Reminder: club AGM is TOMORROW – Monday, 7.30pm

All Biggleswade AC members are both welcome and indeed encouraged to attend.

It’s a great opportunity to get a sense of how the club is run and air your views. This year we have committee members both leaving and joining, and among those departing are BAC chairman, Damien Pitts, after an impressively long stint across various committee roles.

Last year’s AGM was sparsely attended, and it would be great to see more faces there this time round – there will be a seat for anyone who wants one! Be there, and be heard.

Monday 25th February, 7.30pm

Theatre Hall, Sandy Upper School (use the gym entrance – it’s straight ahead on the left from there)

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Awards time … athletes honoured and a club stalwart mourned at BAC’s presentation night

Biggleswade Athletic Club honoured a host of members at their annual awards presentation night in Sandy late last month.

In the ceremony at Garden Court, athletes, officials and family members gathered for a great night of food and entertainment, as hard winter training was set aside for the night to take stock and reflect on some outstanding performances throughout 2018.

Awards were handed out covering a host of disciplines, including the club championship road events of 5km, 10km, 10 mile and half marathon, while track and field awards were dished out based on performances and points accrued for the club at the Southern Athletics League and Eastern Masters Athletics League.

Hannah Broom and Charlie Arnold. Photo by Nick Spavins

Multiple award-winners included Charlie Arnold, who mopped up a superb five individual accolades, including the Complete Athlete Award. Hannah Broom, following an outstanding breakthrough season on both road and trails, took three – her improvements in 2018 saw her named the most improved female athlete of the year. Daniel Steel was named both Senior Field Athlete of the Year and the most improved male athlete.

Also handed out were various honours earned at the recent County Cross-County Championships. While many awards are purely results-based, however, two are particularly distinguished honours as they are voted for by members.

Bev Strong. Photo by Nick Spavins

The Lonely Pines Trophy, voted for by all club members, was awarded to Bev Strong, who has combined competing for the club with vital organisation, as shown in her fine work ensuring the presentation night went smoothly. Her organisational prowess has underpinned BAC’s brilliant recent successes in the Three Counties Cross Country league, ensuring a timely turnaround of results – this has often involved hurtling from the finish line to race HQ in whatever weathers present themselves.

The Club Person of the Year is handed out following a vote by members of the club’s committee. This year the vote was unanimous, and tinged with sadness, as the committee chose to recognise its former stalwart Sonia Brown, who died last July.

Huge thanks to Scott (pictured) and Roger Brown for being our club’s distinguished guests on the night. Photo by Nick Spavins

The club were incredibly honoured to host both Sonia’s husband Roger and son Scott. All in attendance rose for a standing ovation as Scott collected Sonia’s award, recognising her contributions to the club as official, coach and committee member, and chairman Damien Pitts also handed the family a book of condolence that members have been contributing to over recent months.

Huge thanks from all at the club to chairman Damien Pitts for organising the awards, member Tim Gardiner who did a fine job both as DJ and Bon Jovi superfan, Bev Strong for her sterling organisation, and last but not least the staff at Garden Court who helped ensure everyone was fed and watered.

We would also like to recognise Charlie Arnold’s superb bowtie, and his sterling duck-walking skills, which were particularly prominent during The Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).

2018 award winners

5km
Men’s Charles Arnold
Women’s Elaine Livera

10km
Men’s Charles Arnold
Women’s Hannah Broom

10 Mile
Men’s Charles Arnold
Women’s Natalie Morgan

Half marathon
Men’s Marcus Davey
Women’s Hannah Broom

Complete Athlete Award
Charles Arnold

Endurance Trophy
Nick Haworth

Most Improved Senior Athlete
Men’s
Daniel Steel
Women’s Hannah Broom

Club Person of the Year (voted for by the club committee)
Sonia Brown

Lonely Pines Trophy – Club Members’ Member of the Year
Bev Strong

Senior Male Track Athlete of the Year
Morgan Webster

Senior Female Track Athlete of the Year
Hannah Ridley

Senior Male Field Athlete of the Year
Daniel Steel

Senior Female Field Athlete of the Year
Sarah Ridley

Veteran Male (Age 35-49)
Simon Strong

Veteran Male (Age 50-59)
Neil Harvey

Veteran Male (Age 60+)
Charles Arnold

Veteran Female (Age 35-49)
Kathryn Juty

Veteran Female (Age 50-59)
Helen Kapur

Veteran Female (Age 60+)
Sandra Ingham

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

Parkrun pandemonium: BAC members band together at Bedford Park

Last Saturday a small army of BAC members helped out with a club takeover of volunteering duties at Bedford Parkrun. Accompanied by assorted friends and family members, duties from pacing to timekeeping and barcode scanning were entrusted to experienced Parkrunners and newbies alike.

Julie Spavins said: “This was the first time I have volunteered to help at the Parkrun, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I convinced my other half and two granddaughters to come along as well, and we had a marvellous time cheering on the runners.

“We were up at the cafe, trying not to get run down on the last corner, and this gave us an opportunity to chat to some of the regular marshals who really do a fantastic job. As a note, one of the marshals did say how great it was to have so many willing volunteers, there have been a few occasions where they’ve had to consider cancelling due to the lack of marshals.”

Last Saturday’s run – the 384th in Bedford – saw 368 runners and walkers take part, despite at times adverse weather, testament to how integral the events are to Saturday mornings in the region.

Parkrun takes place at hundreds of venues in the UK and overseas every Saturday morning at 9am. BAC members can regularly be found at local runs in Bedford, St Neots, Great DenhamWimpole, Letchworth and Stevenage.

See here for more information about Parkrun, and huge thanks to the team behind Bedford Parkrun for hosting us.

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’.”

 

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 …