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).
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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)