The final hill … Three Counties XC round-up as season finale arrives

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s cross-country runners now turn their attention to the conclusion of the Three Counties XC season in Wootton on Sunday. In the last two fixtures, the ladies – defending league champions – saw their team-scoring quartet of Broom, Morgan, Natalie Garner and Bailey take top spot in Letchworth, while Broom, Morgan, Bailey and Juty mustered a collective third spot on a punishing course in Ampthill. This leaves the standings drum-tight with North Herts Road Runners leading the league on 48 points on individual positions countback from Wellingborough & District AC, who have the same tally. Yet BAC, just two points behind on 46, can still have a say in the race for the team title.

Team BAC at Ampthill. Photo by Nick Spavins

Combined with the men’s team, for which Steven Baldwin was an excellent 21st and 28th finisher at the last two fixtures, the club as a whole are in sixth place, and runners will be paying particular attention to the progress of fifth-placed Rugby & Northampton AC, who lie three points ahead overall.

Julie Spavins gave her thoughts on the challenge at Ampthill: “My first attempt at this course, and it was a real toughie! Hills, tree roots, bumpy hillocks attempting to trip us up … but a lovely location, worth a separate visit to admire the views which I missed because I was watching my feet!

“I was in amongst some familiar faces from previous races, some got ahead of me an the ups, but I caught them back on the downs. And towards the end several dropped back leaving me with just one or two immediate competitors. At the end Giles Hawthorne dropped back to encourage me round the last part and up the very nasty hill climb to the finish post – and I made it! A fabulous team effort once again.”

At the time of writing, overnight rain is forecast for Wootton on Sunday. Enjoy!

Thanks to Nick Spavins for brilliant photos from our cross-country fixtures – members can find many more on the BAC members’ Facebook page

Results

Letchworth overall finishing positions

21 Steven Baldwin
53 Nick Haworth
54 Hannah Broom (3rd scoring female)
73 Rob Morgan
76 Marcus Davey
89 Natalie Morgan (5th scoring female)
101 Charlie Arnold
115 Natalie Garner (10th scoring female)
121 Emma Bailey (11th scoring female)
130 John Stott
131 Malcolm Steward
145 Damien Pitts
209 Deborah Bryant
220 Kathryn Juty
223 Neil Harvey
252 Sarah Jane Seaman
262 Nigel Bush
264 Ian Grimwood
296 Simon Strong
329 Jennie Day
345 Juliet Grimwood
361 Helen Steward
372 Julie Spavins
376 Colin Harries
383 Gareth Saynor
384 Louise Pike

Ampthill overall finishing positions

28 Steven Baldwin
66 Hannah Broom (3rd scoring female)
91 Marcus Davey
98 Aaron Ball
110 Paul Cooke
118 Charlie Arnold
127 Natalie Morgan (10th scoring female)
136 Natalie Garner (12th scoring female)
150 John Stott
158 Malcolm Steward
170 Damien Pitts
238 Kathryn Juty (39th scoring female)
255 Neil Harvey
274 Sarah Jane Seaman
306 Ian Grimwood
347 Robin Wynde
354 Jennie Day
395 Maria Merridan
402 Gareth Saynor
408 Julie Spavins
409 Giles Hawthorne
410 Juliet Grimwood
421 Colin Harries
436 Jacqui Chan








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Cross Country round-up … Chattering teeth at Chiltern XC

Mandie Trudgill and David Brown report …

The conclusion of the Chiltern Cross Country season arrives early next month, and BAC athletes have been doing the vest proud at recent fixtures.

On 1 December, five juniors and a senior trekked over to Stopsley Common on the outskirts of Luton to be given the full cross-country treatment. On a course exposed to the elements, the wind and rain blew across the landscape, but the juniors – Jessica Hardy, George Hardy, Orlagh Brunning, Nicholas Batterbee and Elliot Swinburne – along with Elliot’s father Paul were not to be deterred.

All athletes acquitted themselves admirably over their courses which ranged from 2.5km-10km in distance. In their respective events, Nicholas Batterbee was 21st, George Hardy 25th, Orlagh Brunning 28th, Elliot Swinburne 41st, Jessica Hardy 42nd and Paul Swinburne 56th.


The next leg of the league took place at Keysoe Equestrian Centre on 12th January, on a course that featured two water crossings, Orlagh Brunning and Jessica Hardy were 32nd and 51st respectively in their under-11 girls’ race. Debutant Alfie Lawrence finished a fine 69th in the boys’ equivalent.

In the U13 boys standings, Nicholas Batterbee finished 76th, while Elliot Swinburne was 14th in his U17 race. Finally, Paul Swinburne – running 10km, twice the distance his son had to cover – came in 68th in his Division 2 standings, and 227th in the “mob” race overall.

Next up for athletes: the season finale at Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park.


Youngsters mix it at SEAA indoor champs

At the SEAA indoor champs U13/15/17 held at Lee Valley earlier this month, up-and-coming BAC multi-eventer Teagan Blake competed in two events, the 60m hurdles and shot putt.

In hurdles action on the Saturday, Blake was fourth in her heat and produced a new personal best of 10.80 secs – an impressive 0.3secs outside the national qualifying standard.

On the Sunday, mixing it with the top youngsters in the south of England in the shot put, Blake was disappointed with 6.12m for 14th in the final.

Elsewhere on day two, under-15s athlete Sophie Forbes-Laird was in action in the 300m. Up in the first heat, she had a clean race and came second in a new indoor PB and club record of 43.38secs. She nervously waited on the outcome of the other two heats, with the first finishers and three fastest losers qualifying. Thankfully she was fifth quickest overall from the three heats and made it through.

In the final Sophie put in a brave effort and when the athletes approached the point where they break from their lane and all run in the inside lane, she was second, with approx 120m to go. Yet as they rounded the bend to the finishing straight, she was passed and two girls then fell over the finishing line which forced her to check her stride to avoid the melee. It still added up to creditable fifth place which will means she will experience in the national finals in February at Sheffield.

Counting awards at county champs … BAC athletes rack up cross-country honours

Biggleswade Athletic Club members excelled on the county championship stage against the best of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire in High Wycombe, with both the club’s senior and veteran ladies’ squads taking titles, and Charlie Arnold among several individual honours.

Charlie takes a well-earned breather while the ladies show off their awards. Photo by Beth K Price Williams

On a long day for athletes at Hughenden Park, BAC ladies were defending both the senior and veterans’ titles, with a new-look squad shorn of two of last year’s award-winners. Nevertheless, the prep work that had been put in and recent strong performances from all those taking part put them in a confident mood.

Besides the team events, there were also individual scores to settle and medals to be won. On a cold day, the planned stream crossing had dried out, but that was the only relief offered by a course set over laps of about 1.8 miles featuring two steep climbs. The male veterans 60+ athletes and women ran three laps (400ft of climbing) while the senior men and veterans up to age 59 ran four laps.

First to go were Paul Swinburne and Charlie Arnold, the club’s only representatives in the senior men’s race, which spared them team responsibilities. Swinburne had three large laps to complete, which he did so with gusto, finishing strongly at the seventh V45 competitor, and 32nd place overall, and immediately commenting on how tough the course was.

Arnold, in the MV60 category, had a slightly shorter course to contend with. He ran so fast, the officials believed he still had one lap to do when he was coming in to the finish, and nearly sent him round again. However, he still won his age category and was nearly 10 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

He said: “Having completed one lap with enthusiasm, the second time round started to register that the course was tough and the muscles in the calves and thighs were suggesting that this was not such fun after all; by the third lap there were definitely feelings that it may not be such a disgrace to walk up those hills.

“For the final run-in, the funnel peeled off to the left, but the charge for the line was somewhat farcical – an official leapt across to stop me, insisting I had to run another lap. Fortunately, BAC’s David Brown was at the finish line and waved me through, but not without a final aside from the over-officious official!”

On the women’s side, BAC had strong representation from Hannah Broom, Natalie Morgan and Emma Bailey from last year’s team, augmented by Hannah Ridley, Kathryn Juty and Catherine Price Williams, who was making a cross-country debut in her first event for the club.

Hannah, looking like she knows where she’s going. Photo by Beth K Price Williams

Broom’s performances throughout 2018 had been outstanding on road and cross country and she now had the chance to show her progress early in 2019 at county level against tough opposition. Setting off steadily, Hannah B let her rivals set the early pace and concentrated on her own running. As they came by at the end of the first lap, Hannah was in second place, about 10 seconds behind her main rival. Meanwhile, Nat, Hannah R and Emma had placed themselves in good positions for the team event with Kathryn and Catherine also looking strong.

At the end of the second lap, Hannah B had inched closer to the leader and seemed to be biding her time. The message was passed that her opponent was starting to look ragged while Hannah continued to be looking strong. In the third lap, as they came down the steep hill for the last time Hannah had passed her opponent and was in first place and moving further ahead as she came up to the finish with a clear advantage over the second place to win both the overall senior title and the vet 35 medal in a time of 33:22, six seconds ahead of a fast finishing second place. Besides the hard work on her running, Hannah has added race management and it showed in the way she paced herself to be County Champion.

Hannah ignores Rob Morgan, who is furiously doing a toilet in the ditch. Photo by Beth K Price Williams

“For the first 300m or so I wasin the main front pack, trying not to panic that I was so far forward. My main competitor, from Stopley Striders, was just in front of me and I ran in her pocket for the first lap. I allowed myself to drop back 50m, which gave me a chance to calm down and run my own race. I was overtaken by another lady from Leighton Buzzard, which slipped me into third – I kept talking to myself: “Do not panic, run your own race …” Seeing fellow training group-mate Charlie at the start of the third lap, he whispered some wise words to me and this gave me a massive boost.

“I realised I was not going any faster but I was gaining on the ladies in front of me. Now was my chance and I started to turn the screw. There was little response as I passed them along the back part of the course which had a slight incline with the wind against us, followed by a sharp uphill which brought you almost to a walk with lactic leg burn at the top. I was now clear and out in front.

Suddenly I realised I had no one to follow and no idea where I needed to go! The marshals as they hurriedly pointed me in the right direction round a sharp bend to the left, up another slight short incline and a long downhill. Still unclear where the finish is, I see Charlie again, and he points – I’m there, and I have won! Straight away I turned to see my teammates following close behind. It was awesome to see them finishing all so close and in fantastic positions.”

Morgan came in fifth lady in 36:32, followed by an outstanding run from Hannah Ridley, three seconds behind in sixth, and the first trio of BAC athletes home secured the senior team championship. Bailey arrived in eighth, in 37:32, which added the top veterans’ team prize in conjunction with Broom and Morgan’s results. Juty and Price Williams also gave a good account of themselves, finishing in 17th and 23rdrespectively. Morgan took silver and Bailey bronze in the V40 category, while Juty took V45 silver.

Morgan said: “I think we all relieved when we arrived to see the course was relatively dry underfoot and no water to be found at the supposed water crossings. As the women’s race is always towards the end of the race programme the ground can often get churned up and when you add freezing cold water, it makes for what is already hard running, even harder so it was pleasing sight.

The big charge at the start. Photo by Rob Morgan

“The start for me was a bit of blur, but I know I went out too hard and the first mile ended up being way too quick. The next three miles I managed to calm myself down and settled into my pace, finding that I was having a good battle with an Ampthill & Flitwick Flyer runner. She had previously overtaken me at the point where there was a short, sharp hill on the first lap but the next time round I got her on the following downhill section. I managed to stave her off for most of the last lap of the course but I was tiring quickly at that stage and was now paying for my earlier mistake of going out too fast. I could hear her behind me as the finish line drew closer, then she was beside me and then in front but I just didn’t have enough in the tank to come back. I crossed the line a couple of seconds after her, regretting my exuberance at the beginning of the race somewhat – a lesson learned, most definitely!”

In the final race of the day, Elliot Swinburne – son of Paul – ran in the U17s race over two laps, and finished just outside the medals with a run of 23:54 for a commendable fourth place.

Huge thanks to Charlie Arnold, Hannah Broom, Hannah Ridley and David Brown for contributing to this report

Crawling to the finish … BAC’s Fairy Run returns

Just before Christmas, Biggleswade Athletic Club’s annual Fairy Run made an epic return as club members new and old embarked on a time-trial around The Lodge, many in costumes not noted for their wicking properties.

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“Michaela” Blunt enjoys his bespoke, seam-free running outfit’s wicking properties. Photo by Nick Spavins

The seasonal staple sees members take up wands and strap on fairy wings, with honours available for both the First Fairy Home 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.

As always, those witnessing clubmates storming by them on Stratford Road mumbled variously unkind things about the quality of the handicapping. With the closing stages taking in the steep trek uphill at the end of The Lodge near Biggleswade Common, work nights out caught up with several entrants.

Best Dressed honours went to Kathryn Juty, whose Poison Ivy ensemble was voted the best during a lengthy post-run debrief at The King’s Arms pub on Sandy’s London Road. First Fairy Home was BAC run leader Jules Mackay.

Heads everywhere were turned as runners assembled for the pre-run group photo, when suddenly a string of enormous fairy lights bounded round the corner, to the bemusement and astonishment of several Lodge visitors. It was a triumph of coordination and planning, scuppered slightly by the fact that the costumes were at times too wide for the pavement alongside Potton Road, and a reminder to all that inflation can go down as well as up.

The day also saw the big reveal of the club’s winning London Marathon applicants. A big day in April awaits for Sally Jones and Sarah Geeson-Orsgood – huge congratulations and happy training to both.

After The King’s Arms, the run gradually became a crawl as members showcased ever-deteriorating costumes and make-up in a host of pubs in the local area. Andy Hedley updated Facebook into the earlier hours with news that himself, chairman Pitts and Rob Morgan were the last three standing. Their reward: iffy heads on the Sunday.

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The Fairy Run 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 three 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 three 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 the hostelries of Sandy and Potton for their hospitality/tolerance of our fairies this year. They won’t trouble you for another 12 months, we promise.

Members can find many more photos of the day in the Biggleswade AC Members’ Facebook group. Huge thanks to Nick Spavins, Jules Mackay and Rachel Stott for their pics