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12 Months of BUAC - May

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

While we were all getting used to lockdown, and all getting tired of Tiger King, virtual racing had really taken hold, with the BUAC Lockdown League, Bannister Virtual Miles, and British Universities series. The most important part of the month, however, was most definitely the fundraising done for Bud's Run, which can be read about just below.

26th (April)-End of May

Bud's Run 2.6 Challenge

Bud with Will Gray at an edition of Bud's Run

Taking a bit of creative license with the definition of a May roundup, the very end of April and the beginning of May saw the start of the Bud's Run 2.6 Challenge. Without the usual annual 5K fun run in Birmingham, it was down to BUAC members past and present from all across the world to come together and fundraise, alongside all who know and love Bud. Here we have words from Callum O'Neill, who took on his own special fundraising challenge.

If you ask someone to name one individual that encapsulates everything that makes BUAC the special club that it is, Bud Baldaro will come up time and time again. Whether you’re a GB International or someone who enjoys the occasional parkrun to catch up with a few mates, Bud has time for each and everyone of us.

Bud’s Run has become a regular event in the BUAC calendar in recent years and with COVID-19 bringing uncertainty, the 26,200 mile challenge brought about a new way for club members past and present to raise money for a fantastic cause whilst showing their appreciation for everything Bud means to them. On what would have been London Marathon weekend, Chris Booker ran a marathon in Germany to get the ball rolling, Will Gray ran 18:53 for a 5k and even Dean Miller got out for an impressive 26K run.

I decided to jump on the bandwagon and set myself the target of a sub-3 hour marathon which I was happy to achieve on the hilly roads of South Devon. The overall amount raised by the Buds Run round the world challenge for Parkinson’s UK was fantastic and a fitting tribute to the big man himself for all his hard work over the years. Here’s to hoping that we can all descend on Birmingham for Bud's Run 2021!

Jonny at the conclusion of his huge 126 mile week

Another challenge taken on by a BUAC athlete was by Jonny Currie, who, fresh from sending over 3,800 athletes off to run 5K while masterminding the Virtual National Road Relays, took himself off to run 126 miles in a week, while fundraising for Bud's Run.

A good proportion of Jonny's running was done in the form of two 14-milers, an arduous enough task on their own, without being contextualised in a week with 98 other miles.

Much of the running was also done at the de facto spiritual home of BUAC, Metchley, a location Bud has spent an immeasurable amount of time, coaching BUAC athletes well before the vast majority of current members were born.

How many miles Jonny?

One athlete coached by the man himself, before now working alongside him, is Dean Miller. Here we hear from him on his gargantuan effort over 26K for Bud's Run, as well as how he adapted his coaching plans for the many members of the lovingly-named DMTC (Dean Miller Track Club) when lockdown arrived.

So, our first lockdown hit, and I had lots more time on my hands - Time to get fit I thought!

Since retiring from athletics in 2015 my fitness has fluctuated between poor and dreadful, therefore getting into the mindset and getting my body physically ready to get out running several days a week was certainly the first hurdle.

Dean in slightly fitter times, ft. a functioning left knee

However there was another carrot and ultimately my salvation…

An opportunity to raise money for Parkinsons UK and Buds Run as part of the nationwide 26.2 challenges that many were undertaking (in place of the London Marathon).

Bud’s Run has raised thousands for Parkinson’s UK over the past few years, an event started as the brain child of Mr BUAC himself, Bud Baldaro, after his own diagnosis. Bud not only was my coach during the most successful part of my career (and as a Birmingham student), but the source of inspiration for me to come and study at Birmingham nearly 15 years ago - the rest is history. During this time, Bud has been a coach, a mentor and now a colleague; but most of all one of my best mates. In addition, his drive and love to see BUAC succeed is something which has certainly passed on to me.

I knew I couldn’t run 26 miles in the 4-5 week period I had to get fit, but 26K (just over 16 miles) was achievable, if a tough ask! I only realised further down the line that I was likely to be out at least 2 and a half hours given my fitness and dad-like running pace. I was hoping my knackered old knee would hold up!

On Saturday 2nd May 2020, after a varied preparation period, I set out to run just over 16 miles- completing the distance in 2hours 39 minutes and 54 seconds. The second half of the run was alien territory having only ever been out for around 90 minutes as an athlete. Very questionable whether the last 5 miles could be classified as a run given the pace and potentially what I looked like running- but I got through it.

Perhaps one of the slowest I’ll ever run, but up there with the toughest.

Thanks to everyone that donated, a fantastic cause in a difficult period earlier this year.

A rather grainy photo of Dean the Paralympian

The second challenge of the first lockdown was how to negotiate coaching during this period - something there was no textbook on!

There was a huge spectrum of reactions to our first lockdown period, and given the vast numbers of athletes we support at the University of Birmingham Athletics Club, as well as being a British Athletics Talent Hub, this was very apparent!

Apprehension, fear of unknown and frustration were some just a few of the more serious emotions the nation were and would continue to go through in this difficult time we find ourselves!

Couple this with common characteristics of high performing athletes and students; being perfectionists and often over-thinkers, then trying to support them in an unexplored context is very tricky!

Athletics isn’t the most important thing in the world, and this is certainly apparent in this COVID world in which we find ourselves. However as athletes (and coaches) we devote so much of our lives, ambitions and emotions to the sport. When this athletics landscape we know so well is jeopardised it does feel like a gut punch, even when in the grand scheme it’s not that big of a deal.

I’m fortunate enough to call my passion my job and rarely have to worry about feeling unmotivated when supporting athletes. However the first lockdown certainly hit me hard. My character is traditionally very driven, excited by goals and targets, therefore a context where there is very few concrete targets troubled me initially.

As a coach to many, who were also coming to terms with this, you learn every individual (and athlete) responds differently.

Some individuals thrived off keeping routine and doing everything as close to ‘normal’ as possible.

Others needed a break, wanted minimal guidance and a chance to explore, do something different.

Dean briefing students at his Birmingham Street2Stadium event

There is no right or wrong answer, it’s just working out what works and makes you excited to get out the door and feel positive about yourself. Some key mantras I picked up from our first lockdown as a coach:

  • Continue to do the bits you enjoy in training first and foremost

  • Don’t fixate on everything being perfect all the time (it rarely is)

  • Keep one or two longer term goals or reasons you do the sport in your mind for your future self e.g. ‘I would love to represent the University next year’ or ‘I can’t wait to be back training with my mates’

  • Keep in contact with your athletics community, even on your worst days. A problem shared is a problem halved

  • Racing did return (and will again), goals haven’t changed, just our patience and desire tested

As we potentially go into another period of the unknown and new experiences, remember and celebrate what a great place we find ourselves.

BUAC is more than just an athletics club. A community, a family, a support network of ambition, friendship and enjoyment. Once we come out of this tricky time, the club is in a fantastic place. Thanks in part to our coaching team and Luke, our fantastic committee led by George, as well as you 200 plus members who have managed to stay positive and contribute during this tough first winter term!

Keep this at the forefront of your mind and remember why it is you do the sport.

Remember, there’s no wrong answer. Just remember to enjoy the ride.

To an enjoyable and successful 2021, whatever that looks like.

The Bud's Run video for the challenge can be found here.

The Bud's Run JustGiving page can be found here.

30th (April)

BUAC Lockdown League Starts

Without BUCS Outdoors, the competitive nature of many of us meant we needed some form of competition to sink our teeth into. A crack team of competition organisers was assembled, led admirably by Jonny Currie, alongside Jethro McGraw, Guy Perkins, George Loxton, Charlie Davis, and James Davis.

A six week long competition was announced, stretching into the middle of June, with a different event each week, three power and three events to keep both sides of the club happy, and the best four performances across the competition to count for the overall title. Fundraising for Bud's Run through the entries for the competition, the competitors made a great contribution of just under £200 towards the £8,000 raised.

The event page can be found here.


Lockdown League Event 1

The first event of the Lockdown League was a challenge of strength endurance, as BUAC's finest faced off to see who would come out on top in a press-up contest.

Mike Bennett atop the Event 1 podium

The men's podium featured four athletes, unusually. On the bottom step were Tom Mackman and Jamie Worman, with 60 apiece.

They shared their podium with a coach/athlete pairing, Jack Hocking and Mike Bennett. While Mike may not be capable of a sub-48 400, he was capable of plenty more press-ups than Jack, and with 73 to Jack's 66 showed that you can never run out of things to learn from your coach.

Outside of the podium placings, Guy Perkins and Alastar Phelan both displayed immaculate form in their efforts, in contrast to that of a more questionable nature from the likes of Ollie Johnson.

Zialor, Austridge and Hallam, early League leaders

The women's podium had a power athlete at the top, and Laura Zialor showed strong form to eke out 54 press-ups within the alloted minute. That effort also interestingly placed her level with Chris McAlister, whose effort took place at the elite distance running hub of the Midlands, Metchley playing fields.

Yas Austridge placed second with her effort of 48, putting the colours of Blackheath & Bromley where they rightfully belong. (Losing)

Lydia Hallam occupied the final podium place, making the most of the warm weather to produce an outdoors endeavour of 42 within the minute.

The results from Round 1 can be found here.


BMC Bannister Virtual Mile

Concluding on the sixth was the Bannister Virtual Mile, run by the BMC. In honour of the 66th anniversary of the first ever sub-4 mile, run at Iffley Road in Oxford, 1100 athletes raced a mile to see who would be crowned champion.

Alum James McCrae was a notable 14th, running two seconds faster than his track best for 4:15. Other entries in the men's competition came from Zach Bridgeland and Ben McIntytre, both finishing a shade outside their official bests in 4:39 and 4:56 respectively.

Maisie Grice ran a 4:49, much faster than her 5:08 track best, to be first junior woman, and fourth overall. Third U20 woman was incoming fresher Annie Testar, producing a 5:12 for the competition.

Testar (39) on her way to setting a track record in Birmingham

The results can be found here.

AW coverage of the event can be found here.


Jumps Group Insta Takeover

On the weekend of the 8th to the 10th of May, the Jade Surman-coached jumps group, as well as the rest of the club, had expected to be deep in BUCS competition, battling it out for medals.

Despite this, the indefatigable training group put together a competition of their own, featuring a quadrathlon of standing long jump, 10m dash, standing triple jump, and a ten minute run for distance.

To see how the action unfolded, see the Instagram post, or follow the link below.

A promising indoor season gave me quite a bit of motivation to train at home during lockdown despite the lack of competitions. I built up a routine of training at my local park, where I received lots of encouragement from members of the public which really helped me complete some tough sessions, as did the sunny weather! I was happy to have the time to work on key areas I needed to improve on and the Jumps group takeover, held in place of BUCS Outdoors, gave some much needed competition. The event was really fun to do with my group, although I had some challenges because I was self-isolating at the time. It is safe to say I will definitely not be doing a (very dizzy) 10-minute run around my garden again...! Hannah Jones

The takeover can be viewed here.


Lockdown League Event 2

With one power week down in the contest, it was over to the endurance runners to shine over the Lockdown League 10K.

A men's podium full of distance talent

The men's podium was covered by a spread of just over 20 seconds. Alum Callum O'Neill slotted into third, with a 32:26 run just a shade outside of the 32:03 he had set at the Trafford 10K back in March.

Noah Armitage-Hookes had a best of 32:17 on road prior to the Lockdown League, and beat it by five seconds as he took to the streets to run a 32:12.

Atop the podium was Harry Halford. The Birchfield Harrier scored the maximum 50 points for the event after narrowly missing out on the podium by three press-ups the week prior. Despite being over a minute outside his road best, the 32:05 clocking was enough to secure the gold.

The women's side saw a dominant performance, as Macclesfield Harrier Louisa Whittingham ran as well as Callum O'Neill to beat her own race time from the Trafford 10K. Vaporfly-shod, her 36:39 was faster than her Trafford 36:46, and faster than all other challengers that week.

Southerners Elsa Palmer and Yas Austridge were in second and third, with 40:37 and 43:14 respectively, Yas making it two weeks in a row on the podium.

After the week concluded, it was the 10K victors who led the scoring tables, Halford and Whittingham helped by strong press-up performances in week 1.

Louisa mid-10K effort on a beautiful day in Macclesfield

The results from Round 2 can be found here.

British Universities 10K Championships

Concurrent with the Lockdown League was the Jonny Currie-organised British Universities 10K Championships.

Inviting athletes from universities all over the country to compete, in a month when they would have expected to be at BUCS, entries were strong, and fields as deep as the BUCS 10,000 Championships the year prior.

Louisa Whittingham was on the podium for Birmingham, her Lockdown League win good enough for third place against some stiff competition.

In the alumni competition, Callum O'Neill and James McCrae had a Birmingham 1-2, with McCrae coming in in 36:21 behind O'Neill's stellar 32:26.

Full results can be found here.


Lockdown League Event 3

Back to the power events in week three, there were plenty of pain faces on display as athletes competed to see who could hold the longest plank.

Tight at the top for Halford and Mackman

The men's podium had Jack Hocking making a return, the Sheffield & Dearne sprinter appearing one step lower than he had in week one with a solid effort of 7:15. The drop in position was unlikely to have fazed Hocking, as with his event 1 conqueror Mike Bennett in fourth, the coach/athlete battle drew level at one apiece.

Second spot belonged to Tom Mackman, gaining a place on his week one result as he led the competition with 9:37, ahead of a 9:02 from Halford, almost all the way to the submission deadline.

Unfortunately for Mackman, however, it was not to be, as almost does not win you championships. A midnight submission from Harry Halford of 10:02, as the only athlete to breach 10 minutes, gave Harry both the event win and a commanding overall lead, with Mackman, Bennett and Hocking the three behind.

Hallam flattening the competition

For the women, Laura Zialor was unseated from her power event throne of week one, placing third with a 3:33 result.

Louisa Whittingham made it a gold and a silver in consecutive weeks with her 4:10, cementing a strong position in the overall competition.

Lydia Hallam, however, was in a class of her own. The Havering athlete managed to stretch her plank to almost three minutes longer than her nearest challenger, 7 minutes on the nose her time to take the win.

After such a strong performance, Whittingham and Hallam were tight at the top, with the Macclesfield Harrier leading by two points, 85 to 83.

The results from Round 3 can be found here.


UBSport Award Nominations

Guy's nomination

As the largest club at the university, and with so many members achieving outstanding things, it should be no surprise that we received a a whole host of nominations for the UBSport Awards. Receiving three nominations across the categories, we had our team from BUCS Indoors, who were nominated for Team of the Year, triple BUCS champion Issy Boffey for Sportsperson of the the Year, and finally El Presidente himself, Guy Perkins, for Volunteer of the Year, a deserving reflection on everything he did for the club.


Lockdown League Event 4

The final Lockdown League event in the month of May, as the competition entered its second half, was something a bit shorter, with athletes racing over a mile.

Birchfield making up half the podium places

Over the short distance, separating the athletes became a challenge, and both Harry Halford and Joe Hudson could be found on the bottom spot of the podium, running 4:38.

Silver spot was occupied by Ollie Johnson, a 4:20 on the Brighton seafront giving him second place for the week.

Leading them home was Halford's clubmate, Tom Dodd. Racing on the university track, for his first involvement in the Lockdown League, Dodd showed his class in clocking a 4:10 for the distance.

In the overall competitions, Harry Halford's consistency had him leading the men by some margin, a whole 50 points ahead of Tom Mackman.

Emily Thompson making her mark in the competition

The women's contest was much like the men's, with two regulars on the podium, and a new face at the top.

Yas Austridge re-entered the podium at the lowest step with a 5:46 effort, putting Blackheath & Bromley colours in the spotlight once again.

Racing on track in Macclesfield, Louisa Whittingham clocked a 5:26, the 37 points from the effort allowing her to extend her lead at the top of the standings, accruing 122 points for the competition to-date. The second place spot was occupied by the ever-consistent Yas Austridge, 105 points her total.

The top spot saw another athlete enter the competition, much like the men's with Tom Dodd. Emily Thompson, an 800/1500 specialist, stepped up from the metric to the imperial mile, and clocked a 4:43 in the process, a class (and 43 seconds) ahead of the rest.

Second-placer Johnson in full flight

The results from Round 4 can be found here.

British Universities Mile Championships

Again run concurrently with the Lockdown League, the British Unis mile found BUAC athletes atop both the men's and women's podiums in an event that had not had a university championships since 1968.

Emily Thompson's 4:43 that won the Lockdown League placed her nine seconds ahead of Lauren Cooper, who had been champion over the 10K distance a fortnight prior.

On the men's side, Ollie Johnson had a commanding seven second lead over his nearest challenger, Cardiff Met athlete Thomas Gostelow, who finished in 4:27.

Full results can be found here.

British Athletics Unveil Talent Hubs

After an initial trial period, British Athletics announced that Birmingham and Leeds universities were to be confirmed as the locations of the two Talent Hubs, sponsored by London Marathon Events and supported by TASS, the Talented Athlete Support Scheme, for athletes racing over distances of 1500 and upwards.

AW coverage of the news can be found here.

The Birmingham Talent Hub can be found on Twitter @BrumTalentHub

BMC Virtual 1K

Also wrapping up on the 26th, after five days of competition, was the BMC Virtual 1K challenge.

Leading the way home was Ollie Dustin, the 800 metre man stepping up in distance on a gently undulating course to produce an unbelievable 2:19 that placed him tied in first. Ben McIntyre also ran well, the multi-eventer who has run 2:46 at his best, dipping under the three minute mark for 239th place in a 2:56.

Imogen Sheppard in some track-based BMC action

On the women's side, Maisie Grice was in the midst of a very strong virtual racing season, and ran a 2:46 for 116th overall. That time placed her third woman overall behind two senior athletes, and therefore also first U20 home.

Annie Testar was 10th woman (195th overall), and took third spot on the U20 women's podium with a 2:53 showing.

Imogen Sheppard was also in and amongst it as the fifth U20 racing, her 3:05 placing her inside the women's top 30 (337th overall).

Full results from the competition can be found here.

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