Biggleswade AC racked up fine positions and a string of personal best times at the St Neots Half-Marathon on Sunday.
The race is BAC’s club championship race over the distance and one of the annual highlights of the local road-running calendar.
On a biting cold morning in St Neots, and faced with a challenging course which features a string of steep uphill climbs, BAC’s Jamie Hall – in only his third race at the distance – took the male club championship honours with an outstanding second place.
His time of 1:13:54 bettered his 1:14.06 run last month on the significantly kinder Great Eastern Run course, and inches him ever-closer to Roger Wadeley’s club record 1:11.15 set back in 1988.
He said: “I wasn’t sure what to expect from the undulating St Neots course. Others had told me plenty of horror stories about it, especially with previous years bringing howling winds and rain. Fortunately it was a beautiful crisp winter morning with barely any wind - perfect conditions for running.
“I stuck with a group of about five others. The pace felt a little quick, but I stayed with it and by around the fifth km it was just me and a runner from Fairlands Valley Spartans.
“From mile 10 I knew that from this point onwards the course was all downhill so I pushed on to try and put some space between us. I have no idea how far ahead I got, but by mile 11 I could hear him behind me again. I was convinced that I had blown it and he would come storming past.
“Mercifully the Fairlands Valley runner stayed with me. I tried to go again at 12 miles and this time managed to pull away to come through in second place with a PB.”
Elaine Livera, fifth female finisher, coasted to the women’s club title in 1:26:54, with cross country challenges lying ahead next week. She said: “It was the most enjoyable half marathon I have ever run! Myself, Paul Cooke and coach Paul Davies had decided to run together at Cookie’s marathon pace. I got a proper lesson in how to run a half properly. We were such an enjoyable bunch to run with that we even picked up a few stragglers and ran almost the full distance in a pack of about five or six people.
“The best parts of the day was seeing Biggleswade supporters on every single street corner. I’m surprised any of them still had voices at the end. It feels great to be part of such a supportive club!”
The village of Abbotsley, which runners passed through twice in the race, became akin to a “Biggleswade Boulevard”, with members and their families out in force.
Running alongside, Paul Cooke, who has endured an injury-plagued season, was pleased to return to the roads: “I really enjoyed that and chuffed that I managed it after being injured for so long.”
A few minutes further up the road, Marcus Davey said. “My finishing time was just 12 seconds outside my Peterborough half marathon PB – I was a little surprised and very pleased with the outcome.”
Martha Ford had endured sleepless nights and pre-race nerves as she feared her hopes of dipping under the two hour barrier would be thwarted on the day.
As it happened, she stormed in over eight and a half minutes inside target time. Two minutes behind, Stuart Goodwin took six minutes off his PB with 1:53:39, and Amy Stamp ran PB run of 1:58:24.
The club’s championship race results are based on age-gradings, which level the playing field for all competitors by adjusting times for veteran runners downwards – the older the runner, the more the age-graded time comes down.
Based on the recalibrated marks based, big movers included Clark Skerratt (1:25:13 down from 1:52:43), Ian Grimwood (1:31:12 from 1:58:16), Neil Harvey (1:31:55 from 1:50:32), Stephen Atkins (1:34:38 from 2:00:21), Andy Bruce (1:39:32 from 1:55:54), Ian Clayton (1:39:53 from
1:53:34), Vicky Berry (1:47:28 from 2:06:25), Andrew Hedley (1:56:09 from 2:17:11), Juliet Grimwood (1:56:36 from 2:17:10), Janice Blake (1:59:21 from 2:27:59) and Julia Mackay (2:09:04 from 2:31:50).