Couch to 5k to … 13.1 miles: graduates celebrate anniversary in style, plus BAC roundup

A year on from completing Biggleswade Athletic Club’s first ever Couch to 5k programme, five BAC members marked the anniversary in style, challenging themselves at a much longer distance. Corinne Calligan, Helen and Malcolm Steward, Rachel Hallam Stott and Vikki Vowles took on last weekend’s Casterbridge Half in Dorset, a half-marathon race of 13.1 miles which works out well over four times the 5km distance they originally set out to conquer.

Since completing the programme the quintet have joined BAC and now run three times a week, taking in a mixture of training and social runs including the club’s regular Sunday Coffee and Cake outings across the region. Having started on day one of C25k with a session of 10 x 1 minute runs, the progression to several hours out on hilly terrain has been remarkable and testiment to their commitment and new-found love of running.

The Casterbridge course was not cherrypicked for its ease either, and is certainly not one for the fainthearted as it consists of mile upon mile of beautiful yet very hilly countryside. In humid bank holiday weekend conditions, the runners gamely soldiered on to end the day with excellent times and finishers’ medals to treasure.

First of the five over the line was Malcolm, in an excellent time of 2hr 12min 15sec, closely followed by Vicky Berry (2:12.47), who leads the club’s “improver’s” training group and helps bridge the gap between Couch to 5k and longer distances. Helen and Rachel were next up in 2:40.34 and 2:40.35 respectively, while Corinne and Vikki Vowles had a blast on the course and ended with times of 2:57.12 and 2:57.16.

Jon Stott on his way to a superb marathon time. Photo by Jacqui Thompson

In the Dorchester Marathon that runs alongside the half, Jon Stott – in his debut over the distance – finished in an outstanding time of 3:39.03 to take 77th place overall, and 30th in the senior men’s category. All runners sent their gratitude to another C25k graduate, Jacqui Thompson, who lent valuable race support along the course.

Stephen & Helen Jones/Dorsetbays Photography

Club coach Giles Hawthorne, a key figure in getting BAC’s C25k programme off the ground, said of the runners’ achievements: “I think they are a breath of fresh air. These guys are proof that if you run three times a week, and take advantage of all the opportunities that being in a running club offers you – from cross-country to structured training and coaching advice – remarkable things are possible. Health, fitness and mental health can be improved at any age.”

He reserved particular mention for Vikki Vowles, who has proved an inspiration to current C25k participants with her story of progressing from being, in her own words, “seriously obese, asthmatic and diabetic” to 5k, cross country races through the winter, and now far beyond.

“Vikki is something special,” Giles said. “She is a fantastic athlete who is only just beginning to explore what she is capable of in her running.

“The other thing that comes out in the photos from the race is you can see the bond of friendship between them. They would never have met each other if it wasn’t for running. The great thing is that this is only the beginning for them.”

Huge thanks from our half-marathon-running C25k graduates to Vicky Berry and Jacqui Thompson for their invaluable support in Dorchester

With the current Couch to 5k programme hitting the halfway mark this week, an enormous thank you to all participants, coaches and mentors, and remember, whatever lies ahead after graduation for the current crop, and indeed for all members of the club, BAC offers a host of training groups and activities to help you reach your goal 

Club secretary Broom sweeps up another 26.2 miles

On the same day up in the north-west, BAC club secretary Hannah Broom took on her third 26.2 mile challenge in a month at the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll Marathon, hoping to secure a highly sought after, but notoriously hard to achieve “Good for Age” entry into the 2018 London Marathon.

In search of a time of 3hr 45mins, Hannah set off, accompanied by club coach Paul Davies. “It was always going to be hard with so much in the legs, but I had to know,” she said. “Three marathons in a month is never easy but I had to give it a go.”

“Despite the recent tragedy in Manchester the atmosphere was brilliant – it was a fantastic way to sightsee around the city, with Everton and Anfield on route. The bands playing music on the way round were a real lift. I was bang on the pace and feeling comfortable. The 3:45 pacer was well behind and I had time in the bag, so it was looking like I had it.”

Unfortunately, around five miles from the end, trouble struck. “At mile 21, the wheels started to come off,” Hannah said. “My calves started cramping – something that I had never experienced – and I needed to stop and stretch them. We walked a bit and then tried to run but they cramped up again.”

Ominously, the 3:45 pacer went past, meaning she was now behind schedule. “We decided we were into injury prevention mode and came home slowly – there is always another day.”

“Slowly” being a relative term, Hannah still finished well inside four hours, crossing the line in 3:58.10 – an excellent time, and her third fastest over the distance. She placed 1,052nd overall out of 2,972 finishers, and was the 160th female runner home.

Hannah added: “I had already decided when I entered this race, if for whatever reason it did not go in my favour I would park the marathons for a while and concentrate on half-marathon distance for a while. Massive thanks to Paul for spending the longest ever time on his feet and being my running butler as well as great company!”

BAC – back on track


Away from the roads, Sandy Track reopened last week after a spell of refurbishment, meaning Biggleswade Athletic Club currently boasts the freshest track surface and throwing areas in the UK.

Having originally opened in September 2005, the original track was almost 12 years old and well past its best. The new surface however is stunning, offers athletes a superb training environment, and looks set to prove an excellent facility for future competitions.

Club chairman Damien Pitts said: “The last few months have not been easy for our athletes, with them having to train on different nights and travel further afield in order to continue their training and prepare for competitions.

“It is now great news to have the track resurface work completed, in order for all of athletes to be back to their home track and for them all to be back training with each other once again.

“We have a track in place for at least the next 10 years for us to continue to manage, train and hold competitions on. This helps us to promote the club, but also supports the wider community as this is a facility that they can use as well.”

Veterans, seniors, juniors and the club’s Little Bees (age 8-10) will all be making great use of the fantastic new facilities throughout and summer and far beyond. In a year that features the World Athletics Championships in London, it’s a great time to get involved, and either renew old skills or try your hand at something new. For information regarding club membership and training on the track, visit the club website.

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