Juty (58)
273 Stuart Goodwin (211)
280 Gary Baldwin (214)
303 Robin Wynde (224)
343 Simon Strong (244)
347 Ian Grimwood (246)
377 Georgia Barker (119)
379 Jess Godfrey (121)
389 Ricky Byrne (254)
394 Juliet Grimwood (134)
426 Helen Kapur (160)
431 Julie Spavins (163)
449 Ruth King (179)
450 Carol Garratt (180)

Steaming through the stream … BAC ladies take top Three Counties XC honours

Biggleswade Athletic Club enjoyed a marvellously muddy return to cross-country action in windy Wellingborough last weekend, as Elaine Livera continued her brilliant year in crossing the line as first female on her debut in the Three Counties XC league. Better was to follow as she was followed soon after by a stream of clubmates as BAC comfortably took the ladies’ team honours.

The main event was preceded by an impeccably observed minute’s silence and rapturous applause for Vikki Vowles, who passed away in August. Vikki made her bow in cross-country at the same venue last October, and endured a muddy dunking and faceplant at its hazardous stream crossing for her troubles. Despite this she loved the experience and several fellow Couch to 5k graduates were among the startlist, competing in tribute to their friend.

Massed runners near the start. Visible BAC’s Rob Morgan (523), Paul Davies (493). Photo by Roo Goodwin

The newbies were spared the notorious crossing this year on a revamped Croyland Park course, but still had to make their way across Swanspool Brook in whichever way best suited. At the first attempt, taking off from a slightly elevated bank, it was just about jumpable for some competitors, and several successfully leaped to the far bank, but most opted to make a splash and wade through, either by jumping in, or easing their way in gently. On the way back however, after hundreds of running spikes and trail studs had carved up the ground – coupled with some fiendish impromptu re-landscaping from nearby marshals – it was a completely different proposition, and mud and water was almost waist high for many, with little respite ahead on the far bank as a mile of steep hills remained before the finish.

The first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, and it proved a tough proposition, with even experienced cross-country competitors acknowledging that the course it was tougher than in previous years. Charlie Arnold said: “We passed through the brook, some to splash through, some to jump, some to not quite make it much to the amusement of cheering onlookers. Then, round a long stretch of inclines and banks, made more difficult by running up them at a difficult angle. The field of runners spread out as they take a long circuit before crossing the brook again, which did involve some face planting in the mud in my, and one or two others’, cases.”

Elaine Livera. No credit needed
Elaine Livera recovers from a suboptimal landing on the far bank after her first crossing

Even those at the top of the leaderboard experienced muddy mishaps. Elaine said: “When we reached the river crossing the two girls leading showed off their grace by clearing the ditch. I said to myself: ‘I’ve jumped fairly far before, I’m sure if they can clear it, I might be able to, I’m the same height…’ Oh how wrong I was. It was a very convincing face plant and I was soaked through! That made the next 800m running into the wind pretty chilly. But at least I had provided the newbie entertainment factor for the supporters!”

Elaine Livera on her second crossing. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Elaine Livera on crossing two. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Marcus Davey added: “The course really sapped my legs – I suppose that makes the event a success! There were plenty of undulations, steep hills and tricky cambers that tested my Mudclaw running shoes to the limit. The ditch crossings went well for me with only one of my claws getting a proper soaking to the skin.

“It was a fabulous BAC turnout, a great competitive and social day and I have no doubt XC is going to improve athletic endurance and performance for everyone involved, whatever ability and running goals they may have.”

Coach Giles Hawthorne epitomised the team spirit on display, and as well as being among the points-scoring finishers for the men’s team, he ran alongside Natalie Morgan, offering encouragement and a helping hand at the stream crossings to help her shave off valuable seconds. He praised the “strength in depth” of the ladies team, where even non-scorers played their part by relegating rival club runners further down the standings, with lower placings equating to fewer points.

Juliet Nayler came in as sixth lady, and with Natalie ninth and Isobel Everest 11th, it proved an unbeatable team score, relegating North Herts Road Runners to second and Bedford Harriers a point further back in third.

On the men’s side, Rich Bevan was the first BAC athlete home in an excellent 13th place overall, with Rob Morgan 22nd, and the rest of the points scoring coming from Nick Haworth (57th), Marcus (59th), Paul Cooke (68th), Paul Davies (73rd), John Stott (97th) and Giles (110th). This equated to a men’s team finish of a mid-table sixth from 13 teams, while the overall combined result, incorporating all scoring runners in the positions they crossed the line irrespective of gender, meant the club were in a very creditable 5th position.

Club secretary Hannah Broom was unable to compete due to injury, but was part of a fine turnout of supporters offering vocal support at key points. She said: “It was a fantastic day for Biggleswade AC who were out in absolute force with a record number of competitors!”

Elaine added: “To my surprise I found myself overtaking the two girls in front of me with three hills to go. All I could hear was Hannah telling me to “Look up! Look up! Pound up that hill – you’re almost home!” The huge support I received in the last 300m helped me power through.

“It was the most fun I’ve ever had while running a race and it was made even better when all of the women in the club came in so quickly after me which all helped make us the winning team. The whole atmosphere was great, and I was laughing out loud at my phone when looking through all the ‘ditch-jump’ pictures!”

Malcolm Steward had looked in tremendous form in the early stages, but he succumbed to a calf injury on a steep downhill section. All other BAC athletes, including the first-timers, emerged muddied but unscathed, with many already looking forward to race two of the season at Delapré Abbey near Northampton on 12 November.

Four hit the streets for Town and Gown

Town and Gown runners show off their bling

On the same morning, four BAC athletes took to the streets of Cambridge for the Town and Gown 10k race.

On a flat course, sheltered from the bulk of the blustery winds in the region on the day, Julian Brunt was first of the quartet home, beating the hour mark to finish in 59min 20sec for 116th in the MV40 standings and 1028th overall. Louise Pike (1:05.26, 138th FV35, 1285 overall) and Shani Giddings (1:05.59 , 38th in the FV55 category and 1300th overall) were delighted with personal bests, as was Carol Garratt, whose debut race at the distance yielded a time of 1:26.58 (57th FV55, 1529 overall), over seven minutes quicker than a trial run the previous week.

Results – Three Counties XC race 1, Wellingborough
Overall | name (gender position) – *indicates team scorer

13 Rich Bevan (13)*
22 Rob Morgan (22)*
54 Elaine Livera (1)*
60 Nick Haworth (57)*
62 Marcus Davey (59)*
73 Paul Cooke (68)*
78 Paul Davies (73)*
87 Juliet Nayler (6)*
97 John Stott (104)*
118 Natalie Morgan (9)*
119 Giles Hawthorne (110)*
125 Isobel Everest (11)*
127 Charlie Arnold (116)
129 Aaron Ball (117)
138 Damien Pitts (125)
163 Emma Bailey (18)
212 Gary Baldwin (176)
219 Stuart Goodwin (182)
231 Nigel Bush (189)
238 Neil Harvey (192)
245 James Rastrick (196)
258 Kathryn Juty (59)
265 Robin Wynde (203)
278 Ian Grimwood (210)
279 Richard Dilley (211)
290 Nicky Double (77)
307 Juliet Grimwood (90)
330 Ricky Byrne (221)
334 Julie Spavins (112)
335 Helen Kapur (113)
343 Ruth King (121)
344 Julie Cooke (122)
DNF Malcolm Steward (calf injury)

Miles better … BAC athletes go the distance in Peterborough, Chester and Wimpole

Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes enjoyed a successful day on the streets of Peterborough, as several runners returned from the Perkins Great Eastern Run with personal best times.

Jamie Hall excelled in only his second half-marathon. Photo by Robyn Hall

Renowned as one of the flattest half marathons within easy reach of the club’s base in Sandy, the race starts and finishes in the town centre before taking a tour around residential areas. Jamie Hall – in only his second attempt at the distance – was among those to reap the benefits, and up against high-quality opposition he crossed the line in a superb 18th place, with a time of 1:14.06 indicating that Roger Wadeley’s club record 1:11.15 (set back in 1988) could soon be under threat.

Jamie said: “It was a perfect day for it, the sun was shining and the air was very still. The race started well enough, I managed to stay pretty consistent but found myself isolated between two groups of runners. Fortunately at about mile three I was joined by a couple of others who I ended up sticking with for most of the race.”

“It was all going quite well – it felt tough but not unbearable. I was just counting down the time until the next marker. That was until I managed to misread the mile 8 marker as a 9. Seeing the 9 marker come up again when I was expecting the 10 really set me back, I was really looking forward to only having 5k left to go! It was a real ‘should have gone to a well known high street chain of opticians’ moment.

From this point onward it was a real struggle to keep going. Were it not for the locals who had come out in force to cheer the runners on, it would have been easy to just shuffle the last few miles. I knocked three minutes off my only other half marathon time from earlier in the year, set just before I joined the club. All thanks to the fantastic support from the coaches and all the members of BAC!”

Marcus Davey, No2222, was stunned to run exactly the same time as last year. Paul Cooke, No4709, sadly did not finish due to injury. Photo by Robyn Hall

Next home was Marcus Davey, who had arrived on the start line hopeful of finding the kind of consistency that would reward him with a PB. Yet the outcome, after finishing 151st, was somewhat unusual. He said: “I set myself to run each mile of the race at 6min 20sec. For the first 10 miles I hit the goal with beautiful regularity and was feeling fine until the heart started going in to overdrive. As usual I picked up my legs for the final 100s, always looking to overtake someone in an attempt to find some glory on the line. And my finishing glory and final time? I was gobsmacked – I exactly matched my PB from last year’s race!”

Elaine Livera was 14th female finisher, 231nd overall, and first BAC lady home in 1:27.57, and she was joined in the sub-90 minute club by John Stott, who subjected himself to a “self-beasting” on his way to 258th in a brilliant PB of 1:28.50.

Elaine Livera was 14th female finisher overall. Photo by Robyn Hall

The evergreen Charlie Arnold, competing in the over 60s age category, arrived aiming to repeat a performance earlier in the year when he broke the 100 mins barrier (1hr 40). He said: “With the Peterborough race hailed as a ‘flat, good for PB’ course, the pressure was on to improve on my May run. More great coaching and track work through the summer with a great team of athletes at BAC, and the work was done.

Charlie Arnold, left, took third spot in the V60 rankings. Photo by Robyn Hall

“The support was magnificent from young and old alike and although I was very much in the zone, I could appreciate the cheering and, even better, the calling of my name which I had on the front of my vest. As the end approached and I could start counting down the metres, I checked my watch and calculated I was on for that new PB.” Charlie’s 1:37.18 was also good enough for third spot in the over-60 rankings. Running alongside him in the early stages, Aaron Ball – in his BAC race debut – acquitted himself superbly and finished just six seconds back in a PB 1:37.24.

Amy Stamp narrowly missed breaking the two-hour barrier in her first race at half-marathon distance. Photo by Robyn Hall

On the day 25 BAC runners took the start line, but Paul Cooke and Helen Steward were forced out mid-race with injuries. However, Helen’s husband Malcolm helped himself to a huge PB of 1:54.00, while Amy Stamp hailed the “great atmosphere” and was delighted with her debut at the distance, finishing just outside two hours in 2:00.28.

Rachel Stott joined husband John in the PB stakes with a 2:14.06, and she paid tribute to her clubmates for helping her overcome race day nerves. “Everything was going well and we were sticking to our pace … until mile 10,” she said. “The wheels started to wobble and fall off slightly. I so, so wanted to stick to the plan but things were not going accordingly. It is great thanks to Vicky Berry who got me through the last 3 miles and more importantly through the last 400m, where I was seriously wanting to fall in a heap.” Vicky joined her across the line in the same time.

In the MBNA Chester Marathon, Nick Haworth finished in an excellent 2:57.22, while Rob Morgan agonisingly missed out on breaking the three-hour barrier, but his 3:00.18 is still an outstanding achievement, over 24 minutes faster than his last outing over the distance.

Meanwhile, in the Wimpole Hoohaah races, Deb Bryant and Julie Balaam were in hilly and muddy 10 mile and half-marathon action respectively. Deb was sixth in the V40 age group, and ninth lady overall, in the shorter race with a fine 1:21.06, while Julie overcame shoe-related adversity to take second place in the V40 category and seventh place in the ladies standings with an excellent 1:44.32. “The poor girl stepped out of her car and her trainer lace broke,” Deb said. “She managed to buy one off a stall but wouldn’t fit through so she tied it all the way around her trainer – very Blue Peter, but it lasted!” Julie added: “Thanks to Deb for keeping me calm. It was a fantastic course – hilly, muddy, with beautiful autumn views – and good training for the forthcoming cross-country season.”

The Three Counties cross-country league kicks off on Sunday in Wellingborough for the notoriously muddy Croyland Park race, and then on 19 November BAC athletes will take their distance running exploits to St Neots for the final club championship race of the season – the Riverside Half Marathon.

Perkins Great Eastern Run 2017 results

gun position | name | chip time

18 Jamie Hall 1:14.06
151 Marcus Davey 1:23.58
231 Elaine Livera 1:27.57
258 John Stott 1:28.50
541 Charlie Arnold 1:37.18
574 Aaron Ball 1:37.24
775 Andy Bruce 1:40.31
778 Hannah Broom 1:42.25
1552 Malcolm Steward 1:54.00
1555 Clark Skerratt 1:56.32
1722 Neil Harvey 1:56.06
1745 Richard Dilley 1:56.19
1759 Kathryn Juty 1:57.37
1916 Amy Stamp 2:00.28
2100 Stephen Atkins 1:58.51 (NB: started further back in field, hence quicker chip time but lower gun placing than Amy)
2359 Nicky Double 2:06.22
2489 Joanne Drummond 2:10.01
2601 Maria Merridan 2:12.12
2603 Giles Hawthorne 2:12.13
2727 Vicky Berry 2:14.06
2728 Rachel Hallam-Stott 2:14.06
3796 Nicola Perrin 2:38.26
4100 Lorraine Emerson 2:58.15

Vikki ‘VV’ Vowles, 1970-2017

Biggleswade Athletic Club has been stunned by the sudden and tragic death of much-loved member Vikki Vowles, who passed away at home on 30 August. A marketing manager at chemistry firm CAS, she was just 47 years old.

Stephen Jones

Despite only having been a member of the club since last summer, having come through BAC’s first ever Couch to 5k programme, Vikki – whose funeral took place on Thursday – impressed from the start. “She had decent turnover and used her arms well,” said club coach Giles Hawthorne. “A coach’s dream – untapped talent.” She took on a host of road races and became renowned for a new-found love of running in the mud when she threw herself – in every sense – into cross country.

Her first outing in the Three Counties XC league last season, at Croyland Park in Wellingborough, has become infamous within the club. “There is a muddy stream crossing – it’s not easy,” Hawthorne added. “By chance I happened to lap Vikki the second time they went through the stream. As I prepared to barrel into it as fast as my legs would carry me, Vikki was basically being manhandled out of the other side. There was a guy on the bank pulling her out by her arms and another in wellies in the stream with both hands on her backside pushing her out. She was covered from head to foot in mud.”

After she crossed the line, officials almost had to squeegee down her race number in order to identify Vikki for results purposes, but despite her muddy mishap, she was thrilled by the experience. Corinne Callligan, a fellow C25k graduate who was running alongside her that day, added: “There are going to be lots of extra BAC members making a very large muddy splash into the Croyland Park brook this year, inspired by Vikki.” Indeed, the forthcoming season kicks off at that venue on 22 October.

Vikki Vowles in cross-country action. Photo by Clive Daniels
Vikki Vowles in cross-country action. Photo by Clive Daniels

Having upped her distances impressively since graduating from the programme, Vikki took on the challenge of preparing herself for a first – now sadly only – half marathon on the anniversary of completing the course this May. “I have never met someone who was more determined and so ambitious to complete anything that she set her mind to,” said Rachel Stott, another in the lineup that day at the Casterbridge Half Marathon. “I absolutely adored that about her.”

“My proudest memory of my friend would be seeing her run past me at mile seven as I supported the team in Dorchester,” added friend and clubmate Jacqui Thompson, “and again at the finishing line with her usual smile.”


Vikki proved an inspiration and became a friend to many new runners in and around the club, and allied to this she had recently become a qualified run leader – the first rung members take on the route to becoming a coach.

Helen Steward, another close friend, said: “She was a great mentor and would encourage people to make them believe they can do anything. I ran with Vikki a lot over the last few months of her life and she would always tell me when we came to a hill: ‘Head up and pump those arms.’ Since her passing, when I’m struggling up hills I will always hear her voice making me more determined to finish.

“Vikki was a great friend and always saw good in everyone, she always lit up the room with her beautiful smile. She was a true inspiration to a lot of people – including myself – for how far she had come in her life.”

Alongside her newly found love of running, Vikki was also a highly active and successful member of her local Slimming World group, and aided by her flurry of activity since starting her running journey she lost a whopping five stone. Shortly before her death Vikki was announced as Woman of the Year after a vote by others in her group.

Group leader Joyce Millson said: “Each week in the group she got support with her weight loss journey and shared with us her progress in running. So much so that she encouraged and later mentored many other Slimming World members to take that first step.”

Immediately after news of her passing broke, the club cancelled all training for a day, with coaches and clubmates bereft at their loss. But BAC members regrouped in force 24 hours later to gather for a tribute outing, on Vikki’s favourite place to run – the Route 51 cycle path from Sandy towards Blunham and Willington – and at her training pace of choice: 12 minutes per mile. They then repaired to The King’s Arms pub in Sandy to share memories of their friend.

Tribute run to Vikki, the day after she died
Members came together at short notice for a tribute run on Route 51

Three days after her death Vikki had been due to run the Glorun 5k in Stanwick, Northamptonshire. Originally envisaged as a fun, low-key local race which only a handful of members had entered, organisers were inundated by a barrage of late entries as BAC members suddenly made up over a fifth of the entry list, and they accosted EastEnders and Gavin & Stacey star Larry Lamb – race starter on the day – to join them in a team photo. The club ended the night with three runners in the top 10: Jon Stott was fourth in 20min 33sec, and took the honours for top veteran athlete, while Daniel Steel – making his road racing debut – was eighth in 22:52 and Stuart Goodwin ninth in a personal best 23:35. Lower down the list, a host of her friends had opted to walk the route, drinking to Vikki’s memory with Pimms and Prosecco in celebration of her dual love of competing and the new-found social life she had enjoyed so much with clubmates and running buddies.

Vikki was a dog lover and a frequent sight pounding the streets with three dogs – Scrappy, Marley and Riley – in tow. She spoke at length upon beginning her running journey that she wanted to be able to “run with her hounds”, and had found the experience of finally being able to do so a highly emotional one. In her honour, family and friends will be leading a memorial dog walk around Stewartby Lake at Millennium Country Park in Bedford at 11.30pm on Saturday 21st October.

Her sister, Katrina, said: “Vikki enjoyed her new-found love for running and also the social side where she had made loads of new friends – some very close – and they would go away participating in various adventures. Her three dogs all miss her and will be very well cared for. Vikki was very much loved and respected by so many people, and sadly missed by her two nephews Chris and Michael, her two nieces – Chris’s two girls – me and her mother.”

Many members of the BAC family have already entered next year’s Casterbridge Half Marathon, in tribute to their friend, with some set to tackle the distance for the first time. “The running was important but the friendships she had built were everything to her,” said Hawthorne. “I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time running alone with Vikki chatting, getting to know her, and it was always fun. I’m going to miss her.”

Vikki “VV” Vowles, 1970-2017