BAC brushes with royalty in the capital – Biggleswade AC at the London Marathon

Biggleswade Athletic Club members were in action both on the roads and in the crowds at last Sunday’s London Marathon. While a considerable support crew took their places at strategic points on the course, six members of the club were in the lineup, experiencing a mixture of euphoria and disappointment, plus brushes with royalty of both the real and soap varieties for good measure.

The BAC support crew in place at mile 14. Photo: Gary Baldwin

First home was Paul Cooke, whose impressive headline finish time of 3hrs 13min 13sec tells only part of the story. With a best of 2:57.59 to his name, set in Brighton next year, Paul was hoping to crack three hours again to earn a guaranteed “Good For Age” place in London next year. By the time he passed the massed ranks of club members at mile 14, he was well on course for the mark, but his plans were derailed when he trod on a discarded water bottle, which left him with a painful trudge to the finish and fears of a cracked bone. His time, the 752nd best in the age 40-44 category and 3467th overall, remains impressive but worries persist about his prospects for the rest of the season.

Not far behind, and facing a different kind of challenge in that he was painted entirely green, and sporting both a huge nylon wig and oversize sunglasses, came Chris Watson. Despite his unconventional garb, his finish time of 3:23.11 is just 11 minutes outside his best and helped raise funds for MacMillan Cancer Support. In the age 50-54 category, Chris came an excellent 448th, and just outside the first 5,000 finishers overall.

BBC screengrab - Chris Watson in green
Squint and you might just make out Chris Watson on the BBC’s coverage …

Next home was Ian Grimwood, the recipient of a highly sought after race place through the club’s own ballot, and he responded to the challenge with a personal best of 4:25.55, which also gave him 277th place in the age 60-64 category, and 19,526th overall.

Club coach Zoe Luscombe, running in aid of Cambridgeshire Community Foundation, was one of many hit by travel disruption, and needed four trains to make it to the start. Worse was to come when hamstring troubles started to flare up at mile six, but pain was soon to play second-fiddle to an unexpected brush with royalty.

She said: “I rounded the corner to Cutty Sark and saw the Heads Together charity area. I immediately recognised the flame hair of Prince Harry and standing beside him were the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. In a flash, I changed direction and ran over saying ‘Hello!’ to Harry and then thanked his brother for starting the race, before turning to the Duchess of Cambridge. I asked for a high five and she did not leave me hanging!”

Despite the unexpected tonic, hip, back and knee problems flared up, leaving race plans for a four hour finish out of the window. “The target was now to finish,” she said. Jules Mackay, along with dozens of BAC members at the roadside proudly wearing club kit, was on hand to offer a welcome tonic. “Zoe stopped for cuddles when she saw us,” she said. “I think she needed a boost.” And despite her troubles – “I completed the race in 4:51.45 – my slowest marathon to date” – Zoe’s time was good enough for 1,471st in the age 40-44 category.

Luci Sanan with her medal at the finish
Luci Sanan recovers from the dual trials of 26.2 miles and meeting Adam Woodyatt.

Royalty of a different kind was to greet recent club recruit Luci Sanan, who found herself running alongside Adam Woodyatt, aka EastEnders veteran Ian Beale. “I ran complete with arthritis – but I made it – Luci said, and she finished in 5:53.52, 7,423rd in the age 18-39 category. Just behind was another club newcomer, Ricky Byrne, who bounced back from a gruelling training schedule which featured a spell of unconsciousness after one particularly hard run, as featured in The Comet. Weeks later and Ricky breasted the tape ahead of the six hour mark to finish in 5:59.22 – 11,110th in the 18-39 category, but more importantly, to do his clubmates and his charity – the National Autistic Society – proud.

Ricky Byrne selfie on Tower Bridge.
Ricky Byrne makes time for a selfie on Tower Bridge.

The inspirational efforts at the showpiece London clearly event caught the imagination of Biggleswade and Sandy locals, as the race was soon followed by a flurry of last-minute applications for BAC’s Couch to 5k programme, which started on Wednesday. Nearly 50 quickfire new sign-ups came shortly before the final cut-off on Tuesday evening, to bring the overall tally to 125 – the club’s biggest programme yet by far. Over the next 12 weeks new runners will be born during a structured programme designed to get everyone over the finish line at a graduation Parkrun in Bedford on 15 July, and given the numbers involved, it’s key for existing members to lend a hand as mentors either at the main training nights on Wednesdays, or at organised homework sessions in the local area.

Offers of help very much welcome via the BAC Members Facebook group.

Track is back: SAL and Beds AAA Open report

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s track and field campaign has roared into life with some great performances, and the club put up a strong fight in the first match of their Southern Athletics League campaign, which was held at Stockwood Park in Luton last Saturday.
Competing in Division 3 North, a small team combined well to hold their own in the face of competition from much larger clubs, with Nathan Dodds – in his first senior competition – taking a brilliant first place in the javelin with a personal best mark of 44.22m.

Nathan Dodds on his way to winning the javelin. Photo: Phil Dickson-Earle

Two competitors are eligible to score points in each event, and in the men’s 100m Callum Dickson-Earle (12.8secs) and Oscar Riley (13.1) ran into a strong headwind to finish in fourth and fifth positions respectively across the A and B strings.

In the 200m, Morgan Webster was agonisingly pipped into second place despite sharing the same time – 23.7 – as the winner. In the B string Bradley Strong took fifth place in 26.8. Webster then added to a great personal points haul for the day with another second place in the 400m, finishing in 52.1.

Morgan Webster was agonisingly pipped into second place in the 200m despite recording the same time as the winner. Photo: Phil Dickson-Earle

Sarah Ridley finished in 13.6 to take a strong third position in the women’s 100m A race, while Janice Amber bravely continued to the line despite pulling up with an injury in the last 30 metres.

Faye Young in action in the high jump. Credit Phil Dickson-Earle
Faye Young in high jump action. Photo: Phil Dickson-Earle

Sarah also competed in the 200m, finishing fourth in 28.5, and her sister Hannah took the same position in the B string race with 29.8. Hannah then gained third place in the women’s 800m, with a time of 2.32.1. Faye Young battled well in both hurdles races, picking up second and third place across the 100MH and 400MH to rack up valuable points.

Coach Paul Davies and the club’s veteran T&F team manager Charlie Arnold racked up some serious distance, with both competing in the 800m and the 5000m, and Paul also adding the 1500m to his day’s work. He was joined in that event by Marcus Davey, who ran a season’s best time of 4.47.2 to take fourth place. Paul took second in the 5000m A string and fourth in the 1500m B string. Arnold took third in the B string 800m then added to his trials with appearances in the 2000m steeplechase and long jump.

Also in the field were Daniel Steel in the pole vault (third, 2.50m), javelin (third B string, 32.57m) and shot put (fifth B string, 7.47m).

As well as Dodds’s javelin exploits, the under 17 athlete also put in great performances in the shot put (fourth, 9.98m) and discus (third B string, 23.91m). In the ladies competition, Sarah Ridley pulled off a fourth place finish and a personal best of 29.74m in the discus and took third in the shot with 9.80m. Sarah also put in some good throws in the B string javelin to take second in 15.17m, while Laura Satahoo took third in the A string with 22.21m.

In the 4x100m relay, the women picked up third place while David Brown – an official for the day – put his clipboard down to help both the men’s 4x100m and 4x400m relay teams earn valuable points.

Biggleswade finished fifth overall in the fixture and now look forward to the second league match in St Albans on the 20th May.

Beds AAA Open

The previous weekend BAC athletes were out in force at the busy Bedfordshire AAA Open Meeting at Bedford International Stadium on 9 April, on a day when many came away with new best marks.

In superb spring conditions there were great performances in the field, with Joshua Watson winning the high jump in 1.95m – his best mark for two years – to finish 15cm clear of his nearest opposition, and Darren Janssen took both the discus and shot put honours with 25.69m and 8.62m respectively. Marcus Davey, who competes in the veteran age 45 category, finished third in a quality 1500m field in which the rest of the lineup were aged 20 or younger.

Ten athletes were in action in the 100m alone, spread across several races as a staggering 98 runners had signed up. Leading the way was under-20s athlete Morgan Webster, who posted a personal best of 11.37sec to capture third place in his heat, which was won in the second fastest time of the day.

100m season’s bests were posted by Tristan (12.24) and Cameron Rayner (U15, 12.27), Callum Stokes (U17, 12.28), Bradley Strong (U20, 13.16) and Georgia Smith (U15, 13.91). In the Under 13s age group, Alicia Ward recorded a wind-assisted PB of 14.53, and would later add a SB 3.56m in the long jump, while in the next heat Natasha Ryall nabbed a PB of 14.32 running into a slight headwind. It was a productive day for Natasha, as she also recorded a PB 12.87 in the 70m hurdles as well as another in winning the U13 javelin (17.14m).

Madison Ball also ran a 100m PB of 15.92, and later added another personal best in the 800m. Also in the 100m was U15 athlete Jacob Gittens-Mcnamara, who recorded 13.69 to add to his 27.90 in the 200m.

Elsewhere in the 200m, Webster posted a season’s best 23.58, while U15 Georgia Smith finished second in her heat in a PB of 28.21. U13 Sophie Forbes-Laird broke the 30-second barrier to record a brilliant PB of 29.99, and there were season’s bests for Tristan Rayner (24.74), Callum Stokes (24.80), Cameron Rayner (25.3) and Bradley Strong (26.7).

Rounding out the BAC participants were U15 Daniel Hemming, who ran a SB 5:20.98 in the 1500m, and under 11s athlete Emily Stokes, who leaped to 2.39m in the long jump.

Heat and those darn hills: Flitwick 10k race report

Fourteen runners from Biggleswade Athletic Club found themselves facing the dual challenge of hills and searing heat at the challenging Flitwick 10k race last Sunday, and three returned home with top 10 age group placings.

BAC - Flitwick 10k
BAC finishers in their souvenir shirts.

John Stott was the club’s first finisher, 47th overall and one place outside the top 10 in the men’s veteran age 40-49 category with a fine time of 41mins 46sec. Charlie Arnold, who will be helming BAC’s Eastern Masters Track & Field League challenge this season, was next up, fifth in the age 60-69 bracket despite recent injuries and 104th overall in 45:18. Just behind came the 10th female finisher overall Natalie Morgan, with husband Rob in tow, in a superb 45:37, which was also good enough for third in the extremely competitive female 35-44 category. Rob was one second behind.

Neil Harvey was next up for BAC, just outside the 50 minute mark (209th overall, 33rd in M50-59 category, 50:07), and afterwards he admitted to a slightly unwise preparation. “I was happy with my performance having completely overtrained – 11 miles on Thursday night, why? – and playing golf the day before. Still, I was only two minutes outside my time last year. It was a lovely day with great support around the course including our own Ken Prior and Nigel Bush, who strategically kept popping up with support at various points – thanks for that guys!”

Gary Baldwin (233rd, 37th M50-59, 51:34) and Jon Balaam (236th, 67th M40-49, 52:14) were next up, followed by Stephen Atkins (250th, 14th M60-69, 52:37) and – hot on the heels of two consecutive 20-mile races – Clark Skerratt (388th, 23rd M60-69, 58:24).

Amy - Flitwick 10k
Amy Stamp with her souvenir shirt.

Amy Stamp (418th, 30th W17-34) put in a tremendous performance in her first outing for the club – the first race she had taken part in for 16 years – dipping comfortably under the hour mark with 59:37. She confirmed the conditions were not for the faint at heart: “It was really hot and really hilly – whoever said it was merely ‘undulating’ was lying – but very enjoyable and with lots of camaraderie from club members. I would’ve liked to have done it a bit faster, but I was pleased I got in under the hour given the conditions.”

Rounding out the BAC entrants were Elissa Mcnamara (462nd, 38th W17-34, 1:01.21), Colin Harries – who came eighth in the M70-79 category (476th, 1:02.17) – followed shortly afterwards by Rachel Hallam-Stott (494th, 49th W35-44, 1:03.16) and Jane Waters (518th, W55-64, 1:04.36). Rachel said of the course: “Many people had said that the second 5k was going to be tougher than the first, due to the hills, but I preferred the second half so much more. Maybe it was the thought of getting back for a cup of tea.”

Resized_20170409_114751 Flitwick 10k

Sandy track resurfacing – days 15 to 33

The refurbished facilities are taking shape. Here’s club chairman Damien Pitts on its progress …

Days 15: 17 March 2017

The new metal frame for the hammer throwing circle has now been concreted into place, just awaiting the circle to be filled next. The metal frame for the shot put throwing circle has been put in place and will be concerted in next.

The edging around the long jump pit has now been removed.

Work continues on the tarmac path round the outside of the track with the path being cleared of moss.

Day 18: 22 March 2017

Today three quarters of the track resurface was removed, this is the red layer of the track that is being resurfaced. The only remaining part of this track surface is the first bend and high jump/pole vault area.

The first layer of cider has now been put down on the shot put throwing area and the outside edge of the shot put throwing circle has now been concreted.

Day 20: 24 March 2017

The top surface of the track has now been removed and work has started on replacing the long jump pit.

Work has also continued on clearing the moss on the tarmac path round the outside of the track.

Day 23: 29 March 2017
The shot put throwing area, throwing circle and hammer circle are now finished and ready for inspection.

The long jump pit has now been replaced and started to be filled with sand. The outer edge of the long jump pit will be put in place soon.


The base layer of the track has now been cleaned and the tarmac path round the outside of the track has now been completely cleared of moss.

Day 25: 31 March 2017

The long jump pit has now been completed and filled with sand. The outside of the pit has now been filled in with topsoil and grass seed has been sown.

I will be attending the first progress meeting on Tuesday, with the council, school and contractors. This meeting will include a site walk-around, so will get some more close up photos of the hammer circle and shot put area.

Day 27: 4 April 2017

This morning I attended a progress meeting between the council, school and contractors. The works are on track and are still aiming for completion mid May, however the next phase of work is all weather dependant.

The contractors confirmed the below at the meeting:
• Hammer throwing circle is due to be inspected this afternoon and is expected to pass the UKA standard
• Shot put throwing area is now complete. Once the hammer throwing circle has passed the inspection, the top layer will be added to the shot put throwing circle, as these need to be to the same standard.
• The steeplechase water jump has been tested and cleaned.
• Long jump pit has been made deeper, more drainage added and the grass area around the pit has been levelled.
• The grass has been re-edged around the inside and outside of the track. The inside track curb and tarmac path round the outside of the track has now been fully pressure washed.
• The top track surface has been removed and the base layer is very good condition. There are no repairs needed for the base layer.

The track top surface materials have arrived on site and work commenced this morning on replacing the track area around the pole vault bed areas. Work will commence on the track top surface in the next couple of days, but this is dependent on weather conditions.

Once the new top track surface has been laid, this will then be sprayed red and line marking will commence.

Day 31: 8 April 2017

No I haven’t got the date wrong for the update, as the contractors were at the track today (yes a Saturday) to make the most of the good weather.
The hammer circle passed its inspection on Tuesday afternoon and now the shot put throwing circle has been completed.

The top surface of the track has been laid in the hammer circle, inside track area by the hammer cage/shot put and steeplechase jump, as well as the inside area (ie high jump and pole vault area). The contractors started work this morning on the main track top surface by the high jump area.

Day 33: 11 April 2017

The contractors have been making the most of the good weather and have laid 95% of the black top surface of the track now. Around 50 metres is left on the home straight.

The next stage will be to add to a thin layer of red resin on top of the black surface and then painting will commence.

Returning heroines and RAC overnighters: Oakley 20 race report

Biggleswade AC runners endured mixed fortunes at the Oakley 20 mile race on Sunday, with one award-winning performance, some great times but also injury disappointment. The hilly event run by Bedford Harriers, which starts from Lincroft Middle School, provides the perfect preparation for runners heading for the London Marathon later in the month, but is also a considerable challenge in itself.

Julie Balaam, returning to running after a break to raise a family, stormed round the course in 2hrs 33min 42sec, and she was crowned Bedfordshire County 20 mile champion in the female veteran over 35 age group, despite having not raced over 10k for seven years. Julie’s training is now focused on the Halstead Marathon in May.

Rob Morgan, using the Oakley race as a fast-paced training run, was the first BAC athlete to finish, with a great time of 2:30.05, the 23rd best mark in a very high-quality V40 category. Ian Grimwood showed his London training is in a great place with a 3:07.09 finish, which made him the sixth V60 finisher.

Ian Skerratt said he was “just pleased to get round” having run the Wymondham 20 mile race seven days earlier – his participation in both races down to a “diary malfunction”. Yet he was eighth in the V65 standings with 3:26.25 – just four minutes outside his time in Wymondham. However Andy Bruce, a regular at London, was forced out of the race after the 12-mile mark with an injury that could jeopardise his marathon preparations.

Cat Marriott, meanwhile, bettered her time at the event last year despite taking to the start line having had no sleep. Having been helped around the majority of the course by Juliet Grimwood, who was struggling with injury, Cat said of her time: “I was on the back of a motorbike which broke down in central London on Saturday night. I spent the early hours of Sunday morning sitting in a pub doorway in my biker clothes waiting for phone calls from the RAC. I eventually got back to Potton at around 7.40am – I left for Oakley at 8.30.” Despite her overnight ordeal, Cat finished a superb sixth in the FV60 standings in 3:57.22.