Fun in the forest … BAC take honours and PBs at Marston 5k

Nick Haworth writes …

Biggleswade Athletic Club converged on Millennium Country Park to take individual and team prizes, and a host of personal bests, at the always-lively and runner-friendly Marston 5k last Friday. BAC’s ladies took the team prize – based on results for each club’s first three runners across the line – while the men were just beaten into second place by Dunstable Road Runners. Individually, Hannah Broom was first female finisher aged 35 or over, while the evergreen Charlie Arnold was first male runner over 60, while Richard Bevan was fourth finisher overall and Elaine Livera third in the overall ladies standings.

BAC award-winners at Marston. Photo by Deb Bryant
Elaine Livera, Hannah Broom, Emma Bailey and Charlie Arnold. Photo by Deb Bryant

The latest setting for Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers tri-series of races consisting of a 5k, lap and a bit, round a lake, woodlands, and wetlands reserve. Formerly part of the extensive Stewartby Brickworks, some 61 square miles has been transformed into a community forest aimed at increasing tree cover in the county and increasing awareness of environmental matters. The weather conditions were almost perfect – a calm, sunny and a balmy evening enticing a full turnout of almost 400 runners from around the region including 16 from Biggleswade.

A huge blast of the starter’s horn at 7.30pm heralded a mass charge along tarmac before a sharp right on to a gravel surface. There then followed a short downhill section into the trees, and a flattish middle section, slippery in places with the odd pothole hazard to catch out the unwary. The course is quite narrow in places, leading to some argy-bargy among some of the competitors. The ground, parched in parts, created further hazards in the form of clouds of dust churned up by the front runners, while low-hanging tree branches occasionally offered a cruel whip to the side of the head to those watching their footing without paying attention to their surroundings at head height.

BAC at Marston 5k. Photo by Rachel Stott
BAC at Marston 5k. Photo by Rachel Stott

The tremendous Marston Moretaine scenery passed many competitors by, tearing round, hearts pounding out of chests, legs wobbling with lactic acid, and desperately trying to catch-up or cling-on to the person in front.

A straight, fast, section, followed by a tight left-hander and the athletes were at the 3km point, time to repeat the mantra “maintain breathing, maintain breathing, keep posture up!”. Two right-hand turns later and through a chicane gate, the seemingly endless final kilometre arrived. Suddenly, after what seemed an eternity, a right-hand turn brought the runners to within sight of the finishing line to make, as best they could, a final dignified 150 metre dash to the finish in front of the cheering crowd of supporters.

Bevan’s fourth-placed finish came in a superb personal best time of 17m15sec, followed in short measure by Paul Cooke (17th overall, 18:40), who headed a run of four BAC athletes in 19 seconds, featuring Paul Davies (21st, 18:49), Nick Haworth (22nd, 18:53) and John Stott (18:59). Stott was another to earn a fine PB, his first time under 19 minutes.

Kathryn Juty. Photo by Rachel Stott
Kathryn Juty on her way to a PB. Photo by Rachel Stott

Hot on their heels, Livera – roaring straight back into form after a frustrating spell of injury – headed up the ladies’ team challenge in 19:11 (29th overall) (third lady), followed swiftly afterwards by Hannah Broom, another to earn a benchmark PB on the night with her first ever sub-20min run (37th overall, 5th lady, 19:39) and Emma Bailey, who cracked 21 mins to set a best time of her own (59th, 8th lady, 20:55). Kathryn Juty (138th, 28th lady, 24:14) and Simon Strong’s 24:41 (146th, 114th male finisher) were others to earn brilliant PBs on the night.

Marston 5k Results

Overall | Gender position | Name | Time
4 | 4 | Richard Bevan | 17:15
17 | 16 | Paul Cooke | 18:40
21 | 20 | Paul Davies | 18:49
22 | 21 | Nick Haworth | 18:53
25 | 24 | John Stott | 18:59
29 | 3 | Elaine Livera | 19:11
37 | 5 | Hannah Broom | 19:39
48 | 42 | Charlie Arnold | 20:26
59 | 8 | Emma Bailey | 20:55
67 | 12 | Natalie Morgan | 21:26
68 | 56 | Rob Morgan| 21:26
138 | 28 | Kathryn Juty | 24:14
146 | 114 | Simon Strong | 24:41
148 | 116 | Stephen Atkins | 24:48
164 | 127 | Clark Skerratt | 25:26
330 | 146 | Shani Giddings | 36:09


BUCS action and Brown recognised … news roundup

Elsewhere, two BAC athletes took part in the BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) Championships at Bedford International Stadium. Euan Dickson-Earle, who won the 110m hurdles title for Loughborough University last year, has been hampered by a hip niggle this season, and he was fourth in his heat with a time of 15.32.

In the javelin, Alex Ingham, competing for Nottingham, threw 55.37m in the preliminary round to qualify for the final. There he was unable to match the earlier distance, but his best mark of 49.97m was still good enough for a fine top 10 finish.

BAC were thrilled that club stalwart competitor, coach and official David Brown was recognised at Central Bedfordshire Council’s Cheering Volunteering Awards. Brown, who has coached athletes to county, national and international standard, as well as officiating at a host of levels across the region right up to the prestigious Diamond League meeting at the London Stadium last season, was nominated in the Sports Volunteer of the Year category, where he placed third overall.

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Commemorations at Casterbridge … BAC athletes run for fallen heroine Vikki

Bev Strong writes:

A contingent of 19 runners from Biggleswade Athletic Club headed to Dorset to compete in a punishingly hot Casterbridge Half Marathon last Sunday. For several this was their first attempt at 13.1 miles, pushing themselves as a tribute to beloved member Vikki Vowles, who competed in last year’s race – her first and only half – but passed away in August at the age of 47.

All the first-timers had only started running through the club’s Couch to 5K programmes within the last two years, and for the step up to half marathon distance they found themselves on an extremely challenging course, with testing uphill sections far outweighing any downhills, exacerbated by the hot and humid conditions on the day where temperatures had reached 25 degrees by mid-morning.

Paul Cooke at the finish. Photo by Dorsetbays
Paul Cooke closes in on the finish. Photo by Dorsetbays

Paul Cooke led the Biggleswade team home in 27th position with a chip time of 1.37:28 and was followed by Marcus Davey in 59th position with a time 1.43:36. First lady home was Vicky Berry with a time of 2.17:51. Out of the runners competing in their first half, Jo Hornby was first home with a time of 2.52:00 closely followed by Jackie Warren with a time of 2.53:50 and Emma Bell in 2.54:02. Unfortunately Helen Steward had to pull out early on due to a recurrence of an injury.

Biggleswade’s men came third in the team award standings, with Cooke, Davey and Malcom Steward being the first three club men home.

John Stott, Malcolm Steward and, behind, Giles Hawthorne. Photo by Dorsetbays

The runners were all cheered on by a small support team from the club who had entered the event but were unable to compete due to injury. The event, hosted by White Star Running, added a bit of fun by having a “Love Station” just after the halfway point where athletes are given a welcome hug and a cool down with a wet sponge. There was also the added bonus of a small beer and snacks to help them through the final stages.

Rachel Stott, who finished in exactly 2:52, said: “It was a beautiful day, a little warm but this did not stop the smiles and the BAC buzz. I knew that this was a hilly course from last year, but I had forgotten how relentless some of them were … it seemed that every conceivable hill in Dorset had been put on the route just for fun. Despite this I just wanted to enjoy the run and remember the great times that we all had last year, celebrating our first half with great friends, especially Vikki. There were a few tears of sadness and joy along the way as we remembered her.”

Corinne Calligan, Helen Steward and Rachel Stott. Photo by Helen Jones of Dorsetbays
Corinne Calligan, Helen Steward and Rachel Stott. Photo by Helen Jones of Dorsetbays

Jacqui Thompson crossed the line in 3:50:59 and added: “I personally ran this event just for Vikki and knew for a tortoise like myself it would be tough. I had heard all about the hills, especially the last killer hill, but round every bend you were met with a climb and some of them were beasts.

“As I knew this would be my only ever half marathon – lots say this, but it definitely will be – I decided to make mine a sponsored event using DKMS as my chosen charity raising £1122.50. I am very proud to have completed this in Vikki’s memory and also proud of all the others who took part, especially Helen for attempting the run even though she was injured. Julie Cooke did her run for charity raising a substantial amount for Ataxia, Malcolm Steward for knocking off about 20 minutes from his last years time and for Corinne Calligan who flew back for a few days from Peru, interrupting eight months travelling, purely to take part in this with us, again for Vikki. A fitting tribute to a truly inspirational and much missed friend.”

Julie Cooke and Jacqui Thompson. Photo by Helen Jones of Dorsetbays
Julie Cooke and Jacqui Thompson. Photo by Helen Jones of Dorsetbays

Julie Cooke added: “I expected it to be tough … however, it was much harder than I thought, and hot too. In all my training I rarely walked but I needed to walk the hills. This, however, made it harder as the walking interrupted my stride and flow.

“Having said that, I am over the moon having completed it. I ran this for the charity Ataxia UK and raised over £720 (+ gift aid) and this alone kept me going as I remembered all the comments from the donations. This charity is close to my heart as we have a hereditary condition in my family. The memory of Vikki also kept me going on the day and in training.”

Vicky Berry highlighted the importance of the “amazing” support crew along the course: “They were originally planning on running it themselves, but when they found that they couldn’t due to illness or injury they still made the long journey and turned out in force to support the rest of us. I felt very proud being part of team BAC.

“I was absolutely wiped with barely enough in the tank to get me over the line, but I came round the corner, saw the finish gantry and was staggering towards it. Then I heard the cheering, waving, whooping, clapping, shouts of my name, generally making me feel incredibly privileged to be part of a very special club. Thanks guys, you were fabulous!”

One of the support crew, Carol Garratt, said: “As a spectator it was bittersweet, having entered to run but unable to. However the enormous sense of pride seeing the Biggleswade AC team blue and gold come through was emotional and joyous.

“There is an expectation of the experienced runners to take something like this in their stride but even for them, this was a big ask in the heat and the type of hills we cannot comprehend in our flat county! But kudos goes to the first timers who two years ago were doing the C25K, they all brought in close to their expected times with sheer grit and determination and a few tears of pride were shed for them.”

Emma Bell made her debut in club colours, and did them proud with a fine performance. She said: “I was unsure about wearing a vest, mostly worried the added pressure that may come with it while out there as a representative of the club. Anyway having now got through have realised that it is not quite like that! It wasn’t a race and to be a part of it along with the fabulous support can be symbolised by the vest.”

Marcus said: “Vikki inspired and is likely to continue to inspire others to give it a go, proving anything is possible. I can see why this event appealed to her. Certainly not because it’s a ridiculously difficult first half marathon, for there are hills, more hills and one mother of a hill at mile 10! I’m sure it appealed to Vikki because of the intimate, relaxed and informal atmosphere, everyone had a smile on their face and the event was very well organised. Despite being almost rural the scenic route was fairly well supported by the cheering public, particularly through the village of Puddletown. At mile seven there was the ‘Love Station’ where not only was the water flowing but also fruit, cake, beer, hugs and kisses – all very chaotic but fun!

“Well done to all that trained for this event and ran or could not run for whatever reason, particularly those completing in their first half marathon. Remember, a half marathon isn’t just for a holiday weekend, it’s for life, so I hope all off those that ran will continue to enjoy future events.

“Just try some flatter ones, OK?”


Elsewhere on the UK’s roads, Julian Brunt competed in his first full marathon as part of the Edinburgh Marathon Festival over the bank holiday weekend, and despite more warm weather he crossed the line in a fine 5:17:24.

Casterbridge Half Marathon results
Position | Name | Category | Cat Pos | Chip Time
27 | Paul Cooke | Male 40+ | 9 | 01:37:28
59 | Marcus Davey | Male 40+ | 15 | 01:42:36
126 | Malcolm Steward | Male 40+ | 31 | 01:51:35
127 | John Stott | Male 40+ | 32 | 01:51:30
129 | Giles Hawthorne | Male 40+ | 33 | 01:52:26
468 | Vicky Berry | Female 50+ | 30 | 02:17:51
510 | Simon Strong | Male 40+ | 103 | 02:22:12
540 | Maria Merridan | Female 40+ | 63 | 02:23:55
837 | Rachel Hallam Stott | Female 40+ | 142 | 02:52:00
840 | Joanne Hornby | Female 40+ | 143 | 02:52:21
852 | Jackie Warren | Female 50+ | 86 | 02:53:50
853 | Emma Bell | Female 40+ | 150 | 02:54:02
897 | Corinne Calligan | Female Open | 178 | 02:59:22
963 | Gareth Saynor | Male 40+ | 145 | 03:11:32
984 | Sara Masella | Female 40+ | 185 | 03:26:42
989 | Lucy Rands | Female 40+ | 188 | 03:33:24
990 | Julie Cooke | Female Open | 199 | 03:34:09
1004 | Jacqui Thompson | Female 50+ | 119 | 03:50:59
DNF Helen Steward

Vikki Vowles at last year's event. Photo by Stephen Jones
Vikki Vowles at last year’s event. Photo by Stephen Jones

Spanish stroll … race-walk master Middleton racks up medals in Alicante

BAC’s race-walking expert Helen Middleton was back in the medals competing for Great Britain at the biennial European Masters Athletics Non-Stadia Championships, taking place this year in Alicante, Spain. The championships, which have been running since 1989, see veteran athletes from across the continent hitting the streets for three days of intense but friendly competition.

Helen Middleton in action

Despite having come away with team silver from the recent European indoor championships, Helen had been downbeat after two fourth places individually, and spent the time in-between knuckling down.

She said: “After the disappointment that was Madrid, but having put in some serious training, the hard surfaced Alicante course was unforgiving and it was hot, but I’m delighted to report that I came third in the 10k, W55 category in 1.02.04.” In addition, in the team standings for race purposes she stepped up a handful of age group categories to form part of the GB W40 squad, alongside Carolyn Derbyshire and Fiona Bishop, and the trio took fine team bronze medals.

As in Madrid, she doubled up. “Twenty hours later I was back on the same start line for the 20k race. With the support of the GB feed station crew and lots of other encouragement I finished second in 2.10.38.” Not content with going one better on the podium individually, Helen also stepped up in the team standings: “This time the declared GB W45 team of Melanie Peddle, Angela Martin and I found ourselves on the podium picking up silver team medals.”

Emerging from the pair of races without any cautions or warnings, which can leave walkers at risk of disqualification even in the closing stages, the training had paid off, best illustrated as Helen found herself overhauling Spanish walker Angeles Noell Guardiola, who had pipped her to two bronze medals in Madrid. On this occasion her rival finished fourth and third respectively. The Italian pairing of Peppina DeMartis and Mirella Patti took gold and silver in the 10k, which Patti took top honours in the 20k.


Clearing the bar … Brunning goes BIG again

Closer to home, BAC’s fast-rising high jumper Leonie Brunning competed brilliantly at the BIG Jumps & Throws Fest in Bedford. Competing as an under-17 athlete against under-20s and seniors, her best clearance of 1.65m was the second-best in her age group, and equal-fourth best of the day – just 2cm off her PB.

Her performance qualifies her for July’s English Schools Championships in Birmingham. At last year’s event she was unfortunate to miss out on a medal, having cleared the same height as the athletes who shared the bronze medal, but dropping down the standings due to failures at lower heights earlier in the competition.

Bling bonanza … BAC boss it at the Beds county champs

Hannah Ridley writes:

It was medals galore for BAC at the recent Bedfordshire County Championships. Members of Biggleswade AC were out in force on a slightly overcast day at Bedfordshire International Athletics Stadium, and the action was frequently a family affair, starting off with Donncha and Teagan Blake in the hurdles. They took second and fourth place in the under 13 boys and under 15 girls competitions respectively. Leonie Brunning then added a third place in the under 17 race. Leonie also picked up the gold medal in the high jump and came fourth in the long jump. Her sister Hannah Brunning then took silver in both the under 15 shot put and javelin. Completing the Brunning line up was younger sister Orlagh, who put in a great performance in the Quad Kids competition earlier in the day.

Freddie Steele put in a sterling effort in the under 13 boys 100m and 200m, coming away with bronze medals from both events. In the field, Sophie Steele won both her events, with a convincing 9.29m in the shot put and over 22m in the discus. Natasha Ryall, although representing Etonbury, took home gold in the under 15 javelin. Shannon Barker, another Biggleswade member wearing the Etonbury vest, finished closely behind Natasha in the javelin, taking fourth place. She then got a silver medal in the long jump with 4.60m. Teagan Blake also earned a bronze medal in that event, with a personal best 3.80m.

In the senior women’s competition, Hannah Ridley stormed to victory in the 800m with a season’s best time of 2.27.1, whilst sister Sarah took the title in the shot put by nearly 3.5 metres with a throw of 10.05m. She later held on to snatch the gold in the 100m and took silver in the discus. Sandra Ingham added to the throws titles with a first place in the javelin. On the men’s side, Darren Janssen threw a personal best in the discus of 29.75 which earned him the silver medal. He added to his collection with another silver in the shot put and a bronze in the high jump.

In the sprints, Janice Amber won both the under 20 women’s 100m and 200m. Tristan Rayner claimed the silver medal in the equivalent men’s races, with Bradley Strong collecting the bronze medals in both events. Toby Foster then took home bronze in the under 17 men’s 100m and 200m. In the under 15 girls race, Sophie Forbes-Laird put in a strong performance to finish 2nd in a personal best of 27.5 seconds.

Kareem Davis had an outstanding day, with two silver medals in the sprints and a gold in the under 15 long jump. Not to be outdone, Henry Gibb finished in a respectable fourth place in the under 13 boys 100m, with a personal best of 13.9. Morgan Webster had to wait until late afternoon for the 400m, but it was well worth it. He not only won the race, but was also awarded the best performance trophy in a 400m by Bedfordshire AAA.