Club spirit … BAC storm it on and off the roads in St Neots

Biggleswade Athletic Club runners racked up fine positions and a string of personal best times, while clubmates won friends around the course thanks to a superlative support effort at the St Neots Half-Marathon last Sunday. The race is BAC’s club championship race over the distance and one of the annual highlights of the local road-running calendar.

On a biting cold morning in St Neots, and faced with a challenging course which features a string of steep uphill climbs, BAC’s Jamie Hall – in only his third race at the distance – took the male club championship honours with an outstanding second place. His time of 1:13:54 bettered his 1:14.06 run last month on the significantly kinder Great Eastern Run course, and inches him ever-closer to Roger Wadeley’s club record 1:11.15 (set back in 1988).

Jamie Hall, right, on his way to second place. Photo by Frankie Byrne
Jamie Hall, right, on his way to second place. Photo by Frankie Byrne

He said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect from the undulating St Neots course. Others had told me plenty of horror stories about it, especially with previous years bringing howling winds and rain. Fortunately, today it was a beautiful crisp winter morning with barely any wind – perfect conditions for running.

“This time the tactics were to run based on feel rather than pace and try to get the best position I could. From the start, the guy who would go on to win (comfortably by over a minute) set off like a rocket and was in a different postcode from the first km onwards.

“I stuck with a group of about five others. The pace felt a little quick, but I stayed with it and by around the fifth km it was just me and a runner from Fairlands Valley Spartans. I had been warned that miles seven to nine were a tough slog and that it would be sensible to try and keep some company. This knowledge was pretty much the only thing that kept me pushing to keep with the Fairlands Valley runner.

“From mile 10 I knew that from this point onwards the course was all downhill so I pushed on to try and put some space between us. I have no idea how far ahead I got, but by mile 11 I could hear him behind me again. I was convinced that I had blown it and he would come storming past. Mercifully the Fairlands Valley runner stayed with me. I tried to go again at 12 miles and this time managed to pull away to come through in second place with a PB. Clearly running with the other guy had really helped!”

Elaine Livera, fifth female finisher and 74th overall, coasted to the women’s club title with a time of 1:26:54, with cross country challenges lying ahead next week. She said: “It was the most enjoyable half marathon I have ever run! Myself, Paul Cooke and coach Paul Davies had decided to run together at Cookie’s marathon pace. I got a proper lesson in how to run a half properly. We were such an enjoyable bunch to run with that we even picked up a few stragglers and ran almost the full distance in a pack of about five or six people.

Paul Cooke, Elaine Livera and Paul Davies. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Paul Cooke, Elaine Livera and Paul Davies. Photo by Roo Goodwin

“Having stayed at a fairly comfortable pace throughout the run, I really wanted to try and catch her before the line. Over the last 2km we slowly made up the distance between us and I found myself in a 600m sprint for the finish which allowed me to come in fifth instead of sixth woman.”

She echoed the sentiments of all BAC athletes out on the course, who were met with outstanding support throughout: “The best parts of the day was seeing Biggleswade supporters on every single street corner. I’m surprised any of them still had voices at the end of the day! It feels great to be part of such a supportive club!” The village of Abbotsley, which runners passed through twice in the race, became akin to a “Biggleswade Boulevard”, with members and their families out in force.

Rob Morgan. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Rob Morgan was 2nd BAC finisher in 1:22:19. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Running alongside, Paul Cooke, who has endured an injury-plagued season, was pleased to return to the roads: “I really enjoyed that and chuffed that I managed it after being injured for so long. The only issue for me was a slight twinge in my calf right at the end. Massive well done to all runners – some great times in perfect conditions. Even bigger thanks to the blue and yellow supporters … they were the best supporters out there.” He emerged with a time of 1:27:07.

A few minutes further up the road, Marcus Davey, had clothing and pacing quandaries to contend with. He said: “It felt cold enough for me to wear my thermal top and gloves. At the start line, coach Paul Davies looked at me and asked: ‘Aren’t you a bit warm in that?’ I wondered if I had made a mistake, and there was no time to change.

Marcus Davey. Photo by Carol Garratt
The many-layered Marcus Davey. Photo by Carol Garratt

“Following on from this year’s Peterborough half marathon when the wheels began to wobble at mile 11, I conceded to myself I should run a smidge slower, particularly on a course with many an undulation.”

All worked out for the best however, with the chill remaining in the air throughout the race. “My finishing time was just 12 seconds outside my Peterborough half marathon PB – I was a little surprised and very pleased with the outcome.” His 1:24:10 was just under two minutes behind BAC’s second finisher Rob Morgan, who crossed the line in 1:22:19.

Martha Ford had endured sleepless nights and pre-race nerves as she feared her hopes of dipping under the two hour barrier would be thwarted on the day. As it happened, despite flagging in the closing stages she stormed in over eight and a half minutes inside target time, with an excellent 1:51:23. Two minutes behind, Stuart Goodwin took six minutes off his PB with 1:53:39, and Amy Stamp – agonisingly close to breaking the two-hour barrier in Peterborough on her debut at the distance – followed up on the tougher course by crashing through it, thanks to a PB run of 1:58:24.

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Martha Ford soared well below her hoped-for 2hr time. Photo by Roo Goodwin

The club’s championship race results are based on age-gradings, which level the playing field for all competitors by adjusting times for veteran runners downwards – the older the runner, the more the age-graded time comes down.

Based on the recalibrated marks based, big movers included Clark Skerratt (1:25:13 down from 1:52:43), Ian Grimwood (1:31:12 from 1:58:16), Neil Harvey (1:31:55 from 1:50:32), Stephen Atkins (1:34:38 from 2:00:21), Andy Bruce (1:39:32 from 1:55:54), Ian Clayton (1:39:53 from 1:53:34), Vicky Berry (1:47:28 from 2:06:25), Andrew Hedley (1:56:09 from 2:17:11), Juliet Grimwood (1:56:36 from 2:17:10), Janice Blake (1:59:21 from 2:27:59) and Julia Mackay (2:09:04 from 2:31:50).

St Neots Half-Marathon 2017 results

Overall position | Name | Chip time (Age-graded result)
Note that positions are based on gun time – those running faster times may have crossed the start line further back in the field

2 Jamie Hall 1:13:54 (1:13:54) Male club half-marathon champion
36 Rob Morgan 1:22:19 (1:18:24)
54 Marcus Davey 1:24:10 (1:16:59)
74 Elaine Livera 1:26:54 (1:26:54) Female club half-marathon champion
77 Paul Davies 1:27:05 (1:18:20)
79 Paul Cooke 1:27:07 (1:22:58)
111 Jon Stott 1:28:53 (1:19:57)
238 Damien Pitts 1:36:32 (1:36:09)
242 Giles Hawthorne 1:37:23 (1:31:17)
280 Natalie Morgan 1:37:53 (1:34:08)
301 Aaron Ball 1:39:46 (1:39:46)
482 Sarah Geeson-Orsgood 1:47:23 (1:43:16)
558 Neil Harvey 1:50:32 (1:31:55)
575 Martha Ford 1:51:23 (1:51:07)
598 Clark Skerratt 1:52:43 (1:25:13)
631 Stuart Goodwin 1:53:39 (1:49:57)
634 Lucinda Shenton 1:53:42 (1:42:47)
640 Ian Clayton 1:53:54 (1:39:53)
684 Andrew Bruce 1:55:30 (1:39:32)
742 Ian Grimwood 1:58:16 (1:31:12)
748 Amy Stamp 1:58:24 (1:58:07)
853 James Rastrick 1:58:03 (1:51:32)
797 Stephen Atkins 2:00:21 (01:34:38)
836 Frank Mcloughlin 2:01:53 (1:43:12)
872 Simon Strong 2:04:43 (1:53:08)
897 Vicky Berry 2:06:25 (1:47:28)
906 Sally Jones 2:07:17 (2:01:34)
1030 Andrew Hedley 2:17:11 (1:56:09)
1031 Juliet Grimwood 2:17:10 (1:56:36)
1057 Julian Brunt 2:20:25 (2:10:33)
1118 Janice Blake 2:27:59 (1:59:21)
1136 Julia Mackay 2:31:50 (2:09:04)
1166 Tim Gardiner 2:55:31 (2:41:51)

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Digging in at Delapre Abbey … BAC’s ladies retain Three Counties XC top spot

Biggleswade Athletic Club put in another excellent team performance at the second Three Counties Cross Country race of the season, with Jamie Hall finishing an brilliant fifth overall and the women’s squad combining superbly to retain top spot in the league despite stiff challenges from both rival clubs and fiendish conditions.

Jamie Hall. Photo by Mark Garratt
Jamie Hall on his way to fifth place. Photo by Mark Garratt

On a bitterly cold morning in Northampton, athletes contended with a challenging and deceptively awkward course around Delapre Park, consisting of two multi-terrain laps taking in tricky uphills, breakneck downward sections and hundreds of hidden tree roots ready to catch runners unaware. The long finish section, run twice into the wind on a boggy hill thick with grass, proved a viciously cruel and sapping test for the legs that derailed many runners’ challenges in the closing stages.

With the first eight men and first four ladies from each club counted towards the team totals, finishing positions were key. So three top 10 placings in the women’s standings, from Elaine Livera (3rd), Juliet Nayler (8th) and Isobel Everest (9th), plus the fourth scoring runner – Hannah Broom – placing 12th enabled BAC to take second on the day, just pipped by Bedford Harriers. Holding on to the stop spot after two events of five is all the more impressive as Biggleswade’s squad of 30 was dwarfed on the day by the likes of Bedford and Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers – who topped the men’s standings – with those clubs able to field 66 and 63 runners respectively.

Elaine, who was first female over the line in race one, reflected on another fine top three finish: “I managed to stick just behind one of the girls for half of the first loop when, out of nowhere, another girl passed us so quickly I hardly saw her. She was able to make the most of the twisty turns in the section through the forest. One bit which was definitely worth mentioning was a downhill muddy section which ended with a sharp right turn. Both times I almost ended up going straight down the hill. I think I definitely lost some time there!”

On the men’s side, Jamie celebrated his 28th birthday with a superb first senior cross-country outing. With coach Paul Davies also joining him among the scoring runners, he expressed surprise at the gameplan: “I was slightly taken aback when the plan involved a sprint off the start line to avoid getting stuck out of place. I gave it everything for the first few seconds to get myself into position for the narrow first uphill section. This paid off as there was no way I could have made up ground if I had ended up too far back.”

He echoed Elaine’s thoughts on the downhill section: “I stuck with the race leaders going up the hill but completely lost them going back down through the woods. I have no idea how anyone can move that quick round such tight corners and between the trees.

“Having struggled across the open field past the start line for the second lap, I was pushed back into sixth half way up the first hill but managed to keep the guy ahead in sight. I did everything I could to make sure I didn’t fall any further back but found the constant change of pace due to the twists and turns hard work. When we finally got to the marker for the last 400m I tried to claw back as much distance as I could. Thanks to the fantastic support from those cheering at the finish line I managed to put in a sprint at the end to just edge my way into a respectable fifth place finish.”

Paul Davies, Isobel Everest and Hannah Broom. Photo by Mark Garratt
Paul Davies, Isobel Everest and Hannah Broom. Photo by Mark Garratt

In Jamie’s wake were Rob Morgan (24th), Marcus Davey (76th), Nick Haworth (79th), Paul Davies (107th), John Stott (121st), club chairman Damien Pitts (129th) and Charlie Arnold (134th). Their points total left them eighth of 13 clubs on the day, and following a sixth place finish at race one, they lie seventh overall for the season.

Marcus was one of several to find themselves running wary of the various hazards: “Running uphill and avoiding tree roots I can deal with – running downhill on slippy mud is another thing. A lot of concentration was required on that twisty muddy downhill section! Second time round on that very section of the course an Ampthill athlete I was running next to fell flat on his face.”

Marcus Davey, right. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Marcus Davey, right, makes his way through the woods. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Charlie also found a neighbouring runner come a cropper, and he found himself running cautiously: “Mud puddles, rabbit holes and tree stumps added to the dangers to be avoided as we twisted and turned round the trees on an undulating path before finally getting respite downhill. Not being a great one for running down, especially with the difficult terrain, I had to give way as others ran by me.

“Clubmates passed, to whom I was happy to concede position, before, finally, I reached the end to my great relief. Not a run to be proud of and not one that I can say I enjoyed, but these things happen and I did score for the team which made it all worthwhile.”

Deb Bryant, 31st female finisher, returned to the course for the first time in over a decade, nervous having left last time around with unhappy memories. “I hadn’t done it since around 2006 -I didn’t complete it that year as I tripped over a tree root and twisted my ankle. It took me out of running for a while. However once I got going past that section the day was all good. It’s a lovely course, the sun was out and it was a great race.”

Action at the start with Emma Bailey (482) and Deb Bryant (490). Photo by Roo Goodwin
Action at the start with Emma Bailey (482) and Deb Bryant (490). Photo by Roo Goodwin

Club secretary Hannah returned after an injury-plagued spell to round off the ladies’ scoring. She said: “I had one strategy – go out hard and try to hold on.That field and hill was a little much and I had to drop off the pace. Two girls passed me and I was furious with myself, I needed to get back in the game. I hunted the first down and overtook her then started to hunt the second. She had a male team-mate running with her, and through the trees there was no room to pass. I tried this way and that but her team-mate blocked my efforts. My legs were done – the finish was metres away but I did not manage it. I’ll get her next time!”

Start of race with Charlie Arnold and Hannah Broom. Photo by Roo Goodwin
Charlie Arnold and Hannah Broom in the stampede at the start. Photo by Roo Goodwin

Throughout the morning all BAC competitors enjoyed fantastic support from a tireless support crew, who braved the biting cold, and many finishers stuck around to cheer their team-mates over the line. One who enjoyed a particularly warm welcome was Carol Garratt, one of the club’s Couch to 5k graduates, and Marcus rejoined the course after finishing to act as a windbreak for her the closing stages, as conditions worsened. She said: “It was my first cross-country run ever! The grass sapped my legs before the killer hill. I loved the woods but did the ‘gentlemanly‘ thing, pulling over to let the front-runners pass, so I lost a bit of time but that was never really going to make a big difference.

At the end of the first lap I really wanted to give up, but I thought ‘No! You have to take one for the team, grit your teeth and dig in.’ It didn’t make that hill any easier but at least I had a clear run back through the woods. To my superhero Marcus, who was the ‘Wind beneath my wings’, as he ran me home, a special thank you! Will I do it again? Well, my number is on the mantelpiece. Did I enjoy it? Actually, I think I did!”

The combined team scores mean Biggleswade now lie a clear fifth in the standings overall. With many runners in the lineup for the St Neots Riverside Half-Marathon this Sunday – BAC’s club championship race over the distance – preparations immediately turn to race three of the season which takes place in Dunstable’s Green Lanes, Tottenhoe Knolls and the Maidenbower on 26 November.

Wootton cross country results

Overall position | Name (gender position)
5 Jamie Hall (5)
24 Rob Morgan (24)
72 Elaine Livera (3)
82 Marcus Davey (76)
85 Nick Haworth (79)
107 Juliet Nayler (8)
116 Isobel Everest (9)
117 Paul Davies (107)
131 Hannah Broom (12)
135 John Stott (121)
143 Damien Pitts (129)
148 Charlie Arnold (134)
155 Natalie Morgan (15)
191 Emma Bailey (25)
211 Deb Bryant (31)
264 Neil Harvey (207)
268 Kathryn Juty (58)
273 Stuart Goodwin (211)
280 Gary Baldwin (214)
303 Robin Wynde (224)
343 Simon Strong (244)
347 Ian Grimwood (246)
377 Georgia Barker (119)
379 Jess Godfrey (121)
389 Ricky Byrne (254)
394 Juliet Grimwood (134)
426 Helen Kapur (160)
431 Julie Spavins (163)
449 Ruth King (179)
450 Carol Garratt (180)

Miles better … BAC athletes go the distance in Peterborough, Chester and Wimpole

Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes enjoyed a successful day on the streets of Peterborough, as several runners returned from the Perkins Great Eastern Run with personal best times.

Jamie Hall excelled in only his second half-marathon. Photo by Robyn Hall

Renowned as one of the flattest half marathons within easy reach of the club’s base in Sandy, the race starts and finishes in the town centre before taking a tour around residential areas. Jamie Hall – in only his second attempt at the distance – was among those to reap the benefits, and up against high-quality opposition he crossed the line in a superb 18th place, with a time of 1:14.06 indicating that Roger Wadeley’s club record 1:11.15 (set back in 1988) could soon be under threat.

Jamie said: “It was a perfect day for it, the sun was shining and the air was very still. The race started well enough, I managed to stay pretty consistent but found myself isolated between two groups of runners. Fortunately at about mile three I was joined by a couple of others who I ended up sticking with for most of the race.”

“It was all going quite well – it felt tough but not unbearable. I was just counting down the time until the next marker. That was until I managed to misread the mile 8 marker as a 9. Seeing the 9 marker come up again when I was expecting the 10 really set me back, I was really looking forward to only having 5k left to go! It was a real ‘should have gone to a well known high street chain of opticians’ moment.

From this point onward it was a real struggle to keep going. Were it not for the locals who had come out in force to cheer the runners on, it would have been easy to just shuffle the last few miles. I knocked three minutes off my only other half marathon time from earlier in the year, set just before I joined the club. All thanks to the fantastic support from the coaches and all the members of BAC!”

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Marcus Davey, No2222, was stunned to run exactly the same time as last year. Paul Cooke, No4709, sadly did not finish due to injury. Photo by Robyn Hall

Next home was Marcus Davey, who had arrived on the start line hopeful of finding the kind of consistency that would reward him with a PB. Yet the outcome, after finishing 151st, was somewhat unusual. He said: “I set myself to run each mile of the race at 6min 20sec. For the first 10 miles I hit the goal with beautiful regularity and was feeling fine until the heart started going in to overdrive. As usual I picked up my legs for the final 100s, always looking to overtake someone in an attempt to find some glory on the line. And my finishing glory and final time? I was gobsmacked – I exactly matched my PB from last year’s race!”

Elaine Livera was 14th female finisher, 231nd overall, and first BAC lady home in 1:27.57, and she was joined in the sub-90 minute club by John Stott, who subjected himself to a “self-beasting” on his way to 258th in a brilliant PB of 1:28.50.

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Elaine Livera was 14th female finisher overall. Photo by Robyn Hall

The evergreen Charlie Arnold, competing in the over 60s age category, arrived aiming to repeat a performance earlier in the year when he broke the 100 mins barrier (1hr 40). He said: “With the Peterborough race hailed as a ‘flat, good for PB’ course, the pressure was on to improve on my May run. More great coaching and track work through the summer with a great team of athletes at BAC, and the work was done.

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Charlie Arnold, left, took third spot in the V60 rankings. Photo by Robyn Hall

“The support was magnificent from young and old alike and although I was very much in the zone, I could appreciate the cheering and, even better, the calling of my name which I had on the front of my vest. As the end approached and I could start counting down the metres, I checked my watch and calculated I was on for that new PB.” Charlie’s 1:37.18 was also good enough for third spot in the over-60 rankings. Running alongside him in the early stages, Aaron Ball – in his BAC race debut – acquitted himself superbly and finished just six seconds back in a PB 1:37.24.

Amy Stamp narrowly missed breaking the two-hour barrier in her first race at half-marathon distance. Photo by Robyn Hall

On the day 25 BAC runners took the start line, but Paul Cooke and Helen Steward were forced out mid-race with injuries. However, Helen’s husband Malcolm helped himself to a huge PB of 1:54.00, while Amy Stamp hailed the “great atmosphere” and was delighted with her debut at the distance, finishing just outside two hours in 2:00.28.

Rachel Stott joined husband John in the PB stakes with a 2:14.06, and she paid tribute to her clubmates for helping her overcome race day nerves. “Everything was going well and we were sticking to our pace … until mile 10,” she said. “The wheels started to wobble and fall off slightly. I so, so wanted to stick to the plan but things were not going accordingly. It is great thanks to Vicky Berry who got me through the last 3 miles and more importantly through the last 400m, where I was seriously wanting to fall in a heap.” Vicky joined her across the line in the same time.

In the MBNA Chester Marathon, Nick Haworth finished in an excellent 2:57.22, while Rob Morgan agonisingly missed out on breaking the three-hour barrier, but his 3:00.18 is still an outstanding achievement, over 24 minutes faster than his last outing over the distance.

Meanwhile, in the Wimpole Hoohaah races, Deb Bryant and Julie Balaam were in hilly and muddy 10 mile and half-marathon action respectively. Deb was sixth in the V40 age group, and ninth lady overall, in the shorter race with a fine 1:21.06, while Julie overcame shoe-related adversity to take second place in the V40 category and seventh place in the ladies standings with an excellent 1:44.32. “The poor girl stepped out of her car and her trainer lace broke,” Deb said. “She managed to buy one off a stall but wouldn’t fit through so she tied it all the way around her trainer – very Blue Peter, but it lasted!” Julie added: “Thanks to Deb for keeping me calm. It was a fantastic course – hilly, muddy, with beautiful autumn views – and good training for the forthcoming cross-country season.”

The Three Counties cross-country league kicks off on Sunday in Wellingborough for the notoriously muddy Croyland Park race, and then on 19 November BAC athletes will take their distance running exploits to St Neots for the final club championship race of the season – the Riverside Half Marathon.

Perkins Great Eastern Run 2017 results

gun position | name | chip time

18 Jamie Hall 1:14.06
151 Marcus Davey 1:23.58
231 Elaine Livera 1:27.57
258 John Stott 1:28.50
541 Charlie Arnold 1:37.18
574 Aaron Ball 1:37.24
775 Andy Bruce 1:40.31
778 Hannah Broom 1:42.25
1552 Malcolm Steward 1:54.00
1555 Clark Skerratt 1:56.32
1722 Neil Harvey 1:56.06
1745 Richard Dilley 1:56.19
1759 Kathryn Juty 1:57.37
1916 Amy Stamp 2:00.28
2100 Stephen Atkins 1:58.51 (NB: started further back in field, hence quicker chip time but lower gun placing than Amy)
2359 Nicky Double 2:06.22
2489 Joanne Drummond 2:10.01
2601 Maria Merridan 2:12.12
2603 Giles Hawthorne 2:12.13
2727 Vicky Berry 2:14.06
2728 Rachel Hallam-Stott 2:14.06
3796 Nicola Perrin 2:38.26
4100 Lorraine Emerson 2:58.15

Caution! Imaginary crocodiles … BAC’s Ed slays 145-mile epic

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s endurance expert Ed Jones went more than the extra mile at the gruelling Kennet & Avon Canal Race – a 145-mile slog that’s the rough equivalent of five and a half consecutive marathons.

Having warmed up with June’s Norfolk 100k Ultra Marathon – a relative breeze at 62 miles – Ed arrived for a 6am start in Bristol, with 45 hours to complete the course.

“There are checkpoints with food and water every 15-20 miles,” said Ed, “so you only need to carry enough to get you between these. You are not allowed to be stationary for more than 40 minutes, so while you can sit down for a rest, and possibly a very quick nap.”

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And they’re off! Photo courtesy of twitter.com/KACR145

Arriving for the start in grey and blustery conditions alongside 75 other starters, Ed went over his gameplan: “I adopted my usual approach of treating it as a nice run in the countryside, and just to focus on getting to the next checkpoint. I settled into a steady comfortable pace, picking off a few slower runners and chatting to a few others.”

Having left the city centre for the more picturesque Avon Valley, after the initial marathon distance of 26.2 miles Ed was well-placed. “It came up in about four hours, and I was surprised to find myself in ninth place – which suggested I was going too fast!

“I went through Checkpoint 2 and then on to the spectacular Caen Hill Locks – where 29 locks raise the canal 237 feet in two miles. Checkpoint 3 brought us into the Vale of Pewsey, with the downs of Wiltshire rising impressively either side of the canal. My pace was beginning to slow now, with more walking breaks, and my knees getting a little sore at the base of the kneecap, but I was through 50 miles in just over 9 hours, and got a bit of a second wind as I went through halfway in under 15 hours.”

The unique nature of the event made for a great sense of camaraderie among the competitors. “Although it is a ‘race’, for everyone except a few at the sharp end of the field the goal is to finish, and positions are really not that important. People therefore tended to hold gates open for each other, call someone back if they’re seen heading the wrong way, and pause for a chat and to check everything is OK.”

“Beyond halfway Saturday evening was starting to draw in and the drizzle was turning into more persistent rain. We were approaching the outskirts of Reading.” The need for camaraderie also became apparent. “The field was really strung out – I would only see one other runner in the next 10 hours – and my mood was starting to dip. Suddenly in the dusk I caught an electric blue flash, and a kingfisher darted from some trees, and flew along the canal. It was a magical moment, gave me a real boost and made me resolve not to give up.”

Having successfully negotiated Reading’s late-night revellers, Ed picked up the Thames Path, where the gravity of the endeavour started to hit home. “A combination of the darkness and fatigue leads to hallucinations. I always see bridges across the canal which turn out just to be overhanging trees. And the usual suspects are branches and logs that look like snakes or crocodiles.”

At Henley, dawn was breaking and with it came a significant milestone – the 100 mile point. “It was nice to get the scenery back, and this was some of the nicest of the whole race as we followed the river with the wooded slopes of the Chilterns rising steeply on either side, interspersed with picture postcard villages and towns. The pain in my knees was making running difficult now, and I was having to work hard to make myself even do short bursts.

“I arrived at Bray, 110 miles, at about 11am on Saturday morning – just as the crew there were cooking some bacon. They offered scrambled eggs as well. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything better.

“I took the opportunity of the food stop to change into some dry shoes and socks, although by now I had pretty much given up on the running. Running wasn’t appreciably faster than my walking pace, hurt a lot, and I was wary of causing more damage – so resigned myself to ‘death marching’ the final marathon and a bit.

Ed Jones at the Kennet & Avon Canal Race (1)
Ed Jones crosses the line after an epic race

“As night fell for the second time in the race we reached Little Venice, and then the right turn into Paddington Basin, and the very low-key finishing line. I summoned a shuffling jog for the last 50 metres, and finally crossed the line at 21:24.”

His finishing time was a superb 39 hours and 24 minutes, and on crossing the line he learned he had come a brilliant 21st, with only 36 completing the gruelling route.

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The finishers’ board. Photo courtesy of twitter.com/KACR145

Ed added: “Having had a few days to recover, I’m perhaps a touch disappointed to be quite a bit slower than a race over similar distance last year. On the other hand I’ve struggled to fit in enough decent long runs, and I’ve now notched up a PB for ‘time on feet’. I just need to decide what to do next!”

The power of 10: runners go down by the Riverside, plus BAC round-up

Four days after the Doug Anderson 5k, 19 Biggleswade athletes took to St Neots for the Riverside Runners 30th Anniversary 10k, taking place on a tough course, described by organisers as “a summer cross country” with a mix on paths and off-road, plus several bridges traversing the Great Ouse.

Paul Cooke was first BAC runner home, thanks to a brilliant 16th place in 39:09, but further down the field the race marked a special moment for five members in particular, who were taking part in their first 10k race since graduating from the club’s Couch to 5k programmes last year. For Jennifer Emanuel (1:08.01) and Julie Cooke (1:20.44) the race was particularly timely, marking precisely a year since they completed the programme.

Riverside 10k, St Neots - BAC squad. Photo by Bev Strong
BAC squad at the Riverside 10k in St Neots. Photo by Bev Strong

Bev Strong (1:15.34), Joanne Hornby (1:15.34) and Ruth King (1:20.44) were graduates from the second course, which ended in November.

Results – Riverside 30th Anniversary 10k

16 Paul Cooke – 39:09
125 Malcolm Steward – 50:14
213 Andrew Deans – 53:35
218 Neil Harvey – 54:01
225 Sarah-Jane Seaman – 54:23
226 Damien Pitts – 54:23
313 Julian Brunt – 58:35
336 Simon Strong – 59:22
354 Richard Barker – 1:00.20
359 Sally Jones – 1:00.28
362 Georgia Barker – 1:00.33
420 Rachel Hallam Stott – 1:04.16
466 Jennifer Emanuel – 1:08.01
467 Helen Steward – 1:08.02
500 Vikki Vowles – 1:12.09
520 Bev Strong – 1:15.34
521 Joanne Hornby – 1:15.34
537 Ruth King – 1:20.44
538 Julie Cooke – 1:20.44


A week earlier, Philip Housden took the trophy as the brilliant winner of the MV65 competition at the Bedfordshire AAA 10k, thanks to a fine time of 47:56. Richard Bevan was the first of BAC’s four runners in the race, finishing 15th overall in 35:54.

Results – Beds AAA 10k

15 Richard Bevan – 35:54
38 Nick Haworth – 38:47
104 Philip Housden – 47:56
122 Christopher Clarke – 50:40


Elsewhere, Biggleswade’s Sophie Steele performed brilliantly representing Bedfordshire in an inter-county competition at Kingsmeadow Stadium in Kingston-upon-Thames. Her throw of 9.06m smashed the club record and gave her a superb third place. Also wearing her county’s colours was Hannah Brunning, who gained a fine PB of 18.43m in the javelin.


At the latest EYAL fixture in Colchester last weekend, Cameron Rayner broke 12 seconds for the first time and broke the club record with a fine 11.7 in the U15 race. Callum Stokes got a PB too in the U17 equivalent, finishing in 11.9.

Leonie Brunning won the U15 high jump with 1.63m, while her sister Hannah Brunning got a PB 800m (3:08.4). Nathan Dodds took the honours in the U17 discus, winning with 37.80m, and also took the win in the javelin with 45.20m.

Madison Ball got PBs in both the U13 800m (2:58.8) and 100m (15.0), Georgie Smith won the U15 300m with her best time of 44.4, and added another PB in the U15 200m (27.3). BAC newbie Alex Matsukatoval ran his first competitive 800m for the club, finishing a fine fourth in the U15 race in 2:29.9. Tristan Rayner’s 4.98m in the U17 long jump was a season’s best. Full results from Colchester are available here.

Jamie and Elaine, sitting in a tree, W-I-N-N-I-N-G: awards galore for BAC at Doug Anderson 5k

Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes put in a sensational performance at the Doug Anderson 5k in Bedford and came away with an unprecedented haul of individual and team honours. The annual fixture at Bedford Park is BAC’s designated club championship race over the distance, with many entrants on a blustery evening also competing for the Bedfordshire county championship honours.

Leading the way was Jamie Hall, in his BAC debut, and he stunned himself with the outright race win thanks to an astonishing run of 16min 33sec. His delight at victory by five seconds from a member of host club Bedford Harriers was multiplied when he turned at the finish to see his partner Elaine Livera emerge as winner of the ladies’ race with a superb 18:51, good enough for 25th place overall.

Paul Davies, Rob Morgan and Elaine Rivera in action. Photo by Jo Ellary
Paul Davies, Rob Morgan and Elaine Rivera in action. Photo by Jo Ellary

Jamie said: “I got to the park very apprehensive about the whole thing.  We set off at what felt like a fairly acceptable pace. I felt myself trying to push ahead but kept remembering coach Paul Davies’ advice to stick behind someone and use them as a barrier against the wind. Much to my surprise I found myself keeping with the group at the front for the rest of the first lap.  I stuck behind the other runners to avoid the worst of the wind coming along the bottom straight. When we got to the top of the park a couple of the guys at the front started to pick up the pace so I tried to keep with them.

“Paul had told me the point I should put everything in for the finish and as soon as I hit it, I gritted my teeth and set off. To my astonishment, I got to the line first!”

In between Jamie and Elaine came Paul Cooke in 18:24 for 18th place and Rob Morgan in 24th, pipping Elaine despite the same time of 18:51. As the top three finishers from each club count in the team standings, the first BAC trio’s cumulative placings added up to 43, which ensured BAC took second place in the men’s competition. Cooke also took the runners-up spot in the men’s veteran over 40 county championship.

Rob Morgan, Jamie Hall and Paul Cooke helped BAC to second place in the team standings. Photo by Bev Strong
Rob Morgan, Jamie Hall and Paul Cooke helped BAC to second place in the team standings. Photo by Bev Strong

On the women’s side, club secretary Hannah Broom retained her female veteran’s over 35 crown with a time of 21:24 and 71st place overall – she was also sixth female finisher overall,  and took the FV35 county championship crown as well as second place in the Bedfordshire Female Open standings.

Just behind was Natalie Morgan, Rob’s wife, who took 19th place in the women’s standings with 22:04. Natalie was third in the FV40 competition, just one second from the runner’s-up spot, and that agonising deficit also kept her from winning the county championship in her age group. Elaine, Hannah and Natalie’s performances gave BAC a stunning second place in the team competition, nine seconds faster overall than the winning team but just missing out on the top spot on combined finishing positions.

Elaine Rivera, Hannah Broom and Natalie Morgan show off their shield. Photo by Bev Strong
Elaine Rivera, Hannah Broom and Natalie Morgan show off their shield. Photo by Bev Strong

BAC’s team results were all the more remarkable as the club had 24 finishers on the day, while the hosts – who topped the standings – fielded a whopping 96. Olney Runners, back in third, had 29.

Hannah said: “Hearing ‘Biggleswade’ over and over in the prize-giving was amazing. For a small club we certainly pack a mean punch! I’m still buzzing for all my BAC team-mates as it certainly is a team effort.”

The brilliant performances on a challenging course continued throughout the field, with Paul Davies second in the MV45 rankings with 18:58, and Bev Strong astonishing herself in her competitive debut for the club by taking 30 seconds off her PB and and finishing in a superb second place in the FV45 county championship standings.

Doug Anderson 5k - BAC squad. Photo by Andrew Deans
BAC entrants at Doug Anderson 5k. Photo by Andrew Deans

Doug Anderson 5k results (age-graded times in brackets)

1 Jamie Hall – 16:33 (16:33)
18 Paul Cooke – 18:24 (17:23)
24 Rob Morgan – 18:51 (17:41)
25 Elaine Livera – 18:51 (18:51)
27 Paul Davies – 18:58 (16:59)
47 John Stott – 19:50 (17:38)
71 Hannah Broom – 21:24 (21:02)
86 Damien Pitts – 21:57 (21:36)
93 Natalie Morgan – 22:04 (21:13)
100 Emma Bailey – 22:22 (21:12)
109 Gary Baldwin – 22:48 (19:28)
133 Malcolm Steward – 23:54 (22:25)
142 Neil Harvey – 24:28 (20:12)
164 Stuart Goodwin – 25:02 (23:50)
172 Amy Stamp – 25:15 (25:11)
180 Ian Grimwood – 25:32 (19:38)
198 Simon Strong – 26:44 (23:57)
233 Rachel Hallam Stott – 29:31 (28:44)
242 Juliet Grimwood – 30:03 (25:33)
256 Julia Mackay – 31:46 (27:00)
268 Helen Steward – 33:22 (30:48)
270 Vikki Vowles – 33:43 (30:49)
273 Bev Strong – 34:01 (31:42)
275 Colin Harries – 34:10 (25:00)

And rearranged into club championship results – ordered by age-graded results (with chip times in brackets) …

1 Jamie Hall – 16:33 (16:33) Male club championship winner
2 Paul Davies – 16:59 (18:58)
3 Paul Cooke – 17:23 (18:24)
4 John Stott – 17:38 (19:50)
5 Robert Morgan – 17:41 (18:51)
6 Elaine Livera – 18:51 (18:51) Female club championship winner
7 Gary Baldwin – 19:28 (22:48)
8 Ian Grimwood – 19:38 (25:32)
9 Neil Harvey – 20:12 (24:28)
10 Hannah Broom – 21:02 (21:24)
11 Emma Bailey – 21:12 (22:22)
12 Natalie Morgan – 21:13 (22:04)
13 Damien Pitts – 21:36 (21:57)
14 Malcolm Steward – 22:25 (23:54)
15 Stuart Goodwin – 23:50 (25:02)
16 Simon Strong – 23:57 (26:44)
17 Colin Harries – 25:00 (34:10)
18 Amy Stamp – 25:11 (25:15)
19 Juliet Grimwood 25:33 (30:03)
20 Julia Mackay – 27:00 (31:46)
21 Rachel Hallam Stott – 28:44 (29:31)
22 Helen Steward – 30:48 (33:22)
23 Vikki Vowles – 30:49 (33:43)
24 Bev Strong – 31:42 (34:01)

May Day, May Day, records under attack: Biggleswade AC round-up

Euan Dickson-Earle led a hugely successful May Day bank holiday for Biggleswade Athletic Club members with a sensational gold medal and club record at the prestigious BUCS Championships.

The event at Bedford International Athletic Stadium is organised by British Universities & Colleges Sport and showcases the best athletes pursuing higher education around the UK. Euan – competing for Loughborough University – stormed to a time of 14.67sec to earn first place by one hundredth of a second from the despairing dive of Jake Porter, representing Birmingham University.

Euan Dickson-Earle - second left - dips to win the 110mh. Photo by Callum Dickson-Earle
Euan, second left, dips to take the win despite a despairing dive from the runner-up. Photo: Callum Dickson-Earle
Euan’s performance shaved almost three tenths off his own BAC record, and was all the more impressive as competitors were running into a -1.7 metres per second headwind. Earlier in the weekend BAC’s Tom Boggon, running for the University of Bedfordshire, competed in the 400m and came a creditable sixth in a strong heat.

More record-breaking was to come, this time at the Essex County Combined Events Championships in Thurrock, as multi-discipline specialist Daniel Steel assembled a brilliant series of performances to smash the club’s outdoor pentathlon mark by over 300 points. Competing as a guest he amassed what looks – subject to ratification of the results from Essex AA – a new record of 2108 in somewhat windy conditions, with his proudest moment coming in the javelin. Daniel found over five additional metres with his final effort to register 43.09m – a new personal best – which was backed up healthily throughout the afternoon with season’s bests in all of the long jump (5.70m), 200m (26.7sec), discus (22.49m) and 1500m (5:44.7).

Meanwhile the club’s road runners were out in force at events across the region. Rob Morgan took ninth place overall at the Mayor of Huntingdon’s 5 Mile Charity Race, the first of 10 club members in the lineup. The event – starting at Priory Park in the town – took runners across scenic, gently undulating farm tracks on the Lord de Ramsey Estate in the town, and Rob’s time of 32m 11sec also took second place in the Men’s Veteran Age 40 category, a feat matched by his wife Natalie in the FV35 standings, as she took the runners-up spot with 37:24.

Yet both were outdone by BAC’s next finisher, Deb Bryant, who has endured an injury-hit year but showed she was back with a bang in topping the FV45 standings with a great time of 38:47.

Also securing a top-two age category finish was Jan Blake, the second FV55 home with 49:54, while Malcolm Steward (39:44), Richard and Georgia Barker (both 47:26), Corinne Calligan (51:45), Helen Steward (55:44) and Jo Ellary (61:09) rounded out the entries. A breezy day on the course saw runners joined with the mayor himself, and began with the clubmates collaring actor Kieron Richardson, best known for playing the role of Ste Hay in Hollyoaks – for a pre-race photo.

BAC with Kieron Richardson. Photo by Jules Mackay
The BAC bods harass hapless Hollyoaks star Kieron Richardson, who started the race. Photo: Jules Mackay
Elsewhere, marathon fever continued in Milton Keynes, as Hannah Broom took on the challenge of 26.2 miles and despite being under the weather left with a great PB of 3:51.12 to become 64th female finisher overall and 32nd in the FV35 category. Charlie Arnold meanwhile showed age is no barrier to kicking on in the sport as he shot round the half-marathon course in a brilliant time of 1:38.51 – good enough for third place in a highly competitive MV60 category, and 200th of over 3000 runners overall.