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Tri-hard … BAC’s Baldwin grinds to earn GB vest in St Neots season-closer

Steven Baldwin writes …
My first couple of triathlons of the year hadn’t quite gone to plan, I’d failed to perform at the level I’d hoped I was capable of. But I’d then backed those up with a second place finish at Hitchin Sprint Tri and sixth place at “Calfman” Triathlon in Olney so I knew my fitness levels were in a good place. I was determined to use that fitness to complete a last block of training, a final push towards one more big performance.

It had been pointed out the final St Neots standard distance triathlon on 2nd September was a qualifier for the 2019 European Triathlon Union (ETU) championship in Weert, Netherlands. I had completed the first St Neots Tri back in May (Although the venue was changed to Grafham Water) and it had been a disaster; the water was still freezing so I was shivering with cold, I had a mechanical issue on the bike and by the time I hit the run, I’d completely run out of energy and motivation.

Refusing to be put off by my previous experience, I decided it would be an opportunity to test myself against a high-calibre field so signed up at the beginning of August and paid the £10 fee to register my interest in ETU qualification.

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Steven’s suited up and ready to go. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

The race was based at Riverside Park, St Neots and I had been to the event registration the day before to collect my goody bag (timing chip, race numbers and swim hat). This gave me peace of mind that on race day I’d have very little to do other than dump my bike in transition and get to the swim start. Walking around transition is always an intimidating experience, seasoned triathletes tinkering with their time-trial bikes costing more than most would spend on a car. Although I largely block them out and focus on my own race it’s worth being nosey, you may pick up a few little time-savers.

Swimming has always been my achilles heel. Although I had basic swim lessons as a kid, it never went any further than that. Since starting triathlon at the tail-end of 2016, I’ve taught myself front crawl and gradually improved. To begin with, I could barely swim a pool length without feeling out of breath and having to stop.

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Triathletes take to the Ouse. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

The St Neots swim was a one lap course up and down the Great Ouse, setting off in multiple waves of approximately 100 competitors per wave. The race starts with the usual chaos as everybody jostles for position, limbs getting thrown all over the place. I always choose to start wide and steer clear of the scrap to avoid getting pummelled. Thankfully the river current was minimal although it definitely felt tough when making the turn to head back upstream. Unlike previous races, I didn’t push myself too hard and just focused on not letting my form drop. As you can’t read your watch while swimming, it’s difficult to know the pace you’re going until you exit the water.  I was astonished when I stopped my watch to see a swim time of 27:04, almost 5 minutes quicker than I had managed at Grafham Water!

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Photo courtesy of Nice-Tri

I quickly stripped off my wetsuit, put helmet on and on to the bike, all in the space of 57 seconds. Getting transitions right is key and a great chance to make up time on fellow competitors. In the lead-up to a race, I’ll always get a few practice transitions in to ensure it goes as slick as possible.

St Neots has a fantastic bike course and they’re roads I’m very familiar with. It’s a not-hilly-but-not-flat loop out through the Staughtons which you complete two laps of for a distance of 45km (5km more than normal standard triathlon). As it was an ETU qualifier, the event was sold out and this really showed on the bike leg. In the early stages it was very difficult to find space on the road and stay clear of peoples’ slipstreams. Following a fellow competitor too closely is known as drafting and can lead to time penalties and even disqualification if you’re caught doing it.

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Steven during the bike stage. Photo by Sally-Ann Baldwin

Those who follow my training on Strava will know I do a majority of my bike training indoors on a turbo trainer using the online application Zwift. This allows me to get a much more structured workout than if I was to just go out for a ride. It’ll tell me the power I need to produce and for how long, all from the comfort of my own home without any worrying about traffic, etc. It helps me understand how hard I can push on the bike but still at a sustainable effort. Since I started using Zwift, I’ve seen my bike speeds go up and up. I covered the bike course in 1:13:41 which equates to 22.6mph (or 36.4kmph) average, an approximate 1mph improvement on Grafham (approx 3 mins faster).

51 seconds after climbing off the bike, I was out on to the run course. The course comprises of four laps round Riverside Park, very flat but with long sections of grass. The previous weeks training with “BAC fast” had been aimed at locking into the target race pace, Paul Davies suspected this would be somewhere around 6:05-6:10 per mile. This target turned out to be bang on, without even looking at the watch I found myself running in this range. It was a largely uneventful run, just holding the target pace, passing plenty of slower runners with only one person overtaking me in return. I completed the 9km course (1km short of official distance) in 34:55, giving me an overall time of 2:17:50. It is difficult to compare triathlon performances because courses are rarely accurately measured but I feel this was comfortably my best to date and a fantastic end to my season.

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Steven fights to the finish. Photo courtesy of Nice-Tri

The ETU qualification process is quite complex and would put anybody to sleep. Long story short, I didn’t get any automatic spot as I was outside the top four in my age group. However, as my time was so near to the age group winner, I was able to get a rolldown (or fastest loser) place. So next June I will have the honour of pulling on a GB tri-suit and competing at the European championships as an Age-Grouper (amateur).

I hope by sharing my experience, anybody considering getting involved in Triathlon will act on it give it a go. It took me a long time to pluck up the courage to enter an event and I haven’t looked back since. For me it all started with a 29:14 Parkrun in 2015 and now I get to represent Great Britain as a triathlete, it’s actually crazy! You never know where you might end up.

Roll on Weert 2019!

The big 10 … BAC decathletes summon up Dutch courage

Two Biggleswade Athletic Club multi-eventers lined up against formidable opponents in the shape of two Dutch internationals at the recent Surrey Combined Events Championships. Dan Steel was competing in his last decathlon in a BAC vest, while Darren Janssen was competing in his first.

Steel said: “This was my chance to have a crack at the outdoor club record from 2015, after breaking the indoor record in January. There was a buzz around the athletes with Trystan de Weerdt and Niels Mijnsbergen in our event – the standard was going to be high. They would be in every single one of my races!”

Day one consisted of the 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump and 400m. Immediately the class of the Dutch athletes told. Steel said: “The 100m went almost as expected – a solid start but I was left for dead by Trystan. Not my quickest time this year, but OK: 12.27sec.”

Janssen was glad of the company from his clubmate. “This was the most nervous I had been for an athletic competition. I started the first of two days cautiously as I battled the nerves, but after the first event was over I soon settled in and started to just enjoy the day.” He put in a solid time of 13.11, while De Weerdt and Mijnsbergen finished in 11.36 and 11.51 respectively.

Dan Steel long jump 2. By Gemma Dixon
Dan Steel in the long jump. Original video by Gemma Dixon

The long jump saw the BAC pair start to find their form. “I started to feed off the energy that the Dutch were giving out,” said Steel. “But 6.12m was still down on my PB from 2015.” Janssen, meanwhile, posted a personal best 5.21m in the event. Then came the shot, and “things started to unravel” for Steel, with 9.03m his worst effort of the season, a metre down on his PB. Janssen was just 4cm further back, with 8.99m.

Darren Janssen long jump. By Gemma Dixon
Darren Janssen in the long jump. Original video by Gemma Dixon

Steel was concerned with his knee during the high jump, an area that had troubled him earlier in the season. He found himself using valuable energy needing three attempts to clear heights that were within him, but rallied to finish with a clearance of 1.68m. Janssen managed 1.50m while the Dutch pair both cleared 1.86m.

The 400m rounded out day one, and any doubts of the class of the opposition were dispelled as Mijnsbergen crossed the line in 51.43, with De Weerdt finishing in 52.72. “After 150m I was chasing thin air and my time suffered as a result,” said Steel, who finished in 57.44, while Janssen lamented his “poorly executed” performance as his “low point” of the day, as he finished outside 63 seconds.

The pair regrouped for day two, with Steel 117 points back from where he hoped to be in order to take on the BAC record. “Not an impossible task, but difficult.” Janssen was managing a “minor niggling hip injury”, but felt well-rested for the competition ahead,

First up was the 110m hurdles. “I had a bad race,” said Steel. “But my time was my third-fastest ever – I’m really not sure how!” His 19.38 and Janssen’s 21.09 were once again thrown into sharp relief by the class around them, as both Dutchmen went well below 16 seconds.

110m hurdles. By Gemma Dixon
Steel and Janssen take on the Dutch pair in the 110m hurdles. Original video by Gemma Dixon

Steel’s run at the club record was almost derailed entirely after two fouls in the discus. “This was very nearly a disaster – two throws outside the sector, one very safe final attempt of 23.04m.” Janssen took the opportunity to get one over on his clubmate, and did so in fine style: “I was able to set a new personal best, finally breaking the 30m mark!” His best effort went out to 30.94m, just 1cm down on Mijnbergen’s mark.

Darren Janssen pole vault. By Gemma Dixon
Janssen in the pole vault. Original video by Gemma Dixon

Janssen continued his resurgence in the pole vault, equalling his PB in the pole vault with a fine effort of 2.60m. Steel was struggling with his knee but rallied to clear 3.10m and suddenly found himself ahead of schedule in his record chase.

Dan Steel pole vault. By Gemma Dixon
Steel in the pole vault. Original video by Gemma Dixon

The penultimate event was the javelin, and Steel “was desperate to create a gap knowing my final event wasn’t going to be quick – so I was hitting the Jav with everything I had”. He sent his best effort out to a fine 37.10m, with Janssen managing 32.19m.

Now all eyes were on Steel’s own club record of 4610 points. “My javelin meant anything under 5:24.5 in the 1500m would do it. I tried staying in touch with the leaders early on but again got isolated. Luckily one of my rivals passed me with 250m to go and it kicked me back into gear. 5:18.53. It was also quick enough to stay ahead of my rival overall Mark Andrews of Holland Sports by five points, he’s beaten me for the last two years so I was delighted to get one back!”

Janssen said he was “let down by my overall fitness and stamina coming into the final event”.  “As a result, I was only able to muster a poor performance in the 1500m as a dragged myself round.” His time of 6:32.52 gave him plenty to build on, and he remarked: “It was a disappointing way to end, and I felt deflated. However, I am determined to use this negative as motivation to improve my overall fitness across the winter months.”

Steel’s final tally was 4641 points. “After 3 years of disappointment trying to break the club record again, it was good to prove to myself that I could get back to the results of 2015.”

Decathletes. By Gemma Dixon

Janssen said of his first experience of decathlon: “The overall event was really challenging, but really fun, and I’m looking forward to competing in another one. I’d like to thank Daniel for mentoring and motivating me, the club coaches – especially Alison Ridley – for helping train me, and BAC for making me feel welcome when I first joined the club. If anyone wants to give athletics a try, it does not matter about age or ability, it’s all about having fun and I encourage anyone to come to Biggleswade AC and give it a go.”

England international high jumper Leonie Brunning was another in multi-event action, competing at the English Schools’ Combined Events Championships in Bedford. In the intermediate girls’ heptathlon, she managed 13.41sec in the 80m hurdles, 1.65m in the high jump, 8.94m in the shot, 29.88sec in the 200m, 4.71m in the long jump, 25.69m in the javelin and 2:49.78 in the 800m. This gave her a score of 3,790 points for a creditable 26th place overall.

Brunning joined Steel at the Eastern Combined Events in Peterborough last weekend. Dan was disappointed to have to withdraw early on due to injury, but Brunning came second in the under-17s womens competition, which took in five events. She managed 13.24sec in the 80m hurdles, 9.35m in the shot, 1.59m in the high jump, 5.08m in the long jump and 2:51.82 in the 800m.

Teagan Blake and Leonie Brunning. NO CREDIT PLEASE
Teagan Blake and Leonie Brunning.

Teagan Blake, competing in her first multi-events competition, lined up in the under-15s field and came an fine 10th with a points total of 1,870. Her performances consisted of 3.55m in the long jump, 14.30sec in the 75m hurdles, 7.24m in the shot, 1.33m in the high jump and 2:54.63.

Roaring up the rankings … Leonie leaps to English Schools’ silver – and third in the UK

Biggleswade Athletic Club’s Leonie Brunning soared to a superb silver medal at the English Schools’ Championships in Birmingham, thanks to a new lifetime best height that propelled her to third in the UK rankings.

Leonie, of St Thomas More School in Bedford, was in a Bedfordshire and Luton Schools vest at Alexander Stadium, competing in the Intermediate Girls (Under 17s) category. Aged 15, so towards the lower end of the age group she was competing in, she had arrived in the Midlands on the back of a few below-par competitions, but soon put jitters behind her.

Leonie Brunning action. Photo by Brunnings
Leonie Brunning’s third-time clearance of 1.75m earned her silver. Photo by Brunnings

She said: “I was a bit more nervous than usual because there was qualifying rounds which is something I hadn’t done before – let alone in a competition as big as the English Schools’. I had a few disappointing competitions in the weeks leading up to it, only clearing 1.55m and 1.50m at events since a combined events competition in which I jumped 1.69m.”

Lining up in a field of 25 split into two qualifying pools, she found her form early and secured one of the 12 spots for the final. She said: “Once I was safely through those I was optimistic about the finals as I felt I had jumped really well.

“I had taken my practice jumps and was feeling pretty confident. However, a few minutes before the competition started the officials decided the high jump beds needed to be swapped, so that was slightly off-putting.”

Still, she entered at 1.50m and has a trouble-free progress over that mark, then at 1.55m and 1.60m. “Having first-time clearances at the first three heights made me less uneasy and as soon as I cleared 1.69m – which equalled my PB – I was buzzing and determined to clear higher so that I could medal. At this stage there were only five of us still left in. I did not want a repeat of last year where I lost out on a spot on the podium due to countback!”

Leonie Brunning with medal. Photo by Brunnings

At the new height of 1.72m, she failed her first attempt – but second time around she was delighted to clear the bar for a new personal best. More was still to come, however, and at the third time of asking she cleared 1.75m to take the silver medal. “I ended the competition with a new PB and second place – as well as very tired legs as overall I had a total of 14 jumps during the competition!”

Countback once again told, with the first-placed athlete Temi Ojora of Buckinghamshire clearing 1.75m at the first time of asking giving her the gold, but the silver medal was secured, along with an invite to wear an England vest at the Schools International in Scotland this weekend. Leonie – who broke BAC’s club record in Birmingham – has leaped up 20 places in the British rankings in recent weeks, and is now 2cm above the national standard for U17s in the event. To put the performance into further context, 1.75m was good enough for fifth place at the recent senior British Championships, in a lineup headed by Team GB’s Morgan Lake and Katarina Johnson-Thompson.

Bedfordshire and Luton Schools had fielded their smallest ever team – just 17 athletes – in the Championships, and Leonie was among a quartet from the squad who qualified for England duty.

Bringing it home … BAC third as SAL returns to Sandy

Report by Hannah Ridley

Josh Watson, Morgan Webster, Cameron Rayner, Sarah Ridley and Dan Steel took first places in the latest round of the Southern Athletics League, which took place at Biggleswade AC’s track at Sandy. Their victories formed part of another excellent team performance, which saw the victorious men’s 4x400m squad also broke a club record that has stood for a quarter of a century.

Darren Janssen was the first to take to the track in the 400m hurdles A string, finishing in 73.4 secs. Both him and Josh Watson in the B string finished in excellent fourth places. Darren and Josh then went on to do a variety of events over the course of the day, with Josh leaping over 1.78m to claim first in the men’s high jump as well as the 110m hurdles, and Darren taking fourth place in the discus with a throw of 29.30m and second place in the B-string shot put with 9.12m, on his way to competing in all four throwing events.
Up next on the track was the 800m.

Sarah Ridley in SAL shot. Photo by Hannah Ridley
Sarah Ridley in the shot. Photo by Hannah Ridley

In the women’s race, Hannah Ridley clocked in at 2:28.5 on her way to second place in the A string, while Emma Bailey, in her first track race for the club, came in at 2:44.7 to claim second place in the B string. The same pairing was seen a couple of hours later in the 1500m, with both athletes taking third place in their respective strings. Hannah finished in 5:30.3, while Emma stopped the clock at 5:42.0.

In the men’s 800m, Stephen Day had a great run in the A string to claim a PB and fourth place, coming in at 2:15.8. Marcus Davey filled the B string spot, coming in strongly at 2:39.0.

Next it was the turn of the sprinters. In a hotly contested 100m, Sarah Ridley was awarded second place, despite being given the same time as the first-place athlete of 13.1secs. In the B string, Molly May yet again equalled her PB of 14.5secs on her way to fourth place. Janice Amber, running as a non-scorer, also clocked the same time.
Both Molly and Janice were in action again in the 200m, but this time they were joined by Francesca Riley in the A string, who ran an excellent race and finished third in 27.9secs. Janice, who was running in the B string this time, came in at 29.5, which was good enough for third place, while Molly, as a non-scorer, also broke the 30 second barrier. In the men’s A string 100m, Morgan Webster stormed down the straight to cross the line first in 11.3secs. In the B string, Cameron Rayner finished strongly, beating athletes who were several years older than him to take second place in 12.1secs. In the 200m, Morgan streaked ahead and finished a good few metres ahead of the rest of the field to claim another first place in 22.7 seconds, which was also a PB. Cameron, not to be outdone, also finished first in the B string with a time of 24.3secs.

In the field, Sarah Ridley appeared in five events which included the shot put, where she won rather convincingly, with her throw of 9.63m being exactly 50cm ahead of her next competitor. She also took second place in the discus, launching it to 28.64m. She was joined in the throws by Sandra Ingham, who competed in all four disciplines and came away with fourth in the B string discus with a throw of 15.25m and 4th in the A string of the javelin competition with 20.08m.

Another athlete who had a busy day was Kathryn Juty. She ran in the 100m hurdles along with Hannah Ridley and both athletes came away with respectable third place finishes. She claimed valuable points for the team by coming fourth in the B string long jump, leaping 3.45m and fourth again in the B-string triple jump, with a distance of 6.67m.
Daniel Steel was just as busy in the men’s competitions, taking part in seven different field events. He jumped over 6m in the long jump, but unfortunately it was called as a no jump. His leap of 5.93m was, however, still good enough to take first place. Toby Foster nearly crossed the 5m barrier with a jump of 4.96m, which placed second in the B string. Dan also claimed first place in the B string high jump, clearing 1.78m and on the track, ran a personal best in the B-string 110m hurdles of 19.2secs to take yet another first position.

There were also some very strong performances in both the men’s and women’s 400m. Francesca Riley ran in the A string and came away with 3rd place in 62.7secs. Jessica Cooke led the B race from the start but just got overtaken with 50m to go. She still finished in 3rd place and knocked over a second off of her PB, clocking 66.2 seconds.
Callum Stokes was the Biggleswade representative in the men’s A race. He held off the other competitors down the home straight and finished in a deserved second place in 53.1 seconds. In the B string, Tristan Rayner looked strong throughout the race and came home in 56.0secs, which earned him second place as well.

Sandy 11

The male distance runners were out in force, with Stephen Baldwin and John Frost in the A and B strings of the 1500m. Stephen, minutes after running his way to third place and 9:38.1 in the 3000m, looked relaxed throughout the race and cruised into second place in a time of 4:36.9. John showed off his sprint finish to come in third place in 5.08.5. They were joined in the race by Marcus Davey and Elliot Swinburne as non-scorers, who both put in a valiant effort to finish just behind John. Paul Davies joined Stephen in the 3000m and finished second in the B string 11:08.5.

The last event on the track, the relays, saw some of the best performances of the day. The women’s 4x100m team of Molly May, Francesca Riley, Janice Amber and Sarah Ridley got the baton round in 53.2secs, less than half a second outside the club record, and again were awarded second place despite having the same time as the winners. The men then held on to second place in their race and finished in 46.4secs. In the 4x400m, the women finished a credible third, while Stephen Baldwin, Dan Steel, Callum Stokes and Morgan Webster put in a blinding performance to finish first in 3.42.2 and break the club record by one-tenth of a second, which had stood since 1993.

The Biggleswade team finished third overall on the day, a great result considering they were competing against some much larger teams. They hope to better that result at the final league match of the season, which will take place in Woodford on 18th August.

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.