Biggleswade AC were thrilled to see race-walker Helen Middleton don the Team GB vest at the recent European Masters Athletics Indoor Championship. Middleton, who competes in walking events covering a multitude of distances, was selected as part of a strong squad of veterans to go up against the continent’s finest, and across two races she did an outstanding job.
She said: “Six years after my last international race in Geneva, where I represented England, and having retired from the sport for 9 months in 2013, I was as surprised as anyone to find myself in Madrid!”
In the 3,000m indoor W55 walk she was a brilliant fourth overall, crossing the line in 17:34:30, and just 8secs off the bronze medal. She said: “I got two cards for bent knees which were the first I have ever picked up in a race.”
Three days later she was part of a 53-strong field of over-50s entrants for the 5km walk road race, that also featured a few guest walkers from outside Europe. “I was a bit nervous but in the event no cautions or warnings,” she said, “and I finished fourth again.”
Her time was 30.20, fourth in the W55 standings, and good enough for 11th overall. More importantly, she was first over the line for the W55 GB team whose combined results earned them a superb second overall in the combined results. She added: “Myself, Cath Duhig and Fiona Bishop picked up silver medals for Team GB, which was great!
“I had a lovely time with the walkers and on the final day when we gathered for dinner I was persuaded to enter 10k and 20k race-walks taking place on consecutive days next month in Alicante. Madness, but the walkers are so lovely that I can’t not be there!
“In the meantime, despite my times being slower, my race schedule is starting to feel like 10 years ago when I raced over 60 times in the year. Then it was coach Zoe Luscombe who I will always be grateful to for helping me achieve what I achieved, and now I find myself back with Zoe’s group on Tuesdays at Sandy track. Thank you everyone for your support.”
Runners shimmered in rain showers and a long-standing record fell on Sandy’s streets in the latest running of Biggleswade Athletic Club’s showpiece road race. The Sandy 10 once again attracted hundreds of new and experienced runners from across the region, and further afield.
First over the line was John Eves from Bedford & County AC, in a fine time of 53:24. His performance laid down the gauntlet in front of the rest of the field from the first mile, and he stormed round the course, stretching the gap all the time to finish fully three minutes clear of his nearest challenger. Well in the mix at the top of the leaderboard, finishing 13th overall, but more importantly well within the ladies’ course record, Georgia Schwiening from Cambridge & Coleridge AC crossed the line in 1:00:11 to take 16 seconds off a mark set back in 2004. Danielle Sanderson, the former record holder, was an accomplished international marathon runner, and Georgia’s performance shows that it’s only a matter of time before the hour is broken on a course which features a pig of a hill in the early miles.
Georgia Schwiening in the final mile. Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Crossing the line. Photo by Doug Parker
Rounding out the top three in the men’s standings were Adam Mills of Bedford Harriers (56:24) and East London Runners’ Thomas Grimes (56:26), while Johanna O’Regan of Riverside Runners kept Schwiening in her sights for the duration, to finish just 46secs behind in the ladies’ results with 1:00:57, second in those standings and 16th overall. Third lady finisher was Eleanor Hunt in 1:03:17, and a host of clubs would do well to get in touch with her, as she competed as an unattached runner! She finished in an excellent 26th place overall.
Men’s age group prizes went to Ty Farrer, the fourth-placed finisher overall (Male veteran over 40 prize, 56:39, Huntingdon AC), Jim Morris (MV50, 59:35, Stamford Striders), John Skelton (MV60, 1:03.26, Milton Keynes AC) and Bob Wells (MV70, 1:10.56, Bedford Harriers). In a hotly contested men’s team prize, Riverside Runners emerged victorious over Bedford Harriers.
Riverside Runners athletes in the final mile. Photos by Stuart Goodwin
On the women’s side the LV35 honour was retained by Christine Lathwell (1:07.05, Stopsley Striders). Paula Downing matched her to reclaim the LV45 award (1:08.28, Mablethorpe Running Club), while Veronica Shadbolt took the LV55 prize (1:13:57, Garden City Runners). Taking LV65 honours was the indefatigable Yuko Gordon, a stalwart of Fairlands Valley Spartans, and her outstanding time of 1:13:31 also earned her the Roger Wadeley Trophy for the best age-graded performance of the race. Wadeley, who died in 2010 after a battle with cancer, was a Biggleswade AC stalwart for over three decades, and a talented racer who still holds 11 club records, two of which date back to the 1970s.
The ladies team prize went to Bedford Harriers, and they also took the Erlensee Cup given to the club who enter the most runners – a staggering 77, which accounted for almost a sixth of the total number of runners in the race.
Photos by Stuart Goodwin
The prize for top local finishers, where only runners from SG18 and SG19 postcodes are eligible, went to unattached athlete Trevor Grace (1:04:38) and Ann Wood of Werrington Joggers (1:17:01). Last year’s winners of these prizes, Jamie Hall and Elaine Livera, have gone on to enjoy an outstanding, prize-filled 12 months in the yellow and blue of BAC.
While excellent conditions for running, keeping runners cool, the rain made spectating a damp undertaking, but marshals, resplendent in a their now-annual selection of weird and wonderful hats, kept the cold at bay with warm encouragement, and their presence ensured smooth and safe running in and around the town, as seasoned competitors rubbed shoulders with charity runners and first-timers. At least one runner got a shock on the day to learn that the race was over 10 miles and not 10 kilometres! The course starts and finishes just off Sunderland Road in Sandy, before looping round Northcroft in a U-shape before beginning the progressive, to some seemingly endless climb through the Sand Lane sandhills before joining Everton Road. From there the runners continue until the “Potton Triangle”, from which they then retrace their steps back towards the hills – kinder on the return – until a breathless hurtle home.
Exiting the Sand Hills. Photo by Doug Parker
Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Photo by Stuart Goodwin
Once again the race was run in support of Sue Ryder, who will benefit from the surplus race proceeds, and organisers were delighted that volunteer Frazer Allison assisted smooth running on the day. For its 2018 running the Sandy 10 received vital sponsorship from Marshalls of Sandy, who helped to fund the provision of souvenir technical T-shirts for all finishers, and the Roger Wadeley Trophy – Roger was a former employee of the company.
The all-important bananas for finishers were contributed by Woodview Farm Shop in Gamlingay, which is a familiar haunt for BAC members on one of their regular Sunday Coffee & Cake routes. Crisps and water were also extremely welcome donations by Asda in Milton Keynes, and the catering team led by Bev Strong did an excellent job keeping runners and spectators warm and hydrated back at race HQ.
Officers from Bedfordshire Police were an invaluable part of the organisation, lending support and a visible source of reassurance to marshals and runners at key points of the route where competitors crossed over open roads.
Once again early feedback from competitors was extremely warm and generous. Steve Round, who finished 12th, said: “It was my first time running the course – it’s a big thumbs up from me! Marshalling was excellent, and I finished 4secs off sub-1hr which is a big PB for me. So I’ll have to come back next year!” Another first timer, Rachel Williams, added: “I have to say I was very impressed – even the rain didn’t dampen spirits. It was a great route with great marshals and support.”
Members of Biggleswade AC’s multi-award-winning ladies’ cross-country squad donned the Bedfordshire vest for the Inter-Counties Championships, before promptly splattering it with mud in lamentable conditions at Prestwold Hall in Loughborough. Hannah Broom, Isobel Everest, Elaine Livera and Natalie Morgan were in action for the ladies’ race, having qualified through January’s county championships. Joining them was Elliott Swinburne in the under-15 boys’ race.
Hannah, the club’s secretary, said: “I couldn’t believe I was donning the county vest. The place was a bog – it made Glastonbury look positively dry! We looked down the hill and could see nothing but sloppy, slippery, mud.
“From the gun there was a stampede. The noise was deafening and – oh my – it was ruthless. There was pushing and shoving – I had not been in a race like this before. I decided to back off slightly and get over to the side to try and stay out of trouble and stay upright! Mud was splattering my face, my arms, my legs. It was not like the Three Counties XC races.”
Elaine, who had arrived carrying an injury, added: “The sound was crazy! I’ve never heard so many people run through so much mud before! Suddenly the wave of runners in front of me parted and I had to dodge a girl who had taken a muddy tumble, almost causing a pile up myself. I thought, surely the whole course isn’t like this? But it definitely was – all 8.5km of the course was a mud bath. It was chaos.”
Hannah continued: “I literally followed Isobel’s back, she’s an excellent XC runner and picks the best ground to run on so I decided to stick as long as I could with her and copy what she did. The ground was horrendous, my feet had a complete mind of their own, slipping and sliding. On a long drag of a hill I did not really notice it as I was too busy looking where to put my feet. But then round the dogleg corner which was a short sharp down, my feet were sliding and skidding everywhere, I was facing the wrong way, I felt like I was skiing – I thought I was a goner. I braced for the fall but instead I managed to crash into another girl and bounced back. To my absolute amazement I was still on my feet and still in the race.”
Elaine would prove to be the second Bedfordshire runner home, in 39:08 for 117th place. She added: “I would have really loved the hills on the course had there been no mud – I always run best on a hilly course. It was only afterwards, when we were looking through pictures, that we realised that it was actually rather undulating. We were all concentrating so hard on putting one foot in front of the other and staying upright that we didn’t know how many times we had gone uphill.”
Hannah and Isobel continued to run in close proximity. Hannah said: “The mud became heavier and it was really starting to sap my legs. I heard Rob Morgan and [her partner] Jon Fediw shout ‘It’s the final push!’ so I thought this is it, and tried as much as I could up the muddy uphill finish as fast as I could. I had done it. I only started running in 2014 and never dreamed I would be running at county level, this was a huge personal achievement for me.” Hannah’s 194th place in 42:03 was just behind Isobel (41:57, 190th place).
Natalie was also finding conditions fraught: “It was a quagmire. There was no firm ground and I struggled to find my footing. It was taking all my concentration and effort to remain upright. By the second lap and some three or so miles in, I was despondent and ready to give up … I had had enough of the sloshing around.
“Then I realised I was catching the two runners in front and my competitive spirit returned. I focused on them and ploughed on, managing to eventually reach them and overtake. Buoyed by this, I entered the final section of the course and only a mile left to go. Another runner was now in my sights, and I thought if I could just chase her down too that would get me through to the end. I found I was indeed gaining on her and with less than half a mile to the finish we were side by side. I rounded the corner, overtook her and skidded to the finish line.
“Not my finest, most confident race, but it was a great opportunity to run for Bedfordshire, and an experience I will never forget.” Natalie was rewarded with a placing of 252nd, in 45:51.
In the under-15 boys’ race, run on a shorter, but no less muddy circuit, Elliott managed 301st place in 24:44.
North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt hailed “a great night” for “a fantastic community club” as Biggleswade Athletic Club members celebrated a brilliant year of individual and team performances at their annual senior presentation night.
Taking place at Sandy’s Garden Court, the evening kicked off with a series of lighthearted honours delivered by chairman Damien Pitts, including recognition for club secretary Hannah Broom’s cat, who has recently taken to using the gravel around the shot put circle for something other than the intended purpose.
From there, it was on to the main business, with Mr Burt – himself a keen runner – on hand to dish out a string of prizes. Club championship races, taking place over various distances, had been run throughout the season, and honours were won by Jamie Hall (men’s 5km, 10km and half marathon), Elaine Livera (ladies’ 5km and half marathon) and Juliet Nayler (10km). Paul Davies and Isobel Everest each retained their 10 mile championship crowns, while Juliet Nayler – having completed her final season for the club – bowed out with a ninth successive 10km title. The Endurance Trophy went to Nick Haworth, in recognition of a fine time of 2:57:22 in the Chester Marathon.
The Most Improved Athlete awards deservedly went to John Stott and Natalie Morgan, both of whom enjoyed outstanding seasons, cementing themselves as key members of the club’s distance-running and cross-country squads.
For performances in the Southern Athletics League, Morgan Webster and Sarah Ridley earned male and female Track Athlete of the Year accolades, while multi-event specialist Daniel Steel and throws guru Sandra Ingham took the equivalents in the field.
Sandra also took honours in the veteran female age 50-59 category, with other golden oldies recognised for their Eastern Masters Athletics exploits including Marcus Davey and Hannah Broom (age 35-49), and Robin Wynde (age 50-59). New veteran track and field team captain Charlie Arnold ended the season as top male in the over 60s category, and his versatility on all surfaces and various disciplines was rewarded with the Complete Athlete award.
The final award of the evening, the Lonely Pines Trophy for Club Members’ Member of the Year, voted for by the whole club, went to the chairman Damien Pitts himself for his deft handling of a challenging season for BAC, which included long-awaited, much-needed and deliriously received refurbishment of the Sandy Track facilities.
Damien said: “It was great to see so many Biggleswade AC members attend the senior presentation night and a big congratulations to all the award winners. There were good turnouts for each of the club championships last year, and many members did great things in 2017. Everyone receiving an award fully deserves it.”
The club has also awarded lifetime memberships to four individuals whose selfless contributions have been valuable to BAC in recent years. They were: outgoing treasurer Mark Stead, who has bowed out of this vital committee role after an epic 10-year stint. Mark is also part of the club’s photo-finish crew, along with Sonia Edwards, who has also been recognised for her longtime, sterling coaching work with BAC’s youngsters: the Little Bees and Mini Bees. Julia Mackay was another, the former communications coordinator who currently operates as a run leader and oversees the club’s social media. Lastly, Peter Howell’s outstanding work as track manager, maintaining the track and field facilities in Sandy over several years, in all weathers, not only saw him receive a lifetime membership, but after a challenging 2017 which saw the track closed for a lengthy period, it also earned him the mantle of Club Member of the Year.
Damien said: “We were delighted to give this special thank-you to Mark, Sonia, Julia and Peter, four BAC members who have supported the club for numerous years, putting in so many hours to make the club what it is now.”
Reflecting on the presentation night, he added: “A special thank you to Bev Strong for organising another fabulous night – I can’t wait till next year’s event.”
Mr Burt echoed his comments, saying: “What a great night! What struck me most was the sense of encouragement of members for each other. Not all the awards were for excellence of achievement – not everyone can be the fastest. But everyone can improve, and everyone can demonstrate through their effort and commitment, either to their event, or to the club as a whole, what grassroots sport means to all.
“Biggleswade AC continues to meet the aspirations of so many of all ages, and of all abilities, and makes everyone feel so welcome. This club and many others are so vital for the health and mental wellbeing of the community – and I pay tribute to each and every Club volunteer who work so hard to inspire others and keep groups active.”
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