Biggleswade Athletic Club’s ladies cross-country team capped a dominant season with another match win to seal their third successive Three Counties XC league title. Following last week’s haul of awards at the county championships, the team took the top prize again, as well as a quartet of individual honours.
Power-couple Elaine Livera and Jamie Hall capped astonishing debut seasons with brilliant performances on the day, but more was to come in the prize-giving ceremony when Elaine took overall honours for the whole season, while Jamie was second on the men’s side. Across the five fixtures, Elaine was 1st, 3rd, 2nd, 4th and 2nd respectively, while Jamie took three 4th places and a 5th in the four matches he competed in.
Isobel Everest and Juliet Nayler were others to enjoy incredibly consistent seasons, and they took the FV35 and FV40 honours respectively. With team victory on the day meaning they won four of the five fixtures this season, the ladies’ team cantered to the league win.
Out on the course of the “home” fixture at Bedford’s Priory Park, organised and overseen by Juliet, who was a non-runner on the day, wet weather had caused upheaval in the runup, leaving a section of the scheduled course looking less like cross-country and more competitive wading. Thankfully plans had been made and though the rejigged route was slightly shorter, it still posed a unique, sapping, muddy challenge to competitors, with an ice-cold stream crossing to boot.
Following the initial charge from the start line, early exuberance soon gave way to runners criss-crossing the breadth of the course in search of the least treacherous racing line.
Marcus Davey said of conditions: “I was expecting a mud-fest but as it turned out it wasn’t all mud – only the second mile was the tricky section with plenty of ‘squidge bogs’. From data collected from our various BAC owned GPS running devices collated on Strava, I have been geeky enough to note the second mile of the run was on average 30 to 45 seconds slower due to the excess of water and mud.” How runners contended with the slower sections would prove critical to final places, with some powering through as others wilted.
With many BAC members standing aside to help with marshalling duties, the club fielded ateam of 27, making the prize-winning achievements all the more impressive. As a comparison, Bedford Harriers, who were runners up in the ladies league had 71, while Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers – top of the men’s table – had 68. North Herts Road Runners, the overall winners of the combined team prize for the season, had a team of 49 competing on the day.
Of his fourth-place run, Jamie Hall said: “I was quite apprehensive before the start; I had foolishly looked at the overall standings after the last event and found that despite never placing higher than fourth, I was in with a chance of finishing second in the series if I had a good run.
“The race got off to a strange start. I had been caught napping at the start of the last few events and missed the horn, so I watched the starter like a hawk. A rather forlorn whimper came from the klaxon canister along with some compressed air, I immediately set off, charging to the front in an eight-second burst as instructed by coach Paul Davies. After a brief spell in the lead alongside Rob, I was soon joined by three others who gradually eased away from me as we approached the water feature.
“I knew I couldn’t keep with the front runners, so I settled into what felt like an appropriate pace and tried to conserve my energy as much as possible over the boggy surface. Having missed the first event and its stream, it was nice to get a proper cross country christening through the brook. As the race progressed we eventually reached a short paved stretch where a runner in trail shoes was able to make up ground. As soon as we hit the grass my spikes started paying off again and I managed to stick with him until we reached the final stretch. I gave it everything I had to push ahead and sprint to finish the race in fourth. With no idea who the runners were ahead of me other than the clear winner of the series, I wouldn’t know my final place until the awards were handed out.”
On the ladies’ side things were clearer cut, with Elaine Livera arriving on the start line with the same number of points as Bedford’s Gill Fullen, meaning a straight shootout between the two for the individual title. From the start, in BAC coach Giles Hawthorne’s words at the finish: “She was awesome today.” Elaine powered round to finish as second lady, but crucially Gill was the fourth lady finisher on the day.
Filling up the ladies’ scoring positions, Isobel Everest was sixth, Hannah Broom seventh and Natalie Morgan ninth, with all having been in and around the top 10 all season.
Elaine said: “I realise that the marshals and organisers usually get thanked at the end of these reports so I wanted to make sure they took priority for once. I thought the course was really good and all the work that went in to organising and setting up the route on the day was awesome. I do realise that if most of you hadn’t have been helping, you would have been running, so I really appreciate you sacrificing your own runs so that we could all participate. Hopefully there will be an event in the future where I will marshal so you guys can run!
“After a fun evening making over 400 rolls with a few members of the BAC team, we had all topped up on some team spirit in preparation for a tough but exciting run the next day. Due to the excellent performance by everyone who had run in the previous races, the women’s team was very close to winning the title! If we all ran well on the day, we knew we could secure it. This pressure was definitely in the forefront of my mind as well as the nerves that came from knowing that I had to place at least one point ahead of the woman I was tied with on points.
“I knew that the calibre of runners who showed up on the morning was high and that they would be really hard to beat. I decided to try the tactic that had worked at Dunstable; just run as hard as you can for as long as you can and hope that ‘as long as you can’ reaches the finish line.
“The route was really good and felt like proper cross country (minus the hills) due to the energy sapping mud that made you feel like you were sliding backwards with every step you did. All I could think about was where I was on the course map and I was watching myself complete the course as if I was seeing it as a Strava flyby.
“I managed to stay with the girl in front quite comfortably in the muddy woods as I was wearing spikes however as we changed terrain and moved onto a short stretch of concrete, she started to increase the distance between us. I was okay with this as I was still in front of the lady I knew I had to beat.
“As I neared the finish I heard Jamie shouting at me to start sprinting and I’m glad I was told because one of the ladies behind me had also started sprinting in the hope of pipping me to the line! Thankfully I managed to hold her off! Phew! Plus, coming second meant that I had won the individual title!”
The men were seventh on the day, meaning the combined team were an excellent fifth for the season. Behind Jamie his fellow scorers were Steven Baldwin (42nd), Rob Morgan (61st), Marcus Davey (66th), Paul Cooke (88th), Nick Haworth (91st), Paul Davies (93rs) and Jon Stott (106th).
The third team title marked the end of a long and prize-filled relationship BAC has enjoyed with Juliet Nayler, and after the race chairman Damien Pitts gathered members around to pay warm tribute to the hard work she put in over the years both as a key part of the squad, and as team captain. Of what comes next, Juliet said: “I’m joining Bedford Harriers to train for triathlons with them. But I will be doing Liverpool half in May with some of the Biggleswade bunch.
“You never know I may be helping the Harriers with their cross-country!”
Jamie added: “Thank you to Jules for organising such a successful event – the course was brilliant. Good luck in your new club, you’ll be missed.
“The team spirit has been incredible, it’s great to see so many people from the club giving it everything over some really tough terrain! Special thanks to Paul Davies for the training sessions as well as the excellent advice and encouragement, all of which were absolutely essential in coming away with an award.”
Position | Name (Gender position)
4 Jamie Hall (4)
43 Steven Baldwin (42)
60 Elaine Livera (2)
66 Rob Morgan (61)
71 Marcus Davey (66)
95 Paul Cooke (88)
98 Nick Haworth (91)
100 Paul Davies (93)
114 Isobel Everest (6)
115 Jon Stott (106)
119 Hannah Broom (7)
123 Natalie Morgan (9)
140 Charlie Arnold (124)
154 Emma Bailey (16)
158 Aaron Ball (139)
242 Stuart Goodwin (188)
245 Nigel Bush (190)
251 Neil Harvey (192)
269 Kathryn Juty (62)
283 Kevin Goody (209)
301 Nicky Double (78)
311 Ian Grimwood (224)
335 Ricky Byrne (238)
340 Georgia Barker (97)
353 Juliet Grimwood (107)
385 Julie Spavins (135)
412 Julie Cooke (160)
The ladies of Biggleswade Athletic Club continued their astonishing run of off-road success across the region, coming away from the Bedfordshire County Cross Country championships at Shuttleworth College with a host of individual team prizes. Not to be outdone, a couple of the men joined them with gongs of their own.
As well as scooping top honours in both the senior/veterans and standalone veterans team standings, Elaine Livera (second across the line overall) was first senior finisher, Isobel Everest (fourth overall) first in the V45 category and Hannah Broom (fifth) was the first V35. In sixth, Natalie Morgan was the second F40 over the line, while 10th-placed Hannah Ridley was just two off making the top three in the seniors rankings. And all this in spite of mild controversy over the length of the course, which caught many competitors off-guard.
Elaine said: “By the time we had completed one lap of the run, I was quite surprised to see that we had already run over 3km – it was at that moment that I heard team-mates warning me that the course was, in fact, about 10km long instead of 8km! It was also at this point that the wind picked up, preventing us from making the most of the only downhill segment) and the rain started up.
“I followed the tips given by coach Paul Davies – run like I ran at the St Neots half-marathon. Don’t get too puffed out in the first half of the run to make sure you can finish the race properly. By this point the girl in first position was quite far ahead, so I focused on catching the two girls about 300m in front of me. By maintaining an OKpace I slowly managed this and overtook the 2nd girl on the 3rd attempt at the killer hill. From here I knew it wasn’t too far to go and counted down the distance by 100m segments. Everyone ran their bums off and it was so worth it! We got a brilliant haul for Biggleswade AC!”
Hannah found herself in a battle for top V35 honours. She said: “I went out hard and got into a good position, keeping Izzy in my sights. Keeping a steady pace I overtook two girls early on in the second lap, and there was now only one girl between me and Izzy, but she was a way off. I kept going as I was and slowly I began to catch her. As I went passed coach Paul he told me I had opened a big gap behind, so I wasn’t under pressure. I was now closing in on the girl in front. It was the final lap, the big hill, and she slowed. I overtook her but I couldn’t push on the down and I heard her chasing, coming back at me. I was powerless as she overtook me as we made a sharp turn to the left.
“I made a plan, she was tiring and hills were not her strength but they are mine, I felt strong and I gathered myself and prepared for a tough finish. I had to push over the next hill and overtake her but then I had to keep pushing at a faster pace for the finish. It was about half a mile of really hard running, across mud and some smaller sharper hills. I launched my attack and overtook her on the hill, I powered down the other side and just kept going, I had no idea if she had come with me! My lungs were on fire, my legs were burning …where was the end?! Finally the finish and I had done it … fifth Bedfordshire female home, I had retained my first FV35 status, we were team champions again. It was the best race of my life to date – I totally loved it. Huge huge thanks to the support crew and marshals, it totally made the difference to me out there.”
On the mens side, Jamie Hall was ninth overall, in 51:09. Meanwhile, bookending the podium in the over-60s races were Charlie Arnold, just under eight minutes clear of the athlete in second place, while Chris Clarke emerged victorious in a close race for third place with a Dunstable Road Runners athlete.
Charlie said: “Tackling the steep slopes and the dash downhill made it impossible to keep a consistent rhythm, but the thought was always to keep pressing on as the legs got heavier and heavier. There was great support from BAC members around the course, and those marshalling helped tremendously and kept my focus on the race. Finally, lap three was finished and my turn to filter towards the finishing line with great relief.”
In the combined senior and veteran womens team standings, which see each club’s first three finishers have their results stacked together, BAC’s trio of Elaine, Hannah and Natalie finished in 2:15:18, over 15 minutes clear of Leighton Buzzard AC in second place.
In the womens veteran team standings, Isobel moved up to first BAC finisher, joined by Hannah and Natalie Morgan, and the combined finish time of 2:19:47 saw Biggleswade finish almost 19 minutes clear of Leighton Buzzard.
In the junior 4k races, Caitlin Allen was fifth under-15s finisher in 19:43, while on the boys side in the same age group Elliott Swinburne was eighth, in exactly 18 minutes. The seniors now move on to the final Three Counties XC match of the season, hosted by BAC at Priory Park in Bedford on Sunday, where the womens team are away and clear in pole position at the top of the league.
Bedfordshire County Cross Country championships Results
Position | Name | Time | Category (where applicable)
Senior and veteran women (“8k”)
2 Elaine Livera 43:44 Senior
4 Isobel Everest 45:33 F45
5 Hannah Broom 46:01 F35
6 Natalie Morgan 48:13 F40
10 Hannah Ridley 51:20 Senior
Senior and veteran men (11k)
9 Jamie Hall 51:09 Senior
32 Paul Cooke 1:02:41 M40
41 Paul Davies 1:07:30 M45
Over 60 men (“8k”)
1 Charlie Arnold 47:52
3 Chris Clarke 56:21
Under 15 girls (4k)
5 Caitlin Allen 19:43
Under 15 boys (4k)
8 Elliott Swinburne 18:00
Multi-events specialist Daniel Steel began his track and field season with a new sensation – that of being a new father. Arriving at the England Athletics Indoor Combined Events championships in Sheffield, and having been away from competition for four months, expectations were hard to assess over two days of tough action. “It was already a huge task to get close to my club record 3,383pts,” he said. “However, I was in for an almighty shock.” Four of them, to be precise.
First up was the 60m. “I got off to a solid start and to my surprise me and one other started to pull away from the field. Second place, 7.76sec, a personal best.
“My long jump was a solid 5.84m, but nothing spectacular, but then the shot put was the biggest surprise of the weekend. After a foul in the 1st round my second round throw was half a metre longer than I’d thrown before and a club record by 99cm – 9.60m!
“For the high jump I was expecting to jump around the 1.70m-1.75m area. However, I was feeling good in warm-up, clearing 1.75m in the process. So, I had a clear card through 1.65m, 1.71m, 1.74m and 1.77m, then cleared my year target-height of 1.80m at the second attempt. Safe to say the whole Sheffield arena heard my delight at clearing the bar!”
Day two posed an additional challenge, and Dan arrived on the back of a sleepless night, thanks to six-week-old Maisie. In spite of this, he got off to another fine start in the 60m hurdles. “Leading into the first barrier my stride pattern got the better of me and fell away towards the end. However, a time of 10.71s hadn’t caused any damage and the record was well and truly on.
“In the pole vault I had trouble with the pole in warm-up. But once I had got going clearances at 2.78m, 2.88m, 2.98m – then, finally another PB of 3.08m! That meant I had scored more than last year with one whole event still to go.
“Going into the final event, the 1,000m, I knew I needed 3:13 to break 3,600 points. However in the middle of the race I’d got isolated and with a lap to go I was too slow. Somehow I pulled out a 34-second final lap to finish in 3:10.40.”
This added up to a superb 3,629 points, 246 points more than his previous indoor club record, and a fine 20th place overall among some of the best young multi-event talents in England.
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s annual Fairy Run delighted locals and bemused unfamiliar visitors to the RSPB headquarters over the festive period, as 41 runners in fancy dress embarked on a time-trial around The Lodge.
The seasonal staple sees members take up wands and strap on fairy wings, with honours available for both the Fastest Fairy and Best Dressed Fairy. Chairman Damien Pitts allotted a handicap start time to each competitor, based on performances over the year, with the intent of levelling the playing field.
However overindulgence over Christmas, some lingering injuries, as well as some laughably impractical costumes gave some slower runners a chance, while relegating faster entrants towards the back of the pack, unable to make up ground.
With the closing stages taking in the steep trudge uphill at the end of The Lodge near Biggleswade Common, mince pies and nights out caught up with several entrants, while mutterings were also voiced about the quality of the handicapping, with eyebrows raised in particular at the kind handicap the chairman had given himself.
Best Dressed honours went to Charlie Arnold, whose ensemble, Pirate Fairy Piggybacking on a Leprechaun, was a clear winner of the vote, held during a lengthy post-run debrief at the Sir William Peel pub. Second place went to Kathryn Juty, sporting a more elegant number – Traditional Fairy – but hampering her own chances with an eye-popping wingspan that was far from aerodynamic, even if it did make overtaking her almost impossible on all but the widest sections of the course. Fastest Fairy honours went to Steven Baldwin, whose time of 18:34 pipped Marcus Davey by just three seconds.
Charlie said: “I soon found myself falling behind the pace as my tight and cumbersome costume added to the handicap as I trundled down the hill. At least the encouraging beeps of passing motorists made me remember it was all for good fun.
“Along Stratford Road, fairies were passing me and, with a chuckle, offering further encouragement. The best quote was passing an applauding member of the public who took one look at me and proffered: ‘I bet you’re regretting that costume now!’
“Plodding on, step by step, I was preparing myself for the climb up the final hill. Determined to keep going to the end I soldiered on and was relieved to reach the top, and stumbled along the final few yards to the finish. Pleased to finish, but a great occasion and, and then off to the pub for a well earned drink and buffet.”
BAC member Carol Garratt said: “The majority of the boys all showed real enthusiasm for donning tights, dresses and on inspection of the photographs close up, nail varnish!
“As an observer I felt this more than any other event I’ve been involved in or watched demonstrated the great camaraderie and fun of the club, although having said that, tactics were still being discussed which to be honest couldn’t really be taken seriously when those involved were sporting sexy little numbers and flowing wigs!”
Rachel Stott added: “This was my first Fairy Run, and had been looking doubtful due to injury. However, I managed a run/walk with Helen Steward, so we set off first. The first few minutes were hard but we soon settled in to our first running part of the day. It was great to be a part of it, the cars tooting as we went by and to see the people cheering us on. The quote of the day from one gentleman was: ‘It is better to fly, than to run.’
“It was an amazing day. I really loved being with all of my running buddies and seeing the brilliant outfits.”
The tradition dates back to the early 1990s, with roots even further black, as former BAC chairman Nigel Bush explains: “The 3-mile Christmas handicap around the RSPB loop started in the 1980s and originally started and finished along Stratford Road near the cemetery – extended to just over the full lap to make it 3 miles!
“In 1991 Roger Wadeley and I had London Marathon entries but both had injury problems during training so we decided to dress in fancy dress as we were not in shape for PBs. A tutu, wig and wand seemed like a good idea as these outfits didn’t restrict the running action. Our aim was to run together, enjoy the event, try to break 3 hours and be the first fancy dress runners to finish. Things didn’t quite go to plan. A green dragon passed us at 24 miles and we finished in 3hrs 0mins 25sec. I’ve still got the finish line photo hanging on my wall as a memory of Rog.
“The following Christmas we decided to run the handicap in our fairy costumes and the whole thing caught on from there!”
BAC, as always, thank the RSPB for their support of what is always one of the club social highlights of the year. Thanks also to all of hostelries of Sandy and Potton for their hospitality, and apologies for any extra vacuuming required following our visits. One of Biggleswade AC’s core values is in taking your glitter with you when you leave.