It was a fantastic weekend full of outstanding performances from Biggleswade athletes at the Eastern Indoor Athletics Championships, which were held at Lee Valley Athletics Centre on the 2nd and 3rd of February.
Kicking things off for Biggleswade was Sarah Ridley in the Senior Women’s shot put. Her second-round effort of 9.93m was good enough to see her through to the final three rounds. After the further three attempts, her second round throw proved enough for a spot on the podium, with Sarah winning the bronze medal.
First to go on the track was Iona Newbegin in the U17 Women’s 60m. Iona sailed through both her heat and her semi-final, running a PB of 7.99secs along the way. Despite not getting the best start in her final, she came back at her opponents in the last few metres, and after some debate over a photo finish, Iona was awarded the bronze medal in a time of 8.03.
Sarah was back in action later on Saturday, this time in the 60m. Due to the number of athletes entered, her race became a straight final and she powered out of the blocks, running her way to a brilliant fourth place finish in 8.32. This ended the action for the Saturday, with both athletes plus many more from Biggleswade returning to Lee Valley the following day.
Jessica Cooke toed the start line in the first race of the day, the U17 women’s 300m. Despite not progressing from her heat, Jessica ran a fantastic race and finished in fifth place in 47.6secs. Sophie Forbes-Laird ran in the U15 race, finishing second in her heat, meaning she progressed to the final later on in the day. Sophie’s final was a nail-biting affair, with her going out hard and just managing to hold off the competitor who beat her previously to come home with the silver medal in a personal best performance of 42.69.
Next up were the 200m runners. The U17s were split into three heats, and the second of those saw two Biggleswade athletes walk onto the track, Abi Smith and Molly May. In her first race ever, Abi put in a stellar performance and finished fourth in 28.84, but unfortunately she missed out on a spot in the final by 0.1 seconds. Abi was closely followed by Molly, who finished fifth in her first indoor race with a superb PB of 29.63.
It was Iona’s turn in the third heat and her second place finish saw her automatically qualify for the semi-finals. She repeated that result in the semi and progressed to the final. Six races in two days plus illness seemed to have taken its toll, but Iona still finished in a strong fourth place in 26.92.
The senior women’s 800m was another straight final with Hannah Ridley wearing the yellow vest. She ran on her own for three of the four laps, but unfortunately got pipped on the line for second place, to finish third. However, she still finished with a smile and collected a bronze medal for her performance, taking the total medal tally for the weekend to four. These athletes now look forward to starting the outdoor season at the Bedfordshire Open on the 6th April in Luton, and the first league match in St Ives on the 13th April.
Biggleswade Athletic Club paid tribute to their late, lamented coach and official Sonia Brown at their annual awards ceremony in Sandy, with the committee unanimously recognising her immense contribution and naming her as Club Person of the Year.
Sonia, who succumbed to cancer last July at the age of 53, was represented on the night at Garden Court by her son Scott and husband Roger, and Scott was met with an emotional standing ovation from all present as he collected the award on her behalf. Club chairman Damien Pitts also handed the family a book of condolence that club members have been contributing to over recent months.
from Barbados in her teens, Sonia lived with her aunt in Essex and
immediately showed promise in athletics. She was the only black child
in her school, and one day the fastest boy unwisely
her to a race. Sonia won with ease, and was quickly identified as a
promising young talent. She joined up
with the successful Essex
in sprints and the long jump, and
was a contemporary of Olympic and world championship gold-medal
Sally Gunnell as
well as other Team GB internationals including multi-event specialist
Kim Hagger and 400m runner Gladys Taylor.
Ladies latterly merged with Woodford Green, and the amalgamated
club’s former president Jean Burgess said: “It was such sad news.
As she competed in the 1980s she would have been part of the team
which won the Southern Women’s League a total of 10 times in 13
find it very gratifying that Sonia was inspired by her time in Essex
Ladies to take up coaching and officiating with Biggleswade AC.”
that she very much did. The second chapter of her athletics journey
came upon arriving in Bedfordshire, where she attempted to find a
venue to help her get on the coaching ladder. After an abortive
flirtation with Bedford & County AC, she tried her luck with BAC,
and immediately found herself besotted, and
a passionate and highly committed advocate of young local talent.
Another club coaching and officiating stalwart, Ken Prior, said: “Rapidly qualifying as a level one coach, she started helping David Brown coach our sprinters. Around the same time, Cassie Prior – who had been coaching our under 11s – was leaving to start a family. Sonia took her place and named and developed the section into the Little Bees. It became so successful that, following the 2012 Olympics, for several months we had to run two sessions on Tuesdays to accommodate all the athletes.”
both had the same vision for the younger element – athletics
all, for fun, and to
People come along and develop at different speeds. Some develop at
early stage, while
don’t until much older, but Sonia
always said they should all be treated with respect. She
understood that youngsters were the heart of the club and if treated
right would be the seniors of tomorrow to help take the club beyond
the next phase.”
would go on to become a
member, helping to decide the club’s direction, as well as a
qualified field official, and both Sonia and former treasurer Mark
Stead were regularly to be found trackside and at other venues far
and wide as a valuable photo-finish tag-team. With many clubs lacking
the equipment and expertise to supply the service themselves, they
would call on Sonia and Mark, and part of her legacy can be found in
many clubs’ records, results lists and in individual athletes’
Fellow BAC coach Michael Blunt said: “Sonia was a great coach and a huge asset to the club. On a personal level she encouraged me to start coaching and having inherited one of her projects – the ‘Mini Bees’ – my aim has always been to develop a program that Sonia herself would have been proud of. The blend of enthusiasm, enjoyment and knowledge that was clear in all her sessions will be impossible to replicate but well worth aspiring to.”
was also an inspiration to Bev Strong, who said: “I first met her
eight years ago when my son Bradley joined the club in the sprint
group. He competed in the Eastern Young Athletes’ League and as his
events were quite spread out we were usually there for a long day, so
I often helped Sonia, who was officiating the field events. As a
complete novice as far as athletics were concerned, she gave me lots
of information about the rules and regulations of the various events
and after helping her for three or four years she encouraged me to
take the field officials course. I then had to perform the various
roles within each event and again Sonia was on hand to offer advice
and oversee what I was doing.
“Without Sonia by my side I have often felt out of my depth as I could always rely on her to give me an encouraging nod from a distance if I looked towards her. Words cannot express the huge loss she will be to the club and I will carry on officiating in her memory.”
Martin Oestreicher was another roped in to help by Sonia: “I first met her when my girls Kira and Heidi joined Little Bees. After helping out informally for a while, Sonia encouraged me to go on the Assistant Coaches course, which led to me helping at the sessions for about 18 months. She was such a pleasure to work with, always full of enthusiasm and praise, always smiling, encouraging and obviously devoted to getting the best out of the sometimes reluctant Little Bees. She taught me a lot about perseverance and endurance – and how to manage a crowd of small children!”
Ridley is a recent addition to the BAC committee, and a former Little
Bee who can attest that athletics under Sonia’s wing was not always
about the coach cracking the whip: “Little Bees used to be indoors
on a Monday night alongside adult circuit training. Sonia led this
and each night would end with one big relay of everyone, kids and
adults alike. One night she had to join in to make up the numbers and
was due to pass the baton over to me. She came in so fast that she
nearly took me with her and my seven-year-old legs couldn’t go that
fast! We both very nearly ended up in a big heap on the floor but
somehow managed to avoid it and win the relay!
“Years later at a EYAL meeting, our team of officials was looking after the long jump. Sonia was leading this team and I was competing. One of my jumps went horribly wrong, and I completely and spectacularly faceplanted in the sand pit. It was a completely legal jump, but didn’t get measured for about five minutes because Sonia was laughing so hard at me that she couldn’t see the tape for the tears in her eyes. She was always very supportive of her athletes, even while laughing at us!”
as her illness took hold, she remained stoic, dignified and
passionate about BAC. As David said: “I remember calling Sonia
every Monday morning until she became very ill to discuss the plan
for coaching plans for the week to follow. We’d talk about who had
performed well over the weekend, and ask were we getting our coaching
husband Roger described me as Sonia’s ‘athletic husband’ –
this was initially a surprise but I later realised it was a
compliment to the commitment of both Sonia and myself.”
her death, tributes from athletes, friends and colleagues poured in.
Club chairman Damien Pitts said: “I will really miss her cheerful
nature, as she could make me smile, even if I have had a bad day.”
Julia Mackay, a BAC run leader, added: “I always admired her drive
and energy – she was such an inspiration to all who knew her.”
Sexton: “It was such a pleasure knowing such a wonderful woman –
she was always making sure I had a way to get to training!”
Stuart Goodwin: “She made it absolutely clear to us when telling us she was ill – she didn’t wanted to be looked on with pity or as a victim. She was a cool, calm customer to the last who just wanted to live the time she had and spend as much of it drinking in the enthusiasm of the kids she trained.”
Steel: “I will miss her smile and her positive mental attitude
regardless of what came up both on and off the track.”
of the most enthusiastic and compassionate people I’ve had the
pleasure to come across. Her enthusiasm was contagious.”
was a little ray of positivity that touched many hearts including
of my boys were coached by Sonia. She inspired so many. She was a
lovely friend and so dedicated to athletics.”
made a big impression on them both. Thank
you for everything you did.”
time I saw Sonia she was busy – handing out race numbers, helping
with refreshments, coaching … But
always had a smile on her face and time for a chat.”
Louise Cant: “Thank you for giving us Little Bees, and for giving my son the best start at athletics. We will miss you dearly.”
forensic planner to the last, she requested that the dress code for
her funeral would prominently feature two colours that became
synonymous with her identity – the blue and yellow shared by both
the Barbadian flag and the Biggleswade Athletic Club vest. At her
wake in August, held at Bedford International Stadium, where she had
overseen her athletes and officiated so many times, armies of friends
and colleagues numbering well into the hundreds gathered to pay their
new club award, the Sonia Brown Dedication Cup, was introduced in her
honour, recognising exceptional commitment to the club and the sport
by one of BAC’s Little Bees – Ava Rawlins recently became the
first winner of many.
concluded: “She was a visionary with the practical nous to make
those visions happen. It was no coincidence that the most successful
period in BAC’s history occurred when she was active. She always
had new ideas and plans to make them happen.
“With no disrespect to anyone else in the club past or present, David and Sonia have been the two people who have shaped the club most within the last 25 years and I, like many others, will miss her enormously.”
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.
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.
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.
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
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s women’s team consolidated third place in the Three Counties league after the fifth and final fixture of the season, while the men took 11th. In combination, this added up to sixth overall.
So sadly, after three straight years of holding the women’s team trophy, BAC relinquish it to North Herts Road Runners, but finishes of fourth, first, first, third and second across the five fixtures are a superb effort and took some beating – no women’s team won more than two fixtures this season, and NHRR and Wellingborough & District AC just pipped our revamped squad with a little bit more consistency at the business end of each race.
Steven Baldwin finished 17th in the overall individual men’s standings, after taking in part in four of the five races, his best result ninth in the final fixture, and he never crossed the line lower than 28th. He was rewarded with second place in the age 25-29 category.
Hannah Broom planted her flag as the club’s ladies cross-country runner to beat, after an outstanding season that saw her finish first, fourth, third, fourth and second in the five races. This added up to a fine third place overall.
Hot on her heels were Natalie Morgan (9th), Natalie Garner (10th) and Emma Bailey (11th), while Kathryn Juty’s fine season was rewarded by 29th place overall.
Garner took second spot in the women’s age 25-29 season standings (thanks to three second placings and a third), while Morgan and Bailey took first and second respectively in the V40-44 season results – neither finished outside the top three in their category in any race they competed in this season.
Other age group award-winners were Charlie Arnold, who seared to the V60-64 top spot thanks to a sequence of fifth, third, second, first and first. Ian Grimwood took third in the V65-69 category having finished third in his category three times and fourth in his other outing this season.
admittedly alcohol-fuelled Nick Haworth writes:
The final race of
the 2018-19 Three Counties Cross Country League saw all teams
converge for battle at the grounds of Delapre Abbey in Northampton –
the site of the Battle of Northampton in 1460, a major battle in the
War of the Roses.
The course is a five-mile, two-lap route taking in a mixture of meadow and woodland – and a lot of mud – and though considered by some to be the easiest of the series it would nevertheless test the spirits and resilience of all participants.
The day itself
saw clear blue skies but with a bitingly cold north-westerly wind. A
good downpour of rain the night before ensured competitors and
spectators alike got soggy feet from the outset.
In a change from
the previous year, the start consisted of an initial oblong loop
round the meadow before a sharp left-hander through a narrow uphill
wooded section (rather than just heading straight on to the narrow
wooded section). I presume this was to avoid some of the chaos of
former years, though needless to say, it didn’t really have the
desired effect with competitors running and trampling over each
other, cursing themselves and each other, and a few partially
disemboweling themselves on the route markers – behaviour not too
unlike that back in 1460!
the meadow and an arduous, long slog up a wooded hill, the course
flattened out revealing an excellent view of the A45, before heading
twistily downwards though more trees and ankle-deep mud. Several
runners were lucky to avoid impalement on unseen tree branches, while
some came awry on numerous tree roots seemingly deliberately placed
across the path.
A flat straight section on a mixture of tarmac and mud saw the runners proceed alongside a golf course. Thankfully a hedgerow protected the runners from any wayward golf balls and the majority of runners emerged fairly unscathed.
A final left-hand
bend saw the runners head through more trees before entering the
meadow once more to begin a toilsome and hazardous second lap of the
course. The second lap, with even more freshly churned up soil, was
arguably even more hazardous than the previous, as exhaustion took
hold, speed and coordination of some began to fail. Others meanwhile
seemed to literally take it all in their stride and proceeded to gain
a few vital scalps.
Against all the
odds, most runners completed the race, be it with the occasional
missing limb, distended eye socket, or bloodified face. The vast
majority finished with smiles on their faces, most with a heavy
lacquering of mud on their legs and a few cuts and bruises.
We left the marshals to clear up the mess and proceeded on a long mile and half warm-down back to the race HQ where we were all welcomed back with tea and cakes in the comfort of a nice warm gym of a local school.
All in all,
Biggleswade AC had done surprisingly well. In the men’s team,
Steven Baldwin finished an admirable ninth place overall – his best
performance of the season. Newcomer Alan Kell, though not able to
score officially for the team, finished 68th, outsprinting
Nick Haworth (63rd) in the last 50 yards himself just
ahead of fellow vet Paul Cooke (78th). Behind them came
Charlie “Killer” Arnold, securing 91st place and the
V60 men’s award, followed by Jon Stott (127th), Neil Harvey
(180th), Giles Hawthorne (196th), and Robin
successfully challenged and beat arch-rival Christine Lathwell from
Stopsley Striders coming in third place for the ladies. Natalie
Garner finished a commendable 9th just ahead of Natalie Morgan (11th)
and Emma Bailey (14th).
The men’s team finished the season in 11th place while the women’s team came third, giving a combined position of sixth.
Kell said: “This
was my first cross country run for the club and by all accounts I had
timed it well as it was the supposably easiest of this seasons
courses. Well after that first steady incline on the first lap, I
soon realised those other courses must have been tough. This was hard
but great fun! Running (or sliding) through the woods and battling
against the wind across the open fields. A fantastic event with great
support from both the marshals and Bigglesswade team.”
Julie Spavins added: “The final cross country of the season was also the coldest! Despite the freezing conditions we had a good turnout and even some new recruits to the ladies team.
“The course was
changed slightly, adding an extra half a mile over the rather
draining grassy area, before the slog up the not too steep but
neverending hill. The mud was certainly churned by the time I was
coming through the woods, but I managed to avoid slipping over, and
also managed some overtakes of the runners who were a bit ‘nervous’
of so much mucky stuff, before coming back on to the grassy area and
the biting wind blowing in the wrong direction. This year I managed
to keep running up the incline on both laps, way better than last
year! And despite being half a mile longer, I came in five minutes
quicker and like the rest of the season I’m further up the field.
“Our team has performed brilliantly this season, and I’m very proud to have played my very small part in our success.”
Huge thanks to Nick Spavins for his superb photography at Three Counties XC fixtures this season
Biggleswade Athletic Club’s cross-country runners now turn their attention to the conclusion of the Three Counties XC season in Wootton on Sunday. In the last two fixtures, the ladies – defending league champions – saw their team-scoring quartet of Broom, Morgan, Natalie Garner and Bailey take top spot in Letchworth, while Broom, Morgan, Bailey and Juty mustered a collective third spot on a punishing course in Ampthill. This leaves the standings drum-tight with North Herts Road Runners leading the league on 48 points on individual positions countback from Wellingborough & District AC, who have the same tally. Yet BAC, just two points behind on 46, can still have a say in the race for the team title.
Combined with the men’s team, for which Steven Baldwin was an excellent 21st and 28th finisher at the last two fixtures, the club as a whole are in sixth place, and runners will be paying particular attention to the progress of fifth-placed Rugby & Northampton AC, who lie three points ahead overall.
Julie Spavins gave her thoughts on the challenge at Ampthill: “My first attempt at this course, and it was a real toughie! Hills, tree roots, bumpy hillocks attempting to trip us up … but a lovely location, worth a separate visit to admire the views which I missed because I was watching my feet!
“I was in amongst some familiar faces from previous races, some got ahead of me an the ups, but I caught them back on the downs. And towards the end several dropped back leaving me with just one or two immediate competitors. At the end Giles Hawthorne dropped back to encourage me round the last part and up the very nasty hill climb to the finish post – and I made it! A fabulous team effort once again.”
At the time of writing, overnight rain is forecast for Wootton on Sunday. Enjoy!
Thanks to Nick Spavins for brilliant photos from our cross-country fixtures – members can find many more on the BAC members’ Facebook page
Letchworth overall finishing positions
21 Steven Baldwin 53 Nick Haworth 54 Hannah Broom (3rd scoring female) 73 Rob Morgan 76 Marcus Davey 89 Natalie Morgan (5th scoring female) 101 Charlie Arnold 115 Natalie Garner (10th scoring female) 121 Emma Bailey (11th scoring female) 130 John Stott 131 Malcolm Steward 145 Damien Pitts 209 Deborah Bryant 220 Kathryn Juty 223 Neil Harvey 252 Sarah Jane Seaman 262 Nigel Bush 264 Ian Grimwood 296 Simon Strong 329 Jennie Day 345 Juliet Grimwood 361 Helen Steward 372 Julie Spavins 376 Colin Harries 383 Gareth Saynor 384 Louise Pike
Ampthill overall finishing positions
28 Steven Baldwin 66 Hannah Broom (3rd scoring female) 91 Marcus Davey 98 Aaron Ball 110 Paul Cooke 118 Charlie Arnold 127 Natalie Morgan (10th scoring female) 136 Natalie Garner (12th scoring female) 150 John Stott 158 Malcolm Steward 170 Damien Pitts 238 Kathryn Juty (39th scoring female) 255 Neil Harvey 274 Sarah Jane Seaman 306 Ian Grimwood 347 Robin Wynde 354 Jennie Day 395 Maria Merridan 402 Gareth Saynor 408 Julie Spavins 409 Giles Hawthorne 410 Juliet Grimwood 421 Colin Harries 436 Jacqui Chan
The conclusion of the Chiltern Cross Country season arrives early next month, and BAC athletes have been doing the vest proud at recent fixtures.
On 1 December, five juniors and a senior trekked over to Stopsley Common on the outskirts of Luton to be given the full cross-country treatment. On a course exposed to the elements, the wind and rain blew across the landscape, but the juniors – Jessica Hardy, George Hardy, Orlagh Brunning, Nicholas Batterbee and Elliot Swinburne – along with Elliot’s father Paul were not to be deterred.
All athletes acquitted themselves admirably over their courses which ranged from 2.5km-10km in distance. In their respective events, Nicholas Batterbee was 21st, George Hardy 25th, Orlagh Brunning 28th, Elliot Swinburne 41st, Jessica Hardy 42nd and Paul Swinburne 56th.
The next leg of the league took place at Keysoe Equestrian Centre on 12th January, on a course that featured two water crossings, Orlagh Brunning and Jessica Hardy were 32nd and 51st respectively in their under-11 girls’ race. Debutant Alfie Lawrence finished a fine 69th in the boys’ equivalent.
In the U13 boys standings, Nicholas Batterbee finished 76th, while Elliot Swinburne was 14th in his U17 race. Finally, Paul Swinburne – running 10km, twice the distance his son had to cover – came in 68th in his Division 2 standings, and 227th in the “mob” race overall.
Next up for athletes: the season finale at Milton Keynes’ Campbell Park.
Youngsters mix it at SEAA indoor
At the SEAA indoor champs U13/15/17
held at Lee Valley earlier this month, up-and-coming BAC
multi-eventer Teagan Blake competed in two events, the 60m hurdles
and shot putt.
In hurdles action on the Saturday,
Blake was fourth in her heat and produced a new personal best of
10.80 secs – an impressive 0.3secs outside the national qualifying
On the Sunday, mixing it with the
top youngsters in the south of England in the shot put, Blake was
disappointed with 6.12m for 14th in the final.
Elsewhere on day two, under-15s
athlete Sophie Forbes-Laird was in action in the 300m. Up in the
first heat, she had a clean race and came second in a new indoor PB
and club record of 43.38secs. She nervously waited on the outcome of
the other two heats, with the first finishers and three fastest
losers qualifying. Thankfully she was fifth quickest overall from the
three heats and made it through.
In the final Sophie put in a brave
effort and when the athletes approached the point where they break
from their lane and all run in the inside lane, she was second, with
approx 120m to go. Yet as they rounded the bend to the finishing
straight, she was passed and two girls then fell over the finishing
line which forced her to check her stride to avoid the melee. It
still added up to creditable fifth place which will means she will
experience in the national finals in February at Sheffield.
Biggleswade Athletic Club members excelled on the county championship stage against the best of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire in High Wycombe, with both the club’s senior and veteran ladies’ squads taking titles, and Charlie Arnold among several individual honours.
On a long day for athletes at Hughenden Park, BAC ladies were defending both the senior and veterans’ titles, with a new-look squad shorn of two of last year’s award-winners. Nevertheless, the prep work that had been put in and recent strong performances from all those taking part put them in a confident mood.
Besides the team events, there were also individual scores to settle and medals to be won. On a cold day, the planned stream crossing had dried out, but that was the only relief offered by a course set over laps of about 1.8 miles featuring two steep climbs. The male veterans 60+ athletes and women ran three laps (400ft of climbing) while the senior men and veterans up to age 59 ran four laps.
First to go were Paul Swinburne and Charlie Arnold, the club’s only representatives in the senior men’s race, which spared them team responsibilities. Swinburne had three large laps to complete, which he did so with gusto, finishing strongly at the seventh V45 competitor, and 32nd place overall, and immediately commenting on how tough the course was.
Arnold, in the MV60 category, had a slightly shorter course to contend with. He ran so fast, the officials believed he still had one lap to do when he was coming in to the finish, and nearly sent him round again. However, he still won his age category and was nearly 10 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
He said: “Having completed one lap with enthusiasm, the second time round started to register that the course was tough and the muscles in the calves and thighs were suggesting that this was not such fun after all; by the third lap there were definitely feelings that it may not be such a disgrace to walk up those hills.
“For the final run-in, the funnel peeled off to the left, but the charge for the line was somewhat farcical – an official leapt across to stop me, insisting I had to run another lap. Fortunately, BAC’s David Brown was at the finish line and waved me through, but not without a final aside from the over-officious official!”
On the women’s side, BAC had strong representation from Hannah Broom, Natalie Morgan and Emma Bailey from last year’s team, augmented by Hannah Ridley, Kathryn Juty and Catherine Price Williams, who was making a cross-country debut in her first event for the club.
Broom’s performances throughout 2018 had been outstanding on road and cross country and she now had the chance to show her progress early in 2019 at county level against tough opposition. Setting off steadily, Hannah B let her rivals set the early pace and concentrated on her own running. As they came by at the end of the first lap, Hannah was in second place, about 10 seconds behind her main rival. Meanwhile, Nat, Hannah R and Emma had placed themselves in good positions for the team event with Kathryn and Catherine also looking strong.
At the end of the second lap, Hannah B had inched closer to the leader and seemed to be biding her time. The message was passed that her opponent was starting to look ragged while Hannah continued to be looking strong. In the third lap, as they came down the steep hill for the last time Hannah had passed her opponent and was in first place and moving further ahead as she came up to the finish with a clear advantage over the second place to win both the overall senior title and the vet 35 medal in a time of 33:22, six seconds ahead of a fast finishing second place. Besides the hard work on her running, Hannah has added race management and it showed in the way she paced herself to be County Champion.
“For the first 300m or so I wasin the main front pack, trying not to panic that I was so far forward. My main competitor, from Stopley Striders, was just in front of me and I ran in her pocket for the first lap. I allowed myself to drop back 50m, which gave me a chance to calm down and run my own race. I was overtaken by another lady from Leighton Buzzard, which slipped me into third – I kept talking to myself: “Do not panic, run your own race …” Seeing fellow training group-mate Charlie at the start of the third lap, he whispered some wise words to me and this gave me a massive boost.
“I realised I was not going any faster but I was gaining on the ladies in front of me. Now was my chance and I started to turn the screw. There was little response as I passed them along the back part of the course which had a slight incline with the wind against us, followed by a sharp uphill which brought you almost to a walk with lactic leg burn at the top. I was now clear and out in front.
Suddenly I realised I had no one to follow and no idea where I needed to go! The marshals as they hurriedly pointed me in the right direction round a sharp bend to the left, up another slight short incline and a long downhill. Still unclear where the finish is, I see Charlie again, and he points – I’m there, and I have won! Straight away I turned to see my teammates following close behind. It was awesome to see them finishing all so close and in fantastic positions.”
Morgan came in fifth lady in 36:32, followed by an outstanding run from Hannah Ridley, three seconds behind in sixth, and the first trio of BAC athletes home secured the senior team championship. Bailey arrived in eighth, in 37:32, which added the top veterans’ team prize in conjunction with Broom and Morgan’s results. Juty and Price Williams also gave a good account of themselves, finishing in 17th and 23rdrespectively. Morgan took silver and Bailey bronze in the V40 category, while Juty took V45 silver.
Morgan said: “I think we all relieved when we arrived to see the course was relatively dry underfoot and no water to be found at the supposed water crossings. As the women’s race is always towards the end of the race programme the ground can often get churned up and when you add freezing cold water, it makes for what is already hard running, even harder so it was pleasing sight.
“The start for me was a bit of blur, but I know I went out too hard and the first mile ended up being way too quick. The next three miles I managed to calm myself down and settled into my pace, finding that I was having a good battle with an Ampthill & Flitwick Flyer runner. She had previously overtaken me at the point where there was a short, sharp hill on the first lap but the next time round I got her on the following downhill section. I managed to stave her off for most of the last lap of the course but I was tiring quickly at that stage and was now paying for my earlier mistake of going out too fast. I could hear her behind me as the finish line drew closer, then she was beside me and then in front but I just didn’t have enough in the tank to come back. I crossed the line a couple of seconds after her, regretting my exuberance at the beginning of the race somewhat – a lesson learned, most definitely!”
In the final race of the day, Elliot Swinburne – son of Paul – ran in the U17s race over two laps, and finished just outside the medals with a run of 23:54 for a commendable fourth place.
Huge thanks to Charlie Arnold, Hannah Broom, Hannah Ridley and David Brown for contributing to this report
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.
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.
Posted without comment. Photos by Nick Spavins
Kathryn Juty was voted Best Dressed Fairy …
… and enjoyed EVERY SECOND of her run. Photos by Nick Spavins
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.
Jules Mackay at the start …
… and was a rare smiler on the climb to the finish. Photos by Nick Spavins
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.
Fairy lights ahoy!
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.
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.
Biggleswade Athletic Club once again made a splash in the Three Counties Cross-Country season, with the ladies team – defending champions in the league – hauling themselves into contention with an outstanding showing at the notorious Croyland Park event in Wellingborough.
With two key members of last season’s victorious ladies’ squad – Elaine Livera and Juliet Nayler – having moved on to pastures outside BAC, taking a fourth successive Three Counties title always looked a tall order, but after a solid fifth-placed team finish in Dunstable, thanks to scorers Hannah Broom (first female finisher in the race), Emma Bailey, Natalie Morgan and Kathryn Juty, Natalie Garner put in a fine showing in Wellingborough to help BAC to a share of first place alongside the host club.
Though Broom was fourth female this time around, she was soon followed by Morgan in ninth, Bailey 10th and Garner 13th which proved an impossible set of results to beat. However, Wellingborough & District AC’s quartet matched the points tally with finishers in third, fifth, eighth and 20th places. The combined performance, helped ably by those further down the field bump other teams’ scorers down the standings, means BAC’s ladies now sit in third place. They are one point off North Herts Road Runners in second, but four behind Wellingborough who have now taken first two races in succession.
The Croyland Park route has undergone various alterations in recent years but it can always be relied upon for the most challenging water crossings of the season. True to form, many of the runners present found previously smooth progress decimated by a dunking in the icy brook, and even those at the front of the field weren’t immune.
Broom in particular took a wonky stride or two she immediately regretted as she nosedived into the murky depths, before recovering her composure to get her race back on track.
Hannah’s textbook crossing. Photos by Nick Spavins
As Hannah Broom likes to remind us all, skin is waterproof. Photo by Nick Spavins
Former club chairman Nigel Bush was another of the unlucky ones, his rival-assisted stumble, fall and borderline bog-snorkel gleefully captured by the safely-layered-up hordes waiting by the bank for muddy action shots. Still, despite now being in his 70s, Bush didn’t beat about, and he was up, out, gritting teeth and back in business almost immediately. In the end he was just three overall positions away from making one of the point-scoring slots himself. He allayed fears about his plight post-race, saying: “I’m OK – it was a very nice early cold bath! All part of the fun of cross-country but I think the Ampthill & Flitwick Flyers runner who ‘took me out’ owes me a beer!”
Top dunking for Nigel Bush. Photo courtesy of Julie at Leighton Fun Runners
Uh oh. Photo by Nick Spavins
The long way up again. Photo by Nick Spavins
On the men’s side eight runners score points, and the club’s veterans stoically filled the slots – BAC were one of two clubs to have scorers all aged 35 and over, and the only club to have two over-60s competitors in their top eight. Nick Haworth (48th) was first home, with Rob Morgan (69th), Marcus Davey (76th), Charlie Arnold (120th), Malcolm Steward (144th), club chairman Damien Pitts (155th), Neil Harvey (184th) and Ian Grimwood (210th) taking the squad to 11th place out of 13 clubs – the position they now sit in the league after two races. The combined team – factoring in men’s and women’s results – was eighth on the day, and now lie in sixth place overall.
Nick Haworth. Photos by Nick Spavins
Rob Morgan takes to the air …
… for one of the smoother crossings of the day
Natalie Garner gets stuck in
Kathryn Juty and Neil Harvey
Julie Spavins tests the temperature …
… ‘Just right’
Letchworth’s Standalone Farm is the next venue for runners to contend with on 16 December, always a reliable source of mud and mayhem for all attendees. As veterans and newcomers attest, cross-country is seriously good fun, tremendous winter training and almost incomprehensively addictive. Keep an eye on the BAC forum and members’ Facebook group for more information, and feel free to ask any questions.
50 Nick Haworth 71 Robert Morgan 74 Hannah Broom 80 Marcus Davey 114 Natalie Morgan 127 Emma Bailey 130 Charlie Arnold 141 Natalie Garner 163 Malcolm Steward 177 Damien Pitts 217 Kathryn Juty 220 Neil Harvey 272 Ian Grimwood 275 Nigel Bush 297 Simon Strong 317 Jennie Day 335 Juliet Grimwood 363 Gareth Saynor 364 Julie Spavins (404 runners finished)
Biggleswade Athletic Club athletes lined up to take one another on at two recent races, with the Fen 10 in Wisbech and St Neots Half Marathon doubling up as club championship events and yielding four different names for the trophy engraver.
Finishing times for club championships are recalibrated based on age-gradings, which serve to level the playing field across the various age groups, and in some cases seeing some enormous leaps up the standings for those in the veterans’ categories. As a result, despite Rob Morgan being first BAC finisher at the Fen 10 in a superb 1:03:36 (22nd overall), he is young enough to be Charlie Arnold’s son, and so the evergreen Arnold (59th overall) saw his finish time of 1:10:02 heaved down to an age-graded mark of 55:29, meaning he took the title by over two minutes. In fact Marcus Davey (24th overall), who finished 10 seconds behind Rob, was also promoted ahead of him due to his comparative lack of youth.
The Morgan household had plenty of cause to cheer in the women’s standings however as Natalie was first BAC female home, finishing in 89th position overall and taking a new personal best of 1:14:02. She said: “This race was a new one for me. I had heard from other club members who had experience of the race previously the course was a fast, flat one but quite open and could be quite blustery. The first few miles I took steady, working on maintaining my pace and conscious to keep a bit in reserve for the last potentially windy section.
“I made good progress throughout and for the most part felt reasonably comfortable. Before I knew it I was at mile nine and began to up the pace for the finish. Although not still, the weather on the whole was rather kind, with the strong winds never really materialising in the end. As such, a good race with a new PB of 1:13:45 and a finishing position of ninth woman overall.”
Attendance at the 10-mile race was slightly scuppered as it had been a late substitute for the club’s traditional championship race, the Swineshead 10, which announced it would no longer be taking place from 2018. Happily, the club’s 13.1 challenge in St Neots went ahead as planned, though runners would perhaps have preferred a degree or two more on the thermometer and markedly fewer icy crosswinds on the various sections of open landscape.
Despite feeling under the weather, Hannah Broom backed up her stunning recent form from the Great Eastern Half-Marathon, where she took 13 minutes off her personal best to break the much-desired 1:30 barrier by nearly three-and-a-half minutes. In St Neots, she was just 17 seconds outside her new PB, and took the title of club champion.
Though unable to overhaul Hannah, Natalie was thrilled with her showing, as 1:35:30 marked her own milestone: “The St Neots Half Marathon is most definitely my favourite half, in fact I’d say it’s my favourite race of all the differing distances I’ve taken part in over the years. The course is undulating in parts and I like the challenge it brings, but most of all I like the last three miles – it’s downhill so helps those tired legs! My approach was to simply enjoy it, no pressure and no expectations. Added to this, the weather conditions were perfect and the BAC support crew were on top form, with cheers aplenty.
“All-in-all things really did come together on the day for me, I made sure to keep focused and be strong to the end and, yes, I did come away rather enjoying it. The icing on the cake – bettering my PB from 10 years ago by over two minutes with a finish time of 1:35:30!”
Davey took the men’s crown, his 1:23:02 leapfrogging first BAC finisher Steven Baldwin’s 1:18:56 once age was factored in, while Arnold was unlucky not to double up on 10-mile and half-marathon titles as his grading took him just 16 seconds outside Marcus’s.
Green Thumb Fen 10 results
Position | Name | Time (Age-graded result) 22 | Robert Morgan | 01:03:36 (00:59:45) 24 | Marcus Davey | 01:03:46 (00:57:34) 45 | John Stott | 01:08:21 (01:02:42) 59 | Charles Arnold | 01:10:02 (00:55:29) Male Club Champion 89 | Natalie Morgan | 01:14:02 (01:10:43) Lady Club Champion 173 | Clark Skerratt | 01:21:53 (01:01:15) 197 | Ian Grimwood | 01:24:14 (01:04:15) 287 | Maria Merridan | 01:35:19 (01:26:10) 303 | Juliet Grimwood | 01:38:44 (01:22:51) (359 finishers in total)
St Neots Half Marathon results
Position | Name | Time (Age-graded result) 23 | Steven Baldwin | 01:18:56 (01:18:56) 53 | Marcus Davey | 01:23:02 (01:15:19) Male Club Champion 71 | Paul Cooke | 01:24:16 (01:19:37) 82 | Nick Haworth | 01:25:42 (01:20:58) 92 | Hannah Broom | 01:26:50 (01:23:59) Lady Club Champion 120 | John Stott | 01:28:52 (01:19:16) 186 | Chris Watson | 01:33:14 (01:21:03) 217 | Charles Arnold | 01:35:12 (01:15:35) 227 | Natalie Morgan | 01:35:30 (01:31:13) 228 | Robert Morgan | 01:35:31 (01:30:15) 420 | Malcolm Steward | 01:42:34 (01:36:54) 455 | Damien Pitts | 01:43:42 (01:42:55) 529 | Robin Lewis | 01:46:50 (01:34:29) 547 | Kevin Goody | 01:48:12 (01:27:32) 577 | Neil Harvey | 01:48:37 (01:29:31) 613 | Andrew Bruce | 01:49:52 (01:33:51) 641 | Sarah Geeson-Orsgood | 01:50:56 (01:45:57) 645 | Clark Skerratt | 01:51:45 (01:23:39) 839 | Ian Grimwood | 01:57:15 (01:29:33) 842 | Frank Mcloughlin | 01:57:20 (01:38:28) 850 | Stephen Atkins | 01:57:28 (01:31:29) 898 | Andrew Hedley | 01:59:18 (01:40:07) 986 | Ian Clayton | 02:03:56 (01:47:44) 1013 | Sally Jones | 02:05:08 (01:58:37) 1016 | Juliet Grimwood | 02:05:14 (01:45:06) 1017 | Vicky Berry | 02:05:15 (01:45:07) 1049 | Maria Merridan | 02:07:25 (01:55:11) 1210 | Simon Strong | 02:16:31 (02:02:48) 1246 | Matthew Lewis | 02:19:25 (02:19:21) 1307 | Ros Bodi | 02:26:59 (02:03:21) (1384 finishers total)