Middle-distance royalty trains BAC … Jenny Meadows joins athletes in Sandy

Biggleswade Athletic Club were thrilled to host multi-medal-winning Team GB athlete Jenny Meadows last Saturday, as she headed up a fascinating training session. On a glorious morning at Sandy Track, Jenny was joined by her coach and husband Trevor Painter, who is also GB’s Under-20 Team Leader for athletics, and between them they gave valuable tuition in running mechanics to members from the Little Bees, aged 8-10, through to juniors, seniors and veteran performers.

Jenny is recognised as one of Britain’s best, but most unfortunate athletes of the last two decades, competing in an era when systemic doping by Russian athletes denied her well-earned podium opportunities, and although she ran in the 2008 Olympics, injuries cruelly deprived her of participation at both the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Games. Despite these setbacks, she won two bronze medals at the 2009 World Championships in Berlin across the 800m and as a member of the 4x400m relay team, and silvers at World Indoor and European Outdoor Championships in 2010. Her 800m PB of 1:57:93 set in winning world bronze in 2009 is the fourth-best time in the UK all-time ranking list.

She was retrospectively awarded gold from the 2011 European Indoor Championships after the first athlete across the line was stripped of the medal two years later, and in 2017 she lamented that Russian doping had potentially cost her at least three more medals during her career.

Jenny Meadows and Trevor Painter. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Jenny Meadows and Trevor Painter. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

Two years after retiring from competition, and in spite of the mixed emotions she experienced as an athlete, Jenny says she remains passionate about her sport, and she now mentors youngsters and helps club athletes to improve.

Through a series of drills, athletes were shown how to improve their running form, and how the wrong technique meant that every stride was potentially holding runners back. Soon all were reaping the benefits, as Jenny and Trevor broke down, step-by-step, how to improve acceleration while improving efficiency in movement. In time the techniques demonstrated can help runners perform faster for longer.

Jenny Meadows demonstrates one of the drills. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Jenny Meadows demonstrates one of the drills. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

Julie Cooke attended the session alongside husband Paul and her daughter Holly, who is one of the club’s Little Bees. “We really enjoyed it and I’ll take away some tips which I’ll remember when I’m running. Jenny and her husband were so down to earth and easy to learn from.”

Jenny Meadows oversees one of the drills. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Jenny oversees athletes including Jules Mackay and Neil Harvey. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

BAC committee member Stuart Goodwin watched from the sidelines, and was delighted with how the members responded. “Jenny was brilliant with the youngsters in particular, and it was a real thrill for them to be complimented on their technique by someone so decorated on the international stage. At first everyone was finding some of the coordination needed really hard to master, but suddenly it seemed to just click, and the development throughout the session was incredible.

“At one point she complimented club secretary Hannah Broom on her speed – ‘You’re pretty nippy!’ – and Hannah’s face was an absolute picture. When a world champion and multi-medal-winner tells you you’re decent, that’s got to be a good moment in any club athlete’s life!”

Hannah, who organised the session, said: “I found both Jenny and Trevor to be encouraging and engaging while remaining informative and fun! My apprehensions of ‘performing’ in front of a world class athlete and coach were soon put to rest and I found myself at total ease through the session.

“The way in which Trevor explained the techniques and technical bits were put into language that every age group could understand. My biggest takeaway is I need to think about running specific activities in the gym!”

Alison Ridley was fascinated to see how the techniques could translate to all areas of athletics. She said: “From my point of view as a coach I found the session very informative. I have taken away from it drills I can incorporate into the throwing side of the sport and what a difference they can make to the overall performance of an athlete.”

Jules Mackay, one of the club’s run leaders, added: “I found the session so useful, and both Jenny and hubby Trevor were very approachable. I learned loads that I immediately started to share with my Monday night group, and for me, personally, I am hoping to use it to improve my Parkrun/5k times.”

Initially pencilled in as a two-hour session, Jenny and Trevor were delighted to stick around for much longer, fielding questions and posing for selfies with athletes young and old. Afterwards Jenny praised a “superb club and exemplary members”, adding: “The dedication and enthusiasm left us both very inspired by you all! I really hope that we can come to visit you all again at some point in the future and work on some different things with you.”

Jenny Meadows, Trevor Painter and BAC members. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

More feedback from members:

Colin Harries: “A very good session run by Jenny Meadows and her coach, made us think again about the exercise we do to improve how efficiently we run and how to improve our core.”

Madison Ball (age 12): “I thought it was helpful and fun and I learnt a lot of new warming up exercises as well as Jenny being a nice person.”

Neil Harvey: “It surpassed my expectation. I found the coaching fun and relevant, and made me realise this was a part of my training regime that i really needed to put focus on. The training was excellent and fast paced with both Jenny and her partner enthusiastic and fun. The training was delivered at a good pace for everyone and in addition it was great to hear about her history

The Q&A session was also excellent. The personal and general encouragement was great, so thank you to them and the club for arranging this session.”

Nigel Bush: “The session was very informative and full of useful information. Jenny and Trevor were a great “double-act” and kept everyone enthralled by their knowledge and understanding of the sport. Many years ago when I first started to run seriously, there was very little information about drills, running styles and efficiency, and that lack of knowledge is now contributing towards injury problems. I would urge all aspiring young athletes to incorporate the exercises Jenny & Trevor showed us to help prevent injury layoffs and improve their running style, efficiency and ultimately ‘speed’.”

 

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The hardest London Marathon yet … BAC runners suffer in searing heat

Athletes from Biggleswade Athletic Club fought against searing heat for last weekend’s London Marathon, in a race where times across the board suffered, and runners by the thousand fell by the wayside in the hottest conditions the race has ever seen.

With temperatures recorded as 24.1C, but even hotter on the course itself due to the heat absorbed by the London roads and generated by the massed runners, many found themselves throwing race plans out of the window and simply clinging on. On Monday it was announced that 29-year-old Matt Campbell, an experienced distance runner from Cumbria, died in hospital after collapsing near the 22-mile mark.

So for BAC’s competitors, taking the start line was no mean feat, running any kind of distance on the day was commendable, and finishing suddenly became a serious achievement.

First home was Paul Cooke, one of the club’s best and most experienced distance runners, and it was a measure of the heat that his hopes of a sub-3hr finish were recalibrated mid-race to factor in the conditions, as he crossed the line in a still-impressive 3:23:22. Shortly behind was the first of Biggleswade’s female runners, Isobel Everest, in 3:37:01.

Paul Cooke in the London Marathon. Photo by Ben Pike
Paul Cooke enjoying his race. Photo by Ben Pike

Further back, BAC’s athletes were suffering, and at 15 miles Simon Strong wisely called it a day as the heat became too much. Having suffered appalling luck with injuries in the last year – his entry in the race was in fact deferred from 12 months ago as niggles disrupted his preparation for 2017’s race – it was another cruel blow, but hopefully his training in recent months will stand him in good stead for other challenges this season.

Stuart Goodwin took the line having undergone treatment for a knee injury, which flared up during a recent half-marathon. Despite finishing that race, he was aware it was unlikely to keep itself to itself for 26.2 miles. “It flared up in the first 15 minutes – the second mile,” he said. “My training had been geared to try and break 4 hours, my PB is 4:21 set last year, but due to missed training and the conditions on the day, that went out of the window fairly early on.” During mile 12, his knee seized and he found himself slowing almost to a walk.

“Such a horrible feeling – you don’t want to stop, everyone’s chanting your name from the front of your vest, you’ve got 15 miles still to go, and even if you do stop you’re in the middle of nowhere and your bank card’s on the back of a truck at the finish. I kind of felt obliged to carry on, almost against my better judgment. I’ve found myself run/walking bits of marathons before when injury or fatigue has hit, but never anywhere near that far, and certainly in nothing like those kind of conditions.

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Stuart Goodwin finally nears the finish. Photo by MarathonFoto, reproduced with permission

“I knew how bad it was going when a guy sailed by with a washing machine strapped across his shoulders. People were on their backs all over the place, completely done – it was unbelievably brutal.”

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A charity runner rubs in how poorly Stuart Goodwin’s race is going

He went on to finish in 5:14:44 – “The 44’s important. I did a very dicky sprint at the end to ensure I was inside my ‘personal worst’ marathon time. I got there with 14 seconds to spare! So glad I toughed it out – lord only knows how long it would have taken me without encouragement from the crowd.”

BAC are provided with two club places to the race each year, which are allocated after eligible athletes enter a ballot. Goodwin took one place, and the other one went to Cat Marriott – she was the next BAC competitor home in 5:30:26, with her eyecatchingly tall headwear offering an additional challenge in the face of the heat.

Cat Marriott and Stuart Goodwin at the London Marathon start. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Cat Marriott and Stuart Goodwin at the London Marathon start. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

Next up was Ricky Byrne, originally aiming for 4:30, which he soon realised wasn’t on given the heat, but he still had plenty of wiggle room to snare a personal best time. Up to halfway, all was going well, and he even allowed himself time to enjoy the celebration station with his chosen charity – Ambitious About Autism. Soon after, however, as the temperature continued to climb, he also began to struggle. “That first half had taken its toll and there was no way i could keep it up in the heat for the remaining miles,” he said. “At 19 miles I hit the wall and sobbed my heart out – I’d seen people fainting and convulsing.”

In spite of this, and with some timely hugs and encouragement, he dug deep for the remainder and made it round, crossing the line in a PB of 5:46:08. He raised a superb £2176.20 for charity. Nicola Perrin was another running for charity, raising money and awareness for Phab Kids, and she stopped the clock at 6:48:30 to fulfil a lifelong ambition of taking part in the race.

Ricky Byrne after London Marathon finish. Photo by Ricky Byrne
Ricky Byrne poses with his finishers’ medal

Support crews from the club were stationed at miles 14, 21 and 22, and they enjoyed a great day out supporting all competitors, including the elite athletes, seeing David Weir on his way to winning the men’s wheelchair race, and Mo Farah breaking through into world-class marathon-running by taking the long-standing British record.

“People bang on about the London Marathon, about its unrivalled atmosphere, and the power you get from the crowds, and to be honest I was sceptical,” Goodwin said. “But it’s not hyperbole – it absolutely lived up to the hype. I hated every second, but loved every minute – I was muttering when the pain was at its worst that I never want to put myself through anything like that again, but as soon as I crossed the line I was looking to see when entries for the 2019 ballot open. I’ve done a lot of races, but it’s unlike anything else.”

Ace-walking … Middleton helps Team GB to silver in Madrid

Biggleswade AC were thrilled to see race-walker Helen Middleton don the Team GB vest at the recent European Masters Athletics Indoor Championship. Middleton, who competes in walking events covering a multitude of distances, was selected as part of a strong squad of veterans to go up against the continent’s finest, and across two races she did an outstanding job.

She said: “Six years after my last international race in Geneva, where I represented England, and having retired from the sport for 9 months in 2013, I was as surprised as anyone to find myself in Madrid!”

In the 3,000m indoor W55 walk she was a brilliant fourth overall, crossing the line in 17:34:30, and just 8secs off the bronze medal. She said: “I got two cards for bent knees which were the first I have ever picked up in a race.”

Three days later she was part of a 53-strong field of over-50s entrants for the 5km walk road race, that also featured a few guest walkers from outside Europe. “I was a bit nervous but in the event no cautions or warnings,” she said, “and I finished fourth again.”

Helen Middleton, left, Cath Duhig and Fiona Bishop. No credit needed
Helen Middleton, left, Cath Duhig and Fiona Bishop

Her time was 30.20, fourth in the W55 standings, and good enough for 11th overall. More importantly, she was first over the line for the W55 GB team whose combined results earned them a superb second overall in the combined results. She added: “Myself, Cath Duhig and Fiona Bishop picked up silver medals for Team GB, which was great!

“I had a lovely time with the walkers and on the final day when we gathered for dinner I was persuaded to enter 10k and 20k race-walks taking place on consecutive days next month in Alicante. Madness, but the walkers are so lovely that I can’t not be there!

“In the meantime, despite my times being slower, my race schedule is starting to feel like 10 years ago when I raced over 60 times in the year. Then it was coach Zoe Luscombe who I will always be grateful to for helping me achieve what I achieved, and now I find myself back with Zoe’s group on Tuesdays at Sandy track. Thank you everyone for your support.”

Hills, heavy rain and funky headwear … the Sandy 10 2018

 

Runners shimmered in rain showers and a long-standing record fell on Sandy’s streets in the latest running of Biggleswade Athletic Club’s showpiece road race. The Sandy 10 once again attracted hundreds of new and experienced runners from across the region, and further afield.

Race winner John Eves. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Race winner John Eves in the last mile. Photo by Stuart Goodwin

First over the line was John Eves from Bedford & County AC, in a fine time of 53:24. His performance laid down the gauntlet in front of the rest of the field from the first mile, and he stormed round the course, stretching the gap all the time to finish fully three minutes clear of his nearest challenger. Well in the mix at the top of the leaderboard, finishing 13th overall, but more importantly well within the ladies’ course record, Georgia Schwiening from Cambridge & Coleridge AC crossed the line in 1:00:11 to take 16 seconds off a mark set back in 2004. Danielle Sanderson, the former record holder, was an accomplished international marathon runner, and Georgia’s performance shows that it’s only a matter of time before the hour is broken on a course which features a pig of a hill in the early miles.

Rounding out the top three in the men’s standings were Adam Mills of Bedford Harriers (56:24) and East London Runners’ Thomas Grimes (56:26), while Johanna O’Regan of Riverside Runners kept Schwiening in her sights for the duration, to finish just 46secs behind in the ladies’ results with 1:00:57, second in those standings and 16th overall. Third lady finisher was Eleanor Hunt in 1:03:17, and a host of clubs would do well to get in touch with her, as she competed as an unattached runner! She finished in an excellent 26th place overall.

Men’s age group prizes went to Ty Farrer, the fourth-placed finisher overall (Male veteran over 40 prize, 56:39, Huntingdon AC), Jim Morris (MV50, 59:35, Stamford Striders), John Skelton (MV60, 1:03.26, Milton Keynes AC) and Bob Wells (MV70, 1:10.56, Bedford Harriers). In a hotly contested men’s team prize, Riverside Runners emerged victorious over Bedford Harriers.

On the women’s side the LV35 honour was retained by Christine Lathwell (1:07.05, Stopsley Striders). Paula Downing matched her to reclaim the LV45 award (1:08.28, Mablethorpe Running Club), while Veronica Shadbolt took the LV55 prize (1:13:57, Garden City Runners). Taking LV65 honours was the indefatigable Yuko Gordon, a stalwart of Fairlands Valley Spartans, and her outstanding time of 1:13:31 also earned her the Roger Wadeley Trophy for the best age-graded performance of the race. Wadeley, who died in 2010 after a battle with cancer, was a Biggleswade AC stalwart for over three decades, and a talented racer who still holds 11 club records, two of which date back to the 1970s.

The ladies team prize went to Bedford Harriers, and they also took the Erlensee Cup given to the club who enter the most runners – a staggering 77, which accounted for almost a sixth of the total number of runners in the race.

The prize for top local finishers, where only runners from SG18 and SG19 postcodes are eligible, went to unattached athlete Trevor Grace (1:04:38) and Ann Wood of Werrington Joggers (1:17:01). Last year’s winners of these prizes, Jamie Hall and Elaine Livera, have gone on to enjoy an outstanding, prize-filled 12 months in the yellow and blue of BAC.

While excellent conditions for running, keeping runners cool, the rain made spectating a damp undertaking, but marshals, resplendent in a their now-annual selection of weird and wonderful hats, kept the cold at bay with warm encouragement, and their presence ensured smooth and safe running in and around the town, as seasoned competitors rubbed shoulders with charity runners and first-timers. At least one runner got a shock on the day to learn that the race was over 10 miles and not 10 kilometres! The course starts and finishes just off Sunderland Road in Sandy, before looping round Northcroft in a U-shape before beginning the progressive, to some seemingly endless climb through the Sand Lane sandhills before joining Everton Road. From there the runners continue until the “Potton Triangle”, from which they then retrace their steps back towards the hills – kinder on the return – until a breathless hurtle home.

Once again the race was run in support of Sue Ryder, who will benefit from the surplus race proceeds, and organisers were delighted that volunteer Frazer Allison assisted smooth running on the day. For its 2018 running the Sandy 10 received vital sponsorship from Marshalls of Sandy, who helped to fund the provision of souvenir technical T-shirts for all finishers, and the Roger Wadeley Trophy – Roger was a former employee of the company.

Finishers' shirts. Photo by Vicky Berry
Juliet Grimwood, Vicky Berry and Fiona Wynde show off the technical T for all race finishers

The all-important bananas for finishers were contributed by Woodview Farm Shop in Gamlingay, which is a familiar haunt for BAC members on one of their regular Sunday Coffee & Cake routes. Crisps and water were also extremely welcome donations by Asda in Milton Keynes, and the catering team led by Bev Strong did an excellent job keeping runners and spectators warm and hydrated back at race HQ.

Officers from Bedfordshire Police were an invaluable part of the organisation, lending support and a visible source of reassurance to marshals and runners at key points of the route where competitors crossed over open roads.

Once again early feedback from competitors was extremely warm and generous. Steve Round, who finished 12th, said: “It was my first time running the course – it’s a big thumbs up from me! Marshalling was excellent, and I finished 4secs off sub-1hr which is a big PB for me. So I’ll have to come back next year!” Another first timer, Rachel Williams, added: “I have to say I was very impressed – even the rain didn’t dampen spirits. It was a great route with great marshals and support.”

Full results are available here

Many, many more photos from the day available here

Meanwhile, check out Jules’ behind-the-scenes vid from the beginning of race day …